I haven’t been a fan of this project at all. The original FRIGHT NIGHT came in 1985 to theaters… It hit cable shortly after that – and FRIGHT NIGHT was on multiple times a week in my home. I watched it habitually. Incessantly. I watched this film and Charley Brewster joined a select group of kids that represented my sense of geek identity throughout High School. Kids like Alex Rogan, Den, Ren McCormack, Ferris Bueller, Billy Peltzer and Charley Brewster… they were all geeky kids. They were all outside the typical High School crowd. They all had not only the capacity to believe in the fantastical, but an almost manifest destiny to discover the unknown and survive it. Make that shit their bitch, while the typical High School kid became lunch… or just remained typical and clueless. There were a lot of these films in the 80s. Movies that connected with my generation and became a common language when my generation hit online 15 years ago. I commonly discount finger crucifixes with, “You have to believe, for that to work” – and if the person smiles – it means they get it, they’re one of us. They’re a geek.
FRIGHT NIGHT is one of those films for me. I love it. Roddy McDowall’s PETER VINCENT is one of those singularly awesome creations. That I just absolutely love Roddy McDowall – gives him a cred, that my kid brain absolutely believed that I would go to him to seek supernatural fighting advice. When Vincent Price hit Wichita Falls – watching Charley contact Peter Vincent… helped give me the courage to reach out and chat with Mr Price – so I owe FRIGHT NIGHT one of the greatest conversations I had in High School.
Then about a week ago some friends started seeing FRIGHT NIGHT. A film I had pretty much written off. I hadn’t liked the trailers, the posters… it just wasn’t rubbing my rhubarb right.
But these friends, they liked the movie, surprisingly so. So just hearing that, I decided to drop my precious nostalgic rose colored adulation of the original, and just went in hoping to have a good time tonight.
There’s a reason to hope this is a good movie. The script was written by Marti Noxon, who did write some good episodes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and MAD MEN… but she is also partly responsible for the horror that was I AM NUMBER FOUR (whew). The film was being helmed by Craig Gillespie, he made a big splash with LARS & THE REAL GIRL, but then smacked us with MR. WOODCOCK… so, I was really hoping he’d break out of that sophmore flick slump. The film’s cast was also fun. I love Anton Yelchin – from the moment I saw CHARLIE BARTLETT, I wanted more from him. I can’t wait to see him be Chekov again, and his Kyle Reese was the singular awesome aspect of TERMINATOR SALVATION. I also love Christopher Mintz-Plasse. McLovin’ & Red Mist & especially his Augie from ROLE MODELS – which I feel not nearly enough people properly respect.
I was wary of Colin Farrell as Jerry the Vampire. I do tend to like Farrell in film, but I was worried about what he could do in the part – but open to it. Not being a DR WHO watcher, I just couldn’t help but wonder if I’d have the dear Dr. fighting the ghost of Roddy McDowall.
Happily, there’s only a couple of moments in the film that I really thought about the original film – and that came in a couple of the key similar moments between the film, but really – this is an entirely new FRIGHT NIGHT – and that’s a good thing.
Charley Brewster is that kid whose acne went away and he started to come into his own IN High School. One day, he had a beautiful girlfriend, and suddenly his friends were not nearly as important as they were before. Christopher Mintz Plasse’s Ed was his best friend, and now – he really doesn’t register as much of a blip on Charley’s social radar. “Evil” blackmails Charley into listening to him, to giving him his time. BUT – Charley doesn’t need that world of geekery anymore. He feels he has to hide that side of him, because he’s terrified that his girlfriend AMY, played by the so cute and awesome Imogen Poots, well – he’s convinced that he has to be more normal & well-adjusted to keep her.
In this version, Ed twists Charley’s arm to help him investigate the disappearance of a mutual friend. Ed is convinced that Charley’s neighbor is in fact a VAMPIRE – which just further pushes Charley away from Ed. I mean seriously, VAMPIRES? In a day & age with HOT TOPIC selling all manners of TWILIGHT vampire worship totems? I get where Charley is – but at the same time, he’s totally being a douche. As a basic rule, if your girl isn’t vibing with your friends, it is probably a good idea to move on. Finding a person that flawlessly fits into your life and your eccentricities… that’s what all good geeks should be looking for. They exist and may even be the girl you’re dating – a lesson that Charley is sorely needing.
Once Colin Farrell enters the movie – it’s just impossible to not kinda love. I mean, the BEER SCENE in this is just classic. The highway chase sequence… so good. Colin’s JERRY is not as swarmy as Chris Sarandon’s Jerry. Colin is playing with his kills. He knows he has a complete advantage. Especially over some punk kid. He’s been alive for hundreds of years – and having this cute lil Charley kid thinking he can enter his house, fuck with his food, make his house SAFE? It amuses Jerry. Jerry looks at the crosses and garlic and holy water and thinks of the centuries that they’ve left no permanent scars upon him. He’s above the mumbo jumbo and most importantly – he knows how to scare the rats into the open. He’s dangerous & a wannabe motherfucker.
Speaking of mom, Charley’s mom is none other than Toni Collette – an actress that I’ve loved on film for a good long time. From MURIEL’S WEDDING to EMMA to VELVET GOLDMINE to SIXTH SENSE to SHAFT to ABOUT A BOY to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – she’s always delivered in her roles. Here, she’s a single Mom with a boy that just amuses her and makes her proud. She likes to listen in on her son’s conversations with his girlfriend – and you can see she likes this girl… and is proud of her son. When the shit gets going and her son asks her to trust him, she does the smart mom thing and listens to her clearly freaked out son, and tells Jerry to go get the authorities. It is a great moment, but what Colin does next is just kind of fantastic. You’ll see.
Ok – so you’ve noticed I’ve been avoiding talking about PETER VINCENT. How is David Tennant? Well, he’s awesome. By skewering Criss Angel – Tennant wisely side steps everything that Roddy did so perfectly in the original. He isn’t the late night horror host. He’s a Vegas nightmare. A magician that theatrically transforms his magic act into a Goth’s wet dream. It’s kind of hilarious. When you take in the whole of this Peter Vincent’s story – you get his cowardice. There’s trauma in his life. The character is much more integral to the story, than even Roddy was… but there’s no denying… when I hear the name Peter Vincent, it will always be Roddy that I think of. But I liked this interpretation quite a bit, because it was so completely different.
We’re in the midst of a whole set of remakes and not all of them will work. FRIGHT NIGHT does, it doesn’t succeed as wildly as the other Craig’s remake, but it does manage to be creepy, exciting and funny. Three things that a FRIGHT NIGHT should always be. The key misstep of this film was not knowing when to lose the CG. KNB’s makeup work is great, when CG isn’t mucking it up. That said, there’s two sequences that used the CG exceptionally well. I also wanted to give a couple of shout outs. Ramin Djawadi’s score was pretty damn nifty. A bit old fashioned at times – but in a way that I miss. And Javier Aguirresarobe’s cinematography was especially sharp. I loved how warm his nights were. Typically in 3D, everything compresses in the dark. But the way the suburban neighborhoods were lit, I absolutely got the sense of depth and dimension that you see at night.
The best thing I can say is that I really did enjoy the film. That’s something that I didn’t think I could say, and I’m genuinely happy to be able to. For me, the original film has too much nostalgia and good memories to ever say I prefer this one, but this one is solid entertainment.