Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fright Night remake + Hobo With A Shotgun


I have never been a big fan of remakes or re-imaginings, so I’m often walking into those types of films with a largely negative mindset to begin with. Now, when you take into account that the original Fright Night is actually one of my all-time favorite vampire films, there were some serious hurdles for me to actually pony up the money to see this particular movie. Casting David Tennant as Peter Vincent goes a long way to leaping those hurdles, but I was still pretty resilient to the idea of this film. Great reviews and several recommendations from friends pushed me over the edge, though I still avoided the 3D rendering.

There is plenty to love about the new Fright Night. Colin Farrell is fantastic as Jerry, danger and feral intensity mixed with shark-like viciousness. This isn’t some sparkling romantic lead and he absolutely revels in the pure nastiness of the role. Tennant is also excellent, though I still rattle at the change from a horror host to some dinky little stage magician. Also excellent are Charlie’s’ mother and Amy, the primary love interest of our lead. Even “Evil Ed”, the socially awkward former best friend of Charlie is excellently played to maximum effect despite not appearing throughout most of the film. So with this absolutely fantastic supporting cast, I was actually kind of irritated that the lead character was such a jerk. From the very beginning, Anton Yelchin plays an extremely unlikeable “Charlie”. He’s ditched his best friends from childhood because they don’t fit in with his new “social clique”, he ogles the neighbor woman across the street, and I just couldn’t bring myself to actually like this guy. Even when he realizes what a jerk he’s been, even when he’s being hunted by the vampire, I just couldn’t really sympathize with HIM. Though Tennant comes across as arrogant and cowardly, I still like him… I’m still rooting for him to be a good guy, to rise the occasion, while Charlie never really manages to gain my support throughout the whole story.

CGI-madness lent itself to some unintentionally awkward gore scenes. If there’s one thing I really hate about CGI it’s when they try to insert blood in a scene. It renders awkwardly and there was far too much usage of the effect throughout the film. In places where traditional effects would have been far better served, CGI dominates. There are, however, occasions where the CGI does work to fantastic effect and provides some great visuals… the vampiric features stand out, some of the stunt work blends well, but it’s just over done. One big negative, for me, was the lighting. I didn’t see the film in 3D and I can’t actually imagine being able to make out a darn thing if I had, it was just so dim. I could barely make out figures amongst the shadows. This made the ending a little anti-climactic at one point. (No spoilers, but it’s another departure from the original that sort of rankled me a bit.)

Okay, so I’m being a little harsh on this film. This was a good film, but it just wasn’t GREAT. It hit a lot of the right notes, it succeeded in every way it wanted to, but I’m still saying that the original was a far superior product and may be a certain sign that I’ve outgrown the latest generation of film-goers. It was certainly better than I expected and had a number of great scenes, including one where I just about nearly forgot that I hated Charlie. He quickly established his lack of charisma shortly there-after, but it was nearly there! Yay? Still... he's no William Ragsdale.

One great shout out, however; Chris Sarandon makes a cameo as Jay Dee (Get it?), a hapless victim who comes upon our heroes in a moment of crisis. I saw no brief moments where any of the other original cast-members so much as stopped by to wave, though. Were they too busy; was the offer ever made, or what? And what about William Ragsdale?!?!! You have to be kidding me... star of "Herman's Head"! Star of the Mannequin sequel! Star of the sequel to the original Fright Night... and the first film, even! You know... the likeable Charlie? BOOO!!!! FUCKIN' BOO!!!! Still, good movie.

4 out of 5.

And then there's this one...

Hobo with a Shotgun

After winning the SXSW “trailer” contest promoted by Robert Rodriguez, Hobo with a Shotgun saw some action when it was attached to the Grindhouse project from Rodriguez and Tarantino. And that was the beginning of its birth as a full length feature.

Starring Rutger Hauer in the title role, Hobo with a Shotgun is just over the top nastiness set to eleven with gruesome violence and unapologetic brutality. “The Drake” and his two sons are psychopathic crime lords, monsters who rule over their city like lords of proper royalty. The police are corrupt, the people are wicked, and there are all manner of scum wandering the city streets. The Hobo arrives and starts to save for his ticket out of the gutter, a lawn mower to help him earn an honest living. It isn’t long before he witnesses a series of brutal crimes (and becomes victim to a few himself), picks up a shotgun instead of the lawnmower, and goes out on a vigilante killing spree. The criminals decide to fight back and all sorts of destructive mayhem occurs.

Look, this is an over the top film with lots of gruesome horror and blood. What’s more, it does break a big rule for me, twice. In one case, it has a proper resolution. In the other, it’s just gratuitous and sort of brings the movie down a few notches for me. But Hauer is also fantastic in the role… a veteran to the genre; Hauer bites into the role with both teeth and tears it apart with pathos and rage. He takes what could have been a one dimensional character and adds depth for one of the best performances I’ve seen from him in a good many years. And three young actors make the most of their opportunities on the screen to make an impact, so the movie is definitely worth a watch for fans of the high octane action along the vein of Crank.

4 out of 5.