Coming out in theaters on August 19th, Fright Night 3D is an updating of the beloved 1985 vampire movie that became a surprise box-office hit on its release over 25 years ago.
In anticipation of the film’s debut, Dreamworks recently invited B-D to visit the editing bay and view about 20 minutes of footage from the remake, which stars Anton Yelchin as Charley Brewster and Colin Farrell as mysterious next-door neighbor Jerry Dandridge, who turns out to be an unrepentant bloodsucker intent on making Charley’s life a living hell.
Afterwards B-D reporter Chris Eggertsen sat down with Yelchin and Farrell, as well as director Craig Gillespie, to get their take on comparisons to the ’85 version, Jerry’s altogether more brutal nature in the remake, and what we can expect the breakdown of practical vs. CG effects to be. Also, we learned that one of the film’s original stars (guess who?) will indeed have a cameo. See inside for the full report.
While the remake trend has clearly gotten out of hand – like, way out of hand – the fact is that some films are more appropriate for an update than others. On one end of the spectrum, you have your stone-cold classics – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Black Christmas – that are timeless and have no business being remade (I guess Hollywood never got the memo on that).
On the other end, you have those flawed, severely dated titles – Last House on the Left, The Amityville Horror, The Crazies – that, while most of us don’t necessarily care to see them remade, can at least be somewhat justified for an update when taking their modern-day antiquity into consideration. In my opinion, this is the category that Fright Night falls into.
The term “horror classic” is bandied about pretty regularly these days when it comes to discussions of the ’85 vampire flick, but that classification frankly seems more a product of pop-culture nostalgia than a mark of the film’s actual quality. If you find yourself feeling offended by that observation, I would first implore you to try and remember the last time you actually watched Fright Night. If you’re over 25, chances are it was probably quite a long time ago.
Well, I did revisit Fright Night recently…me, a bag of microwave popcorn, and a head filled with fond memories of staying up until 5am every Saturday watching a succession of slasher sequels and cheapo sci-fi movies on USA Up All Night (remember?). Afterward, I was left with the sad conclusion that the film – while it does possess a certain campy charm and boasts some really solid effects work – is best left to the warm glow of adolescent memory.
What I’m trying to say is, if you’re going to remake a horror movie, it’s best to remake a horror movie like Fright Night – which is, of course, exactly what Dreamworks has done. And to their credit, it does seem as if they’re taking the whole thing pretty seriously. For starters, they’ve put together a really solid cast (Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, David Tennant, et al) and hired a screenwriter with quite a bit of horror/comedy cred (Buffy scribe Marti Noxon). As for director Craig Gillespie, it’s tough to say. While he did helm one relatively acclaimed film (2007’s Lars and the Real Girl with Ryan Gosling), it was also a quirky independent character drama – not exactly a good barometer for his capabilities as a horror director. (As for his other movie, the less said about Mr. Woodcock the better.)
More positives: the location in the remake has been switched to the Las Vegas suburbs, which feels rather inspired, and the always-reliable KNB was on hand to create the makeup effects. Taking all of the above into account (minus the question mark hovering over Gillespie’s head), and forgetting the fact that it’s in 3-D for no artistically justifiable reason, I’d say that’s so far, so good.
Another good sign is the studio’s apparent confidence in the project, an impression bolstered by their decision to allow journalists (including yours truly) to view about 20 minutes of footage the other day at a post-production house located in Santa Monica. Following is a brief description of each of the four scenes we were shown (all in 3-D):
1. Description: Charley (Anton Yelchin) talks to new neighbor Jerry (Colin Farrell), a slick alpha-male type who asks Charley if he can borrow some beer from him because he has a girl coming over in a few minutes and doesn’t have time to run to the store. Charley, clearly intimidated by Jerry, says sure and Jerry follows him back to his house, where Charley grabs a six-pack of beer from the fridge while Jerry stands just outside the back kitchen door. The implication is that because Jerry is a vampire he can’t come inside unless Charley invites him in, which he doesn’t.
There’s quite a bit of tension as Charley accidentally drops one of the bottles out of nervousness and then hands the six pack over to Jerry, still standing at the back door. Throughout the scene Jerry makes a few vaguely threatening comments in an attempt to emasculate Charley, saying things to the effect of: “I’d keep an eye on your mother and your girlfriend if I were you, those are some hot pieces of ass“, etc.
Verdict: I liked the palpable build-up of tension and subtle menace here, which Farrell did a great job of emanating. In addition, the dialogue between Charley and Jerry felt very realistic. Also, I know this is probably just my warped gay brain talking, but there seemed to be an underlying homoerotic subtext to the scene.
