In this week’s HomeVideodrome podcast, Hunter is sick, Jim is having technical difficulties, but we somehow pull it off. Here we talk about the disappointment that was “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” the surprisingly fun “Fright Night” remake, and the greatness of “Heavenly Creatures.” So head on over to The Film Thugs and give it a listen!
The remake of “Fright Night” didn’t deserve the quiet death it was met with at the box office.
The attempts at righteous indignation most remakes receive from movie fans seem to be giving most of them undeserved buzz. If a remake is bad, it’ll be eventually be nothing more than a footnote that comes up with the original is discussed, or worse, a curiosity item (example: “The Wicker Man” remake). If it’s good, then it’ll get a life of its own, and this remake is one of the few that deserves to have its own place, as this smart, funny take on Tom Holland’s eighties horror gem nicely parodies the trends going on in the vampire craze that has taken hold of movies and television today.
Written by “Buffy” scribe Marty Nixon, “Fright Night” stars Anton Yelchin as Charley Brewster, a high school kid and recovering geek who has just gotten a new next-door neighbor in his banal Nevada suburban neighborhood.
Said neighbor is a night-owl carpenter named Jerry (Colin Farrell), but Charley’s former pal, “Evil” Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), believes Jerry is actually a vampire. Initially believing Ed’s imagination has gotten the best of him, Charley gets paranoid after a few bizarre encounters with Jerry, observing his unusual midnight snacking habits. Once Charley’s meddling causes Jerry to set his sights on him and his single mother (Toni Collette), Charley, along with his cute girlfiend Amy (Imogen Poots), soon seek the help a crass, Midori-swigging, Vegas Vampire-killer showman named Peter Vincent (David Tennant). They quickly find themselves going toe-to-toe with Jerry the vampire and his nest of bloodsucking minions down in the heart of suburbia.
The greatness behind the premise of “Fright Night” is the juxtaposition between the bland, suburban setting, and the gothic genre trappings we associate with vampire tales, which is why the protagonist seeking the help of a horror host in the original, and a Mindfreakish illusionist in the remake, is such a fun twist.
But while Holland’s original had a fond nostalgia for the era of horror hosts, the remake takes it in a different direction by having the Peter Vincent character embody everything that sucks about modern vampire pop-culture as a way of poking fun at it. Vincent’s Vegas show is oozing with the sexually infantile, vapid porno-goth attitude that infects vampire movies today, as his bare-chested, leather-bound persona battles buxom vampire brides with cheesy effects and douche-nozzle facial hair. Once Vincent is chugging Midori off-stage and peeling off his make-up and guyliner in his frightening low-rider leather pants, it’s a scream.
A movie can’t comment on vampire culture without putting a fun spin on the vampire itself. Farrell gives a much different take on Jerry the vampire than what Chris Sarandon did with the character in the original. Farrell’s Jerry is informed by the oversexed hunk-next-door vampire we see in stuff like “True Blood,” but Jerry’s vibe isn’t the sort of guy a lovelorn girl reading Anne Rice pines for like Bill Compton, so much as the vibe of a guy who would take one of those girls home after a few drinks at the bar and subsequently kick her out of bed and never call her again.
Except Jerry keeps her locked in a room for a few days for snacking purposes instead of sending her home. It makes the scene where Jerry publicly kidnaps Brewster’s gal at a nightclub frightening on a couple of levels. The surface level is obvious: his girlfriend is being attacked by the big bad bloodsucker. But it also reminds any guy of seeing that girl you like with a sleazy jerk you can’t stand. This is all thanks to Farrell’s impressive balancing act, being sleazy, menacing, and funny all at once.
Given the quality of this remake and its poor box office performance, I sincerely hope it finds its audience now that it’s available on video. While I’m a proponent of horror movies delivering the splattery goods in 3D, the lighting in “Fright Night” is too dark for it to really work when the blood and guts are flying at you. I’ve now seen the movie in both 3D and 2D, and I could see better when watching it in the latter format. The Blu-ray has your standard making-of docs, blooper reels, etc., along with a kinda boring Kid Cudi music video, and an unfunny fake Peter Vincent promo. The movie is fun, the extras are mostly fluff. I’d go with the standard Blu-ray.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Rise of the Planet of the Apes: While it’s not really saying much, this was the best of the big blockbusters we got this summer. Being a big fan of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, I’m glad to see it finally get the reboot it deserves.
Kung Fu Panda 2: I like the idea of a movie where a panda punches things. Count me in.
Kung Fu Panda Collection: In case you missed the first one, you can catch up in this slick little set.
Meet Me in St. Louis: This Vincente Minnelli classic starring Judy Garland gets the royal Blu-ray treatment from Warner Bros.
The Expendables – Extended Director’s Cut: Part of me is curious, part of me smells a useless double-dip. “The Expendables” was a creaky affair that was well below the recent standard Stallone set for himself with the one-two punch of “Rocky Balboa” and “Rambo.” The main problem with “The Expendables” was Stallone’s derivative directorial approach and the thin plotting. An extended cut can only remedy the latter complaint, but I’m not holding out much hope that it even does that.
Available on Blu-ray
Detective Dee & The Mystery of the Phantom Flame: The first Tsui Hark film in a good while to garner some serious positive buzz, so I’m anxious to see it.
Heavenly Creatures: The movie that made people start taking Peter Jackson seriously (even though “Dead Alive” was clearly the work of a mad genius). The talent of Kate Winslet was one of the great discoveries of this film, as well as Jackson’s display of range as a filmmaker in terms of the subjects he was willing to tackle.
Seven Chances: Kino upgrades their release of this Buster Keaton classic, the image of the Great Stone Face fleeing from an army of eager potential brides is one of the great treasures in Keaton’s body of work.
Velvet Goldmine: Todd Haynes’s David Bowie/Iggy Pop pastiche comes to Blu-ray. Between this movie, “Superstar,” and “I’m Not There,” Haynes has proven to be one of the most interesting directors out there when it comes to commenting on rock n’ roll through film, as he finds creative and effective ways to explore the subject, never resorting to cliched biopic formulas.
Available on Blu-ray
Tokyo Drifter: Criterion upgrades their release of Seijun Suzuki’s freewheeling seventies Yakuza flick.
Branded to Kill: Another Criterion upgrade of a Seijun Suzuki Yakuza movie. According to Criterion, Suzuki was fired by the studio after handing the completed film in, and the ensuing drama was apparently even more interesting than the film itself.