Wasn't that fun?! Well now here I come to ruin what should have been a care-free weekend of movie watching with a forced-participation discussion of what we just saw. Much in the fashion that high school forever sullied your love of reading, I will now academically destroy your love of film. Nah, I'm just kidding. So by now you should have all bathed in the sweet 80's goodness that is Fright Night and I hope you've come prepared with your various lauds, critiques, theories, theses, or just assenting/dissenting grunts. Get ready to prove that you're all so cool, Brewster, and jump past the bump to sink your teeth--no, that joke's been done to death. Jump push the damn button already!
Why I Love It!
I like Fright Night for a bevvy of reasons but the biggest has to be its rom-com setup and its Hammer Studios sendup. The movie plays like a traditional teen romantic comedy. We have the perpetual loser who's sole lot in life seems to be getting laid, though his obsession with horror films and the macabre in general seem to get in the way (enter the horror conceit). We also have the "I-wanna-know-it's-really-love-before-I-give-it-up" ingenue who ends up breaking up with said loser only to find herself back with him in the end. We also, in true rom-com fashion, have the annoying best friend character who exists solely to serve up the funniest lines and work counter to the romantic needs of the friend. Now, take all this cannon and lay a legitimately effective vampire story on top of it and you have a rom-com that I can actually abide. What do you guys think? Are you down with the "white box" or do your rom-coms have to supply a genre hook to keep you interested (a la Shaun of the Dead or Grosse Pointe Blank)?
The other thing I really and truly love about Fright Night is the inclusion of Hammer Studios in-jokes. For those of you unfamiliar with Hammer Studios, this was a British movie company that, from the 1950's through the 1970's, churned out their own interpretations of not just Dracula, but seemingly all of the Universal monsters. They were colorful, bloody, and sexy as all get out. They were considered to be the trashiest films to come out of England and yet the names attached to the studio are some of the most well-respected in film history (Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee just to give a taste). Peter Cushing made a name for himself within the studio by playing, in addition to Victor Frankenstein, literature's most tenacious vampire-slayer: Dr. Van Helsing.
In Fright Night, Roddy McDowall's Peter Vincent, late-night horror movie host and former horror movie staple, is a direct reference to Cushing's Van Helsing. He plays the part with an exaggerated, but nonetheless familiar, arrogance and unnecessary pomp and circumstance. The film does meld Hammer a little too much with traditional midnight movie schlock that I never really saw in Hammer; the scene from one of Vincent's films where he is actually wielding a stake backwards. But I suppose it works to cover more referential ground than a straight impersonation. Are you guys Hammer-philes? What are some of your favorite titles? Did you appreciate Roddy's homage? Hammer Films has since made a comeback and is producing, at least in part, the Let the Right One In remake: Let Me In.
And speaking of remakes, Fright Night is set to be retooled and reVAMPed (sorry, I needed one overused joke) itself. I run pretty hot and cold with remakes. I try to stay open minded but I am a firm believer in the idea that there are some films you just don't need to remake. That being said, I don't think Fright Night is one of those films. Sure, it's iconic and clever (the shades of Rear Window are stellar) but it is far from a masterpiece and bears a lot of the cheesy trappings of the 1980's; favorite decade of mine though it may be. I think there is a solid foundation here with enough campiness as to not find that foundation resting on holy ground. I am very positive on the remake, especially if it goes the self-aware route that was rumored; wherein it will take place in world aware of the original film and the new hero must call about actor Chris Sarandon for help in thwarting actual vampires. That rumor may have been debunked a while back, I haven't followed it too closely. What do you guys think? Should Fright Night be remade?
I'm not going to blow too much smoke here, but I do love Chris Sarandon in this film. Gone from his performance is a lot of the melodramatic moodiness of the typical cinema vampire. Instead, Sarandon plays Jerry Dandrige as a complete dick who takes whatever he wants and knows he can't be beaten by a teenager or a washed up horror movie actor. He is as suave and smooth as you might expect an 80's vampire to be, but also a bit sadistic with Charley in a way that makes me so happy. I also wanted to briefly mention Stephen Geoffreys who plays 'Evil' Ed Thompson. First of all, another great piece of reference in that name. Geoffreys seems whacked out on so many pills that some of his line deliveries are just absurd and otherworldly. He is constantly giggling to the point that I thought he was channeling Frank Gorshin's Riddler but his demise in the film is fantastic and I have to admit the film would not have been the same without him. What do you guys think? Did Sarandon knock it out of the park? Was Ed a bit too much? Who would you cast in these two roles for the remake?
That's quite enough of my jabbering, I want to hear from the rogues gallery.