Last week was the 5 year anniversary of 2011’s remake of FRIGHT NIGHT; we dissect, side by side, this film and its predecessor. Do these two hold up against each other? Or does one fail in comparison to the other? In the battle of New Blood vs Old Blood, which one shall reign supreme?
FRIGHT NIGHT (2011) FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
Directed by: Craig Gillespie Written/Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Marti Noxon Music By: Brad Fiedel
Music By: Ramin Djawadi Starring By: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale,
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Collin Farrell Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, & Roddy McDowall
Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots,
and Toni Collette
Now, when preparing for battle it’s smart to study both opponents equally, to try and find out their modus operandi. When asking that question, you actually find out that these two films, right off the bat, have many things in common. Both films explore the urges and raging hormones that are associated with our teenage years. Urges that are strong enough to take us away from our childhood likings and admirations. In the original, as the eerie sounds of “Fright Night” – a horror show hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) – plays on in the background, we are introduced to the power of those urges: when introduced to the sexual angst of a hormonal Charlie Brewster, played amazingly by William Ragsdale. From the moment Amy, played by Amanda Bearse, proclaims, “Charlie, Peter Vincent’s on the screen!” until the very end, we see this invisible struggle going on inside Brewster: girls or horror? Girls or horror? The original does a great job of building up that sexual tension and instantly allows the teenage boy inside of all of us to relate.
Now, conversely the remake decides to capitalize on a generation that can no longer sit for a minute without some form of action culminating. I mean Don’t get me wrong, in comparison to the films that are being put out now, just 5 years later, the introduction in the remake is very reserved. On top of teenage sexual angst, screenwriter Marti Noxon decides to showcase another dynamic – with that of the fading friendship between Charley (Anton Yelchin), Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and Adam (Will Denton). 2011’s Brewster is acted phenomenally by the late Anton Yelchin – who passed away, tragically, this past June. Watching this movie, reminds you what a spectacular talent Yelchin truly was: being able to maneuver easily between moments of dread, or heartbreak. His grasp on the human intuition is unmatched and will be missed, but having reminders, such as this, are what keeps his legacy alive. He does a great job of interpreting Brewster’s straddle between his cool, new life – complete with new douchey friends, and his gorgeous girlfriend, Amy Peterson (Imogen Poots) – and embracing his past life of comfortable, un-adulterated, no holds barred, nerdy, fun with his old friends. With that being said, the choice to have his friends as the ones who sway his interests – the original being Brewster’s horror fandom – makes the death scenes of Adam and Ed that much more emotional. As a single tear runs down the face of Yelchin, after just staking his ex-best friend, you can see visions of Squid-man vs The Comeback Kid playing behind his eyes. It’s devastating.
Now, speaking of the differences and similarities that lie between the two, let us dive into that. First off, let’s start with some similarities: both films do a great job of portraying the sexy, apple eating vampire. The OG provides an excellent, sensual, cool, synth driven theme – created by Brad Fiedel – for Sarandon to stroll to. He’s the epitome of cool and Holland’s DP, Jan Kiesser, showcases this with his fantastic cinematography. Same thing goes for 2011’s lead vampire, played by the amazing Collin Farrell. The dude started off sexy as all hell, in the first place, but then add some smoke, light the heck out of him, and voila! Full on sexy vampire! Now, where the two differ, and rightfully so, is in the style department. Whereas, the original takes on a more traditional, comedic, fun style – embracing some of the sentiments of 80’s film making (Neon and electronic music) – the 2011 version creates more of a dark, macabre, gothic look. The music, in comparison to the original, is big, dooming, and opens up at every opportunity. The music feels as if it is a homage to classic vampire flicks – especially the score for Francis Ford Coppola’s DRACULA, which was composed beautifully by Wojciech Kilar. Some other noticeable differences are between the main female leads of the film, Ms. Brewster and Amy Petersen. In the original, Judy Brewster – played by Dorothy Fielding – is hilarious! Most of the comedy comes from her being oblivious to mayhem, but she’s such a lovable character: “that darn microwave never melts the marshmallows right…” Much like Fielding’s take on Judy Brewster, now Jane Brewster, Toni Collette does a good job of portraying a hard working, single mom, but is given some hero work – after impaling Farrell’s character through the chest – saving her son from the bite of Dandridge. In fact, I wonder if the For Sale sign at the end of the original is the same one Collette uses against Farrell?
