Sunday, September 11, 2011

Movie Review: Fright Night (2011)

Fright Night is the story of a boy who changed who he was in order to impress a girl who liked him anyway, and all he got was a bunch of annoying friends and the possibility of being killed by a vampire. I haven't seen the original Fright Night from 1985, but what I do know is this: the remake is not a shot for shot copy, some of the changes I think help it, but many of them I probably don't know about it, and that other than the graphics, Fright Night comes across as a very 1980s' movie. Now that that's settled, one of the biggest differences between Fright Night of 2011 and a 1985 B-movie is a pet peeve of mine that I feel hurts the movie; not enough to impact the score, but enough to effect my opinion. I'm a huge fan of 1980s' movies; I enjoy many from the 70s and 90s as well, but I generally consider the 80s to be the peak. One particular thing I enjoy about movies from this era is the graphical style, one that looks generally much realer and much less cinematic than movies from modern days. Flash forward to today, and many movies have that sort of stylized, hyper-contrast look that is much more exciting and cinematic, but it's just. Not. Horror. It's hard to take something seriously when there is no way to look at it and imagine it being the same world as you live in. It's not as bad as CGI effects, which often just look cartoony, but when it comes to building an actual atmosphere of suspense and dread, it's just as effective at taking you out of the mood. And the effects are pretty very well done, for what they're trying to do. Many of the effects complement the suspense and the drama, and the cheese... well, when it comes to comedically broken vampire bits, the cheese is done well. When it comes to vampire faces, not so much. Still, the action is pulled off well, and for a movie that does the 80s thing when it comes to toeing the line between believable horror and laughable cheese, it looks pretty good other than my personal nit-picks and the fact that it doesn't have a very distinct visual style. If it weren't for Amy, this would be one of those movies where there's really no great character to get behind. Charley is kind of a dick, Ed is understandably a dick, Peter Vincent is a dick for about 90% of the movie, and Jerry is supposed to be a dick. Amy's not 100% spot-on realistic (character concessions for the plot are in the nit-pick territory, and it's a lot harder to swing a ball and chain than this movie gives credit), but she's the most well rounded character in the movie. Let's take a look at this character, shall we?
  1. She's hot
  2. She's the driving force behind the relationship
  3. She's rational and rarely hysterical
  4. She's not afraid to fight vampires
  5. She can combine 3 and 4 to empty a clip in a vampire, realize it doesn't work, and pick another weapon before he can kill her
This brings up my final pick at this movie: namely, that the most independent character seems to be the one to lose the most of her own personality when she's transformed into a vampire. Is it because it's so necessary to the plot? Is it because all woman become sex slaves once bitten by a vampire? Or is it just because Jerry tried that much harder with this one? Either way, without an obvious explanation, it comes across as more than a little bit sexist in a lazy writing kind of way, even when Amy returns to her original self after the fact. I do appreciate the lack of a mind control rape that the film wouldn't have had time to deal with properly, though. Fright Night is essentially Charley's story, and thankfully, when Amy is out of the picture, Charley becomes a more likable character. You know, after being responsible for his best friend becoming a vampire and all that. Peter eventually becomes a more likable character too, but that's a different story. We get explosions, cheesy vampire dismemberment, a couple of badass fight scenes, resolution to at least one plotline, and generally enough for fans of this sort of movie to have a good time. Bill Silvia is a regular contributor to Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. More of his work can be found at


Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

I was a fan of the original in a 'so bad, its good' kind of way, and I'm interested to see how this compares. I expect it to lack substance and be a 'leave your brain at the door' deal, but hopefully it'll be fun nonetheless

Charles Gramlich said...

I think you've hit on something I haven't thought about before, and why I like the 80s movies too. That hyper realism doesn't look like what I see around me and therefore it causes issues with my ability to get into the movie. Hum, hadn't thought of that.