Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trailer Trash: Fright Night (2011)

Some of my readers may recall my review of the 1985 horror film "Fright Night", and how I bad mouthed most of it. For as much as I didn't like the original, I do understand what the film makers were trying to do with it. It was a love letter to the Hammer Horror movies of the late 1950s with Roddy McDowell's character of Peter Vincent based heavily on Peter Cushing's Van Helsing Vampire Hunter. It was also an attempt to break away from the formulaic set up of the new and extraordinarily popular slasher films. Peter Vincent becomes the mouthpiece of the creators and makes no effort to disguise the disgust at this particular horror sub-genre that had over-saturated the market of the time. Hollywood is known as a land of copycats, so trying something fresh like this is something that I both commend and encourage, its just the execution, plus time, that I think is what prevented me from enjoying it more.

So now, like everything else, the film is being remade. I'm sure theres an executive somewhere in a Hollywood office with a catalog of properties that are already owned by his studio, biding time, waiting for the right moment to spring a remake on unsuspecting audiences. Likely this one was picked up in an attempt to ride the coattails of the sudden surge in vampires on screen over the past few years before the trend fades away completely. I'm not going to hold that against the new movie, I'm just pointing it out. It probably also helps that the film has a rhyming name, making easy for potential audiences to remember it during the fickle month of August when expectations for summer blockbusters have been severely diminished after all the razzle dazzle effects and explosions of the July releases. I can only hope that the makers of the new film don't see this as chance to rest on their laurels, but to put the same degree of passion on the screen that helped the original in order to break from the doldrums of tradition and expectation.

I'd like to touch briefly on the poster for the new movie before moving on the trailer because I saw the poster before the trailer and it helped form some of my attitudes towards this upcoming film.

This isn't a great movie poster. It reminds me a little too much of the poster for "No Country for Old Men". But there is at least one thing I like about it, and that is surprisingly, Anton Yelchin. The protagonist stands defiantly at a profile, facing left rather than facing straight on or looking to the right, this helps guide our eye past the angle of the supporting background houses, down the text which lets us know the all important what and when. The distinct axe also breaks the silhouette and sticks out in our minds. We don't need to see his face, we just need to know that our hero is a small person stands guard in front of a small pass, facing up against overwhelming odds, but that he is prepared for action!

The biggest problem is the biggest thing in the poster; Colin Ferrell's floating head. Sure he's got red tinted eyes, but that really isn't scary. If his nose is going to take up this much space, at least make that facial feature somewhat frightening! What I'd like to know is why we don't see fangs on Ferrell in the poster. Two pointed fangs are a classic feature of vampires and excellent for use in graphic design, hence why they're being used in the title's text. So why not show us a hint of any in the part of his mouth that we do see?

Then there's the tagline. "You can't run from evil when it lives next door." Wordy, but it does tell you the film's plot.

Quick comparison to the original poster:

The tagline: "There are good reasons to be afraid of the dark" is a bit generic, but the with image beneath, it works. A wide eyed pale face strikes boldly against a dark atmosphere bearing an inhumanly wide mouth full of cruel, sharp teeth and cackles menacingly while commanding the clouds, harnessing the forces of nature itself to assume the shapes of demons to assault a dwarfed house with no neighbors to allies to be seen, just two pine trees, both easily victimized by the blitzing breeze. There is but one light on in the house outlining a human silhouette, and whoever this lone person might be, they are residing in the last outpost against a devastating devil.

Okay, let's start the show

* Establish Anton Yelchin's Charlie as a typical teen with the good life in what we later see in the big city of Las Vegas.

* Charlie's peers, rather than nameless periphery females are the victims. This makes the disappearances distinct, even if we never see them because there are in the same peer group as the intended audience. Though one could argue that the fanservice victims of the original are more memorable because they were just there for gratuitous breast shots then be killed to drive the plot forward. I'm sure its no coincidence that the one victim we do see in this trailer is a pretty blonde, scantly clad woman.

* Speaking of which, theres a scene were Mom introduces us to Jerry, also provides Charlie's name, but only addresses his girlfriend as "His girlfriend". I guess that really is all we need to know about her, since the only things we see her do in the trailer is be threatened by Jerry and show off black lace bra , the latter being the official Hollywood code for "Let's Fuck". I'm going to go out on a limb a say she's going to be more of an archetype than an actual character.

* "Evil" Ed resumes his role as Mr. Exposition, but here he's the one to explain the connection in disappearances and go to Charlie about it rather than having Charlie be the one to figure everything out. He also looks more like a simple high school nerd archetype, rather than the original's big haired goofy spaz. This makes his role in the film more recognizable in the trailer and it looks like this version will be far less annoying.

* The shots in the last half focus on Charlie and Jerry going on the offensive, preparing for war and promising a greater level of violence and destruction than the original's "cry wolf" build up story.

* Sadly, there are no shots of David Tennant as Peter Vincent. The only reason I'm at all interested in this movie at all is to see The Doctor fight monsters on the big screen. If this is not delivered in a following trailer than I'm ready to write this off as a failure already.

It hits all the right notes for an action horror film, showcasing excitement and suspense, and catered to a young audience with a disposable income. Will it be any good? Well, we'll see soon enough.