Thursday, 18 August 2011

FILM REVIEW: Fright Night

The film that closed Movie Con was the UK premiere of the un-staked Fright Night; a blend of the ludicrous, the bizarre, and the ticklingly funny. It was presented by David Tenant - undoubtedly the best thing that ever happened to this film - who bounced about excitedly telling us what to expect before creeping in after the opening credits to watch with his friends and family on the balcony (and a few rows over from where I was). He would have been pleased then to hear everybody around him thoroughly enjoying themselves. It's the perfect 'Saturday night at the movies' kinda picture and tops Cowboys and Aliens for overall entertainment.

Anton Yelchin (God, it's good already) is Charley, a teenager who has dumped his nerdy best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) for the trendy gang of kids at school and hot girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots). He lives alone with his mother (Toni Collette) in a sleepy town just outside of Las Vegas, and everything seems pretty humdrum. That is until suspiciously elusive but sexily mysterious (to the ladies) Colin Farrell moves in next door, and kids in his class start disappearing from school. Ed is adamant Charley's new neighbour is a vampire, and is feeding on the town's population. Charley ignores him until Ed himself goes missing, and Charley is forced to find out the bloody (slurp) truth. Having no where else to turn, he takes up Ed's last piece of advice which is to seek out TV vampire slaying expert Peter Vincent (Tennant) to help him kill it and save his family and friends - but Vincent turns out to be a lot less capable than he'd hoped.

I'm unfamiliar with the original 1985 camp-fest so unfortunately won't be able to give a blow by blow account of how the 2011 version stands up (though I'm told it's largely faithful to the cult hit). Though it's a vampire film, it's actually unlike any that I've seen before: there's no Twilight brooding here (not that I've watched Twilight), no Thirst style gore and terror, no epic-ness of Interview With The Vampire. In fact, Fright Night is so brilliantly refreshing because it doesn't take itself seriously - one iota. There's nothing terrifying about Colin Farrell's powdered out skin and dark eye make up, and he's so self-satisfyingly laid-back that it's hard to feel anything other than amused when he's around. The other trick is the film's pace: fluid and skillful, there's no time for any hanging suspense as we get down to the nitty gritty: look there's no doubt about it, he's a vampire, so you bloody well better deal with it as he wants you NEXT. Don't be put off thinking you're going to see a horror film here - it's comedy all the way.

The cast is strong, and it's one of the reasons the film flows so enjoyably. OK so perhaps Toni Collette is underused, and Imogen Poots isn't the most sympathetic of girlfriends (did we really care if she'd been turned or not?) but I adore Anton Yelchin, even if he isn't on top form here, he still manages to steer the film and be the heart at the centre of it. Christopher Muntz-Plasse is delightfully annoying both alive and as a creature of the night, and the knockabout between the two sparring former friends delivers some of the film's highlights. I'm not a big fan of Farrell, but thought he was fangtastic here - he makes a pretty convincing vampire (with an ego) and I enjoyed this more than some of his other roles. And there was a big cheer when Chris Sarandon turned up as the hapless victim on the highway - Sarandon of course playing Farrell's role in the 80's original.

But the film belongs to David Tennant, who is brilliant as the flippant, narcissistic, jaded TV personality who makes fun of his vampire obsession to hide a darker truth... his parents were both killed by one. Probably Farrell. Channelling Russell Brand to the extreme (not sure he was conscious of this) and proving himself to be a snivelling coward in the face of danger, he's responsible for some of the best one-liners "damn you, Ebay!" and funniest parts of the film. The laughter in the audience was all for him.

It's slicker - and if possible - cooler than its predecessor with lots of pop-culture references thrown in to show director Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon are on the ball. But I'm surprised they failed to mention the thing it's closest to in tone - Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Some of the scenes were crying out for a reference. The 3D element was also a lot of fun - blood flying in your face, but they missed a trick not using bats.

If you're wanting a good night out in the cinema over the coming weeks, you can't do much better than going to see this. The characters are likable, the script is sharp and witty, and there's some ridiculous horror in there makes you grin from ear to ear and realise this hasn't got any roots in the modern day (I'm particularly thinking of the hand coming up from the floor of the car...) but it's the comedy that will win you over. I probably wouldn't have seen Fright Night when it came out, so I have Movie Con and David Tennant to thank for this one.

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