Tom Holland’s Fright Night is not only a modern horror classic, it’s a movie that this writer holds near and dear to her heart. A film I’ve probably seen well over 1,000 times in my lifetime and could list by memory every cast and crew member and quote every line of dialogue until I’m blue in the face.
Fright Night to me has always been sacred territory, and since it is one of the movies that was partially responsible for my lifelong love affair with the horror genre, the upcoming remake is something I’m taking very seriously.
Recently Dread Central was invited by DreamWorks to an edit bay visit in Santa Monica where we not only screened 20 minutes of the movie in 3D, we were able to sit down to catch up with director Craig Gillespie and the film’s stars Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin to hear their thoughts on tackling the classic flick, what’s being updated and what’s staying the same for fans of the original Fright Night.
Gillespie isn’t generally a name that horror fans will recognize off the bat, but that all looks to be changing with not only Fright Night’s theatrical bow coming on August 19th but also the fact that he was recently announced as the director on the upcoming film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. He discussed what it was about Fright Night that piqued his interest in making a vampire film in an age where the creature is now regularly associated more with romance than death.
“What attracted me to the script other than obviously the tone- which was this great blend of horror and comedy- is the way that Marti (Noxon) wrote the vampire,” explained Gillespie. “It was so refreshing and just goes back to the idea that he’s a monster. He’s a predator- a sexual predator even- and I think that something that has been lost track of recently. It’s become much more about the romance and there’s no real threat to them. I actually like the reality of thinking about Jerry as a predator and how he would exist, how he would get around- almost in the same realm of a sexual predator or a serial killer.”
Gillespie went on to discuss how even though this Fright Night is going to be a new experience for audiences, those who love the original may find some familiarities between the two. “There’s a lot to the structure of this one that pays homage to the original with certain set pieces like the night club scene. Obviously, we kept the idea of the vampire next door and everyone not believing it at first, but then coming to believe it so I think it was good to keep all of that from the original and feature those aspects. But at the end of the day, our version was rewritten to be quite a different piece.”
When we arrived at the Santa Monica studio, one of the editors on Fright Night brought a few of us journalists into one of the editing suites where she was busy still putting the final touches on the project to show us several scenes that have been completed already for the remake.
We were able to check out one of the scenes that had been previously released during CinemaCon that showed just how crafty Jerry Dandridge can be when he’s on the hunt for some new victims and the lengths he’d go to in order to teach Charlie (which not spelled Charley any longer – a notable change from the original flick) to mind his own business.
Farrell, who has the daunting task of stepping into Chris Sarandon’s shoes as Jerry Dandridge talked about how his love for the original Fright Night almost stopped the actor from even reading the script for the remake, let alone taking the role of the deadly vampire living and killing his way through suburbia.
“Initially I was drawn to the notion of Jerry as a vampire and not as a romantic icon,” said Farrell. “I loved the original and I didn’t want to like this script, but when I read it, I loved it. So I was like ‘balls.’ And then I met Craig and I liked him a lot so I was like ‘double balls’ then. I knew I had to do it. And what was smart about this script was that the vampire was designed in a very specific way, as kind of the ultimate example of carnivorous existence or someone that reacts without compunction or remorse or even contemplation. At first I found him kind of oppressive so I started asking all these questions like ‘Does he have to pick her up in the night club?’ ‘Can we not have the seduction anymore?’ ‘Can we do this, can we do that?’ And two weeks into the film, Craig was like ‘Colin, you’re fighting the wrong fights.’”
“As an actor, you have to address what’s in the script but bring something new to it and so I had to engage myself with this animal, this beast, and then after deliberation I started to enjoy walking around in his shoes, engaging with that cruel sense of power that Jerry carries with himself throughout the whole film. He so gets off on his own power and he’s really bored after 400 years of living in solitary and cyclical existence with daily repetition. He’s bored and he’s so sick of these fucking humans because they’re so dull and he needs them to feed. And if he can get some sport out of them, that’s all well and good. So when Charlie shows himself to be a worthy adversary, that’s where the game kind of takes off for Jerry,” added Farrell.
