Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Viva Fang Vegas
Newsflash, folks. Creativity, GENUINE creativity in the horror genre in Hollywood is rare to come by these days, if not completely extinct. Almost everywhere you look, you see a 'remake', 're-imagining', 'reboot', 're-whateveryouwannacallitjustgimmeyourmoney'. Some are better than others of course, but on the whole, there really is nothing new to pick from, even a novel concept like 'Paranormal Activity' has already sadly become a boring franchise.
Saying this, it comes as no surprise that eventually, fun 80's vampire flick 'Fright Night' was next on the slate. I remember when it was first announced, I won't lie, I facepalmed like Jean-Luc Picard. WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY? Simple. Cash. That is what remakes are made for primarily. To my mind, the charm of the original would be lost, and well, without Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall, two of the main draws, I automatically thought "This is gonna fail miserably." Some time down the track however, my outlook changed, first and foremost due to the casting- Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge and David Tennant as Peter Vincent? Hmm, okay. Set in Las Vegas? Sure, that COULD work. With massive creative input from some of the folks who re-invented 'Buffy'. Right, at least it's not Stephanie Meyer. The more I heard about it, the more I began to change my mind. When I heard additional reassurance from the creative crew that it wouldn't actually be a remake, rather a stand-alone retelling, I was actually getting... excited.
Eventually when it was released in the States, to my pleasant surprise, it actually got many decent reviews, which basically sealed it for me. I would give 'Fright Night' a damn good shot, I figured it would at least be worth $10 of my movie club membership. So what can I say?
The most crucial thing to remember watching this movie is that in no way does it attempt to impede on the territory Tom Holland's original did, instead, it borrows the most essential elements and takes them in another direction. It's a direction many have taken, but very few have done it as well as this one. For example:
a) 21st century middle American suburbia in Las Vegas- small, compact and also quite dangerous even without a vampire roaming around.
b) A cast who look and act the age of their characters, not 30 somethings playing teensomethings.
c) Potent doses of humor and scares in equal measure.
d) A distinct sense of fang-in-cheek that is relevant to today's audiences.
e) The entire story experiencing an overhaul.
All of those ingredients were essential in making this film work and it came together very nicely. Admittedly, uses of CGI are evident, but they are not obnoxiously in your face to the extent you feel you are watching a videogame. In fact, when I think about it, they mainly aided something practical. For example, Jerry's vampire face? WOW.
Visual nom noms aside, I'm proud to report that I was very happy with the performances of Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots (the latter UK actor successfully adopts an American accent) as Charlie Brewster and Amy Petersen. Watching those two interplay with each other and others was a lot easier to swallow than William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse in the original. Not to suggest the latter couple were awful, but you could certainly see their age and at time it did look quite ridiculous to see them TRYING to behave like teenagers. Additionally, when Jerry abducted Amy, I wasn't really pulling for Charley to rescue her. Seeing Yelchin and Poots was a wonderful breath of fresh air because their characters and interactions were far more relatable and they were a joy to watch.
From this dynamic, we move to the second one: David Tennant and Colin Farrell.
David Tennant's Peter Vincent is so not Roddy McDowall it's not funny- thank Hera for that! While McDowall's older persona fitted Peter Vincent's role as a washed out TV presenter like it was nobody's business, the character had to be successfully updated in order to translate on the big screen and Tennant's foul-mouthed Cris Angel-esque stage-whore magician fits the bill. The moment he drops his stage persona, he is a booze-guzzling, crotch-scratching, loud-mouthed prat who struts around his mega-expensive penthouse surrounded by props, so-called 'artifacts' and tributes to himself. Underneath it all though, he is still an insecure coward who really ain't as brave as he portrays himself to be. This ain't Doctor Who, folks, this is Peter Vincent if he were younger, brasher and regularly blew his money on eBay, the poor little rich boy.
The other main character (and I would be REMISS if I were to just gloss over him) is Colin Farrell's rendition of Chris Sarandon's vamp-next-door. If Sarandon was the smooth operator who could charm the good sense out of you, Colin Farrell's Jerry is a shark. Sure, he does make a bit of time to thrall his victims, but this guy really is as much a predator as he is a pervert and a punk. Everybody in the neighborhood is his, they just don't know it yet. This guy doesn't just kill and eat his victims, he drinks Bud (fantastic and inspired sequence involving his beer of choice and Charlie in the Brewster's kitchen at one point), eats apples with his mouth open, watches trashy late night television AND wears a wifebeater. Never mind he's a vampire, he's white trash!
Another awesome element that Farrell brings is a very malicious sense of jocularity that makes you think "You sir are an asshole... you're awesome.". In one very well-paced suspense sequence, Charlie invades Jerry's house to rescue his neighbor, but things don't go as planned, much to Jerry's delight. That's all I'll say. :-D.
So, what didn't I like about the movie? Well, I wouldn't say I hated anything about it, but there was one factor that did stand out like a sore thumb- McLovin' as Evil Ed Lee.
I don't believe Christopher Mintz-Plasse is a bad actor at all, but the character of Evil Ed is a very specific one, given Stephen Geoffreys turned in such a fascinating performance and Mintz-Plasse was somewhat miscast in the role. Granted, Evil Ed is meant to be irritating, but what makes me partial to Geoffreys' portrayal is that he was a victim. Underneath his smack talk and hyena-laughing exterior, Ed was a very troubled, upset kid who nobody could connect with. There were times that I felt Mintz-Plasse's Evil Ed missed the mark of being sympathetic because most of the time he was exceptionally bitter. That being said, he still made me appreciate what he could bring to his scenes with Yelchin as well as his encounter with Jerry, quite a memorable sequence.
Another aspect that I feel I best address is some of the pacing. While it moves at a brisk speed, I felt there were some sequences that were added in as an after-thought, I can't remember A specific scene, but there was one part in the hospital that I felt was a little superflous and inorganic to the rest of the story, I found myself thinking "What's this got to do what is going on?" Then again, that could just be me being doey, so make of that what you will.
All said and done, 'Fright Night' 2011 is a great, rollicking ride that I can certainly recommend to casual horror film-goers and vampire buffs alike. It has the audacity to follow what it's predecessor basically did, but it has the smarts to walk to it's own pulsebeat. Would I mind a sequel at this point? If it follows the route it has set for itself here and dares to go one step further, I'd be more than happy to oblige.
And ladies/dudes who like dudes: