Home > Movies, Pop Culture > When casting goes wrong, “Fright Night” edition

When casting goes wrong, “Fright Night” edition

 The Bride and I (not that he will ever read this blog, but I hope Swierczynski forgives me for steaing some of his lingo) recently revisited “Fright Night,” the 1985 vampire flick with Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowell, and William Ragsdale before the glory that was “Herman’s Head.” We both had some fond memories of the movie that were, to put it gently, dashed on the jagged rocks of adulthood about 30 minutes in when we realized this movie couldn’t have moved slower if it had been weighed down with bowling balls and tossed into the East River. Besides that, there’s the reeking logic gaps inherent to any 80s flick, such as: 

  • This town apparently only has one cop, and he’s black — as far as we can tell, he might be the only African American in the whole damn town.
  • The cop may be the most ineffective cop ever because there’s four murders in four nights and no one really seems to be sweating it. In fact, hey, let’s go investigate the random claim of this kid and we’ll bring the kid along, you know, so the guy he’s accusing can see his face. Meanwhile, Jack the flippin’ Ripper is draining people of blood and the news acts like this happens every other week.
  • The town’s supposed to be Small-Town America, where you can almost hear the Mellencamp songs playing in the cornfields which surely lie just outside the town limits, yet no one seems to care when two single men (“roommates” *wink wink*) move into some old house and immediately begin renovating it.
  • The town possesses one of the most happening discos ever that didn’t have a giant coke spoon suspended from the ceiling. And after our vampire bad guy seduces the innocent teen-aged girl (who looks identical to his old love but who he turns into a vampire for apparently no other reason than to kill our protagonists — talk about lazy), the vampire then trashes the club and causes a mini riot and, much like the random assortment of bodies being left around town like tissues in the wake of flu season, no one notices.

Despite all of this, “Fright Night” isn’t without its pleasures. Sarandon makes a suitably charismatic and fearsome vampire until the movie’s third act, when they bury him underneath makeup and make him hiss lines like “KILLLL HIM!” The flick’s practical special effects possess great charm and go to prove that CGI will never replace effectively used ooze. Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) is creepy and his death scene is played with an empathy and compassion that the Bride noted you don’t get in recent films, because even though Ed is incredibly nasty by this point, you can see that there’s still a hint of humanness behind his eyes. 

OK, so not a horrible movie, just a horribly dated one. Probably not a film screaming to be reimagined. However, because there are no new ideas in Hollywood (coughcough*sarcasm*cough), it’s getting remade. “Fright Night 2011” has already been preordained for a PG-13 rating, which is a good harbinger that it’s gonna suck, but it’s the most recent casting announcements made my heart sink. 

I can accept Anton Yelchin as Charley, since in the original Charley is one of the most annoying protagonists ever, no doubt partly because Ragsdale possessed the charisma of a coat rack. Obviously they’re boosting the role of Charley’s mother since they hired Toni Collette, an excellent actress you don’t hire to show up in four scenes drinking Vicodine martinis. And I like Colin Ferrell as Jerry Dandrige; Ferrell exceeds at oily charisma, and brings a nice edge to most of his work. 

Devin over at CHUD is bemoaning the casting of Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed (really, who didn’t see this one coming from a mile away?), and I won’t repeat his points because he nails it on the head. No, what really bothers me is David Tennant as Peter Vincent, who’s been converted from the original’s horror show host and washed-up Hammer-style actor to a Criss Angel-esque magician

Peter Vincent then

For the record, I thought Tennant made a great Doctor Who. He has a goofy charm that works under different circumstances. However, what made Peter Vincent great was, let’s face it, Roddy McDowell. Vincent was a perfect meshing of character and actor, as McDowell brought his old school high theatrics to a role that demanded it. 

Peter Vincent ... now?

With a career that, at the time, stretched back nearly 50 years, McDowell understood how Vincent was a creature out of time, even more so than Dandrige, an ageless vampire who accepted the passage and changes of time, whereas Vincent was endlessly revisiting what he perceived as his past glories. You could almost feel Vincent understanding how the years had passed him by and how he was more suited to be one of his Victorian-era characters and not this man stuck in a time where all movie fans “want to see (is) slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” 

Taking Tennant from old school Hollywood and making into a de-facto Criss Angel rip-off (and, by association, a colassial d-bag) removes any charm the character possessed. It was that meshing of the old world of horror with an urbane, real-life creature that made Vincent great and gave the original “Fright Night” whatever endurance over time it possessed. By converting Vincent into just another 30something slickster a-hole, the filmmakers again prove there’s no audience they’re not willing to pander to, and manage to again miss the point entirely.

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  1. June 16, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Hmmmmm…you know upon the re-visit it just was not that good and it really needed a Kitar to make the score that true 80’s flair…don’t you have one of those??

    LMAO

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