Review: ‘Fright Night’

Aug. 19, 2011, 12:31 a.m.
Review: 'Fright Night'
Courtesy of MCT

Fright Night” lies somewhere between the genres of horror and comedy, a line difficult to walk.  Overdo the jokes and the entire movie becomes a farce; fail to be funny enough, and all you’ve made is a bad horror movie.  Surprisingly enough, though, “Fright Night” manages to toe that line with apparent ease, melding the genres to create a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience.

The film is at its roots a typical vampire flick: brooding, leonine stranger (Colin Farrell) moves in next door, and it’s up to reluctant hero Charley (Anton Yelchin) and out-of-his-league girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) to fend off the cadaverous creature.  This, however, is where the film’s traditionalism ends.  The terrifying vampire threat is a vaguely misogynistic and quite unbalanced madman by the name of Jerry, professed more than once to be seriously “the worst vampire name ever.”  The first line of defense is McLovin’ (yes, Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character had a different name in the movie, but let’s be honest, he’s only ever been McLovin’), and the alleged Vampire Expert is a madly self-involved and perpetually inebriated TV star (David Tennant).

The movie was in 3D, and while this didn’t particularly add anything, it didn’t ruin it, either.  Granted, there were a few flinch-worthy “let’s just throw this projectile right at the camera!” moments, but thankfully there weren’t so many as to make the entire film dependent on the gimmick.  It even sort of enhanced things a couple of times, and that is something I’ve never said about 3D.

The strongest aspect of the movie, though, was not its visual effects: it was its ability to use suspense and adrenaline to stretch the tension as thin as a wire and then, abruptly snap it.  The director genuinely mastered the art of subverting viewer expectations by juxtaposing extreme realism and utter fantasy.  Heart-thumping battles were interrupted with very human moments of anticlimax, and terrifying chase scenes were punctuated with entirely relatable hysteria.

Initial impressions of the protagonist were less than favorable: he was a smarmy teenager, bristling with abrasive, obnoxiously good-natured sarcasm, but as the movie progressed he grew more and more likeable.  The same occurred with his girlfriend, Amy: she was a one-dimensional hot chick for the majority of the movie, but I respected the fact that she was eventually permitted to kick some ass herself (nothing femme fatale, just some entirely believable and respectable backbone), rather than playing the typical damsel in distress.

The game-changer for the movie, though, was Tennant’s Peter Vincent.  The indulgent and extravagant celebrity bit has been done before, yes, but he managed to add a new sense of vitality and likeability to the role.  He and his sassy Latina girlfriend (the latter of which graced the screen with her presence for a total of perhaps five minutes, but they were an absurdly enjoyable five minutes) lit up the room, and they turned a decent movie into an utterly delightful one.

At the end of the day, the film was the first successful horror-comedy that I’ve ever witnessed; it managed to conjure humor in the blackest of situations without having to resort to B-movie stunts or self-parody, and is definitely worth seeing.

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