Back in the late 90s, director Gus Van Sant decided that he wanted to remake one of the greatest horror films of all time: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Rather than trying to improve upon the original (practically an impossible task) or tell a similar story in a different way, however, however, Van Sant decided to make an almost shot-for-shot duplicate. The film was panned by both critics and audiences alike, complaining about the pointlessness of the project. If there’s nothing that can be added or improved, what’s the point of a remake?
Enter Fright Night. This August, nearly 26 years to the day after the Tom Holland film premiered in 1985, director Craig Gillespie will introduce his take on the cult classic vampire film. But just like most films with a devout following, fans have been up in arms about the project since it was announced in late 2009. A top notch horror/comedy that actually pays strict attention to the established vampire rules, there’s truly no point in making a clone with new actors and characters with cell phones. Fortunately, it seems as though director Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon are fully aware of that fact.
Late last month I was invited to drive down to Santa Monica to visit the editing bay for the remake of Fright Night, where I would watch four scenes from the upcoming film and have the opportunity to speak with Gillespie along with stars Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell. Like many of you, I’ve been a fan of the original for years, though I’ve always been more curious than angry about the idea of a remake. The idea of a vampire living next door has been done since (I distinctly remember an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? with the exact same premise) and it’s malleable enough that it wouldn’t be a challenge to introduce some originality. Case in point, none of the four scenes I watched were directly taken from the Tom Holland’s film.
Below I have written up a detailed synopsis of the footage I was shown. While none of what I saw comes from the film’s final act, those wishing to watch the film without knowing any of the smaller details can skip down to my analysis below. Before each scene, those of us watching the footage were given brief introductions to provide context. I have included those details as well.
Start Of Synopsis
Immediately establishing a difference between the original and the remake, we are told that it is ‘Evil’ Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) that has been warning our protagonist, Charley (Anton Yelchin), that his new next door neighbor is a vampire, but Charley doesn’t believe him, rather than the other way around. This begins to change when Ed goes missing. At the start of the footage, Charley is taking the trash out when he is suddenly confronted by his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrell). Jerry says that he has a girl over and asks Charley if he has any beer. Hesitantly and plastered with visible signs of nerves Charley says yes and goes back into the kitchen. Unable to enter the house without being invited, Jerry stands in the doorway as Charley grabs a six pack of beer from the fridge. One of the beers falls and crashes on to the kitchen floor, shattering. Jerry asks if he can help clean it up, to which Charley responds with a quick and excited, “No!” Being handed what’s left of the six pack, Jerry remarks that he can tell Charley’s dad “ducked out,” saying that the pang of neglect gives off a scent. The new neighbor has also taken notice of both Charley’s mother, Jane (Toni Collette), and his girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), and tells him that he needs to protect them, and asks if he’s up for it. “Lot of bad people out there, Charlie,” Jerry says. “Everyone has to look out for their own business.”
Later that night, Charley hears a scream from Jerry’s house, but when he calls the cops Jerry is able to get rid of them without a problem. Jerry then leaves, so Charley takes the opportunity to break in. The second scene opens with our hero is creeping around in the darkness, whispering the name “Doris,” the name of a neighbor who has gone missing (Emily Montague). Finding Jerry’s desk, he takes out his camera and snaps a few photos. He then opens up the closet to find an assortment of uniforms. Suddenly, a car pulls up indicating that Jerry has come back. Stuck on the second floor of the house, Charley decides to duck into the closet where he finds a trap door. Walking through, he finds a short hallway with multiple doors on either side. He reaches for the first door, opens it, and sees that it’s empty. Reaching for the second door, he finds that it’s locked. Looking into the peephole, it appears empty until a hand comes out of nowhere – Doris is locked inside. Charley tries to pick the lock, but hears Jerry coming and quickly darts into the “holding cell” behind the first door he opened. Jerry walks in and goes straight to Doris’ door. Charley watches through a crack in the door as Jerry takes out a set of keys and takes the crying Doris out of the room. Jerry’s eyes then go pitch black and he bites her neck, the blood pouring out as Charley looks on in horror. Doris looks back towards Charley and whispers, “Shhhhhh.” Once he is finished feeding, Jerry puts Doris’ body back in the holding cell and locks the door behind him. Hidden, Charley sits on the floor whimpering.
For the fourth and final scene there is very little setup outside of the fact that Charley is now on his own. We see our hero sitting at home whittling a stake when his mom walks in, commenting that the “whole house looks like Dark Shadows.” Charley excuses it as a gag for Amy, when they hear the door open. It’s only Amy, but Charley has a freak-out and yells at his mother that the door needs to be kept locked for their protection. Speaking privately, Amy tells Charley that she doesn’t like being blown off and that she cares about him, to which Charley replies, “Forget about me, Amy.” Jerry then appears at the door and calls out to Jane, saying that Charley has been harassing him and that he would rather not take it to the authorities. He goes even further by calling Charley sick and deluded. Standing by and believing in her son, Jane tells Jerry to “go to the authorities.” Jerry leaves but comes back a moment later with a shovel and walks around to the back. Starting to dig, Jerry pulls huge chunks of Earth out of the ground, far bigger than any human could possibly dig out by themselves. He stops once he hits the gas pipe and cuts it open. Taking out a lighter, Jerry sets fire to the line which causes a giant explosion inside of the house. Everything burning down and Charley, Amy and Jane scrambling, Jerry walks towards the house, his eyes totally black, and says, “Don’t need an invitation if there’s no house.” The group of three manages to get to the car and peel out. Jerry goes to his motorcycle, but sees that the wheel is bent. In the car, everyone thinks that they are safe, until the motorcycle, which Jerry has apparently thrown, smashes into the back of the car. Further along they are driving in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, when a pair of headlights comes up from behind them: it’s Jerry in an SUV. First crashing into them, Jerry pulls ahead and blocks the road. Getting out of the car, Jerry begins to walk towards them. The group chooses to gun it at him and runs him over, leaving a trail of blood behind. There’s a moment of peace until they realize that there’s a sound coming from beneath the car. Something then begins to pound on the floorboards until, finally, a fucked-up vampire hand breaks through and reaches out for them. Fighting to get rid of it, a car hits them from behind and the screen goes black.
End Of Synopsis
Just like the original, what I really liked about the footage that was shown was the balancing tones. The scene with Peter Vincent and Charley is comical and has quite a few good laughs, but all of the scenes involving Jerry are incredibly tense and dramatic. In the first scene we watched, Farrell is intimidating, while shots of his feet standing just behind the threshold are a wonderful way of establishing evil’s both metaphorical and literal proximity. As for Tennant, he seems to be playing with an over-confident, rock star-esque persona, and I can’t wait to see what happens when he discovers that vampires are real. There are even great moments of crossover; when Jerry says, “Don’t need an invitation if there’s no house,” you’re scared for the heroes’ lives, but you can’t help but smile at the awesomeness.
What continues to give me pause is the use of 3D. While it’s used to some great effect in the footage – the motorcycle flying at the car and the hand being thrust at the audience are nice touches – most of the film’s action is going to take place at night and there’s no bigger enemy of 3D technology than low lighting. I appreciate that they aren’t afraid of the more gimmicky side of 3D and there was a sense of depth when Charley was walking into his meeting with Peter Vincent, but I’m hoping that they have a lighting trick under their sleeves for the rest of the film.
Obviously the footage shown was likely carefully selected in order to show the film in the best possible light, but I’m more than happy to say that I was impressed. If the preview is indicative of the performances, tones, originality and direction as a whole, then we could be in for a real late-summer treat. Be sure to stay tuned for my interviews with Craig Gillespie, Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin!