Is it possible to be nostalgic for the decade that gave us Milli Vanilli and crimped hair? Apparently so. Pop culture, having exhausted the 1960’s, tired out the 70s, is now mining the Reagan years.
Last week Topher Grace, the former star of That 70s Show jumped a decade with the Blu Ray release of Take Me Home Tonight, a movie named after a 1986 hit by Eddie Money and Ronnie Spector. The movie is a tribute to the youth films of the 80s, complete with enough John Hughes spirit to make Molly Ringwald seem cool again.
I know one film does not a trend make, but Take Me Home Tonight is far from being the only 80s throwback of 2011.
Super 8, a terrific homage to the Spielberg films of the 80s was a recent box office hit. The upcoming 30 Minutes or Less, the new Jesse Eisenberg comedy uses music from Beverly Hills Cop, The Smurfs are bringing the blues to the big screen next week and soon the floodgates open with remakes of Total Recall and Fright Night (both starring Colin Farrell who, apparently, is quickly becoming an 80s pop culture evangelist) and a reimagining of The Muppets. Also, if a remake of Footloose (updated with a hashtag in its subtitle: Everybody Cut #Footloose) is a sign of the apocalypse, then look out, Armageddon is on the way.
So why the comeback?
Esquire writer Stephen Marche suggests it’s partly because “because we’re in pretty much the same socioeconomic boat as we were then (high unemployment numbers, an inspirational leader with shaky approval ratings, etc.),” which is a valid point, but I think it has more to do with that soft fuzzy glow people get when they think about their youth.
If you were eighteen in 1980 you’d be on the cusp of your mid life crisis now. Perhaps the eyesight is a bit blurrier than it once was. Having trouble hearing? Sorry didn’t catch what you said. Maybe your job sucks and the mortgage you’re paying on your ex’s house is draining your bank account. A little blast from the past can brighten the day.
The 80s were rough times— Air India Flight 182, the Iran-Iraq war, Jheri curls— but not if you were 18. You had a world of opportunity at your feet, parachute pants to buy and Pac Man to play, all set to a soundtrack of Madonna and Wang Chung. So what if it was plastic and phony? It was fun… at least that’s the way you remember it and these 80s themed movies are a way of reminding us of a time before life got too complicated.
The 80s aren’t the first epoch to get a second look. Every generation has a time they remember fondly. The 60s died at Altamont but interest in them didn’t die until recently. The boomer’s decades long fixation with the 1960s overwhelmed popular culture, squeezing out opportunities for proper reexamination of the years that followed. Now we’re playing catch up, burning through the ensuing decades so quickly that soon we may well run out of eras to be nostalgic for. It’s enough to gag you with a spoon.
Think about it; Las Vegas is the perfect place for a vampire to hang out. There are no castles or creepy forests but there are lots of potential victims who don’t go out until the sun goes down. It’s a town that lives at night which makes it the perfect place for Jerry (Colin Farrell) the new vampire in town.
Based on Tom Holland’s 1985 camp classic original of the same name, “Fright Night” sticks to the basic plot of its namesake but this isn’t a traditional vampire thriller. It’s more “True Blood” than “Dracula.”
High school senior Charlie (Anton Yeltin) doesn’t believe his childhood friend Ed’s (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) claim that Jerry, the new guy on the block, is a vampire. Doesn’t believe him, that is, until their friends start to go missing. With the help of his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) and a swishy vampire expert named Peter Vincent (David Tennant in the role Roddy McDowell made famous) Charlie tries to put a stake through Jerry’s reign of terror.
Even though “Fright Night” starts as a high school horror, this ain’t “Twilight.” It’s more concerned with thrills and chills and laughs than romance or teen ennui. This is a horror film, and a pretty good one too once it gets past the set up.
The first hour threatens to get bogged down by deliberate pacing and a slowish unveiling of the plot points but is rescued by engaging performances by Yeltin and Poots, and an eerie turn by Farrell. At the sixty minute mark the horror hits, the pace picks up and the blood starts spurting.
“Fright Night” is popcorn horror with just enough bite to appeal to horror audiences and more casual vampire fans.
Hollywood is so into recycling you’d think Al Gore was running a studio and green-lighting movies. This year alone we’ve seen reimaginings, reboots and redos galore, from Straw Dogs and Footloose to Conan the Barbarian and The Mechanic.
It seems Tinseltown never met an idea it couldn’t endlessly recycle.
This is particularly true in the horror genre. In the last 12 months, Colin Farrell clipped on Chris Sarandon’s used fangs in a remake of Fright Night, and this weekend, The Thing is, according to IMDB, “a prequel to a remake of an adaptation of the novella Who Goes There?” Whatever it is, original it’s not.
Not that all original horror films are better than their remakes. David Cronenberg’s dark vision enhanced the story of The Fly, delivering the real scares that the campy 1958 version lacked, and 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is far creepier than its cinematic predecessor.
The Blob, the tale of what happens when germ warfare goes awry, has been made a couple of times.
The original is an unintentionally funny flick with more giggles than gore, but it inspired a sequel, a remake and, if the rumours are true, a bloody revamp by horror maestro Rob Zombie.
I have a soft spot for the low-budget charm of the 1958 version, although the 1988 reboot has a smarter-than-it-needs-to-be script co-written by Frank Darabont and a cool tagline — “Scream now! while you can still breathe!”
Count Dracula is one of the most portrayed characters on the big screen, having appeared in more horror films than any other famous monster of filmland. Eighty years after he first portrayed the vampire in the 1931 film Dracula, Bela Lugosi is still the most famous blood sucker of them all, although for my money, two British actors — Gary Oldham in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula — are tip-top Transylvanians.
Unlike his work in Scream, Wes Craven’s early films didn’t have any of the self-depreciating humour to go along with the scares.
His first movies were brutal, bloody and grim, usually all at once. Recent remakes of The Last House on the Left — rated R for “sadistic violence” — and The Hills Have Eyes — “The lucky ones die first!”— don’t have quite the impact of the Vietnam-era originals but still require a strong stomach.