Fright Night (2011) – Even The Straight Boys are Queer

There are some things that female directors do better than male directors and one of them is acknowledging the moral and psychological ambiguities inherent in the loss of sexual innocence.

Consider such mainstream accounts of adolescent sexuality as the Porky’s and American Pie series and you will find teenaged boys that are monuments to frustrated worldliness.  Endless fonts of libidinal energy, these teenagers know all the moves and all the rules but cannot find anyone with whom to put them into practice. In most films, males are either guileless children or frenetic satyrs, there is no middle ground and there is no real sense of psychological transition. Films that should describe a coming of age all too often opt for depicting an age of cumming. By contrast, films such as Lucille Hadzhihalilovic’s Innocence (2004), Katell Quillevere’s Love Like Poison (2010) and Celine Sciamma’s Water Lillies (2007) depict the loss of female innocence as a profoundly ambiguous process, a fall from grace into desire and a movement from protected freedom to vulnerable responsibility.

Cinema’s lack of engagement with the subtleties of male sexuality is also evident in a lot of gay independent cinema. ‘Coming out’ dramas such as The String (2009), Shank (2009) and even Tropical Malady (2004) focus less upon the emergence of homosexual desire than they do upon the process through which apparently straight men come to terms with the social pressures keeping them in the closet. One notable exception to this rule is Tom Holland’s sadly overlooked vampire film Fright Night (1985), in which a teenaged boy finds himself trapped between the sexual demands of his increasingly frustrated girlfriend and the siren’s call of the sexually ambiguous man-next-door. Nowadays, the equation of male sexuality with vampirism is a largely unquestioned part of the genre landscape given that both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Twilight books present adolescent males as dangerously libidinal creatures whose desires must be kept in check lest all hell break loose. This metaphorical Othering of male sexuality is particularly evident in Meyer’s Twilight series as the books feature a male vampire who effectively castrates himself in order to assume the role of an ersatz gay best friend. Once feared and desired in equal measure, the vampiric sexuality of adolescent boys is now house-broken for the purposes of romance, teenaged boys are now expected to sigh and to speak of love but never to demand a hand-job.

Half an hour into Craig Gillespie’s remake of Fright Night, a character expresses absolute outrage at the suggestion that he reads Twilight novels. This fragment of dialogue constitutes a statement of intent: Fright Night is not about dickless pretty-boys; it is about a male sexuality that is red in tooth and claw. A sexuality so terrifying in its primal nature that it even frightens the men afflicted by it.  Far more than a vampire movie or a horror-comedy, Gillespie’s Fright Night attempts to follow in the footsteps of Innocence and Love Like Poison by confronting received wisdom about the adolescent sexual experience. However, the more the movie deconstructs traditional depictions of adolescent male sexuality, the more it struggles to find an alternative to the frustrated satyrs of American Pie thereby begging the question: What is it like to be a teenaged boy?

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