Thursday Trailer Face-Off! Good Neighbors vs. Fright Night

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Published May 19, 2011

 

 

 

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Good Neighbors and Fright Night, two comedy-thrillers about what happens when a charming new stranger moves into the neighborhood—and isn’t what he appears to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PlotBoth Good Neighbors and Fright Night start with a new guy moving to town: in the former, it’s Jay Baruchel, who moves into a new apartment building “in a city gripped by fear” (thanks for that, movie announcer guy) due to a serial rapist and killer on the loose. He quickly befriends two pals who already live in the building (Scott Speedman and Emily Hampshire). But then, surprise surprise, everyone has secrets! The trailer sets it up to look like Speedman is, in fact, the rapist, though we’re willing to bet that’s not how it works out in the film. In Fright Night, the new addition is a beefy new next-door neighbor (Colin Farrell); Charley (Anton Yelchin)’s mom seems quite taken with him, but Charley’s best friend (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) points out that he’s a vampire. And it seems to be true! Both are promising premises, and are made even more intriguing by the the fact that IMDb bills each film first as a comedy and second as a horror film or thriller. If this is true, we’re going to give it to Fright Night, because comedy seems like it fits better into that schema: vampires are silly and made-up, and therefore can be a very fitting and rewarding vehicle for chuckles. Serial rapists are neither silly nor made-up, and it’s a lot touchier to make a comedy based on one terrorizing a city. Advantage: Fright Night

Cute Boys The casting of these films is remarkably parallel: both feature two hot guys who fit into very different categories of hotness, as well as a guy whose career has been made playing nerds (more on that later). For now, the hunks. Each film features a super-masculine guy from the British Isles—Scott Speedman (who’s English; who knew?) in Good Neighbors, and Colin Farrell (Irish, of course) in Fright Night. And each one also features a young, Interview-approved up-and-comer who fits more into the hipster hottie mold: Xavier Dolan (Good Neighbors) and Anton Yelchin (Fright Night). Dolan vs. Yelchin is too close to call: they’re both widely considered to be on the brink of stardom, and they were even born in the same month (March 1989, for those wondering). As for Speedman vs. Farrell, Farrell is definitely a bigger star, but Speedman’s career may be on the upswing—he’s got three films in post-production right now. And we’ve had a little thing for Speedman ever since Felicity, not that we had a poster of him from J-14 in our tweenaged bedroom or anything, definitely not. Advantage: Draw

Rest of the Cast The films are also pretty evenly matched when it comes to nerdy guys who have starred in Judd Apatow projects: Jay Baruchel, of Good Neighbors, was in Undeclared and Knocked Up, while Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of Fright Night, unforgettably played Fogell (or, if you prefer, McLovin) in Superbad. So these two are a wash. Good Neighbors also features Emily Hampshire, who seems to be big in Canada, maybe? But she’s handily beaten by Toni Collette, who plays Yelchin’s mom in Fright Night and who is excellent. She wins the category, so Fright Night‘s additional inclusion of hip young things Imogen Poots and Dave Franco is just gravy. Advantage: Fright Night

Director Good Neighbors was written and directed by Jacob Tierney; it’s his third full-length film. (The others were a “queer Oliver Twist update set in the hustler district of modern-day Toronto” and a movie about a high-school student who believes he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky. So, range!) Likewise, Fright Night is director Craig Gillespie’s third full-length; his first two were Lars and the Real Girl, that movie where Ryan Gosling falls in love with a doll, and Mr. Woodcock, a movie starring Seann William Scott (strike one), the poster for which featured Billy Bob Thornton holding basketballs where his testicles should go (strikes two and three). Sigh. If we needed any more reason to give this one to Good Neighbors, we’ll just note that Tierney has some 36 acting credits in addition to his directing work; hopefully that means he knows how to work with performers. Advantage: Good Neighbors

Allusions Speedman’s character in Good Neighbors is confined to a wheelchair, which he explains at 0:34 is because of a car accident in which his wife died. At 1:00, Speedman sits in the wheelchair, directly in front of a window at the back of his apartment, which he then opens up—we can’t be imagining the Rear Window nod there, right?  (Also, does he stand up to open the window? What’s up with that?) Fright Night, of course, is sort of a huge allusion in its very existence—it’s a remake of the 1985 film by the same title. No point on this one, just an observation. Advantage: Draw

Thrills Of the two, Good Neighbors is the one that might be genuinely scary. Its freaky moments are more the psychological, unsettling type: who can be trusted? Who’s following Emily Hampshire down that dark alley? Stuff happens in the shadows! And the song in the trailer is spooky, too: its lyrics (“Don’t turn the light on”), set against the poppy tune and the sweet timbre of the singer’s voice, are giving us goosebumps! By contrast, Fright Night kinda lays it all out on the line: we see Farrell about to bite a naked young blonde; we see him fiddle with the gas lines in Yelchin’s house, which allows him to blow up their fireplace; we see him choking Yelchin’s girlfriend. We also see Yelchin, at 2:03 walking into the vampire’s house, crossbow in hand, wearing a sort of… space suit?  That tableau is a lot goofier than it is scary. Advantage: Good Neighbor

LaughsOn the other hand, for both being movies billed as comedy-thrillers, Fright Night is the only one that made us crack a smile. We watched the Good Neighbors trailer four times, combing through it for a joke, and the closest we got was Speedman asking Hampshire, with reference to Baruchel (we think), “You don’t get a… ‘serial-rapist’ vibe off of him?” Um… ha? As for Fright Night, it fits in at least one or two good ones: the way Farrell throws off a disinterested “Hey” to Yelchin after fully checking out his girlfriend (0:34); the fact that Yelchin refuses to believe what his best friend tells him about Jerry because “that is a terrible vampire name: Jerry?!” Advantage: Fright Night

The VerdictBoth of these films look promising—perfect for a chilling diversion from soaring late-summer temperatures (Good Neighbors is out July 29; Fright Night is out three weeks later). But between the two, we think Fright Night has more to offer: a few laughs, some explosions, and Vampire Colin Farrell hilariously biting into a Granny Smith apple. Winner: Fright Night