2. Description: Charley sneaks into Jerry’s home while he’s out; searching for clues that he’s a vampire. He begins taking photos when Jerry comes home unexpectedly. Charley has no choice but to hide in an upstairs closet, and as he does so he discovers a secret door inside that leads to a back passageway. He steps inside the passageway to find four doors, two on each side, with glass windows in them. Each door leads to a small, cell-like room.
He looks through one of the windows to find a female neighbor locked inside. It seems as if she’s the woman who came over for the “date” with Jerry the night before. She begs Charley for help and he attempts to pick the lock, but then Jerry comes upstairs and he’s forced to hide inside one of the other rooms. He watches as Jerry enters the passageway, pulls the woman out of her cell, and bites her on the neck.
Verdict: This was an admirably tense and surprisingly nasty scene that hinted at the remake’s darker undercurrent (as compared to the original).
3. Description: Charley visits Peter Vincent (David Tennant), a cheesy Las Vegas magician in the Criss Angel mode, at his lavish suite. Charley, clearly now suspecting that Jerry is a member of the undead, nervously asks Peter – whose stage show apparently features a vampire theme – what he knows about them. Peter, dressed in cheesy “rock star” Las Vegas magician’s garb, is an over-confident blowhard who enjoys drinking and, judging by the nasty itch in his groin area, the company of numerous women. He treats Charley with thinly-disguised disdain as he mockingly explains some of the rules of vampire lore before finally asking him to leave.
Verdict: Funny scene. Tennant is the obvious comic relief in the film, and, at least in this bit, he does an admirable job of delivering on that front.
4. Description: Charley’s girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) confronts him at his house and demands an explanation as to why he’s been ignoring her. He won’t tell her the real reason, but he’s obviously doing it in order to protect her from Jerry. Charley’s mother (Toni Collette) begins chiming in and comments on his bizarre behavior. Just then, Jerry begins knocking on their front door and says that Charley has been harassing him. Charley stops his mom from opening the door and tells her that Jerry is lying. Jerry says that Charley broke into his house.
Charley’s mom is flabbergasted and doesn’t know what to believe, but when Jerry threatens to call the police she finally sides with Charley and tells him to go ahead. Jerry walks into the backyard, and Charley, his mother, and Amy watch as he begins digging up the grass and pulls up a gas line that leads to the house. He lights it on fire, and there is an explosion as they all dive for cover. They then rush to the garage and hop in his mom’s car and drive off. Jerry attempts to hop on his motorcycle to chase them but discovers that Charley has slashed the tires. Using his superhuman vampire strength he throws the motorcycle at their back windshield and shatters it.
They drive past the city limits into the desert when Jerry suddenly appears behind them in another car. He tries to run them off the road, then gets ahead of them and tries to block their escape with his car. Charley tells his mom to step on the gas and run Jerry over. She hesitates, but does so anyway. Jerry gets underneath their car and begins busting through the floor as they drive. From what I can recall, they crash and that’s when they stopped the tape.
Verdict: Very slick and efficient chase sequence that really got me pumped for the movie. Gillespie showed a very sure hand with action here, which is a relief considering his lack of prior experience in the genre.
So, there you have it. As hard-wired for cynicism as I am, I was pleasantly surprised – hell, even impressed – by what I saw. Then again, it was only 20 minutes of footage, so I’ll refrain from creaming my pants until I see the finished film.
Anyway, after the screening session we were given the opportunity to sit down with Yelchin, Farrell, and Gillespie for a brief chat, which was nice (though an obvious ploy to spin our thoughts in a more positive direction in case we were underwhelmed by the footage).
First up was 22-year-old Yelchin, who began as a child actor before transitioning into adult roles with films like Star Trek and Terminator Salvation. He started the conversation by speaking to the differences between his Charley and the Charley presented in the original film, including the his relationship to best friend Ed, who in the remake we see being put on the back-burner early on after Charley snags the school’s resident hot chick (Poots).
“Charley has this really hot girlfriend and sort of shuns Ed because he’s gotta keep up this like thing that he believes in, this sort of macho…thing“, said Yelchin. “And it’s sort of an interesting journey he goes on…[because] when he meets the real version of that, which is this menacing, sort of super-macho predator-like vampire, he actually has to become what he was sort of posturing to be in order to protect the people that he cares about.
“And so it’s a very good journey, because he starts off, like I said, sort of posturing and ignoring his best friend and trying to ditch his best friend, and then he learns at a very painful price just what he’s done. And then [he] spends the rest of the movie…becoming the person he needs to be to actually protect the people he cares about, [and] sort of figuring out what is actually important to him.”
That being said, there was one aspect of the original Charley that Yelchin felt was important to keep intact in his own characterization.
