Gillespie & Farrell on the remake, a confirmed cameo and more
Out of the ’80s, many horror-comedies were born. An American Werewolf in London. Evil Dead II. Return of the Living Dead. One you could set proudly alongside those classics: Tom Holland’s 1985 film Fright Night. In it, young Charley Brewster must draw on his reserve of vampire knowledge – culled mostly from his high school chum “Evil” Ed and watching horror films – to take on a bloodsucker, Jerry Dandrige, who has moved in next door.
Like most genre pictures from that era, it has been remade for a new generation and on August 19 Fright Night hits theaters introducing a new Brewster, Evil Ed and Dandrige under the direction of Craig Gillespie, who is making a decided tonal turn in his career after helming Lars and the Real Girl. Anton Yelchin leads the cast as Charley (formerly played by William Ragsdale) and Colin Farrell slips into the shoes of the handsome vamp Dandrige (played in Holland’s film by Chris Sarandon). Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Imogen Poots and Toni Collette round out the cast as Evil Ed, Amy (Charley’s main squeeze) and Charley’s mom, respectively.
Gillespie, Farrell, Yelchin and editor Tatiana S. Riegel invited Shock Till You Drop down to the Riegel’s editing suite in Santa Monica, California recently to give us a 20 minute preview of the redo. This writer had spent some time on the New Mexico set late last year, however, the scene I witnessed being shot was not one of the sequences we saw presented to us in 3D.
Gillespie prefaced the presentation with: “[The film] pays homage to the original. It has some of the story points and structure, but it’s really its own entity. What’s surprising about it is, there’s a set-up with the characters and this big cat and mouse game. The cat and mouse game ends halfway through the movie and you’ve got to wonder what the hell is happening.”
A taste of that “cat and mouse” element was demonstrated in scene one, a clever tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte between Charley and Jerry at the former’s Las Vegas home. Charley appears flustered, but he plays it cool in front of Jerry, especially when he asks Charley for a beer. At this point in the clip, Charley already has his suspicions about Jerry and he uses this opportunity to perform a vampire test. Charley tells Jerry that he’s got a couple of beers in the fridge. He enters the side of the house, an entrance to the kitchen; Jerry, meanwhile, remains outside. Charley doesn’t invite him in. The two banter, and all the while, Jerry stays just beyond the door frame. As Charley crosses the kitchen, he holds the beers out to Jerry… There’s an uncomfortable moment. Charley knows Jerry can’t reach inside the house and grabs the beers. Charley inches them closer until they’re just outside of the door so Jerry can take them.
Gillespie, visually, plays the scene well and it’s clear that he’s milking the “does Jerry know that Charley knows he’s a vampire?” vibe longer than the original film. Farrell oozes a “bro”-like quality that you’d normally find in guys in Las Vegas or Orange County. When I called him on it, Farrell said: “Genuinely, you would meet a different Jerry if the film was set on the East Coast, or in Florida. He’s nothing if not somebody who has an insane ability to assimilate himself to any environment. He probably speaks eight or nine languages. He’s only had about 400 years to learn them and he’s an incredible observer of human behavior. Humans are a point of fascination to him and a source of disgust. He’s sick of them. He needs them to survive.”
Farrell said he didn’t look to Chris Sarandon’s performance for inspiration. “I loved his performance in that film, but it’s so differently designed this time. I would have loved to have gone deeper into vampire lore, to have a more romantic life, I was pushing for that on this film but that was pushing a square peg into a round hole. Two weeks ahead of shooting, I had to get my head wrapped around the vampire Jerry was instead of injecting these moments that were forcing the issue. This Jerry isn’t like the original. He’s savage, powerful and he gets off on that. No need for love or companionship.”
One particularly creepy moment I witnessed found Charley sneaking around Jerry’s house where he finds a hidden door that leads to a series of rooms; Jerry has a young woman held captive here. Charley, unfortunately, isn’t allowed the chance to rescue this girl. Jerry has come home and Charley is force to hide across the hall to peer out of a crack in the door while the girl is feasted upon by Jerry. What works about the moment is that the girl looks directly into Charley’s eyes the whole time and, unbeknown to Jerry (who is busy ravaging her neck), holds a finger up to her mouth, indicating to him not to scream. The way this scene played out was rather chilling.
The next sequence gave us our introduction to Peter Vincent, as played by David Tennant. The Vincent role has drastically changed from a dusty horror host to a Vegas illusionist (“Fright Night” is the name of Vincent’s show). Charley is welcomed into Vincent’s posh home (overlooking the Luxor-end of the Vegas Strip) and given a brief tour of the various oddities on display by one of Vincent’s gals. Charley is pretending to interview Vincent for his paper and as the two begin to chat, Vincent begins to pull off various elements of his Chriss Angel-like visage. A wig. The goatee. The eye-liner. For Vincent, his image is an illusionâ¦and quite frankly, he come across as a douche. I suspect this might change.
“Charley is the center point in this film,” added Farrell, “but [Peter Vincent] is very much an emotional reference point. As he was in the original. With Davidâs version, he’s also living a lie, a different one and he’s got a lot of regret. David did an amazing job and a lot of the comedy comes from him as well. He plays a very self-aware Peter Vincent.”
The final two scenes we were shown switched the tone and became more action-packed as Charley, Amy and Ms. Brewster find themselves under attack by Jerry. The vampire can’t enter the Brewster home (still, so I guess mom never lets him in like the original), but he manages to wrench the house’s gas line out of the backyard and set the house on fire, sending Charley, his girlfriend and mother running for their truck. As they zip down the road, Jerry makes his way to a dirt bike, which has been crushed. Back inside the truck, Ms. Brewster drives while the kids keep a lookout for any danger. Then, WHAM, the dirt bike is thrown into the back window! They recover and off into the desert the trio drive, until Jerry makes his attack again, punching his way through the truck’s underbelly.
Alas, we did not get to see Evil Ed in action, although I did spy, in another editing bay, a worn out Ed looking like he just got the shit kicked out of him. We were also not allowed to see Jerry in full vampire transformation. Farrell assured us it was cool and said that his make-up (provided by KNB EFX) occurs in stages. “There’s one scene, the continuation of the car chase you saw, where Jerry hits stage four.”
“I like to do as much [practical effects] as I can,” added Gillespie. “We augmented some of the FX with CG, but I tried to get as much in-camera as I can.”
Asked if Chris Sarandon makes a cameo in the film, the two confirm, “Yes, I believe he does,” beamed Gillespie. “It was cool. We talked about the project and we tried to figure out where to put him. He was a trooper.”
“It was cool to have him on the set,” Farrell smiled. “He did a day and to sit beside him and hear his stories was cool.”
We shall see how this new Fright Night turns out. The clips shown were impressive, but I’m being supremely cautious as a supreme fan of the original. Stay tuned for more Fright Night 3D coverage as we near the release date. In the meantime, check out photos right here.
Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor