FRIGHT NIGHT opens in theaters today and I recently talked with writer Marti Noxon about her work on the film. Any geek worth a damn knows who Marti Noxon is - her work on the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER series alone gets her much geek cred - and this phoner interview was a lot of fun. I especially loved talking about SHERLOCK. Really great show, and who knows, maybe we'll see BUFFY's Ripper character again, if Marti has her way.
I liked FRIGHT NIGHT quite a bit - my review here - and I thought the film was smart in how it not only referenced the original but also was it's own thing. Without further blah-blah:
Nordling: I've seen the film, I really liked it. I thought it was interesting how it honored the original and yet it goes off on its own place as well. But I guess you can't seem to get away from the vampires, huh?
Marti Noxon: I know, and it's funny, it seems to be, it's kind of a sweet spot for me. I can try to do other things and they don't seem to work as well! And of course now vampires are peaking. I also just did a rewrite on PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, so maybe zombies will work out for me too.
Nordling: A lot of the fun of the film was how you try to skirt the rules. The rules are pretty solid but you have to go around them, like about how you can't get in the house without being invited, and what Jerry does to get in the house - I don't want to spoil because people will be reading it, but I thought that was really clever. I love how the rules are tweeked a little bit.
Marti Noxon: Like how when you start to turn and then something bad would happen.
Nordling: It respects the source material. How much of the original film did you want to bring into this one or did you want to stick with the premise and go in your own direction?
Marti Noxon: There were a number of classic moments that a lot of us agreed that we really wanted to touch on again, like the moment when Jerry gets in the house and the mom's reaction to that, and the scene in the nightclub is obviously different but we wanted to touch on that. There are many ways in which we stuck to the classic moments in the original, we just made them our own, you know?
Nordling: Since the original came out, and Chris Sarandon plays Dandrige as straight out of a Hammer film, and since then, we've had TWILIGHT, and other vampire films. How much of that did you want to put in there to reference things that have happened since the original, including BUFFY?
Marti Noxon: That was part of the reason that I was excited for the chance to do the movie. We live in a TWILIGHT/BUFFY universe, and TRUE BLOOD, every place you turn everybody's familiar with the tropes, and all the characters in the movie are pretty vampire-savvy, but they're vampire savvy from pop culture, and I thought it would be really fun to try to comment on that while actually making another vampire movie.
Also, you can see that Jerry is not like a lot of these vampires in a lot of these movies. We went really old school in the sense in that he's very much a predator, you know, he's not an emotional creature.
Nordling: You have these other vampires in other films who are elaborate characters who have this huge historical background, but in the end Jerry in FRIGHT NIGHT is pretty much stripped to the basics, where he's all about, "I feed, and I feed, and I feed, and that's all that I am."
Marti Noxon: Right, and that was really Mike DeLuca, one of the producers on this movie, he's a real horror fan, he's a real buff like me, he said to me early on, "Let's just do the shark from JAWS. Let's just make this guy so bad." And I was really excited about that. I came in with the same directive. "Let's go to NEAR DARK and some of those characters, those really awful Southern badasses."
Nordling: In the original FRIGHT NIGHT most of the time Charley's just trying to get people to believe him, but in this one, he tells his mom and his mom decides to give him the benefit of the doubt, even though it sounds outlandish. It's almost as if, they have all this vampire pop culture knowledge to work with, and they use that, but Jerry also uses that, he uses what they know.
Marti Noxon: Right, exactly. He starts to guess that Charley knows what he is pretty early on, and one of the things we knew we couldn't do in this movie is play the question of whether he was or wasn't for very long, because the audience is already well ahead of us. And as much as it's fun to watch people not believe him, we thought we'd have a lot more fun once the chase is on.
Nordling: One of the interesting aspects of Charley Brewster in this one is that he's a kid who's very much trying to find his place, he's putting away a lot of his past, because he's embarrassed, but he has to embrace that again to be able to fight this thing.
Marti Noxon: Exactly. I love how Craig Gillespie, the director, shoots the ending and makes all that very clear that he becomes kind of a whole person. If I was working with a scene, that was how do we, you know part of when you're young is trying to figure out exactly who you are, and when there's parts of us that you don't like, so we try to lop that arm off, and the truth is to become who you are you have to integrate all those parts of yourself to become a man. That's very much part of the journey.
But that was Charley's story, and I could relate to that, because I was a really nerdy kid who thought I was super-unpopular, and as soon as I got a chance to get away from that, for a while I tried to pretend like I didn't know the kids that I had come up with. "No, just don't talk to me in the hall." And I always felt guilty about that, that it was a shame that I got away from myself that way.
Nordling: One of the other aspects that I enjoyed in the film - I loved the cameo-
Marti Noxon: Wasn't that great?
Nordling: Yes, it was. I loved how there was a really complete difference between those two characters. How Colin Farrell plays him like the shark. Did you have like a big vampire bible for yourself for the new film?
Marti Noxon: It's funny, there's a scene in the movie where Charley goes on the Internet to learn about vampires, and that was pretty much what I did. I did that a lot, of course, during the years on Buffy, on all kinds of monsters and creature lore, and I pulled from a lot of different lores, you know, both movie lore, and real, ancient stories, like there's a reference to something called St. Michael's Stake, and that's actually something I found, I can't remember what the origin was, but some real mythology about fighting demons. I did the hybrid, and that was really fun, but I tried to stick to the most important rules. I don't think vampires should be able to walk around in the sunshine.
Nordling: Right. I have a few Buffy questions, because I have a friend of mine who is a huge fan, and I have to ask Marti about Ripper. She's a big Ripper fan, and I know the back story of Giles shows up a little bit, but she wanted to know if you had a really big back story planned for him, and I know at one time there was even a suggestion of having a spin-off character, kind of like a prequel spin-off. right?
Marti Noxon: Yeah, there was a real plan at one point to do it at the BBC, and I still wish we could, because they make some great genre TV. I'm a huge fan of BEING HUMAN, and I'm a huge fan of JEKYLL, and they just do that so well-
Nordling: SHERLOCK is amazing.
Marti Noxon: Oh, SHERLOCK is so good. I keep trying to get people to Netflix it. Benedict Cumberbatch is just incredible.
Nordling: He is. I wanted to see him do the FRANKENSTEIN play.
Marti Noxon: Did you see it on film, because they broadcast it into theaters.
Nordling: Yeah, but I don't think it made it out here. I'm in Houston, and I don't think it played here. So I'll have to find it.
Marti Noxon: I went and it was incredible.
Nordling I love that show. I'm actually more excited for Martin Freeman coming back to that than doing THE HOBBIT!
Martii Noxon: He was amazing too. What a great take on that character. We all dream that one day we can do (RIPPER) in Britain. And who knows? There's still a chance now that you mention it. Wouldn't that be fun. We did have a lot of stuff worked out for that, we just never got a chance to do it.
Nordling: In FRIGHT NIGHT the characters seem like genuine kids, in the original as well as this one. Tell me a little bit about the casting. I thought the casting, especially of Christopher Mintz-Plasse was perfect.
Marti Noxon: The movie was produced my Dreamworks, and Mr. Spielberg was really involved with everything. I think we wanted that Amblin cast, with kids that we could really relate to. And Anton was such a great leading man, because he feels like a real guy. There was an access point problem with people for I AM NUMBER FOUR, because Alex Pettyfer is so perfect. It's hard to relate to that guy. He looks like a male model. And Anton is handsome, but in a way that feels like "oh, he's that good looking guy from school." And he's also vulnerable.
Nordling: Well, it's like watching him come into - it's like seeing, that summer before, is right when it happened, like when puberty happened, and it transformed him and he came back to school that next year, Ithink everybody in their youth has had that, you know, in their sophomore year they go away for the summer, and in their junior year they're an entirely different person. And that's the feeling I got from that character.
Marti Noxon: Right, there were a couple of lines, in fact, I think we had another reference at one point, to somebody saying, "I see your skin cleared up!" We did that a couple of times.
Nordling: And Evil Ed is trying to hold on to that relationship, but he can't keep it because Charley's just moved on. It's interesting, I think everybody's had that in their childhood, that's just growing up. That's a universal thing, I think.
Marti Noxon: Yeah, exactly, I had a friend who we used to have a club called the Room Six And A Half Club because there was this weird room at our school, that was more of a hallway than a room, and the Room Six And A Half Club was basically a club for kids who didn't have any friends, which by its very definition is kind of an oxymoron. But we were all just the weirdest, geekiest, most socially awkward kids in school, and then after a while one of the girls in particular, she was the girl that kept coming up to me, when I got into 7th and 8th grade, and she was like, "Hey, you want to play after school?" and I was like, "Dude, you can't say that! We don't play, don't.." and she was really awesome. And of course she's someone I look back now and she was the coolest girl in school, she was so ahead of all the bullshit, she just didn't care.
Nordling: When you're in the midst of it, it's hard to look outside of it. One of the interesting things about watching the original FRIGHT NIGHT now is that when I saw it I was that age, I was in high school, and when you're looking at it from beyond it's different, and it's like that with the new one as well. You're seeing all these people really wrapped up in these issues that don't really relate to the adults anymore. But the character played by Anton Yelchin, like you said, he kinda comes out of it. It's very much a film about coming to grips with your adulthood.
Marti Noxon: Yeah, and coming to grips with the parts of you that also look back and you think people see you one way and it turns out they don't see you that way at all. You have to be truen to yourself. If there's a hokey message hiding in FRIGHT NIGHT it's certainly about integrating all the parts of yourself. And also, for me, it's that the geeks will inherit the earth, and that's the truth.
FRIGHT NIGHT opens in theaters everywhere today. Nordling, out.