Initially restrained bloodletting gives way to gore galore in the horror-comedy mix "Fright Night" (Disney). As penned by Marti Noxon (TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), moreover, the script for director Craig Gillespie's nocturnal remake of the 1985 cult classic of the same title is peppered with obscenities from beginning to end.
Set in a physical and spiritual wasteland—a small Levittown-style suburb on the outskirts of Las Vegas that eerie opening shots reveal to be surrounded by the Nevada desert—this is the story of ex-geek and current cool dude Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin).
Charley's rise up the teen social ladder has gained him the love interest of comely classmate Amy (Imogen Poots). But it's also required him to ditch his still-nerdy best friend of boyhood days, Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
So when Ed insists on pestering Charley with his wild claim that Charley's new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell) is a vampire responsible for the sudden disappearance of a number of their school chums, Charley is inclined to chalk it up to Ed's overheated, Dungeons and Dragons-haunted imagination.
Until, that is, Ed himself disappears, leaving behind such evidence of Jerry's real nature as videotapes on which—true to bloodsucker lore—Jerry is present, but invisible.
Fearful that the toothy predator's next victim could be either Amy or his flirtatious divorced mom Jane (Toni Collette), Charley seeks the aid of occult-obsessed illusionist Peter Vincent (David Tennant). A dissolute Brit whose decadent booze-and-broads lifestyle is currently financed by a successful show on the Strip, Peter bills himself as an expert on the undead.
"Fright Night's" intentionally jarring contrast of glum realism and occult fantasy is occasionally intriguing. And the proceedings do yield some fun humor; Ed, for instance, is grievously insulted when Charley accuses him of being a "Twilight" fan, while hard-drinking Peter's tipple of choice is not scotch or bourbon but the melon-flavored liqueur Midori.
Yet the blood spurting and vulgarity spouting soon extinguish such flickers of wit.
Equally troublesome is a portrayal of teen sexuality that implies that there's something abnormal in the fact that Charley and Amy—high school seniors both who therefore may or may not be of age—have yet to sleep together. Midway through, Amy is ready to change this, but Charley is too distracted by his pursuit of Jerry to take advantage of the opportunity.
By the time the credits are about to roll, however, circumstances have changed, and the off-screen result is presented as something of a reward for our hero, and the consummation, so to speak, of a happy ending.
The film contains excessive graphic violence, a benign view of teen sexual activity, brief rear nudity, several uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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