Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Road Trip: Fright Night (2011)

CIMG0042It was about a week and a half ago that I had to go into Bakersfield for the usual Doctor nonsense.  This meant having to waste another one of my sick days which have steadily dissipated until I’m now  down to an empty war chest.  In other words, my demand has savaged the limited supply. 

My reasons for going were threefold.  Reason one for the trip was to make another stop at  Truckstop Radiation, but this time for an ultra sound on the old Kidneys.   Reason two was back to the neurosurgeon for some tests.  Reason three was to head over to the bank and straighten out a little matter of an overdraft that shouldn’t have been.  However since this is post is not about all that nonsense, we’ll dispense with the subject matter until a later date.

It was Honorable Son Number 3’s day off, so he had gone along with me for the ride.  It wasn’t too  late by the time we had finished with business, so not wanting to waste the 30+ mile trip into Bakersfield we decided to see a late afternoon movie.  

We settled on Fright Night, and would have preferred to see it in 3D.  Time and money were not on our side.  There wasn’t a 3D showing at any of the theaters until the early evening.   I didn’t particularly care to hang around in Bakersfield that long.  It was way too hot to drive around in my air conditioner-less car, and besides, my legs and back weren’t in any shape for cruising the malls for two or three hours.    I don’t mind paying the extra three bucks on top of a matinee ticket, but didn’t particularly care for adding it to the top of two full price tickets. 

Since the Edwards Regal was the closest theater to our location and had a showing within the hour we headed there.  Being a weekday afternoon with school back in session, the place was rather sparsely populated as usual, so even after getting our tickets, we had some time to kill.

Having for once remembered to take the better camera with me, I decided to fill up some blog space.  Yea, you’ve seen this shit before, but those pictures were taken with my i-phone which only has a toy camera in it.  I mean can’t you tell the difference in the quality of the photograph?  Doesn’t it just fill you with awe?  And aren’t these next photographs marvelously awesome?  And don’t you just want to skip all this silliness and get to the review?

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So after farting around outside for a few moments we went in, got our drinks, and were the first to enter the screening room.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been to the Edwards, but I don’t really remember any of the rooms being the size of some of the cigar boxes at the Valley Plaza.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky or maybe I haven’t gone when the movie is old enough.   But we were in screening room 13 and because of the better camera, you can actually see the inside of the thing.  Appropriate though that this film was in auditorium 13, don’t you think?  And although it wasn’t the biggest show room, it was way more than adequate.  And I didn’t have to Photoshop the sign because of the glare this time.

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Bakersfield Regal Edwards Screening Room 132

Honorable Son No. 3 took a shot of the screen as well, but he did it with the flash so that picture is no better than the ones I took with the I-phone.  Maybe next time.  Come to think of it though, this is the first time that I’ve actually seen the inside of one of these things thanks to the power of flash.  Usually it’s pitch black.  But all kidding aside, I hope to broaden my horizons a bit when it comes to theaters and head out of town once in a while.

So why did we decide to see Fright Night instead of exposing ourselves to the wonders of Glee 3D?   It was a tough decision, comparable to  choosing between eating a banana split and having a tooth pulled. 

When I first heard about this remake of the original film, I wasn’t exactly keen to see it.  I barely remember the old Roddy McDowell film, having seen it only once or twice when it first came out on video tape.  You do remmeber video tape don’t you?  The fact that it did not implant itself in my memory cells is never a good sign though.

Then there was the fact that the teaser/trailer didn’t really impress me much.  I didn’t feel this overwhelming need to count down the days until the release.  In fact, up until the week that Fright Night made it’s debut, I hadn’t thought about it at all.  But during that week a couple of things changed my mind.

First was the fact that it was R rated.  It’s not too often that you get an R-rated horror movie these days that’s worth watching unless it’s a brutal sadistic rape, sex, and sadism film like the endless supplies of Saw movies or Hostel.  Most producers and Movie Studios want the writers and directors to water things down to at least a PG-13 rating.  My problem with diluted horror movies  is that  it’s tantamount to taking a gelding to a stud farm.  That crap just isn't happening.  There’s not much horror in a gore fest with no gore, no violence, and no F word. 

Another reason why I decided that I wanted to see Fright Night was the fact that it managed a 75 per cent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.  Unlike some people, I don’t live and die by the RT Critics tote board.  But for a horror film rehash to achieve that lofty score, there had to be something on the screen worth watching.  And the third reason?  Well, it isn't Twilight so any vampire movie that doesn’t have that word in the title is already ahead of the game.

Fright Night 4Fright Night 1Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin), is a former high school dweeb who lives in Vegas with his divorced mother Jane (Toni Collette).  They live next door to Jerry (Colin Farrell) who lives in a house with darkened windows and a dumpster in front of his house full of dry wall and other construction waste, although there appears to be no remodeling of Jerry’s home exterior.  Odd, but nothing to be particularly alarmed about. 

