28 November 2011

Fright Night

Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Marti Noxon
Full credits at IMDb

Vampire stories are usually centered on women, serving as allegories for the alluring threat of sexual desire. But in the brisk, tense and cheeky Fright Night remake, women occupy the margins. Instead, this is a story about boys and men, about growing up and struggling with different models of masculinity. As such, its central vampire, played with bemused arrogance by Colin Farrel, is less dreamy than those to which we've recently grown accustomed. "He's not brooding, lovesick, or noble," explains Christopher Mintz-Plasse in the genre's "Randy" role. "He's the fucking shark from Jaws." Take that, Buffy, Twilight, and True Blood!

Mintz-Plasse says this early on; Fright Night, written by former Buffy scribe and producer Marti Noxon, wastes little time on exposition. Instead, we're introduced to Anton Yelchin—a neurotic, pubescent geek navigating the vicissitudes of adolescence—and his seductive, charismatic neighbor, Farrel, who's the epitome of cocksure chauvinism. Oh, and he's pretty quickly outed as a vampire. (Subversively, the movie portrays an America of bad neighbors.) Yelchin has recently abandoned his childhood friends for a cooler crowd; that is, he has gravitated toward a bullying kind of masculinity that Farrel represents—he's the grown-up apotheosis of Yelchin's new, mean, good-looking, popular friends. Representing a different kind of man—the Dr. Livesey to Farrel's Long John Silver—is David Tenant, playing a hammy Vegas showman who goes from coward to would-be hero while sending up the genre's Gothiest cliches. (Speaking of Vegas, the movie exploits its Sin City setting expertly: the city's transient and nocturnal nature making it the perfect place for a vampire to settle down and make people go missing; its foreclosure crisis provides copious For Sale signs atop big fat stakes.)

Despite its male focus, as a coming of age tale Fright Night does grapple with sexuality. The vampire attacks, largely carried out against women (though not exclusively, suggesting an omnisexual immorality), intimate rape—they're penetrative, violative, and draw blood. Farrel emasculates Yelchin repeatedly, including by "turning over" a "motorcycle" that Yelchin can't "start." Also, the kid can't relax enough when his girlfriend throws herself at him; does that suggest that sex is a potentially deadly threat, or at least corrupting? I don't think so. It's just that Yelchin first has to grow up—to learn how to use his stake responsibly. Grade: B+

Watch the trailer:

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Nice review. The tone may be all over the place, but it still has a lot of fun to it with blood, guts, and gore flying at you with good performances from the cast, especially Farrell who seems like he’s just having a ball with this role.