Okay, first things first. Product placement is officially out of control (and no, I'm not simply more aware of it because of the Morgan Spurlock documentary I caught earlier this year). The new FRIGHT NIGHT is brought to you by the MGM Grand, the Hard Rock Cafe (we're talking a TV commercial with a REAL phone number), Budweiser, and ESPECIALLY Century 21.
Second things second. Yes, I am part of the dying breed that resented the fact that a new version of FRIGHT NIGHT would NOT contain the character of a TV horror host. But I've had to mellow out on that. Yes, from a business standpoint I know darn well that someone like Criss Angel is a lot more recognizable. I don't condone the excuse that "nobody knows what a horror host is anymore." If people come to see your movie, you can darn well SHOW them what one is--because my guess is that they came to see the VAMPIRE. Of course, people DIDN'T come to see this in the first place. The new FRIGHT NIGHT joins the new CONAN and the new SPY KIDS in the box-office dustbin. Still... Roddy McDowall's irreplaceable Peter Vincent wasn't just supposed to be a horror host--he was supposed to be the actual STAR of the movies he was running--and I guess that twenty-six years later that particular combo wouldn't work quite as well. Point taken.
And third things third. The new FRIGHT NIGHT is actually pretty nifty--because it makes a huge point of being a DIFFERENT movie while retaining the essential storyline of the original. You know something's up when one of the most crucial moments of the original is bumped WAY up to the first movement of the new film (you'll know it when you see it).
We're in the "transient" section of Las Vegas, which means no creepy old mansion next door to Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchik). No more "helpmate" Billy Cole for Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrel is a terrific presence that never tries to act like Chris Sarandon). "Evil" Ed isn't nearly as over the top (which means you get a chance to actually LIKE the guy (much as we all enjoyed Stephen Geoffreys in the original, he WAS meant to grate on the nerves, wasn't he?). No more "reincarnation of the lost love" gimmick between Jerry and Amy. If it's specific nods to the original you want, you get the "Brewster, you're so cool" line. And the apples. Jerry still loves his apples.
Once one gets past the initial disconcertment that the story seems to be whipping by much too quickly, we're treated to a terrific all-new sequence in which Charlie actually attempts to rescue the victim he sees stepping into Jerry's place. And then Jerry does something extremely drastic which guarantees that we won't be spending any more time trying to convince the supporting characters that he's exactly what Charlie says he is. This is actually all very, very good stuff that takes the "remake" stigma (if any) away.
The movie, of course, chooses which elements of vampire lore to retain and which to ignore. For instance, we're told that there will be NO shape-shifting, and we go back to the LOVE AT FIRST BITE gag in which silver only works on werewolves (keep watching though--that scene is by no means over). All fair.
And will we accept the new Peter Vincent (David Tennant)? Well, we certainly should--he's a terrifically entertaining character given a backstory completely from that supplied for Roddy McDowall. You can't replace Roddy, so why even try?
So. Good movie. But 3-D or not 3-D? It's a tough choice. The 3-D is genuine, and there are some great effects achieved with it... but it's no FINAL DESTINATION 5 in that department. Roger Ebert (much as he and I disagree on the worth of 3-D overall) made an excellent point in his (positive) review... a movie this reliant on dark, creepy spaces does NOT lend itself to a process that requires dark glasses. The 3-D version of FRIGHT NIGHT is often simply too dark, and a 2-D experience would, I imagine, benefit the film in the long run--the process certainly isn't necessary to make the movie work. (By the way, I am extremely grateful to the horror-host faithful who presented me with a ticket AND a pair of 3-D glasses as he recognized me on the way to the theatre... that really and truly made my day.)
So... this patron saint of lost causes does, indeed, recommend the FRIGHT NIGHT remake. Better hurry.
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