Despite his art house pedigree, “Lars and the Real Girl” director Craig Gillespie — who will tackle “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” next — is diving into the genre world head first. This week he attempts to satiate the horror crowd with a remake of ‘80s camp classic “Fright Night” that he hopes will bring back the “ruthless vampire” from the depths of lovey-dovey romanticism like “Twilight.” Starring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Imogen Poots, the film keeps the basic premise but adds a darker edge to the proceedings while relocating the story to Las Vegas. Add in some 3D and you have a unique, updated genre tale that aims to take a real bite out of some familiar cinematic territory.
The Playlist spoke with Gillespie about his initial attraction to “Fright Night,” the things that he and writer Marti Noxon decided to update from the original, the ways they paid homage to Tom Holland’s original vision and how this film could possibly serve as a prelude for a potential sequel.
When you first read Marti [Noxon]’s script and decided to come aboard, what were some to the elements you felt needed updating and what things did you want to keep from the original?
When I read it, I was vaguely familiar with the original. I had seen it back when it came out and I hadn’t seen it since. So I really couldn’t remember the specifics of the plot points other than him living next door and, you know, nobody believing him and Amy getting captured. And I actually didn’t want to address that yet. I just wanted to read the script. I knew Marti had stayed true to certain plot points and certain scenes like the night club scene, which was great. But on its own, it didn’t work great as a script so I was primarily concerned that it could work great on its own as a script and that it would have a very clear tone about it — that mix of the comedy and the horror, which is what I was attracted to. So my focus was on making sure that it could have that tone in terms of the cast that we got and the way that it was all coming together.
Literally about two weeks before we shot, I went back and watched the original again. Obviously, when you have the good fortune of having Chris Sarandon doing a cameo, I wanted to see if there were any little moments I could have in the back of our heads. The apple scene when Charlie goes into the house is because of the original and we came up with that on the day between Colin and I. We thought it would be a nice homage to the original. So we just tried to give little nods here and there out of respect. Tonally, the original has such a specific sense of fun and crazy tone to it. This one shifts differently. There’s a little more action, it’s a little more of a thriller ride in the second half, which divides it quite dramatically from the original.
Setting it in Vegas seems like a stroke of genius. It really helps to explain some of the elements of Jerry’s plan that we maybe didn’t get as much of in the original.
It’s a transient society and I felt Marti did a great job with that. Plus, just having Vegas as a backdrop. I also liked the two fundamental switches she made. The first is that Peter Vincent [David Tennant] is successful and his history is an interesting way to play that character. And also it was Charley’s friend, Evil Ed [Christopher Mintz-Plasse], that felt something was going on and was trying to convince Charley instead of the other way around.
A lot of the talk around this remake has been focused on the brutality of Colin Farrell’s take on Jerry the Vampire. As with Sarandon, he still thrives on his sex appeal, but he’s much less sympathetic and more demonic. He really seems to enjoy toying with the humans.
That was another primary attraction for me to Marti’s script. She wrote such a ruthless vampire. Being that there’s so much romance with vampires, particularly lately, Marti just took that out of the equation. That was what was refreshing to me. She basically gave him more of a serial killer mentality. And there is this magnetism about him, about how he can exist in this situation, the way he would treat his victims. The mundaneness of it. In that serial killer sense, he has to be extremely charming but at the same time emotionally devoid. I liked that aspect of it. It was really refreshing to me.
He’s 400 years old and he’s bored.
Exactly, he’s really fucking bored. That was all Colin and I talked about. Day in and day out it’s just sitting around and nothing to do. At the end of the day, he’s just going to leave and go somewhere else. He’s quite reckless, but once the cops come he can just leave.
Is this something you see there being more story to tell or that you want to be involved with if they made a sequel?
It was a lot of fun. I would definitely be involved in it. I loved this more brutal aspect to the vampire mythology plus I was just attracted to the mix of the tone. It certainly has legs. Maybe it’s a prelude.
“Fright Night” opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, August 19th. Check out a red band clip from the film below.