Fright Night (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★
Charley (Anton Yelchin) used to be a dweeb. His former best friend was Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a complete nerd whose hobbies consisted of dressing up and role playing. Charley’s recent surge to popularity earned him a girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), and much cooler but insensitive guy friends (Dave Franco, Reid Ewing). Ed had a growing suspicion: that Charley’s new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), was vampire and he was responsible for their classmates’ sudden disappearances. Charley didn’t take Ed seriously. He thought Ed’s suspicion was a sad cry for them to be friends again. That is, up until Ed failed to show up to class the next day. “Fright Night,” written by Marti Noxon and Tom Holland, was a fast-paced vampire film, set in the suburbs of Las Vegas, equipped with modern twists to keep us interested. The characters were likable even though they weren’t always smart. We knew Charley was a well-meaning young adult because he considered and questioned if he was doing the right thing. The checkpoint that went off in his head was his best quality, but it was also what Jerry tried to exploit. The predator must exploit its prey’s weaknesses. There were predictable elements in the picture. For instance, we expected the characters who chose to run upstairs to hide from the blood-thirsty vampire to never make it out of the house alive. And they didn’t. Maybe they didn’t deserve to. After all, with all the references thrown in the air, the teens must’ve seen a vampire movie or two prior to being vamp food. However, the writing was self-aware of the conventions and it wasn’t afraid to throw allusions to the original film, vampire movies, and literature. Though the expected happened, I felt as though it was more concerned with giving the audiences a good time. I loved its somewhat elliptical storytelling. The rising action was often interrupted by a mini-climax. The drawn-out set-up of investigating, hiding, being hunted, and escaping worked quite effectively. By giving us small but fulfilling rewards, it kept us wondering what would happen next. Still, the story could have used more character development. Charley’s mom (Toni Collette) felt like a cardboard cutout of an unaware parent. She knew her son had unique interests but to not question him seriously when their neighbor seemed to have a genuine complaint in terms of privacy being breached felt too convenient. Charley’s mom seemed like a tough woman but she wasn’t given room to grow. What the film needed less was of the self-described vampire expert/magician named Peter Vincent (David Tennant). Obviously, he was necessary for comic relief. I laughed at his ridiculousness, but what I had a difficult time accepting was the fact that he could survive a vampire attack multiple times. His backstory was sloppily handled. I commend “Fright Night,” directed by Craig Gillespie, for taking the original as an inspiration and telling a different kind of story. Its flaws didn’t matter as much because it had fun. It sure is more interesting than a shot-for-shot remake of the original which most likely would have forced us to ask why they even bothered.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
★★★ / ★★★★
Gary Oldman stars as Count Dracula, a man who found his love named Elisabeta (Winona Ryder) died after he arrived from the war. The priests did not want to give Elisabeta a proper burial because she committed suicide. This angered Dracula, denounced God and was cursed to live for eternity lusting for blood. Hundreds of years later, Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) was assigned to help Dracula to buy some property in London unknowing of the vampire’s true intentions. Eventually, Dracula set his sights on Harker’s wife (also played by Ryder) because she looked exactly like his former lover and Dr. Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) stepped in to help. I’m not entirely convinced on whether to recommend this picture. While I did find the asthetics magnificent and the execution of the story to be just fine, some crucial elements did not meet my expectations. I thought it sacrificed a lot of the terror for the sake of romance. When I watch a movie about Dracula, I expect to be suspended in suspense instead of watching him yearn over a lover. I thought the best scenes in the film were in the first half. There was something extremely creepy about the whole vibe of the castle when Jonathan visited Dracula in Transylvania. Every shadow and dark corner of the room felt menacing as if something seriously wrong was about to happen. The soundtrack was used sparingly so that the audiences could hear every creak and footstep made in the castle. The second half of the movie felt exactly the opposite. There were overt sexual references, consistent loud noises and the pacing became static. While it still remained elegant, I began to feel more apathetic toward each character when I should have been rooting for them because lives were at stake. Regardless of its flaws, I was still curious on what was going to happen next because Francis Ford Coppola, the director, had interesting techniques when it came to presenting his audiences gothic imagery. Coppola spent too much of his time with the images and asthetics of the picture that he somewhat neglected his characters and where the story was going. I’m not sure how closely this followed Bram Stoker’s original 1897 novel because I haven’t read it. But I must say that it definitely took me back to that time period. So in terms of escapism, I think this movie did a good job. However, when I try to really analyze it piece by piece, I’m not that impressed with it. It’s the strangest feeling.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
★★★★ / ★★★★
After being caught up with the “True Blood” craze, I decided to visit some of my favorite vampire movies. “Interview with the Vampire,” directed by Neil Jordan, was one of those movies I saw in early high school that I loved but forgot the details as years went on. I’m surprised this one strongly held up against other horror pictures, especially vampire movies. It’s something I didn’t quite expect because the movies I used to think were scary when I was younger turned out to be silly and vapid in storytelling. Tom Cruise stars as Lestat, a vampire who was as equally hungry for blood as he was with power. He one day decided to make Louis (Brad Pitt) into a vampire because, at least according to him, he wanted to give Louis a choice to relieve his pain of losing his wife and child. Despite turning into the undead, Louis still managed to hang onto his humanity by refusing to feed on humans. This bothered Lestat and thought that Louis’ loneliness would be eliminated by giving Louis a companion–in a form of a vampire child played by Kirsten Dunst. But this all happened in the past as the details which covered centuries were revealed by Louis to an enthusiastic reporter (Christian Slater). Although I did read the novels by Anne Rice, I only could remember three things: Louis, Lestat and the passion (both good and bad) between the two. What made me really engaged about this film was not because it was scary in content. I was actually more into Louis’ humanity, his efforts to abstain from human blood, and his eventual search for those who were like him. That romanticism was reflected into the elegant designs of each room in the 18th century to the dark corners of the catacombs. Another thing that was interesting was Kirsten Dunst. As an adult actress, she bores me to death because every emotion she wants to portray on screen feels the same. But in this film, she had range: she was quite magical, menacing, fascinating all rolled into one. For me, “Interview with the Vampire” is a great vampire film because it makes the argument that vampires have the capacity to choose to be good instead of just being one-dimensional fiends who crave blood and live for centuries. Although necessary to paint the nature of vampire, the gore, the violence, and the evil were secondary. It was consistent, thrilling, and very interesting.