Fright Night: Now that's just not fair!
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.
So there's this gal, and there's some danger. It's some really bad danger too, not quite Terminator 2 level, but really, how the hell is she going to get out of the danger? Oh wait, there are TWO gals, and neither one of them are panicking. Wow, that's cool. And there's a guy, but he's likable, and everyone's kind of working as a team even though he's the main character, and he's doing most of the whacking the danger at first, but so far that's okay. And then WHOA one of the gals gives the danger a big ol' smackdown and saves the dude. Awesome!
And then she falls down and leaves the plot.
It's okay, we still have the other gal. She's tough. If this danger showed up in my neighborhood, I would have screamed and caught the next plane to another continent. But she's with the main character, they're going after answers together about how to stop the danger. And they're in a building full of weapons, so when danger shows up, she's grabbing them and doing her best to fuck shit up. She's doing just as well as the main character dude. It's a team up! And honest to goodness male-female ass-kicking team-up!
And then they get separated... and she's calling out to him... and the danger gets her... which makes the main character dude really mad... oh DAMN it's just turned into every other movie.
Seriously, y'all, Fright Night was a big disappointment on the Heroine Content front. I was so happy! Until I wasn't.
Let me give you the lay of the land. Anton Yelchin is Charley, our white teenage boy geek protagonist. Colin Ferrell is the creepy white vampire who moves in next door. David Tennant is the white poseur "vampire expert" who turns out to know more than he wanted to let on about the dark forces.
You're noticing I'm saying white a lot, yes? There are apparently only two people of color in Las Vegas. One is a "spicy" Latina (Sandra Vergara) who walks around in her underwear and trades profanity-laced insults with Tennant until she's vampired. The other (Chelsea Tavares) is an African-American high school student who gets two lines of dialogue. I don't remember another person of color with any lines, even though there are a half dozen additional characters with some dialogue.
I have to point out, while "women" as a category have it bad in action films, we really need to remember that "women" isn't a great category for just about anything. It's too big. Pretty white women with no obvious disability are so far ahead of women with any other appearance and background in being reflected in these films. And all media ever.
But let's talk more about the two white women, since they are what make the film eligible for review here. Charley's girlfriend Amy is played by Imogen Poots, and his mother is played by Toni Collette, one of my favorite actors. When push comes to shove, such as a vampire trying to rip out your throat, these are the women I'd want on my team. First, complete lack of gratuitous screaming and panicking. Second, ability to follow orders when those orders are common sense, unlike many people in horror movies. Third, they take initiative and think on their feet.
Unfortunately, there is no room in this film for more than one hero. Mom gets a moment to shine, but then she must fall so the hero is aggrieved. Amy gets a little more time, and I really, really, really thought they were going to let her and Charley be a team. They were working so well together. I was getting so excited! I literally yelled "Go Amy!" My husband was like "no, she's DEAD" but I wanted to believe! But then, damsel in need of saving.
Damn you, Fright Night, for making me love you and then breaking up with me 10 minutes later!
Here's my question. Would the film have been less commercially successful if she hadn't gone victim? Charley was already pretty damn motivated to kill this vampire. It's not like he was fixin' to leave town before Amy got taken. His mom was injured, his former best friend had been killed, and the vamp had also killed someone Charley tried to save at great risk to himself. Charley's house was destroyed, and his mom's van was totaled. There was plenty of motivation! "Girlfriend in peril" was not the only plot strategy that could have moved this movie forward. How about this, for example:
Charley: "He hurt my mom."
Amy: "I know. And we have to stop him from hurting anyone else. The police can't do it. It's up to us."
Was that so hard?
I really had a good time watching this movie. It's funny and creepy and very well paced. The characters are engaging, except for the one that's an undead serial killer. (They're not supposed to be engaging.) But I can only give it one star. Typical in being full of white people, and typical in using the woman as bait. So sad.