Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Which Fright Night Gets Remade

It’s interesting.

I don’t really understand the need to remake movies. I think, perhaps, if you back the world up about 15 years, remakes kinda-sorta make sense. After all, at that time, every movie ever wasn’t immediately available to you.

So if, for example, in 1995, you said you were going to remake The Evil Dead, well, it sort of made sense. The original had only ever been released on video. It looked awful, because videotapes were a non-digital format prone to snagging in VCRs and, barring full-on destruction, just plain wearing out.

Even though it was a cult classic, it was just plain hard to find. If the copy in your local video store broke? Well, then it was just gone. There was no Netflix, no Hulu, no Amazon Prime, no YouTube. No, where you could buy someone’s horribly beat up copy.

I’m overstating my case, but I need you to get my point. Back then, it was often hard to lay your hands on the original version of whatever interested you. An so a remake allowed you to grab a whole new audience who had never seen the original.

It was kind of brilliant.

But today? There’re remaking everything. And everything they’re going to remake? Is out on DVD. Or some kind of instant watch format.

And the problem is, all too often they’re remaking genuine classics. The world really didn’t need a new version of Halloween. We have the original, and it’s amazing, and it still holds up after all these years.

And like a lot of remakes, Halloween wasn’t necessarily a bad movie. But it was always, always, always going to suffer by comparion.

Which brings me to Fight Night. And a near-complete reversal on where you probably think this essay is going.

Because the truth is, Fright Night is probably the perfect movie to remake. The original was well-liked, and a big enough hit that they made a (not-well-liked) sequel.

But honestly? It’s kind of forgotten. It isn’t on cable all the time. People don’t quote it at comic book conventions. The director never went on to make, say, Spider-Man, thereby turning his backlist into a perpetually-on-DVD re-release fest.

But that’s not all they did right.

They got themselves a Buffy writer to assemble the screenplay.

They got a cheap but fairly brilliant cast. If I have any complaints, it’s that Jerry, the vampire, is good at being attractive (about half of his job) but doesn’t really project menace. But that’s okay, because…

The director really knows what he’s doing. Nothing flashy, but a strong awareness that if you put the camera HERE, and move the camera HERE, and frame the shot THIS WAY, your flick is going to be fun and creepy and nervous-making.

And the flick does some of my favorite things, namely, it gives you little twists on vampire mythology, including one of my favorite moments of the flick: i.e., how does a vampire get into a house it hasn’t been invited into?

Almost as good: How do you fight a vampire using fire?

The fact is, this movie did everything right. It took a good movie, and created a remake that might be a little better. (Or not. You can feel free to argue about it. End of the day, though, a case can be made either way, which almost never happens.)

I’d say more, but I don’t want to, because I’d much rather that you go out and see it. Or rather, rent it, or buy it, or Netflix it…

(I realize I haven’t said what it’s about. In short: A formerly-geeky teenage kid finds out the new guy next door is a vampire. So he consults a Vegas magician on the subject of fighting back. Carnage and car chases ensue.)

I’d end my review here, but I think it’s worth talking about why I think the movie failed at the box office. Not because I want to pour salt on the wounds of the people who made the movie, but because I think some people will see that it crashed and burned at the theaters and avoid it because of that.

You want to know what went wrong? Here you go.

1. Horror comedy. It was one. And honestly, most horror comedies crash and burn in the theater, and find an audience later. Slither. Tremors. The Monster Squad. In fact, the only horror comedy I can think of that did well in theaters is Arachnophobia. Frankly, I’m amazed they’re not remaking that.
2. The 3D thing. To the movie’s credit, it was shot in 3D, and not just converted. But you know what? It really didn’t need to be in 3D. And you can sense it, when watching the flick. Objects fly at the screen maybe once or twice, and that’s about it. So 3D junkies didn’t get much for their extra dollars, and people who wanted to see the movie probably avoided it because of the 3D.
3. The R rating. I get that there are a lot of people who think horror movies should be R rated. I’m not even sure that they’re wrong. But I suspect the flick could have grabbed an extra 10-20 million at the box office if teenage kids looking for something both funny and scary had been able to pay and walk in. As it was, the blood offered up was only slightly more than what you see on the average Supernatural episode, and the handful of expletives contained in the film (10? 20?) could have easily been cut.

The thing that saddens me the most is that movies like this deserve a shot at being seen, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. It will do okay in rentals, and get on cable, and in the end it’s going to make some (but not much) money for the studio.

But much like the original, I suspect this remake will grow a small fan base, exist on video for a while, and then slowly sink into the murky depths of the ocean called, “Oh yeah, I kind of remember hearing about that…”

Pity, really.

No comments:

Post a Comment