Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Fright Night V Fright Night

Here be spoilers! (As always).

So I finally got the original 1985 Fright Night on dvd and watched it last night with my boyfriend. It was good, a typical, cheesy, fun eighties horror movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. Compared to the remake I honestly don't know my preference, I think because the original seems dated to me and I saw the remake first I would lean towards the remake.

Amy is not as fun in the original, she never has the moment of bravado that the Amy of the remake does, but on the other hand she is more believable, after all how like is it that you would be able to get a mace to fight with? Alright so in the remake Peter Vincent has a museum of vampire weapons but I'm just not buying that. I felt that the original Amy just came across as a better partner for dorky Charley, she shows her frustration at his vampire obssession more, her lack of support rather than the complete support remake Amy gives is more believable frankly and I feel the seduction scene between her and Jerry in the club was more hypnotising and sexy than in the remake.

The remake also reverses the roles of Evil Ed and Charley, in the original it is Charley who believes his neighbour is a vampire and Ed is his doubting friend. This seems more logical since it is Charley who lives beside Jerry after all, in the remake Ed just seems to accuse Jerry of being a vampire out of nowhere, and whilst it is later explained that he was effectively stalking Jerry when he moved in and caught him not appearing on film there's no real explanation as to why he thought Jerry should be filmed or stalked. Yes people disappeared when the new guy came to town but I think Ed just jumped the gun. In the original however Charley had the evidence of the coffin, the weird looking Billy Cole, the scream, the scene with Jerry's vampire nails, the obvious disposing of bodies and the disappearance of the prostitute.

The special effects in the original were superb, even by today's standards. The vampires looked monstrous and freaky and yet also sexy, and Ed's transformation back from a wolf was better than any werewolf sequences I've seen in the 90s/00s (btw Ed is not a werewolf, he is a vampire who can turn into a wolf much like Dracula). The remake's vampire effects were good but the CGI was pointless and I missed the traditional methods, I think they were realistic enough. Also, the addition of shapeshifting, Ed into a wolf and Jerry into a bat, in the original was a nice touch and the perfect homage to Dracula and it's a pity it was abandoned in the remake. It was probably because they either thought it would look ridiculous or that people simply would not get it and would mistake Ed for a werewolf.

Speaking of Ed I don't know which perfomance I prefer- Christopher Mintz-Plasse's brief appearance or Stephen Geoffreys' over the top, verging on annoying one. In the original Ed is Charley's friend although it seems that the friendship is verging on ending because they don't hang out, it's more of a case of Ed popping up in a diner, and Ed seems happier to mock Charley than support him. However, he does go with Amy to fetch Peter Vincent in an attempt to help Charley realise that Jerry isn't a vampire (how wrong they were) and he does go with Charley to walk Amy home but in the end Charley's paranoia is too much for him and he seals his own fate by taking a dangerous shortcut into a dark alleyway where Jerry attacks and turns him. In the remake it is Ed who believes Jerry is a vampire and he is an ex best friend of Charley's who Charley ignores and avoids until Ed blackmails him with video footage of their youth spent together playing superheroes. It is Charley's ignorance that seals Ed's fate this time as he ignores Ed's warnings until it is too late and Jerry turns him.

The scene with Jerry and Ed do have some similarities in the original and remake in that Jerry seems to get to Ed, telling him he won't be bullied anymore. It's more poignant in the original as Ed actually cries before willingly succuming to the vampire whilst in the remake he shows only fear and never seems to willingly accept his fate though later on he says Jerry got to him. As a vampire in the original he maintains his mocking persona with that horrid laugh and has a dramatic showdown with Peter Vincent which involves him taking on the form of a wolf before Peter finally slays him and he dies in a pitiful and dramatic manner as he returns to human form. In the remake Ed in vampire mode just seems a bit of a joke, his body is gradually deformed to the point of him being armless and with a broken neck before he finally meets his end, which was so undramatic I scarcely remember it and it wasn't at the hands of Peter Vincent but Charley instead.

