I had the opportunity to see Fright Night this weekend when I was in Upstate NY visiting my mother.
TOTAL DISCLAIMER: Because I was in upstate NY visiting my mother, I obviously had to go to one of the less than 700 remaining drive-in movie theaters (don’t worry, I’m not such a fanatic that I knew this offhand; I did a respectable amount of googling to arrive at that conclusion) in the U.S. And because I was at one of the less than 700 remaining drive-in movie theaters in the U.S., I was also in one of the least-maintained movie theaters I’ve ever been to, and it was less than possible on several occasions to even see what was going on on the screen.
BE THAT AS IT MAY.
I was surprised to enjoy this movie. All in all, I thought it was entertaining. The first half an hour was a collection of grueling “awkward scenes where adults write what they imagine teenagers talk about” scenes, but once (*SPOILER ALERT!*) people started agreeing that ohshitvampiresarereal! the fun began.
Really, all of that is inconsequential in terms of why I’m writing this review. I want to talk about the portrayals of gender and teen sexuality in this movie. In short, I was so thrilled with what they did.
Fright Night was a movie that did rely upon the savior/damsel-in-distress trope. However, several men representing different versions of masculinity were also “in distress” throughout the movie, and were taken to the vampire’s lair. Furthermore, David Tennant’s character is the vampire expert in Fright Night’s world, and in the later parts of the movie it is revealed that he was a victim of a vampire attack as a young child.
I don’t like to see anyone be a victim, ever. But too often we see that women are the helpless, unwitting prey in movies, and it was a relief to see a film that was willing to explore and portray men in moments of weakness or confusion too. Men should be allowed to be vulnerable, even in Hollywood.
Anton Yelchin plays Charley in the movie, the unlikely hero. Charley is a teenage guy who was once a total nerd and has since escaped nerddom to become one of the “Cool Kids”. He’s got a Hot Girlfriend that everyone makes sure he knows is Hot, and wonders aloud how in the world Charley managed to become her boyfriend.
At the beginning of the movie, I was just WAITING for something obnoxious to happen with this. It didn’t. Charley’s relationship with Amy is honest and real. There are several scenes where they are making out and the question of sex arises. It becomes clear that they haven’t had sexual intercourse yet. Instead of using the tired theme wherein Guy Wants So Bad To Get Laid He’ll Do Anything, or the other tired theme wherein Hot Girl Is Also A Conniving Slut, what does this couple do? They have conversations. Charley is understandably distracted by the murderous, bloodthirsty vampire next door, and he tells her he’s not ready and he’s not in the mood. Wha-wha-what?? A guy? Who’s not a mindless lust drone?! Hollywood, you DIDN’T! I called Hollywood up, and their official response was, “Oh Yes We Did.”
The couple is allowed to be nervous about having sex, while still intrigued and honestly full of desire. They are both allowed to admit their hesitation, and Amy tells Charley that she cares about him because he’s a sensitive geek (read: good person, when you’re in MovieLand), not in spite of it. While I recognize that this is yet another trope, I’m still floored.
Eventually, Amy and Charley get to the point in their relationship and in the movie where they can, and want to, have sex. The experience is shown as one that’s full of laughter, happiness, and desire. Hollywood, that is what I like to see. You get me?