The fascinating thing about the Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) re-envisioning of Fright Night is that it kind of goes backwards in its notion of roles and responsibilities. This version may not quite have the pacing (I won’t say logic, because neither the original nor this remake traffic in this), meta-horror (the original predates Scream by a decade) or Hughes-ian eighties teen-relationship elements that make the original far more fun, but it has one scene that is an absolute doozy. Jerry (Colin Farrell), who is the Vampire-next-door, recently discovered by Charlie (Anton Yelchin), has yet to be invited into the Brewster home. This is common enough in vampire lore, and extrapolated to great dual meaning (home/relationship) in the Swedish Vampire movie Let The Right One In. Here, Jerry offers thinly veiled threats to Charlie from the homestead threshold, in the form of advice on Charlie’s role as defender of his own property and his women. The scene could have be played as slightly amusing, or in our new century of women’s rights and all that, even quaint – instead it plays quite feral. Imbued with an old-school masculinity right down to details such as a six-pack of Budweiser, one bottle broken and spilled. It is surprising. Well, maybe not so surprising considering a Twilight joke made earlier in the film, and along with the mention of those books (and films), the emasculation of the entire vampire myth along with it to a weepy celibacy and romance tale. Yes, the 1980s had Anne Rice, but I digress.
This is the kind of scene that makes a movie worth watching simply for those 3 minutes. Going to the ‘backward’ statement above, I always felt there was an unexplored foppish, homosexual element to Jerry and his wolfen man-servant in the original, and his communion with Evil Ed, Charlie’s dorky best friend, which may have even been forward thinking in the mid 1980s. Here they’ve gone aggressively the other way, Charlie is far less dweeby (than William Ragsdale’s 1985 performance) having ‘come into his own.’ Several characters in the movie remark how much ‘bigger’ he is from in his senior year of high school. Peter Vincent, albeit less vulgar than David Tennant’s Las Vegas showman-rock-star-caricature, was a lonely vain man, not a power-tripping yet under performing sex-addict. Yet curiously, it is an act of cowardice, a failure to ‘man up’ at a crucial point in childhood that defines both Peter Vincent and underscores Charlie Brewster’s heroism. In the original, it was the power of belief (or faith), in this one, it is the power of muscles and a hard cock. Note the final-magical stake that has the power to save all of Jerry’s victim/slaves. As evil Ed (Yes, even McLovin’ is tougher and harder edged than Stephen Geoffreys, if not as fun) says at one point, pussy makes the head grow soft (OK, actually, I’m not sure exactly what that means, but presumably if you are to be a man, the blood should be running elsewhere…) Don’t get me wrong, the ladies in the new Fight Night are far more capable and aware (particular Charlie’s Mom) than in the original, and they aren’t afraid to swing a mace or wield a Real-Estate sign (a cute post-housing-bust nod that works very nicely with the transient, and much affected in 2008, Las Vegas setting.) But everything points in this film to the man’s job to protect his women. Wrong? Quaint? Boneheaded? Your baggage, not mine. I am just calling it as I see it. Fright Night is going to kick the living crap out of the dreadful looking Straw Dogs (2011) remake in terms of what it has to say about such things.
If the first Fright Night was a meta-comedy on horror and showmanship, this new take, a ‘good remake’ that re-jigs the dots on the face of the Rubix-Cube, seems to be a fascinating new (or re-new) statement of manhood in the 21st century. The new film may not be as purely entertaining as the original, but it has some balls.