Review: Fright Night

Fright Night is a remake of the 1985 film of the same name, and though I haven’t seen the original in a long time, I feel as though a successful remake formula could be thus: 1. Don’t remake the best films and 2. When you do remake a film, put your own stamp on the material.

Its unique voice is what makes the new Fright Night so much fun. From the script upward the film has a sense about it that is one part scare, one part tongue- firmly-in-cheek. The film was written by Marti Noxon, an alum of both Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men. Noxon brings a wonderful voice to the film, especially through the dialogue. Her creativity and unique ideas really shine through, elevating Fright Night into one of my favorite movies of the entire summer.

Besides the battle plan featured in the film’s climax, Noxon’s most interesting contribution may be in the location. The new incarnation is set in a suburb of Las Vegas, as Noxon was inspired by her trip there during the last presidential election. She writes:

You’d think I would have been contemplating the greed and ineptitude that led the nation to this sorry state, but instead my mind was fixed on one dogged thought: “God, this would be the greatest place to be a vampire. Sinners aplenty just down the road, a transient population that works all hours of the night and day … and all these abandoned homes. You could pick people off and who would ever be the wiser?”

She cites additional inspiration coming from the Amblin films she grew up with, like ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, and Jaws. All of these films bring the fantastic and danger to the mundane world of the suburbs, and Fright Night captures this better than any American film in recent memory, including Super 8. In fact, I imagine replacing the film’s soundtrack with the most recent Arcade Fire album would be a fascinating experiment.

The other thing that makes this film one to be seen are the performances. Colin Ferrell is terrific as Jerry the neighborhood vampire, and the actor’s charisma is used to great effect. Jerry is so much fun to watch, as is the scene-stealing David Tennant (Doctor Who) as the vampire expert Peter Vincent (a stage magician in this incarnation). Tennant’s particular sensibilities are a perfect fit for the role, and he provides much of the comic relief in the film’s last third.

I also applaud Fright Night for bringing back the old school evil vampire. Jerry is malevolent, unrelenting, and insatiable. There is nothing redeeming (or sparkly) about him. He, like the shark in Jaws, is a force of nature to be reckoned with, not reasoned with or interviewed. It’s also refreshing that with these ‘chaste’ Twilight vamps running around, Fright Night brings the sexy back, showing Jerry as having an intense physical reaction to being near his prey, especially in the olfactory sense.

Fright Night is easily the surprise of my summer, one I wasn’t even anticipating (it didn’t even make our summer movie preview). Yet I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I recommend it if you’re looking for a retro fun monster movie.

From the List of Shame File #3: In Bruges

While we have seen many films, there are many films that are held in high regard that we haven’t seen yet. As we cross them off our List of Shame, we’ll write about them here!

Why I missed it: Although it did come out on my birthday in 2008, at its widest US release it was less than 250 theaters, and getting to an arthouse theater from school (without a car) was kind of a production. Also I tend to dislike Colin Farrell.

Why I finally decided to watch it: We were in Bruges last month!

Review: In Bruges is a tight little comedy-thriller about two hitmen, Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who are sent to hide out in Bruges, Belgium, by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). For those that may be unaware, Bruges one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of Europe, with many buildings that are hundreds of years old (or more) still in use today. It is also a popular vacation destination for Brits. The film starts with Ray and Harry’s arrival in Bruges, and all the scenes but one take place within the medieval city.

The entire first act of the film is more or less Ray and Ken sightseeing Bruges, and their easy camaraderie is so captivating that it’s easy to forget why they are here, which makes the phone call that starts act two very jarring (in a good way). Overall, the film has very few plot twists that usually enhance my enjoyment of similar films (Lucky Number Slevin comes to mind), but the dialogue is so good, and the characters round enough to completely make up for it. A very watchable film, in addition to the main plot, Ray has encounters with a film shooting in Bruges, a skinhead, and a dwarf. I would describe the tone of this as Tarantino-esque, though the dialogue is not as masterful as Quentin’s. I also very much enjoyed the small scale of this film, only 6 or 7 characters have names, and it makes everything that happens between them very personal.

Also, I love watching movies that make use of a particular backdrop, especially when it’s one I am familiar with, like Philadelphia in National Treasure, or New York in the Ghostbusters films. In Bruges is no exception, and it was really cool to see places I had just been (and have my own pictures of) featured so prominently in the film.

Worth it? Absolutely, and that goes for both watching In Bruges and visiting in Bruges!