'Fright Night': He's Handy

As much as boys in Charley's position (fatherless, bullied, not as witty as he'd like to think) might want approval from older guys, Charley's rather surrounded by unsuitable role models.

Fright Night

Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant
Rated: R
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Year: 2011
US date: 2011-08-19 (General release)
UK date: 2011-09-02 (General release)

"Do you want to get under the covers?" Poor Charley (Anton Yelchin). He's been waiting forever to hear that invitation from his gorgeous girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots), and now that she's offered, he can't focus. "Right now?" he frets, as she begins to unbutton her top. The doorbell rings over at the next door neighbor's, and jeez, Charley's distracted. See, he thinks Jerry (Colin Farrell) might be a vampire, and now that he's hearing Jerry proposition another neighbor, the ever-buoyant, ever-short-shortsed Doris (Emily Montague), Charley can't attend to the blond in his bed. Feeling disrespected, Amy buttons back up and exits. And Charley finds himself at the window, watching Jerry, who watches him back.

In fact, it's hard to take your eyes off Jerry. And that's from his first scene in Fright Night, where he's flirting with Charley's single mom Jane (Toni Collette). As she looks him up and down, so does the camera, just before it cuts back to Charley, disapproving. Jerry's fond of himself, that much is plain, and pleased to show off his notable physique, sweating in his dirty wife-beater. Jane appreciates that he's moved in ("He's handy," she notes), as her Vegas real estate business has been down of late, and homeowners are disappearing.

Charley has noticed missing people too, suddenly absent classmates whose names the teacher reads off each morning. No one in town has started to put together these events, but you have, because you've also noticed Jerry's unusual pallor and lascivious looks at Amy and Jane, as well as the numbers of realtors' placards punched into lawns, on wooden stakes, yes. You've also noticed that Charley's onetime best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is making sense when he checks off the signs he's seen, signs that vampires are afoot and specifically, that Jerry's one of them (he's blacked out his windows, he's got an extensive basement).

Ed's been researching, and he's got a vampire kit, a duffel bag loaded with crosses and garlic and instructions downloaded from the internet, as well as a brochure for the "Fright Night" show downtown, where Peter Vincent (David Tennant, resembling Russell Brand by way of Criss Angel) vanquishes elaborately mascara-ed and cleavaged bloodsuckers nightly, on stage. His faith in Peter's wisdom regarding all things vampiric stems from his own googling, as well as the showman's website, which features not only clicks to purchase tickets but also seeming instructions on the creatures' proclivities and weaknesses. Because Charley's been trying too hard to hang with Amy and other cool kids -- or at least stave off daily abuses by bullies like Mark (David Franco) -- he's stopped paying much attention to Ed, and now feels embarrassed by his increasingly frantic insistence that vampires even exist.

Of course, most high schoolers know that as a matter of course. Vampires represent all the usual terrors of sex and desire, as well looming adult responsibilities. Screenwriter Marti Noxon (who here works from Tom Holland's 1985 film) plumbed these terrors repeatedly in Buffy, and here, looking through Charley/ Xander's wide eyes, these appear even more daunting than to a bona fide slayer. And so, as Charley comes to see Ed's wisdom (too late for Ed, whose turning by Jerry occasions an especially raucous and resentful quarrel with his ex-best-friend Charley), he's aware of how his own claims sound. "Two days ago," he tells Peter on their first meeting, "I would have laughed in my face." Peter agrees: "You're a nut job."

As much as boys in Charley's position (fatherless, bullied, not as witty as he'd like to think) might want approval from older guys, Charley's rather surrounded by unsuitable role models. If Peter presents himself as knowledgeable and also not responsible (and also as a ladies' man, though his current girlfriend/employee/co-actor cruelly dismisses his performance), Jerry is all seething masculine privilege. He consumes (pretty) girls because he can and likes to teach upstarts like Charley (and Ed and Peter) lessons in submission too. "Women who look a certain way need to be managed," he advises Charley, who takes the threat for what it is, and refuses to invite Jerry into his house.

Charley's not exceptionally speedy on bringing Jane and Amy into his own circle of knowledge, but when he does at last, and the action begins in earnest, Fright Night turns more regular. Now the monster's appetite -- for Amy in particular, as a means to bait Charley -- looks properly heterosexual, though at least part of this film's initial charge lies in the homo-tensions. These telegraphed in a series of glances between Farrell and Yelchin, and underlined (obliquely) by repeated references to Charley's un-manhood: the bullies complain that he drinks macchiatos, hangs with Amy and her girlfriends, wears the wrong sneakers.

Amy likes exactly all this about him, of course, which makes the film's shift into more familiar plotting (the boy has to rescue the girl) not only predictable but also uncool. Both Charley and Amy have to assume those adult responsibilities, however traditional and tedious they may be.


This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.