Peter Vincent gets a complete transformation in the remake going from washed up tv horror post played wonderfully by the late great Roddy McDowell to a washed up, drunken magician with an occult theme played charmingly by David Tennant. Roddy McDowell's Peter Vincent was timid and yet adorable, he was on his way out and struggling to pay bills to the point of visiting Jerry because Amy paid him not because Charley begged him to. He goes from a coward to a hero in the end, smiting Ed and helping to thwart Jerry and restore Amy too, using his knowledge of vampire lore. In the remake Peter Vincent is convinced about Jerry by compelling photographs Charley shows him, of course they could all be photoshopped except for one, which depicts a mural Peter seems familiar with. Furthermore, Peter Vincent in the remake is a collector of weapons and artifacts whilst the original Peter Vincent had horror film memorabilia.

I loved both Peter Vincents but I felt the one in the remake was developed more as he was given the added dark past of having his family slain by a vampire, Jerry as it turns out. Although it's maybe a bit of a sterotype plot twist at this point I still enjoyed it, I thought it explained Peter a bit better. Although being prone to swearing and alcholism wasn't exactly a good addition and missed its mark a few times when used for humour.

Jerry is different in the original as well, he's the sauve murderous neighbour still but he talks of giving a choice to Charley and spares him on more than one occasion and he is drawn to Amy because she is like a woman he onced loved whose portrait he still has, which shows he's more than a one-dimensional monster (it was the wonderful Chris Sarandon who actually suggested the addition to Jerry as he wanted the character to have depth). In the remake Jerry is a monster, plain and simple, his identity as a potentially normal neighbour is removed as he does not even have a last name, he is just the mysterious and creepy Jerry, but at least the movie attempts to explain why we never see him during the day as he claims to work during the night. This Jerry was described by the director as being like Jaws, he's a monster who kills to survive, that's it, there's no real depth there. Also, he's made all the creepier by being a loner and having disturbing storage space for his victims, two changes which I actually loved, seeing one of his victims captive in one of those small chambers was chilling.

The Jerry of the remake however does have a goal, he is of a particular breed of vampire, one who wants to repopulate his kind and he is quite happy to turn whoever for the sake of numbers including the local bully, Ed and Amy amongst others, yet he is not desperate as to stop one of them (the local strip dancer) from being turned to dust in a failed rescue, a bit of a contrast but then he was probably trying to teach Charley a lesson. The original Jerry however only turns Ed and Amy, he's not that desperate to repopulate, if anything I feel he considers it generally to be a curse although in the case of Ed he considered a gift and he may have thought Ed would be a useful pawn, it's never fully elaborated on.

The original movie moves at a slower pace and attempts to develop the relationships and personalities between Charley, Amy and Ed, it gives more screen time to Ed and makes Peter Vincent a little more sympathetic. The remake however reduces Ed to something of a cameo role, turns Charley into a social climber because apparently that's easier to relate to than an outsider, makes Amy a babe out of Charley's reach who for some reason puts up with his crap, gives Charley's mother a much bigger role that makes her less believable too and fills the movie with a lot of action, some fantastic and some unnecessary.

Overall, I love them both, if I'd seen the original first maybe I'd prefer it, maybe not. As I said it's very dated in a cheesy way, The Lost Boys is dated too but for some reason I consider that part of its charm rather than a flaw. The original seems to strive for more subtle personality hints and develops and a homosexual undertone, which only adds to its depth, the remake eliminates all of this and only Peter Vincent is given any sort of depth or development. Casting wise they're both good, though the Ed of the remake is much less annoying he's also a lot less prominent and nowhere near as funny as the original but remake Amy gets a moment of toughness that the original lacks, though the original's character is just so much more acceptable and believable, you can accept her dating Charley and trying to help with his vampire delusions, the remake Amy the mind boggles as to why she tolerates his crap. Both Charleys are weak leads in the end, they're annoying, and they don't treat their friends or girlfriends well and although both have moments were they're not so bad it's not enough.

Here's a link to an excellent article, which compares both movies.

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