Movie Review: Fright Night

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Written By: Marti Noxon (screenplay), Tom Holland (story)
Albuquerque Studios/Dreamworks SKG, 2011
R; 106 minutes
2.5 stars (out of 5)


I went into Fright Night wanting to like it, and I did, but not as much as I hoped.

The story itself is pretty rote: high school nerd-turned-cool kid Charlie (Yelchin) discovers the new neighbor Jerry (Farrell) is a vampire. Hilarity ensues. Except not really because the movie wasn't very funny. At least, not in any intentional way.

Marti Noxon, best known for her work on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, does a fair job of delivering an even-handed script for this remake (and to be clear, I never saw the original and know nothing about the original, so I have nothing to compare this to in that sense). But the jumps are minimal; viewers can see what's coming from a mile away, so there are few surprises.

It seems like the movie isn't sure how seriously it wants to be taken, so it skimps on both horror and humor and instead ends up rather flat. Farrell does an amusing job of vamping it up, Collette is great as Charlie's mom, and Tennant is underutilized (way to throw in a quick backstory and then drop the ball, guys). Meanwhile, Charlie and his girlfriend Amy (Poots) get the most screen time but are the weakest links. Yelchin does a so-so job of portraying someone whose whole life has been turned upside down by a horrific revelation--he even sees a neighbor burst into flame after he rescues her from Jerry's house and brings her out into dawn's early light--and while Poots is believable as the sweet girlfriend, she's mostly a plot device. In fact, all of Fright Night is so carefully plotted one can pretty much recreate the beat sheet from memory.

However. Because I went in with little or no expectations—just a desire to have fun—I did enjoy the movie. Fright Night flies on autopilot, sure, but it's a smooth enough ride. It entertains, though it could have taken me farther in any direction without my protesting too much. It functions mostly as an extremely diluted R or a trumped-up PG-13. (In fact, I thought it was PG-13 while watching it and found out later it was R, more likely due to all the swearing rather than any excess of gore.)

As for the 3D aspect, this movie, like so many others, really didn't benefit from the added dimension. But at least it didn't give me a headache either.

Fright Night is solidly middle-of-the-road fare, more a rental than a big screen flick.


Book Review: Bespelling Jane Austen

Featuring Stories by: Mary Balogh, Colleen Gleason, Susan Krinard, Janet Mullany
HQN, 2010
378 pages
trade paperback


I totally picked this one up off the library shelf as a "maybe," you know, the way one does when one is browsing and begins collecting a giant pile of stuff that might be interesting. It's the same thing that happens when you're at the grocery store and aren't entirely sure what you might be hungry for later, so you toss anything that might seem likely into the cart.

Okay, so first off, I'm not familiar with any of these authors. I do read romances from time to time--used to read Regency romances quite regularly before so many of the romance publishers nixed them. And I do like Jane Austen. And I like a little magic and/or magical realism every now and then, too. So this one seemed like an interesting mix.

The conceit of the collection is that the four authors have each taken a Jane Austen novel and rewritten it in some way while also inserting a sort of paranormal or Gothic/horror element into it. Think of that whole Pride and Prejudice and Zombies phenomenon that occurred a couple years back and you're on the right track, but this is on a smaller scale, the stories much reduced to fit the collection.

So taken one by one, Mary Balogh turned Austen's Persuasion into a story about soul mates and reincarnation. It's a nice idea but I didn't love the execution. As I've mentioned, I'm not familiar with Balogh's other works--according to the blurb she's written 70+ books, many of them set in Regency England. But this one just didn't ring right to me somehow. There seemed to be a lot of tell and less show. Or maybe the problem was she showed and then, just to be sure the reader understood, she then told as well, so it seemed like overkill.

Gleason took Northanger Abbey, which quite lends itself to the whole idea of Gothic horror, and had Catherine hunting vampires at Bath and then, naturally, at Northanger, which for the purposes of the story became a castle. This one was cute, and I liked it, but I felt it could have been fleshed out a bit more; the ending seemed rushed.

Krinard did a nice job of turning Mr Darcy--and numerous other characters--of Pride and Prejudice into a vampire. Though the story is set in modern day Manhattan, Darcy is able to keep all the lusture of his prim and exacting personality by dint of the fact that he is 200 or so years old and, as they say, old habits . . . While I didn't 100% believe the way these "modern" Bennet girls talked and behaved, the story as a whole was well done.

And finally, Mullany cast Emma into modern day Washington D.C., where the title character is a witch running an online dating service for paranormal creatures such as vampires, elves, werewolves . . . Now, I've never read Emma (though I know she is supposedly a would-be matchmaker), so I can't say whether the characters in Mullany's story bear any resemblance to the originals--their magical abilities notwithstanding. But honestly, there wasn't a single person (creature) that I could like in the whole thing. They were all of them obnoxious. (My husband assures me this is true of Austen's book as well.) At any rate, the tale seemed a bit cobbled and cliched.

All in all, I'm not sorry I took the time to read it. Out of sheer curiosity I might consider taking a look at any one of the authors' other books to see how they measure up.