Thursday, August 18, 2011

Movie Review - Fright Night (2011)

So, I just returned from the theater through an incredible lightning and thunderstorm. It was a good night. I managed to score some advance screener passes for the new Fright Night 3D remake, and Mrs. Zombie and I made the trip out to Richmond Hts. to see it.

When this remake was originally announced, I did what I normally did when I hear that one of my favorite, beloved horror movies is getting a remake treatment. I snorted in disgust, shook my fist at the heavens, and snuck into the darkened bedrooms of several studio executives in the middle of the night to stand over their bed... just watching them sleep. It's not as creepy as it sounds because I'm not killing them or anything. I'm just standing there. Standing and thinking murderous, rage-filled thoughts.

Eventually I calmed down, and I truthfully kind of forgot about it. At least I forgot about it until the trailers started showing up online. Even then, I was still all, "Meh."

And then they released the identity and photos of the actor playing Peter Vincent -- and I squealed in geekish delight.

It was none other than David Tennant, the 10th Doctor.

All right... so I was wooed. I'll admit it. It looked OK.

And then I scored the passes and was fully in. What can I say... Doctor Zombie's a whore who can be bought relatively cheaply. Ply me with horror movie tickets and some imported beer, and you too can have your way with your own dear, undead mad scientist.

So - you may be asking - how was it?

It was actually really good. The story was close enough to the original to pay due respect, and original enough to make an old gorehound like Dr. Z enjoy it.

You know the story - a boy named Charlie Brewster tries to have sex with his girlfriend, Amy, he realizes a vampire has moved in next door, recruits Peter Vincent (VAMPIRE HUNTER!), does battle with the vampire, almost loses girl, and eventually vanquishes the vampire.

For an 80's movie, it was gold. The characters and actors were memorable, and it was the perfect mix of horror, humor, and gore.

The remake is a modern take on this classic, and the characters do justice to the original. There are some differences. Colin Farrell imbues Jerry the Vampire with a much more brutal, creepy, twist than Chris Sarandon did. (Chris Sarandon, by the way, makes a great cameo) Sarandon's Jerry Dandridge was cool, suave, and had a sophistication that all but screamed that he was hundreds of years old and knew chicks dug him. Colin Farrel's Jerry is all rugged good looks, but there's more of a Ted Bundy kind of charm. His is less a vampire who, at one time, undoubtedly hung with the ruling class; and is more like the player on a reality show who knows with certainty that woman get wet when he rolls into the room.

Charlie(played by Anton Yelchen), on the other hand, is just as nebbish as the original Charlie Brewster, but there's a stronger hero component to this character. He's more controlled, but takes bigger chances. Anton Yelchen did a great job and made this incarnation of Charlie believable and likeable.

Overall, this movie has considerable more action and movement than the original that, with the exception of the nondescript alley where Evil Ed gets chomped, Peter Vincent's apartment, and the nightclub - - was contained mostly within the yards of Charlie and Jerry's houses. This remake, on the other hand, ranges all over the desert and city of Las Vegas and gives the film much more momentum than the original.

This was also a more brutal, violent movie then the original; but much of that violence was rendered CGI and noticeably so. I will be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a purest when it comes to visual effects. I grew up in the 80's on the wonderful animitronics and mechanical effects of Rob Bottin, as well as the incredible makeup work of such pioneers as Rick Baker and Tom Savini. To that end, I readily admit that I hate that CGI has become so much easier and cheaper to do, as well as the fact that it's grown more and more ubiquitous. CGI instead of mechanical effects loses some of the soul of the gore and slaughter. On the other hand; Fright Night 2011 was filmed in 3D, and also viewed by your inimitable host -Dr. Z - in 3D, and the scenes were well planned out. Believe it or not, every time there was a spray of blood, it looked delightfully arterial, bright red, and it jumped out of the screen at you. The 3D was well done, indeed.

And, of course, David Tennant chewed up every scene he was in. He was deliciously profane, he was laugh out loud funny, and he inhabited Peter Vincent in a way that you just knew had little to no redeeming qualities.

Amy, the sexy love interest, far surpassed her predecessor. Played by the beautiful, but unfortunately named Imogene Poots - this Amy is radiant, breathtaking, and naturally sexy. Even back in the day, the original Amy (played by Amanda Bearse), was not lust-inducing in any way. She looked uncomfortable kissing William Ragsdale, and it really came as no surprise when she came out of the closet years later at the height of Married With Children.

In fact, the rebooted Amy is hot enough and sexy enough to play herself as both sweet, virginal Amy -- and sexy, smoking hot, vampire Amy. Old Amanda had to have another actress stand in as her vampire doppleganger. In fact the new Amy is so hot, she seems too good for geeky, quiet, socially awkward Charlie. However, the directors knew this and made a point of addressing why she's attracted to Charlie. She's drawn to just those qualities. That's right.. she wants the nerdy guy.

But isn't that how it always is? They hot chicks all want the nerdy, geeks. Duh. How do you think Dr. Z managed to find a hot, smart, popular ex-college athlete?!? But I digress...

The only major disappointment of the entire film was Evil Ed. In this movie, he's less of a quirky sidekick and more of a... well... douchebag. He's annoying, mean, petty, and Charlie's and his relationship is strained for obvious reasons. The casting of Christopher Mintze-Plass was a bad call and done solely to attract fans of his character, McLovin', from Superbad. In the original Fright Night, Stephen Geoffries made Evil Ed's character odd, but poignantly human. When he's induced by the promise of immortality and the ability to 'show them all'; Geoffries made you really, really feel that Evil Ed was a misunderstand and desperately lonely young man. Not some know it all, blackmailing, annoying, douchenozzle.

GOOD Evil Ed

BAD Evil Ed

Also, Evil Ed in the original had a certain style to him. With the post-punk, Nylon Air Force jacket and his spiky Sting haircut, he was an outcast, but he had flair. The new Ed is just there. He's neither stylish, nor memorable. How unfortunate. Of all the characters in the original and remake, Ed's had the most potential to be a stand out if played by the right actor. They got it right in 1985... and failed miserably in 2011. It's too bad, really...

The other disappointment was the way they dispatched the vampire, Jerry. No spoilers here, but I'll just say that it was kind of hard to believe and stretched the bounds of credibility a little too much. I know, we're talking about a movie that asks one to suspend their disbelief enough to believe that Colin Farrell is an undead creature of the night. But that doesn't mean one can ignore the physics and physiology of human beings. Just watch it to see what I mean. I hate holes in logic. Hate them with a passion.

The high point of this film was the level of suspense and anxiety newcomer director, Craig Gillespie, built into the movie. He has the right sense of what's scary and - Dr. Z. is proud to admit that the film startled him once with a jump scare. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do to a jaded, cynical, horror fan like me?!? If you can make me jump, you get big kudos. Well played, monkey man. Well played!

So, all in all, this was a good movie. It was far superior to most of the remakes out there nowadays. This one was - fortunately - not gutted to become a PG-13 suckfest by some studio suit trying to get young butts in the theater seats. It joins the select, golden few movies that make the list of remakes that Dr. Z approves of. It goes alongside such other impressive remakes as The Crazies and The Hills Have Eyes.

I will probably purchase it when it comes out on DVD and add it to the horror library, which should be considered high praise from your ghoulish guide. The original was brilliant and remains one of my favorite 80's horror films. Roddy McDowell remains one of my favorite actors, also, but I also understand that things change. If only we could convince studios to put horror fans behind the fucking camera whenever they do a horror film remake.

Stupid Hollywood.


MY! How Things Change!

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