|Welcome to Fright Night.|
Never underestimate the power of a great villain to really make the movie.
Case in point: I watched the original, classic version of Fright Night last night with my 16 year-old, since we're planning to go see the new version this weekend.
|Hi, I'm 27 and trying to play 17. I totally|
cannot pull this role off! Put a ribbon in my
hair and maybe no one will notice.
But Chris Sarandon always stood out for me. My teenage son agreed that his performance is what really sold the movie. The suave, sartorial vampire biting into an apple as he sauntered down the stairs reeled us in, and by the seduction scene in the club we were both rooting for him over the vampire killer.
|Yes, I always dress this well. Vampires have the best tailors.|
Of course, there's no doubt that Roddy McDowell makes an inspired Peter Vincent, but where does he do his best work? Opposite Sarandon, or the over-the-top Evil Eddie ("The Master will kill you for this! But not quickly. Slowly...oh. so. Slowly!"). The dying wolf, with its piteous cries of pain, changing into a man as McDowell's eyes grow soft and teary? That's the good stuff, right there.
Inevitably, when I look at the best fantasy/sci-fi/horror films, the consistent factor in all of them is a well-cast villain, from John Lithgow way back in Blowout to Bill Nighy in the Underworld movies, to Geoffrey Rush in the first Pirates.
I know what you're thinking, "Well, but the leads have to be good, too, right? Look at Johnny Depp in those Pirates movies!"
To which I say: Bollocks. Johnny Depp rules my heart, but the last Pirates movie was still pathetic, and his bizarro Willy Wonka couldn't hold a candle to Gene Wilder's lovable eccentric version.
And that's not all. Remember the spitting, acne-covered Baron Harkonnen spinning up to the ceiling in Dune? Yeah, he sucked. Even Sting, Kyle McLachlan and Brad Dourif couldn't save that movie (though Dourif later shone as Grima Wormtongue in LOTR. Again, great villain!).
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was meh largely because Blackbeard was just not physically intimidating enough. The real Blackbeard was a giant of a man. And the Spiderman franchise, which started out so well with Willem Dafoe as the maniacal Green Goblin, went and put a very nice, somewhat overweight actor in the role of Doc Oc and screwed it all up.
The very first of the many, many Batman movies isn't a classic because of Michael Keaton. It's Jack Nicholson's Joker (with a little help from sexy Kim Basinger) that made it both dark and fun ("Where does he get those wonderful toys?!"). When Director Christopher Nolan breathed new life into the franchise, Heath Ledger came along and acted circles around Christian Bale, re-creating a role that would have intimidated lesser actors (would you want to step into Nicholson's shoes?!).
Hugh Jackman? Fine, no problem, I like him. But Liev Schreiber's Sabretooth made Wolverine worth watching. Chris Hemsworth is likable enough as the blond and suitably buff Thor, but Tom Hiddleston's Loki? Brilliant.
Ian Mckellan (and then Michael Fassbender) as Magneto.
Ricardo Montalban as "Kha-a-a-an!"
I could go on, but I think I've made my point.
So, if there are any producers, directors or casting people out there, keep that in mind, okay? It's the villain that makes the movie. And Colin Farrell, don't let me down in this new Fright Night remake. I'm counting on you!