Now, with Amanda Bearse’s Amy, she starts off as a traditional, quiet, reserved, young lady who would do anything to get her boyfriend’s attention. Her evolution throughout the film is solid: going from the good girl to vampire (like you do) to a sexually awakened young lady. Bearse does an amazing job of emoting this transition. With Imogen Poots take on Amy, we have a character who starts off extremely confident – already knowing what she wants. She’s the sole reason for Brewster’s departure from his old school nerd herd, and does a great job at dawning the white dress (and fangs) in the films final moments. One thing that I appreciated in the original interpretation of Amy, with Bearse, is her exploration into the depths of her sexuality. The flirtatious dance between Sarandon and Bearse could melt butter from across the room, and the consummation of the bite scene, are you kidding me?! The 80’s version does a great job of capturing the sensuality of a vampire, especially with the music and lighting. The love themes and Dandridge’s theme are so good.
So, before I leave you, I’m going to throw out a few more similarities and differences – I didn’t want to get too into, because we’d be here all day. Nonetheless, here they are:
- Difference: Evil Ed, in the original, is way different than Evil Ed in the remake. Mintz-Plasse is actually a little more reserved in this role, sporting a more mature performance. Geoffrey’s character is more playful, and sarcastic – delivering the famous line, “Oh, You’re so Cool Brewster!” This character reminds me of the godfather of goofy sidekicks – i.e. Benny, in the BUFFY THE VAMPRE THE SLAYER film, played by David Arquette.
- Similarity: The original spends a great deal of time introducing the characters and revealing their flaws – e.g. Ragsdale choosing his horror mind over his girlfriend, Bearse giving into temptation with Dandridge. The same thing can be said for the remake – e.g. showing our lead defeated by his motorcycle. The remake does accomplish this in less time, by showing various visual references –the squid man video or a particularly emotional exchange between Mintz-Plasse and Yelchin (which ends in a physical altercation).
- Difference: Yelchin’s Brewster drives, or pushes, a Honda XL250 and Ragsdale’s Brewster drives a 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback.
- Difference: Evil Ed lives on in the original, and in the remake doesn’t make the cut.
- Similarity: Both Evil Ed’s are the one to deliver the famous line “Oh, You’re so cool Brewster!”
- Similarity: Both Dandridge’s eat apples.
- Difference: Peter Vincent in the original is a horror TV Host, and in the remake he’s a magician of Criss Angel-like proportions, played by David Tennant.
- Difference: In the original, Billy Cole, played by Jonathan Stark, exists, however in the remake he’s been omitted.
- Difference: CGI vs Practical
Overall, the remake is a worthy companion piece to the original, and has a lot of standout moments – especially with the exchange between Dandridges, and ceremonial passing of the buck (or in this case the bite). Both films are amazing to look at, and invoke this sense of cool… Oh, you’re so cool Brewster! I can’t Stand IT! With that being said, when trying to choose a winner in this battle I feel like the answer is clear… The Original takes the cake! Extremely stylized flick, with a perfect representation of the sensuality of the vampire. Each one of these characters have their flaws and since we’re allowed so much time to get to know them, and their weaknesses. Once resolution is in order, we breath a sigh of relief with them. In a world where CGI rules every big screen, it’s refreshing to revisit these 80’s horror films and actually look at some real life, moving creatures.
In this battle Old Blood takes the victory.
check out the trailer for the upcoming documentary ‘You’re So Cool Brewster – The Story of Fright Night’ coming this Oct.