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AP Photo/DreamWorks Pictures
In this film image released by Disney-DreamWorks Pictures, from left, Toni Collett, Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin are shown in a scene from the horror film “Fright Night.”

3D aside, 'Fright' not a bad scare

Posted: August 25, 2011 - 8:48am

“Fright Night”
Dreamworks SKG
1 hour, 46 minutes

I now officially hate 3D. For a while I was interested, then I was ambivalent, figuring it’s a neat gimmick, but nothing to get all worked up about. I have been irritated at the price hike that comes with 3D, but I appreciate that our local theaters upgraded all their equipment and have to pay for it somehow. Of course, the reality is that the raised price is probably a result of the studio upping the rental fee for the film, the theater forced to pass that cost on to us.

But even so, I’ve tried to remain positive about this whole trend. No longer. This weekend I saw the new “Fright Night,” a horror remake that had the potential to be fun and scary, a real revival of the horror-comedy heyday that came with movies like “The Lost Boys” or the original “Fright Night.” If fact, the critics are heralding this new film with just that sort of praise. I can only imagine that those critics must have attended one of the rare 2D screenings, because the movie I saw was so dark I couldn’t tell what was going on. In other words, I wouldn’t have known if something was funny or scary unless it came up and bit me.

Horrible 3D aside ... but no, I can’t leave it at that. The 3D was also completely unnecessary. Aside from the annoying “ViewMaster” effect that most modern 3D movies have, there was almost no 3D to be had. One scene of an arrow flying toward you that blurred in the dark. One scene of a motorcycle flying through the air (I think ...) that was so confusingly staged that you couldn’t see anything, and one mildly interesting shot of some floating sparks. I paid an extra six bucks for floating sparks.

I’m actually surprised that this movie was released in 3D. It’s become a well-reported problem that these movies tend to look a little bit dimmer than the average movie. I wonder why, considering you’re basically wearing sunglasses in the theater. Anyway, the effect is supposed to be mitigated at the local level, but I’m not sure what even the best projectionist could have done about “Fright Night.” It’s a vampire movie. The star doesn’t even come out until the sun goes down. Nearly the entire movie is in the dark!

OK — I feel a little better now. Well, not really, actually, because I still had to pay through the nose to sit through a movie I could barely see, but what’s done is done. What irks me, though, is that I think I would have enjoyed “Fright Night.” The writing seemed to be, if not stellar, at least workable, and the actors were all working at the top of their game.

Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the new “Star Trek,” among other things, is Charley Brewster, a high school dweeb who happened to somehow make it into the popular crowd. Left behind is grade-school friend and current dweeb “Evil” Ed, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose nerdy look and comedic timing make him a shoe-in for these kinds of roles.

Ed, however, has bigger fish to fry than Charlie’s newfound popularity. Instead, he’s investigating a series of strange disappearances. It seems this little Las Vegas bedroom community has itself a vampire, and, as it turns out, he’s Charley’s next-door-neighbor.

By far the best part of the movie is Colin Farrell, as the vampire-next-door, Jerry. Farrell manages to be very scary, yet completely at ease in the role. He’s one of those actors that I doubt I would want to know in real life — in fact, from what I’ve read, he’s a mess, but I’ve never seen him do a bad job on-screen.

Charley eventually finds out about his neighbor’s nocturnal proclivities and the rest of the movie turns into a battle of wits between the two. In desperation, Charley enlists the aid of Peter Vincent, a Vegas magician and self-proclaimed vampire killer. Vincent, played by David Tennant, best known as one of the myriad incarnations of the BBC’s “Dr. Who,” is far more flash than substance, but carries a dark secret of his own.

Tennant does a fine job as Vincent, who was portrayed by Roddy McDowall in the original, but it’s at about his entrance that the movie begins to unravel somewhat. The final act, as is often the case, gets a little too complicated and is ultimately anti-climactic. It’s not so bad as to make you want to stomp your 3D glasses in disgust — that emotion comes in the first 10 minutes — but it’s not worthy of the previous two-thirds of the film.

Despite my grousing, I was pretty impressed with this remake. So much effort in horror movies today is expended on gore or torture, or in just trying to disgust the audience, it was refreshing to see a film that was focused on what’s fun about scary movies. The biggest mistake, aside from the 3D, was in trying to beef up the special effects. Farrell, as Jerry, is completely in control of his character, managing to be terrifying just standing around chatting, those black, shark’s eyes just swallowing you up. There’s no need to up his vampire-ness with extra fangs or CGI monster effects, and when they do he just becomes a sillier looking character from “30 Days of Night.”

It’s a minor complaint, however, compared to the major issue with the film. This movie is worth seeing, but you can send a message about this ridiculously expensive and completely gratuitous trend. Go see the one 2D showing per day. At least then you’ll get to see the movie you’re paying for.

Grade — Movie: B; 3D Movie: D-

“Fright Night” is rated R for vampire violence, horror, language, and some sensuality.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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