It’s been confirmed by sources like The Hollywood Reporter and my pals at Fangoria that 1985′s Fright Night will be getting the remake treatment. Now, I don’t want to be one of those people that runs down a remake before it appears; in fact, I thought that the Battlestar revamp succeeded beyond my wildest imagination, and I enjoyed Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. That said, I think that THIS remake in particular is probably a bad idea.
Part of the charm of the original is that the plot partially turned on something that has all but disappeared: the local horror movie host. I was born in 1973, and had the good fortune of watching Sammy Terry out of Indianapolis for many years. My experience echoes the experiences of many of my (and at least one previous) generation: their Elvira, their Svengoolie, their Dr. Creep, and so on, were key figures in introducing them to the horror genre. While a few still operate, like Dr. Gangrene, their influence has waned. In fact, several of my college students had no idea that such a phenomenon existed until I brought it up in film class one day. (For more on this, if you’re curious, consult the sublime The Monster Show by David J. Skal, among others.)
So, if you retain that set-up, you’re going to have to explain that set-up, and you’re going to lose a portion of your target audience off the bat. However, without that set-up, there is nothing to distinguish Fright Night from most other run-of-the-mill vampire tales (of the non-sparkling variety). The charm is the bond that develops between Charlie, who believes that his neighbor is a vampire, and Peter Vincent, the washed-up actor turned horror host. And it was important that Peter was a LOCAL TV horror host: had he been a celebrity or a remotely located internet presence, then Charlie wouldn’t have been able to find and interact with him in the first place.
Really, the two original Fright Night films are vestiges of their times. Peter is aware that the world is passing him by, and he sees the vampire fights as his last great adventures. Also, there’s almost a kind of naivete at play in the characters of Charlie and his friends. Today’s teens generally don’t stay in to watch the local horror guy; they’d rent or Netflix or download if they wanted to watch a horror film (especially modern films, due to broadcast TV’s hamfisted editing).
SO . . . if they decide to remake Fright Night and make it a period piece, then it might work. I’d almost tell them to roll back further and set it in the ’70s to eliminate the obvious complications of home video, cell phones, and other conveniences that would overcome elements that present audiences would see as plot holes. However, relocating it too far back would create a problem for the character of Peter, as he actually WOULDN’T be that old and that far out of the business.
As it is, I don’t want to be the guy that says “Don’t remake anything.” In this case, however, they might be better served to just let this one go by the wayside. And if you’ve never seen Fright Night, check it out. It’s not the greatest movie in the world by today’s standards, but I’ve got a soft spot in my dark heart for it (and the performances, particularly the great Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowell, are solid). Pair it with The Monster Squad and you’ve got yourself a fairly light-hearted ’80s creature double-feature.
Ah, The Monster Squad. Maybe we’ll talk of that another day . . .