Yelchin, who’s quickly becoming one of the more talked about young actors in Hollywood these days after roles in recent blockbusters including Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation, discussed what fans can expect with his Charlie and how it’s really his posturing to impress new girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots), that starts a deadly but tragic chain of events in Fright Night.
“Charlie starts off in the movie where he’s got a new girlfriend, a new group of friends that aren’t really his friends so he tries to, he postures a lot to try and be this person he’s not. It’s this sort of fake, macho thing that he does. And then he meets Jerry and discovers he not some alpha male douchebag but he’s actually a monster who wants to kill everybody that’s important to Charlie. The journey that really goes on is from just posturing his way through life to learning how to actually fight- for me, it was just metaphorically about this darkness that threatened everything that was important to him. So Fright Night really is about him learning how to step up and be able to face that extreme danger and protect those people even if it’s extremely dangerous for him to do so.”
Another scene we watched revolved around Charlie doing some recon work inside Jerry’s house after he begins to suspect that his new neighbor is behind the disappearance of his best friend “Evil” Ed Thompson (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) after Ed tries to warn Charlie about Jerry. I won’t go into the scene too much because I personally think spoilers ruin half the fun for fans, but what I can say is that audiences will get some clues as to just who or what Jerry Dandridge is and just how twisted and vicious Farrell’s version of the iconic vampire really is.
In the original Fright Night, the breakdown of the relationship between pals Charley and Ed was never really explored, but Yelchin discussed how this time Charlie is someone who feels great guilt for leaving his best friend behind and how that guilt is a catalyst for his actions throughout the film.
“There were different stages that I sort of thought Charlie’s journey in-there’s the original stage where he just postures as someone he’s not and leaves Ed behind,” said Yelchin.
“Charlie carries a lot of guilt for leaving Ed behind. Then, when Ed tells him there’s a vampire and Charlie doesn’t believe him, it’s Ed’s disappearance that guides Charley through the next stage. Then the mania sets in for Charlie and there’s some paranoia that Ed might have actually been right and then that ultimate guilt sets in and that’s what makes him realize that life is not worth living if the people you really care about aren’t there anymore.”
“That sort of motivates Charlie to talk himself into fighting this creature to save the people he cares about. It’s kind of a very simple but moving story point that Ed comes to him and asks for help and Charlie just says ‘I have a hot girlfriend with new friends’ and basically is very superficial and rude to a person who was his best friend. It’s very moving and very simple but also kind of grounds the movie in how Charlie’s character continues to develop from that point,” Yelchin added.
We were also shown a scene with some tense back-and-forth conversation between Jerry and Charlie, but the highlight for me was checking out the scene where Charlie and Peter Vincent (David Tennant) meet and Charlie reaches out to the Vegas show entertainer for a little help with his vampire problem.
Peter Vincent, originally portrayed by iconic character actor Roddy McDowall, was undoubtedly the heart and soul behind Holland’s original film so I was curious to see how the updated version would play out. And while a lot of die-hard fans may not be on board, I can appreciate the direction Noxon took when fleshing out the new Peter with some scene-stealing and often hilarious antics.
For Farrell, who’s conscientious that the original Fright Night is sacred material to horror fans, explained how this time around audiences will be privy to a few more details about the mysterious Jerry Dandridge and just where he comes from. “We do give some hints to Jerry’s background a little bit. There is also something that we came up with that will probably piss some of the old fans off- I mean, maybe some will like it but it has something to do with the relationship between Jerry and David Tennant’s character Peter Vincent.”
“We allude to the fact that Jerry and Peter have some history between them before Fright Night that that wasn’t in the original movie. Peter even talks a bit about Jerry and where he comes from and what line of vampire he is because there are several different strains of vampires,” Farrell added. “But for me, even though there are a lot of differences, the one thing I wanted to have in this film was an apple because of Chris Sarandon’s attachment to the apple in the first Fright Night. That was my own nod of the head to Chris’ original Jerry.”
For fans out there who want to get their own glimpse at DreamWorks’s reimagining of Fright Night before its August 19th theatrical bow, check out the first trailer for the film below, courtesy of IGN. Look for more on Fright Night 3D coming soon!