Fright Night (2011)

Seems to be the week of remakes for me. This time, it is was a bit more successful from 1985 original than Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark had been the other night. Though there are a couple glaring misses for me as well.

The sensibility of this remake managed to capture the original’s irreverent approach to horror and even dropped Chris Sarandon in with a cameo for a pointless bit of fun as a gift to the loyal. The focus remains on the teenagers, and they even give the lead a kick-ass mom in Toni Collette who manages to be supportive and solid in the story without pulling focus. The updating of the story also worked nicely, seamlessly bringing the situation forward to today so it mirrored more modern horror films rather than the B-grade horrors the original was riffing on.

And Tennant is brilliant as the pivotal “expert” that Yelchin consults. Changing his character from horror movie host to a Mind Freak-like performer was an excellent choice. If anything they needed more of him, but he probably would have dominated the film if they had. Tennant has that kind of power and magnetism on screen.

Sidebar: For those that like to trace really odd pairings (in a sort of 6 degrees way), Poots was in Christopher and his Kind with Matt Smith, the current Doctor Who, while in this movie she was paired with Tennant, the previous Doctor. I know, how geeky am I?

Despite all the good and some of the fun, the film missed on a couple major points for me. First is that Farrell, as much as I like his acting, just doesn’t have that star quality that makes you unable to look away from him on screen. His acting is fine, but that ineffable magic just isn’t quite there in anything I’ve seen him in. Even In Bruges, where he plays a similarly split kind of character (attractive but dangerous) he cannot control the screen even though his character is utterly believable.

Second is the relationships. While Poots and Yelchin make a cute couple, and Poots is a dream in the role, no human, male teenager willing offered sex for the first time with someone they really care about is going to turn it down or, at least, turn it down so distractedly. I don’t care how much of a geek they are nor how much danger they may think they are in. I completely lost my belief in Yelchin at that moment and never quite got it back. There were better ways to get to the moment the director wanted. Even Yelchin’s friendships weren’t quite there. Though he is supposed to be a loner trying to deny his geeky past, he is supposed to have friendships. Looking at the deleted scenes, there was more of this originally… and it was rightly cut-out as those scenes really would have played against the story in a bad way. But something felt empty about Yelchin overall that was more a function of the script than his efforts.

Overall, the film pulls together that rare mix of horror and comedy that only a few films really manage to do well. There are some nice surprises and twists and, sadly, a whole lot of obvious moments too. But, honestly, despite its age, The Lost Boys does this kind of movie way better and still only feels dated by the hair and clothes.

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