When the bad neighbor is really bad: ‘Fright Night’ 2011

We’ve all heard of bad neighbors and you might have even had a few during your lifetime, but Charley Brewster’s new neighbor is not just the kind of sexy bad boy who takes up with the local stripper, he’s the kind that drinks her blood. Brewster and Jerry the vampire are back in “Fright Night,” which opens at the Arclight in Pasadena this weekend (see schedule below).

In this case, it’s not the new era sexy, angst-filled vampire we’ve come to know, love and empathize with as in the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the spin-off “Angel.”  Then, of course, there are those Twilight series novels and movies which is more about repressed teenage sexuality than the fight between good and evil.  No, the love interest in this remake of “Fright Night”  is part motivation and part eye candy.

Somehow our hero Charley (Anton Yelchin) has ditched his bottom-of-the-high-school nerd social status to get a hot girlfriend with long blond-hair, Amy (Imogen Poots). In the original movie, Charley doesn’t get that kind of upgrade until the sequel. In “Fright Night” 2011, Charley feels his high school social position is threatened by his past best friends whom he has dumped. One of them has gone missing. The other, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) keeps calling him with “proof” that Charley’s neighbor is a vampire.  Then Ed goes missing.

As Charley investigates, he becomes convinced that his neighbor, Jerry (Collin Farrell) who has been flirting with his mother Jane (Toni Collette), is indeed a vampire.

While in the original series “Fright Night” was the name of a regular horror series showcase in which Peter Vincent was a minor actor who was barely-making ends meet as the host, this remake puts us in sin city itself, Las Vegas. “Fright Night” is the name of a Vegas-style over-the-top theatrical magic show and Peter Vincent is the magician. Part of the humor is derived from David Tennant’s portrayal as a drunken coward who has been taking makeup hints from Captain Jack Sparrow and isn’t on good working terms with his crew.

There’s a logic Marti Noxon’s script. What better place for a vampire than Las Vegas? This isn’t stable suburbia (the original took place in an unnamed city, but the 1985 novelization set the action in Rancho Corvallis) , but a place where people come and go on vacation or to work at the many levels of entertainment jobs. Much of the work in Vegas is at night so it isn’t particularly suspicious that Jerry has his windows blacked out and he only goes out at night.

Farrell as the vampire Jerry is both sexually attractive and sinister. Crossing the line between sleazy only when necessary but mostly hovering at the borderline. But just what is happening in his house and just why does Jerry have a dumpster in front of his house, when the exterior of his house remains unchanged? And Noxon sets us up for the finale and yet keeps us guessing as to what is vampire folklore fiction and what is true vampire protection.

“Fright Night” 2011 gives us those answers to all those questions–some creepily remind us of some recent true crimes. This is a well-done horror movie, an old-style horror flick directed with a sure hand by Craig Gillespie with some updated references (to Twilight, smart phones and YouTube) and first-rate CGI and production design, cinematography and make up. Even some of the product placement is funny and for horror flick nerds, there is a happy ending.

Afterward, perhaps you’ll look at your neighbors in a better light.

336 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA
400 Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA
‎9:00pm‎  ‎12:01am‎
1919 Verdugo Blvd, LaCanada Flintridge, CA

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