The reason Charlie is a former misfit is because he now dates Amy (Imogen Poots) one of the more popular, pretty, and very hot girls from his school.   If Fright Night wanted to go the way  of the usual movie clichés, the girl would always have an ulterior selfish and unknown motive for dating someone like Charley but we later find out that she actually likes Charley just because he is Charley, X-nerd.   How very odd.  I’m just not used to seeing that plot development. 

Fright Night 5I say ex-nerd though because Charlie used to be a High School outcast, but now he’s “almost” acceptable.  There are still a couple of assholes who aren’t too enamored with Charley, but they are even less enamored of Charley’s friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who is still a certified citizen of Nowheresville that needs to be pounded in the face on a daily basis.

But having graduated from Nerd City to regular teenager guy, Charley has little use for his old buddies.   So when Ed tries to convince Charley that his neighbor Jerry is a vampire who is responsible for the disappearance of their friend Adam, as well as the disappearance of several other students and citizens of the suburbs of Las Vegas, Charley gives him the brush off believing that Ed is still playing silly imaginary doofus type games with imaginary fictional movie characters.  It is only when Ed himself comes up missing that Charley begins to have second thoughts.  After a careful examination of Ed’s bedroom,  it doesn’t take long before Charley is convinced that Jerry is exactly what Ed said he was.

Fright Night 3In most films of this nature (think Disturbia), it’s at this point that Charley would begin doing weird goofy things and trying to convince everybody in the world there really are vampires, and then he would be ignored and ridiculed until the end of the movie when mom, girlfriend, and vampire are taken away for a bloodfeast at which time they are rescued by our hero who has proven he’s not crazy after all.  But thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (WGTVSE) alumni and writer, Marti Noxon, the film takes an entirely different course.  Charley doesn’t spend an hour and a half of our time attempting to convince his mom and his girlfriend of anything.  In order to keep Amy out of danger, he gives her the brush off, and then only goes so far as to convince her mother not to have anything to do with their weird neighbor, but most of all not to invite him into the house.  Anybody who ever watched Buffy (WGTVSE) knows a vampire can’t come in unless you invite him.  But thanks to Jerry’s own missteps, we don’t have to wait until the end of the movie for Jane and Amy to believe that they and everybody else in Vegas are vampire fodder.

Fright Night 2Later, Jerry attempts to convince magician and self-proclaimed  vampire fighter extraordinaire Peter Vincent (David Tennant) to help him out.  But Vincent, having faced this nonsense before, wants no part of a vampire fight.  He’s happy enough just to do his special effects laden Vegas show, have sex with his bitchy mistress, and drink booze in between, all to his hearts content.  Of course you know from experience that eventually Vincent will be dragged into the fight one way or another.  How and why that happens is for you to discover on your own.

I can’t compare this film to the original.  It’s been too many years since I’ve seen that one, but I do plan on catching up with it again soon.  But even if that film had never been made, this version stands on it’s own.  It easily could have veered off track, but Director Gillespie doesn’t let that happen.  In comparable films (again think Disturbia), the story often is derailed by lingering on an uninteresting predictable romance making the vampire plot almost secondary.  I say, if you want to see that crap, watch Twilight. 

But in Fright Night, the relationship between Amy and Charley never overshadows the fact that this is first and foremost a vampire movie.  I liked Anton Yelchin’s performance as well.  He finds just the right balance between the old nerdy Charley, and the new improved Charley.  In another film, Toni Collette’s mom would have been nothing more than a disbelieving nag, but instead she’s witty, clever, and very aware of what’s going on in Charly’s life without interfering. 

Make no mistake though that it is Colin Farrell who makes Jerry such an entertaining adversary.  He doesn’t view Charlie as a very serious threat. After all how can a teenager dispense with someone who’s been around for hundreds of years and plans to be around for hundreds of more years.  Farrell’s Jerry seems more amused by Charlie than threatened by him.  He is the Cat to Charlie’s mouse.  Play with it for a while before you finish it off just in time for lunch. 

I had a very good time watching Fright Night.  A lot better than I thought I would and it was much more than I had bargained for.  So much so that I have no choice but to give it a grade of B+.  However, I do find it frustrating that this film has pretty much been buried at the box office.  By the time you read this, it may even be gone.   But there’s no explaining the choices of American theater patrons.  Maybe it’ll find an audience overseas or on home video.  I’m not sure if it will be available for home viewing by Halloween, but if it is, this would be the perfect film to headline your own Fright Night.

When we left the theater though, we noticed that the fountain was turned off.  The one I showed you in previous road trips. Instead, on the opposite side of it they were getting ready to have a concert of some sort.  I thought we would hang around a while and take some video but unfortunately all this band did was a warm up that went on endlessly, so we didn’t stay very long.  But here is what we saw anyway along with the trailer for Fright Night.  What other movie reviewer gives you a half-assed concert video along with everything else?  Name one. 

 

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