dir Craig Gillespie
scr Marti Noxon
prd Michael De Luca, Michael J Gaeta, Alison R Rosenzweig
with Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Dave Franco, Grace Phipps, Reid Ewing, Sandra Vergara, Emily Montague, Chris Sarandon
release US 19.Aug.11, UK 2.Sep.11
11/US DreamWorks 1h46
What's up with the neighbour? Collette and Yelchin

farrell tennnant mintz-passe
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
FrightNight This remake of Todd Holland's 1985 schlock horror is more about the comedy than the terror, camping up the characters and indulging in grotesque effects shots. Besides some cheap scares, it never generates a moment of suspense, but it's still good fun.

In suburban Las Vegas, Charley (Yelchin) is a nerdy teen with an impossibly hot girlfriend (Poots) and a feisty single mum (Collette). But there's something suspicious about the new neighbour Jerry (Farrell), whom Charley's best friend Ed (Mintz-Plasse) insists is a vampire. And as events start to get increasingly bizarre, Charley begins to believe it himself. He asks TV vampire expert Peter Vincent (Tennant) for advice, but Peter is a jaded showman who doesn't really believe in the supernatural. Or does he?

The script has a lot of fun with vampire lore (including a pointed jab at Twilight), as everyone continually expresses their disbelief right before being presented with undeniable proof. Usually in some sort of violently nasty way. But aside from a couple of sudden jolts, the emphasis seems to be on making us laugh, so the violent attacks are essentially toothless, as it were. And the 3D doesn't add much beyond one big money shot near the end.

Fortunately, the cast is far better than the script or direction deserve. Yelchin is terrific at holding our sympathy as his world degenerates around him into an all-out warzone. Farrell is clearly having a ball giving menacing stares, baring his teeth and flexing his bare upper arms, while Tennant channels Russell Brand to give a hilariously arch performance with just a touch of pathos. And Collette is also superb in her somewhat simplistic role, which is sidelined so the boys can play.

In other words, this is the kind of undemanding horror movie that's actually just an amusing romp. It plays with a very tired genre and keeps us smiling until the next lacklustre action sequence, always managing to entertain us in the process. And now that Gillespie has tried his hand at a scary movie (and presumably paid off his mortgage in the process), hopefully he'll go back to making interesting films like Lars and the Real Girl.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 6.Jul.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall