Ryan sounds off on the new Peter Vincent
They cackled from shadows, dropping visuals gags as often as they did bad puns. “Wit” was a job requirement, as was a distinctive guise. Usually of the macabre variety. Y’know, sharp eyebrows (or furry, your choice), musty, or sexy, clothes and a creative hair style. And there had to be something signature about them. Vampira had that waist. Elvira had the boobs. Dr. Paul Bearer had that wonky eye and singing decapitated head. And Zacherley, well, he had it all, didn’t he?
The “horror host” was an unusual breed that grew out of the ’50s. Some still exist today, yet you really have to scour America and the airwaves to find them. Their purpose? None other than to make your horror viewing experience on television more entertaining. Sometimes actors, sometimes local news men who had more talent than simply reading a teleprompter, the horror host carried viewers into films and in and out of commercial breaks all the while scurrying about their low budget sets, toying with equally low budget props. And every generation had a horror host to latch onto, depending on the decade and area of the country. For me, it was Elvira. For others, it might have been Svengoolie, Count Gore DeVol, Ghoulardi or Dr. Shock.*
But the age of the horror host is sadly gone.
It’s the principle reason why you won’t be seeing horror host Peter Vincent “vampire killer” broadcasting from a foggy TV soundstage in the upcoming Fright Night remake. Since our report this week, in which we revealed the Vincent role was being updated as a Las Vegas magician, some die hard fans of Tom Holland’s 1985 Fright Night couldn’t understand the contemporary change. When you get down to it: The audience this remake will be playing to simply won’t know what the hell a horror host is.
Yes, in ’85, the idea of Fright Night‘s Charley Brewster driving to his local television station to get in touch with Vincent was plausible. Horror hosts were dwindling at the time, but they still existed. In ’85, the older horror fans were raised on the Universal and Hammer classics, and some of the younger fans were just getting their introduction to them. There was a perfect storm of generational clashing where the classics were a bit more revered and embraced than they are now. And writer-director Holland was playing on all of that; it’s part of the reason his film works so damn well. Brewster calling upon a horror host to stop a vampire menace was a masterful stroke and it made sense.
For Fright Night 2011, writer Marti Noxon had the unenviable task of modernizing the story and finding a way to make the audience connect with Peter Vincent. Make him a recognizable persona. Given the film is set in Las Vegas, shaping Vincent so he’s “wiry, hot – a rock ‘n roll bad boy” (as the script describes him as) with a hit gothic stage show at the Hard Rock, well, whether you groove to it or not, works for today’s crowd who can quickly identify the likes of Criss Angel. Would some of us prefer to see an aging icon, with little money in his pockets and no job, finding renewed courage in driving a stake through a vampire’s heart? Sure. But it’s another time and another place andâ¦we have to face it, another Peter Vincent.
I’m not sure how Brewster connects with Vincent in the new film. Nor do I know what personal conflict Noxon has created for Vincent that would drive him to help Brewster at all. But for those of us Fright Night nuts, we knew changes were coming and, at the end of the day, it all circles around to the question of what should be remade and why. Fright Night, to me, is in the “do not touch” category. Alas, it’s happening and I understand the modifications that are being made.
The whole thing reminds me of something Vincent said in the original film, “Nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore. Vampires, either. Apparently, all they want are demented madmen running around in ski masks hacking up young virgins.”
Strange, since, according to the remake’s script, the first time we see Vincent, he’s cutting a girl in half with a chainsaw for a television promo. Times have changed.
*For more on classis horror hosts, picked up “Television Horror Movie Hosts” by Elena M. Watson and McFarland Press, or check out the documentary American Scary, now on DVD.
Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor