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FRIGHT NIGHT Vs. FRIGHT NIGHT! Which version is better?   Leave a comment

Hard-drinking Irish bad-boy actor Colin Farrell plays vampire-neighbor Jerry as a hard-drinking Irish bad boy. (Yes, that IS a British poster, you folks who can spell.

By C. Michael Forsyth

I’ve never looked forward to hating a film more than I did the “Fright Night” remake. I loathe gratuitous remakes and the 1985 original happens to be a personal favorite of mine. Bad enough that Hollywood vultures have to recycle blockbusters like “Planet of the Apes.” Must they mess with little cult classics too?

Chris Sarandon’s chilling performance as the vampire next-door-neighbor Jerry Dandridge earned him a berth in the pantheon of greatest big-screen bloodsuckers — surpassing, in my book, both Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee. He’s such a magnetic actor and makes such interesting choices. And what range the guy has! From Al Pacino’s transssexual lover in “Dog Day Afternoon” to a Jesus who is actually INTERESTING in “The Day Christ Died.”

Roddy McDowell as reluctant vampire hunter Peter Vincent in the 1985 version of Fright Night.

William Ragsdale was charming as the mild-mannered hero high-schooler Charlie Brewster. And of course, Roddy McDowell created one of his most memorable film characters: Peter Vincent — an amalgam of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price — a cowardly ham actor who played vampire slayers in old movies and is reluctantly drawn into the real-life vampire hunt.

When I got to see a sneak preview of the new flick at the Flashback Weekend horror convention in Chicago, I relished the opportunity to bash the re-do like a garbage bag full of rabid weasels. It turned out, however, that the movie is really good! In some ways, I grudgingly admit, it’s superior to the original.

The best move the filmmakers made was not try to recreate the original with a new cast, but instead to “re-imagine” it. That’s a cliche among Hollywood recyclers, of course, but this time they really did it, I promise.

MR. SMOOTH: In the original, Chris Sarandon as classy vampire Jerry used charm to snare his victims.

Sarandon’s Jerry Dandridge was a sexy, suave sophisticate who tries to charm his way into the home of Charlie‘s mom and into the pants of the teen’s girlfriend Amy. Colin Farrell’s Jerry is a sexy blue-collar bad-boy who takes a much more “hands-on” approach. At one point, Charlie’s friend Ed warns that Jerry is “like the shark in ‘Jaws’ ” and that’s how Farrell plays him. As an animal: an air-sniffing, impulsive, instinct-driven beast.

FERAL FARRELL: Colin plays the vampire as a beer-swilling blue-collar bad boy.

Some of the changes plug plot holes in the original film. In the ’85 version, it took a real leap of faith to believe that intelligent Charlie — or anyone else older than six — would think that because Peter Vincent played a vampire killer in movies, he would be of any use combatting a real vampire. The new Peter Vincent is a flashy Las Vegas magician who has written extensively on vampires and has amassed a vast collection of tools for fighting them. David Tennant plays him brilliantly, as a boozing, flamboyant, Russell Brand-like jerk.

DAVID TENNANT channels Russell Brand, not the late Roddy McDowell, as obnoxious new Peter Vincent.

In the original, Charlie’s sidekick “Evil” Ed was a fun-loving wiseass played by charismatic young Stephen Geoffreys. I always thought it odd that when Jerry corners Ed and attempts to seduce him into vampirism, he tells Ed how he’d never have to worry about not fitting in anymore. To me, Ed seemed like a cool, funny dude I’d love to hang out with in high school.

WISECRACKING Evil Ed (Geoffreys) was a cool dude in the original.

By contrast, the new Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is a classic sexless nerd, with big glasses and a penchant for Dungeons and Dragons-type imaginative games. Charlie’s wussiness actually becomes a central element of the plot. Here he’s a recovering nerd with a hot new girlfriend who is trying desparately to ditch his old “geek” buddies like Ed. When Ed warns Charlie that he suspects Jerry is a vampire, Charlie (Anton Yelchin) ignores him, saying he’s too old for geeky make-believe games. Ed has his run-in with Jerry and vanishes — a turn of events now moved to the beginning of the film. Charlie feels responsible and must make things right. Thus the “stakes” are raised.

In the original, it was highly suspect that Charlie’s girlfriend Amy could be restored to normal after having been transformed into a bloodsucking vampiress with gianormous fangs. In the update, there’s an explanation given for the potential cure.

POINT OF NO RETURN? In the 1985 version, Charlie's sweetheart Amy develops a taste for human blood.

It was a bit peculiar in the ’80s version that Charlie’s mom remains oblivious to the danger and mayhem, literallty sleeping through much of the action. In the remake, she gets involved, big time.

Charlie (Anton Yelchin) and his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) suspect that hunky neighbor Jerry is not what he seems.

The new movie does introduce a few plot holes of its own. Charlie inexplicably ventures into Jerry’s house, unarmed, in the middle of the night, knowing full well the vampire could return any moment. The fact that kids are vanishing from the school doesn’t raise any public alarm. (Ed’s own parents don’t seem to notice his absence). In the original, Charlie makes repeated and considerable efforts to get help from the police before taking matters into his own hands. This go-around, Charlie gives up on getting help from the authorities even after Jerry… well, let’s just say he breaks a few local ordinances.

In the original, crosses are useless against Jerry when wielded by someone lacking faith. Here there’s no explanation given as to why they’re ineffective.

So, overall, four stakes up for “Fright Night,” the remake. Hey, maybe I should keep an open mind about Farrell’s next visit to the recycling bin: filling Arnold’s shoes in another of my favorites, “Total Recall.”

ON THE HOUR OF THE BEAST FRONT…

My werewolf novel is selling like gangbusters! You can order an eBook for just $5 at http://freedomshammer.com. If that would bust your budget, BEG your local librarian to order a copy. Tell her it’s the perfect book for Halloween.

In two weeks, I’ll be heading to Horrorfind, a big horror convention in Gettysburg, PA. I’m busy gathering interesting werewolf-oriented props to take — so if you have any ideas, leave a comment. The last festival, Flashback Weekend, was a hoot. Here, as promised, is footage from Flashback Weekend’s Zombie Pin Up Pageant, hosted by John La Flamboy, star of the upcoming horror flick, “The Mole Men of Belmont Avenue.” If images of hot girls in full zombie makeup prancing around in skimpy clothing, flashing their undies and gratutiously bending over offends you, do NOT view this video. Vote on your favorite below:

And the winners are…

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Scary “The Revenant Road” is a Supernatural “Men in Black”   Leave a comment

Evil creatures take up residence in our world in The Revenant Road.

By C. Michael Forsyth

The novel The Revenant Road takes readers on a thrilling roller-coaster ride through the supernatural realm.

It’s the story of Obadiah Grudge, a snooty writer of gruesome novels who finds himself shanghaied into following his father’s footsteps in the family business — hunting monsters.

I read the book after running into the author Michael Boatman at the Horror Writers Association convention earlier this summer. At first, when I spotted his familiar face across the ballroom where we were signing books, I thought he might be a relative or maybe someone I went to school with. But turned out he’s also an actor, best known for his role as gay mayoral aide Carter Heywood on TV’S “Spin City.” (The brother garnered five NAACP Image Award nominations for that gig.)

FAMILIAR FACE: Actor/writer Michael Boatman is best known to viewers from TV's Spin City.

Well, we might not be relatives, but we share certain sensibilities when it comes to horror. I can see that the same stuff that I loved as a kid influenced him. Remember “The Night Stalker,” that ’70’s show featuring unlikely monster hunter Carl Kolchak, a wily wire-service reporter? How the creature of the week would always toss cops around like rag dolls? You’ll find a terrifying scene like that in The Revenant Road.

MONSTER HUNTER Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) battled evil while filing news reports no one would ever believe in TV's The Night Stalker.

Obadiah is reluctantly drawn into the monster hunting game by his late dad’s former partner Neville Kowalski, a crusty old coot. He discovers that he’s been recruited into a secret organization that tracks down and evicts “Squatters,” evil creatures that have snuck into our world and taken up residence. The story is also reminiscent of one of my favorite flicks, “Men in Black”, in which cocky young Will Smith and grizzled veteran Tommy Lee Jones hunt illegal aliens who really ARE aliens.

ANOTHER HUNTING DUO: Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith chased illegal "aliens" in "Men in Black."

What I always like in a horror novel is that there’s a coherent and original explanation for the paranormal events. Boatman delivers this. It turns out that there’s a parallel universe next to ours, called the Wraithing, filled to the brim with nasty things. Sometimes they slip past the guardians of the universe into our world. The Squatters make contact with a human who, whether through thirst for power or weakness of character, is vulnerable and willingly accepts possession. The symbiotic result is a werewolf, vampire or even worse thing that goes bump in the night.

The book unfolds like a mystery, as the author slowly reveals to us just what is going on. I like Obadiah’s character arc. He believably transitions from a whiny, over-intellectual, pompous, self-centered jerk so annoying you want to pop him in the jaw, to a selfless, two-fisted hero willing to go toe-to-toe with the world’s most dangerous monsters.

Obadiah and Kowalski’s chief quarry is formidable: a giant, indestructible, Bigfoot-like shape-shifter. In the warm-up to their confrontation with the Yeren, as it’s called, the duo do battle with a slew of other monsters, including a Shaq-sized minotaur and, most memorably, a blood-slurping Oprah from Hell.

But that’s not the worst of it. Obadiah finally comes face to face with his personal boogeyman. That would be Carlos Volpe, a werewolf so evil that he had metal bonded to his teeth and filed to points so he could kill more people when the moon WASN’T full! He was hanged decades ago, but death only made him more dangerous. Like Freddy Krueger, the child-killer who evolves into something far more monstrous post mortem, in “Nightmare on Elm Street,” Volpe is a demonic entity powerful and clever enough to claim Obadiah’s soul.

I love that when Volpe makes his appearance, he doesn’t speak in that arch tone we’re used to from Bond supervillains. He’s hip and funny. When scared-stiff Obadiah asks what he really wants, Volpe wisecracks, “a lap dance from Condoleezza Rice with full release.”

There are such touches of humor throughout, including plenty of one-liners from brainy, sarcastic Obadiah. And it’s blackly funny when a series of literary critics under demonic influence come to do a hatchet job on him — literally.

The ending sets us up for a sequel, which I’d sorely love to see. More importantly the fast-paced, highly visual tale would make a darned good movie. And I know just the guy to play a smart-ass black writer!

HOUR OF THE BEAST, by C. Michael Forsyth is "easy to read, hard to put down," according to a Reader Favorites reviewer. And the eBook is a STEAL at just $5!

To check out HOUR OF THE BEAST, click HERE.

On the HOUR OF THE BEAST front…

I’ve busted my cherry! I attended my very first horror convention, Flashback Weekend in Chicago, August 12 through 14, to hawk my horror novel Hour of the Beast.

It was a blast hanging out with horror fans and hobnobbing with fellow genre writers, comic book creators and movie makers.

My wife Kaye and I made new acquaintances brought along by castmembers of hit TV show The Walking Dead.

HOUR OF THE BEAST author C. Michael Forsyth at Flashback Weekend.

FANS like these made Flashback Weekend unforgetable.

And I was afraid CRITICS would slash my book!

THE SILENT TREATMENT: This fan, as a zombie Charlie Chaplin, has nothing bad to say about Hour of the Beast.

My very first horror-convention book buyer!

YOUNG and old, horror fans were drawn to strange prop on my table.

Following the suggestion of a pal, Pirates of Savannah author Tarrin Lupo, I brought along a prop: a severed werewolf hand floating in a jar. Now I thought the thing would hardly raise an eyebrow in a dealers’ room packed with horror memorabilia and props crafted by Hollywood special effects experts and haunted house designers. But it worked like a charm, drawing curious attendees to my table like flies. These hardcore horror fans who live for special effects AND creators of those effects thought it was incredibly cool and wanted to know its history. I think what sold it was the yellowed paper describing it as having been “displayed by the Revlos Bros. Traveling Circus circa 1928. “ That and the REAL BONE at the stump — although one skeptical 8-year-old girl suggested the hand “should be scientifically tested.”

LABEL on my werewolf hand jar proved intriguing.

A REAL PICKLE: The former owner of this hand apparently had a run-in with a silver bullet.

ROBERT ENGLUND, everyone's favorite child killer turned dream demon in "Nightmare on Elm Street" introduced a screening of his latest opus, 'The Molemen of Belmont Avenue."

MALCOM MCDOWELL was the only alien tough enough to kill Captain Kirk in Star Trek: Generations.


LANCE HENRIKSON was android Bishop in Aliens.

At the convention were movie legends Robert Englund of “Nightmare of Elm Street” fame, “Aliens” star Lance Henrikson, scream queen Linnea Quigley from “Return of the Living Dead,” Michael Booker of “The Walking Dead,” and “Hellraiser” stars Doug Bradley (Pinhead) and Ashley Lawrence — who now does really great and majorly creepy art.

LOVELY ladies like these graced Flashback Weekend.

VA-VA-VA DOOM! Winners of the Zombie Pinup Pageant

I got to catch a sneak preview of the “Fright Night” remake and I’ll post my review in next week’s blog. Also stay tuned for the video from the Zombie Pinup Pageant. You haven’t lived until you see two dozen exhibitionists in full zombie makeup strutting their stuff.

Speaking of which, the biggest surprise for me was the high proportion of female attendees — and how young and hot they were! An extraordinary number of them were in the company of geeky C.H.U.D.-like boyfriends. I mentioned to my wife how amazing it is that so many beautiful, brainy women are attracted to these nerdy, creative-type oddballs. Kaye, a physician who looks like a supermodel, responded, “Yeah, Mike. Really amazing.”