“What I thought was really important and kind of perfect in the original and that I thought was really important to bring to this one [is]…just how manic he gets, and just how terrified he is“, he said. “I thought it was very important to bring to this one because he then has a place to go from this sort of posturing, kind of ‘dude’ thing that he’s doing to then…this extreme mania and how that mania and paranoia transitions to just complete, calculated dedication to fighting this thing.
“At a certain point, he just realizes that the mania won’t do anything. And there is that moment in the original, but it’s just not as…it happens when he actually goes to fight, when he knows ‘I have to fight’. In the original, he’s sort of manic up until then. But here, at a certain point [Charley] just becomes constructive, you know?”
Yelchin also spoke to the fact that what they’re attempting to do with the remake is to create a scary vampire again, as opposed to the soft-focused dreamboats we’ve been seeing with the Twilight series over the last few years.
“What I think is great about this one is [the vampire is] really scary“, he said. “You know, I think recently vampires have been really attractive and sparkly and just have fangs. But what’s cool is that he goes from this kind of like attractive alpha-dude to just this creature, this terrifying kind of creature that looks nothing like the attractive vampire model that we’re now used to. He just looks like a fucking scary monster.”
Looking like the exact opposite of a scary monster, the uber-sexy Colin Farrell (whose Irish brogue is like melted butter) joined Craig Gillespie for a chat a few minutes later to go into greater depth about his version of Jerry, who he originally tried to imbue with a bit more romance (as in the original) before quickly realizing he was fighting a losing battle.
“I loved Chris Sarandon’s performance in the original, loved it“, said Farrell, who claimed he was a “massive fan” of the original film. “But he was so differently designed, Jerry, in this one. I would’ve loved, being a fan of vampire lore, to have [had] more of an emotional and romantic life in the Jerry that I played. That’s an issue that I was pushing for. But I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole…
“This Jerry ain’t like that, he’s really not. He’s an absolute savage, a killer. If anything, he’s a serial killer. And that was it. Just aggressive, and powerful, and gets off on that, and has no sense of his own isolation really, or no sense of longing or no need for love or companionship…He’s a brutal creature. So in a sense, I’m kind of saved from competing with Chris or drawing from Chris by being forced to address a completely different structure of monster or beast.”
Oh, and speaking of Chris Sarandon…does he factor into the remake at all, as has been rumored?
“Yeah, I believe he does!” beamed Gillespie, though he didn’t elaborate much beyond that. “They actually contacted us, he was excited about it, we talked about the project, and then [we] really tried to figure out where we could put him and have a cameo.”
Gillespie, however, still made sure to downplay comparisons to the ’85 film.
“It pays homage to the original. It certainly has some of the story points, the structure to the original, you know, the vampire next door. But it’s really its own entity“, he told us. “What Marti wrote…it’s a big, fun rollercoaster ride. What’s kind of surprising about it, when you read it on the page, is [that] the first half is the setup of the story, the characters, the relationships, and the cat-and-mouse game that’s going on…and then you think ‘alright, how’s this gonna play out?’
“And then you guys [saw] that scene where he just goes and blows the house up. It’s a game-changer from then on. From then on, you don’t really know what’s going to happen, because it’s taking it out of this whole cat-and-mouse game. And that’s about halfway through the movie. So there’s a lot that still happens.”
Indeed, there’s an element in the remake that wasn’t present in the original, namely the sense of isolation experienced by the characters once Jerry forces them from the comfortable confines of the city and into the vast desert wasteland beyond.
“You can get very isolated very quickly [in the desert]“, Gillespie agreed when I brought up the setting (though the story takes place in Las Vegas, movie was actually filmed in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico). “I love the idea of horror in open spaces. It goes against the idea of that claustrophobic, dark horror.”
“What cities like Vegas do, Albuquerque as well, is they offer up a frame, like literally like a picture frame“, offered Farrell. “Life is structured and there’s an architecture, and it’s contained within this frame. You step out of that frame and you’re into a completely different world that operates on completely different rules.”
One thing that will remain consistent between the remake and the original, at least in large part, is the nature of the effects, which Gillespie and Farrell both maintained will be largely practical.
“You know, we augmented the stages, some of the stages, with some CG…but we tried to get as much in-camera as we can“, said Gillespie.
Anyway, that’s pretty much the gist of it all. Despite the construction of my best defenses going in, I have to say that I left feeling cautiously optimistic – emphasis on the “cautiously“. But hey, even if the movie ends up being majorly disappointing, at least I got to sit next to dreamy Colin Farrell and lose myself in his chocolate-brown eyes for 15 minutes. As for the rest of you, I got nothin’.