I know for many of you this will be a loaded question and you will quickly chime in with, “they both suck.” But let’s pretend for a moment that this isn’t an option. Let’s pretend that you have to choose. After all, even if neither film comes close to matching the classic film they’re attempting to riff on – they each have their own merits and weaknesses.
That’s right, I said “merits.” While I still can’t say I really love Craig Gillespie’s 2011 take on Fright Night (scripted by Marti Noxon), I don’t hate it with the fiery passion I did when I first saw it. The film actually makes a few interesting choices and, having seen a few of this summer’s upcoming blockbusters, I’m getting closer to admiring films that make any choice at all. I sort of applaud the decision to set the piece in an abandoned Las Vegas housing development, even though they don’t actually end up doing much with the idea. And while the film ends in a haze of video game pixelation (along with that stupid, stupid pebble throwing moment), the majority of the first two acts consititute something of a fun lark. It’s reasonably well shot, the actors are appealing and even though the script likely suffered at the hands of studio notes (I’m hoping that’s the reason), it’s far more coherent than your average Kurtzman and Orci joint. Again, nowhere near as good as the 1985 original, but not the total cinematic abortion I once considered it to be.
This “choices” paradigm carries over to Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I’m a bit stuck here, since I think the decision to spend the bulk of the film dealing with the nurture argument of evil (showing us Myers’ ret-conned childhood vs. Carpenter’s 1978 “evil just exists” nature argument) is pretty bold. I would actually say it’s an interesting choice, but it’s just so incredibly wrong. It’s ballsy to remake a movie from the ground up, especially if that means inverting its central thematic conceit (which is what Zombie is aiming for here). But when the original’s thematic conceit is so resolutely perfect, you have nowhere to go but down when you decide to reverse it. Also, in tacking a cliff-notes version of the first film onto the final act of the remake, Zombie essentially backpedals on his reimagining. His new theme is intact, but any declarations of singularity go out the window. It’s something new, until it isn’t. Zombie delivers a satisfying amount of violence, with a lot of bone-crushing wall-smashing force. But that’s also the antithesis of the largely bloodless 1978 original. Again, I applaud the impulse to go in a new direction – I just think it’s the wrong one. It also doesn’t help that many of the performances (Dr. Loomis in particular) feel sort of misguided.
So I guess I’ll have to come down on the lesser of two evils and declare Fright Night (2011) my favorite out of this round.
But what about you? Which film wins out? Let us know!