There are two horror movies playing in most theaters right now. If you like horror movies and can only see one of them, this is your guide to figuring out which one is right for you. This will include mild spoilers about the general plot points of the movies, but I’m not going to spill any major details or talk about endings or tell you that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
This is a horror movie where every character does exactly the opposite of what they should do in a horror movie. Every single character. A small child hears creepy voices and follows them into a dingy basement. The parents who clearly need to take their child out of a creepy house refuse to do so because of some event that has nothing to do with forcing the child to stay in the creepy house all the time. Everyone does everything alone, including wandering around in the dark. Once they figure out the monster’s weakness, they don’t use it to their advantage effectively. Jamie Kennedy’s character in Scream is rolling in his grave. Be warned, the people in this movie will drive you crazy with their terrible choices.
At the same time, this is a beautifully shot movie. The overall atmosphere is great, Del Toro is fantastic at setting a mood. The monsters are genuinely creepy. The setting of the film is beautiful and mysterious, especially the creepy house the majority of the film takes place in. There were a few scenes involving the young female character, Sally, wandering around outside that were very much reminiscent of Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which I consider to be a masterpiece. But this film is no Pan’s Labyrinth. It is not even Pan’s Crossword Puzzle.
Katie Holmes does a decent job as a likable woman trying to get along with her boyfriend’s child, who is suddenly living with them. Out of all the characters, she seems to be the only one who ever considers doing something logical for a person living in a horror movie. Her gradual bond with Sally is believable. What is confusing, however, is how detached both Sally’s parents are from her, overmedicating and ignoring her, something that is never really addressed or explained.
The real stars of this movie, however, are the little monsters, creepy little hunchbacked rat-mole things that scuttle around in the dark. While most movie monsters who lurk in the dark lose their scariness and become silly once they are seen in the light, these things retain their spookiness. Maybe its because they seemed more cute and harmless before you clearly see their ugly little faces.
Fright Night is a remake of a decent but forgettable ’80s horror movie involving a teen and a vampire. This remake focuses on the main character’s geek past and his insistence on keeping it secret from his beautiful, popular girlfriend and the dudes he seems to have semi-befriended in the process of dating her. He finds out from a geeky ex-friend that his neighbor is a vampire who is killing people around him, something he won’t until he finds proof. Once he knows a vampire is picking off people around him, he tries to get people to help, specifically a prominent vampire expert/magician, but no one believes him until they see the crazy for their own eyes. Standard horror stuff, nothing really special about this plot.
The actors, however, were absolutely fantastic. Colin Farrell plays a fun villain, the sexy-cool vampire Jerry who remains composed and seems like he’s mildly enjoying the whole ordeal. Farrell has really been on a roll this summer, with this and his scene-stealing part as a coked-up brat with a terrible combover in Horrible Bosses. Anton Yelchin and Toni Collette put in really good performances, especially considering the caliber of acting expected from horror movies. Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin) play the same people they always play.
The best part of the movie is easily David Tennant, complimented perfectly by his spitfire assistant/girlfriend, played by Sandra Vergara. Tennant is hilarious and tragic as a Midori-swilling, self-loathing magician. He steals every second of every scene he’s in and just nails the part. The role seems as though it was written for someone like Russell Brand, but Tennant is so much better than Brand could ever be. I really cannot say enough good stuff about Tennant. (Editor’s Note: I approve of this message.)
The CGI bits, such as morphing vampire mouths, can come off as a bit cheesy and fake, but overall, this movie is as scary as any movie about vampire-fighting teens could be. It also has plenty of humor without trying too hard or taking away from the tension and fright of certain scenes. (The scene involving the Real Housewives of NJ comes to mind)
So which movie should you see? If beautiful sets and cinematography are some of your favorite parts of watching movies, or if you just really can’t handle another vampire movie, go see Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. Otherwise (and especially if you like David Tennant) go see Fright Night.