Monday, 22 August 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #788: Fright Night Got Fried Friday Night

It's official.

Fright Night, the remake of the 1985 horror comedy, crashed and burned at the box office this past weekend, beaten by
The Help and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. This despite a 74% "Fresh" rating with critics, and a 75% positive response from people who have actually seen the movie.

So how could a film with so much good buzz do so badly?

I think it was done in by two things: 3D, and the ad campaign.

3D went from being the mind-blowing wave of the future to become Hollywood code for "
We don't think this film is very good, so here's a cheap stunt, and an excuse to jack up the ticket price," faster than the Flash on his way to a booty call.

People who were iffy on seeing the film would look at the 3D tag, and think: "Feh, it's not worth the extra cost or the headache from the 3D glasses. If I hear it's any good I'll just rent it on Netflix."

That's not good.

Then there's the ad campaign. The TV commercials were especially unhelpful being essentially montages of co-star Colin Farrell swaggering around threatening people, with inserts of commentary from other co-star Anton Yelchin, but mostly from Christopher Mintz-Plasse who is most famous for playing "McLovin" in the movie

You don't really get any sense of the story's "nobody believes me" storyline, anything concrete about the lead's relationship with his girlfriend, other than that she's hotter than his social standing deserves. And there's a big fat gap.

That gap is Peter Vincent.

Peter Vincent, played by former Doctor Who actor David Tennant, is the showman turned amateur vampire hunter played by Roddy McDowall in the original film. He's the only person to believe the teenager's story about living next door to a vampire, and plays a pretty major part in the story.

If all you know about the film comes from the TV ads you're lucky to get a glimpse of Tennant, who literally has millions of fans worldwide, who are full of goodwill towards him because of his great turn as the Doctor. But the ads make what was hyped as a major role in all the pre-release buzz look like nothing more than a "blink and you'll miss it" cameo. Basically, it's all Farrell, all swagger, all the time, and despite what Hollywood wants to believe, Farrell is not a serious draw at the box office.

So why did the studio base the ads almost entirely on an actor of questionable ticket selling ability instead of using the film's positives, like dark humor, popular ex-Dr. Who, and good old fashioned scares.

Probably because of the curse of familiarity.

Farrell is the most well known name in the film, especially inside Hollywood. Tennant's fan-base is mostly outside Hollywood among the "geeks" who, in the collective hive-mind of Hollywood, are only supposed to go to superhero and sci-fi movies. When in doubt Hollywood will always stick with what Hollywood knows. Then there's the familiarity of the Twilight movies and their sexy, swaggering vampires with fashionably mussed hair, and someone at the studio said: "Hey, let's make it sexy like Twilight, that'll sell."

Kinda forgetting that Fright Night is supposed to be a horror movie with elements of dark humor, while Twilight is supposed to be a rather soppy romantic fairy tale written by someone who basically drew the name of a mythical creature out of a hat, and ran with it.

There's a lesson in all this, but I doubt Hollywood is going to learn it anytime soon.


  1. Blast Hardcheese22/8/11 5:12 pm

    D., I am...dare I say...hopeful?

    Regarding Hollywood learning its lesson, I've thought more about the whole "Lone Ranger costing $250M smackers" nonsense. One thing stands out:

    Disney told them No Fargin' Way.

    Even though the director and star had made them a huge pile of money, they said "This is a ridiculous budget. Trim it by 20% and we'll talk." Now, that still leaves a budget of $200M for a fargin' Western. I wonder how much Deadwood cost for all of its seasons.

    Oooh, now there's an idea! Al Swearengen versus Johnny Depp...something tells me Al's going to be the only one walking away from that one.

    Okay, tangent over. I regard Disney's action as a small (very small) but definite bit of sanity.

  2. Good reviews still matter?

  3. David Tennant could have sold this on his own.

  4. Also Conan died at the BO as well. I am surprised the new planet of the apes is doing well.

  5. Don't forget Spy Kids: We're Still Relevant, Really!