FRIGHT NIGHT and vamps who sparkle


So, I watched FRIGHT NIGHT in the first week of its release, and I’m a little stymied that it’s not doing so well. Maybe I shouldn’t be; it was dumped at the ass end of August when theaters are filled with crap and crowded with successful movies still pulling in ticket sales. There were literally two theaters where I could see it.

Thing is, it’s actually a good movie. Scary, kinda gory but not too bad (I can’t stand really gory gross movies) and filled with terrific performances. Farrell plays the vampire Jerry Dandridge as an odd, alarming guy with a number of weird tics. And why not? This is a dude who spends a whole, whole lot of time alone.

The other actors do a great job, too: David Tennant gets the flashy, wacky Peter Vincent sidekick role which almost overshadows the great performances from the two leads. The story loses something when it turns away from the fading TV show host, but at least it dropped the god-awful “true love reborn.” They should have held it until October when horror movies traditionally do well.

Anyway, it’s a terrific movie with some fantastic tension; I recommend it. One of the reasons I wanted to talk about it, though, is that I’ve seen a number of people talking about the vampire as a monster. Vampires should not, they assert, be emo love kittens, nor should they sparkle, nor should they be anything but skilled, violent killers.

That’s even made explicit in the film, which I suppose is necessary since sympathetic vampires have been so popular that they needed to draw a line between those other stories and this one. The vampire is compared to the shark in JAWS early on. It’s a predator.

None of which is new. Some of this is contempt for the feminine and things perceived to be meant for women (“Alpha male romantic lead? Cooties!”). Some of this is simply because people love vampire-as-monster and have no interest in other interpretations.

Me, I’m glad to see it. I think vampires are flexible enough to carry all sorts of different stories, and people’s willingness to portray them not as an invading evil (Stoker’s Dracula was portrayed as an ugly Slavic immigrant come to steal wholesome Victorian women) but in any number of ways: Lover, friend, oddball neighbor, steadfast ally… Kevin Hearne’s books have a vampire lawyer in them. It’s the process of turning outsiders and monsters in to fully-rounded individuals, of acknowledging they have real humanity.

I’m for it.

9 thoughts on “FRIGHT NIGHT and vamps who sparkle

  1. I enjoyed it too — lots of nicely put together scenes and characters.

    I wonder if maybe it feels a little too old-fashioned for its target demographic. IIRC even the original FRIGHT NIGHT did poorly in theaters and became a cult hit on DVD — I think for much the same reason.

  2. Hmm. You think so? Old-fashioned?

    The 80’s version did have the old time out of date TV show, but that’s dropped in this one. It didn’t seem old-fashioned to me (said the middle-aged guy). It was certainly better than Conan.

  3. Nina

    I honestly had no interest whatsoever in Fright Night until I heard that David Tennant was going to be in it. The fantastic performances of the cast helped hook me, plus I really loved the menace and melodrama of the musical score.

    Whenever I hear people bitch about what vampires are “supposed to be,” I think they forget one important element of them: In most of the mythology, they used to be human. They are *supposed* to represent the sort of monstrous impulses we could exercise, given the chance. Immortality, near-invulnerability, and a never-ending hunger are going to affect different people in different ways. (And I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have a host of problems with Twilight, but that’s for another time.) So, I suppose what I’m trying to say is that since people are all over the map, it doesn’t bother me that vampires are as well, so long as they are given a full, rounded character. And who knows, today’s emo-vamp may have even been yesterday’s blood-guzzling monster. They do have centuries at their disposal, after all.

  4. It’s vampire as suave predator — Bela Lugosi / Christopher Lee / Frank Langella.

    Certainly in the 80s that was played out — especially when it was going up against new visions such as vampires as Manson Clan in NEAR DARK or vampires as punk rock stars in LOST BOYS.

    I imagine the film makers were thinking that it’s been long enough that young people would be interested in the seducer version again — and maybe so. But I think it’d need to be a radically new seducer, and one that you’d be able to sell in a 30 second spot.

    Still, it’s a good movie and I expect it will have a mild drop-off in ticket sales for the second week and should do well on TV and VoD/DVD.

  5. I dunno – I prefer the vampire-as-monster because it goes back to the older myth of the Angry Dead. Stoker sanitized it quite a bit. Vampires are part of a tradition where the dead are very dangerous if not properly put to rest (and even if they are); heck, there are plenty of old tales about the dead coming back not to feast on the living, but to screw them to death.

  6. Neerdowell

    Liked the original, but they revamped a worn out movie that needed help: better script, better acting, and much more tension.

    Best horror/comedy in years. And Tennant was great.

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