Fright Night [2011]

I am Peter Vincent, Vampire Killer!

Being  child of the 80’s one of my favorite horror films of the time was the original Fright Night with Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall.  Like so many horror films of the 80s, it was campy, corny and comedic undertones.  I’ve always viewed this film as one of the best portrayals of the definitive 80s horror experience.  I was very dubious that any remake of this film could possibly do justice to such an iconic film.  The other night, I sat down at my Xbox and decided 480 Microsoft Points wasn’t going to break the bank, and rented it.  I was completely shocked at how well the movie was done.

The remake stars Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge, previously played by Chris Sarandon — who has a small cameo in the film.  It is no secret Colin Farrell is not a great actor in my opinion, but somehow he truly excelled in this reprised role.  In this version, he is masquerading as a construction worker in the Las Vegas suburbs.  What was interesting about the story, rewritten by Tom Holland, was how the recent housing issues in the Las Vegas are were woven in.  The sub-division featured in the story was completely isolated like so many other sub-divisions that were started and never finished after the market collapse — the perfect place for a solitary vampire to systematically convert the residents without drawing too much attention.

Anton Yelchin and Toni Collette do an outstanding job playing the Brewsters, keeping true to the spirit of the roles in the original movie.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse also does an admirable job as Evil Ed, though not nearly as creepy or detached as the original role played by Stephen Geoffreys.  The most interesting twist to the story is the way the Peter Vincent character was evolved.  In the original, Roddy McDowall played Peter Vincent as a has-been horror film actor, reminiscent of Peter Cushing from the Hammer House of Horror films.  Now, Peter Vincent is a Las Vegas illusionist, who reminds me of a british Criss Angel, played by David Tennant.

I caution you not to think of this so much as a remake as a “re-telling”.  Though the character names are the same, the film has a completely different feel.  It is much more sinister than the original, and though it has smatterings of comedic overtones, it truly is a horror film.  So if you’re looking for something other than “Twilight” or “True Blood” for your sanguine fix, this movie is absolutely worth the 3 dollars to rent.

Rated: R
Review: 3 Stars

Skyrim: Elder Scrolls for Xbox 360

Well, when they said that Skyrim would warp your sense of time and priority, they were right.  As you can see, by my nifty twitter feed to the right, that I have been quite engrossed in Skyrim the last couple weeks.  As an avid fan of Bethesda Softworks, and the Elder Scrolls series, I was impatiently awaiting the release of this game from its first announcement. I was so impatient of this game, that I had decided to go to the local Gamestop for the midnight release, which turned out to be a great surprise. 

I live in a small town south of Richmond, Virginia, in a community with at least 15 churches in a 5 mile radius.  When I pulled up to the parking lot at the local strip mall, my hopes were immediately crushed; there were easily 500 other people in line, wrapping around the strip mall like the Midgard serpent.  With the temperature dipping into the 40s, I decided I would have to wait another 10 hours to get the game. Thankfully, I was the first person in line the next day, and now, two weeks later, I am level 18 and 20 hours into the game.

In my opinion, this game is the pinnacle of Bethesda’s achievements thus far.  This game is so completely immersive and enthralling, I can’t see how they could possibly top this.  I have played every single Elder Scrolls game, (17 Years worth!) and I have to say that this is my favorite.  In addition, I have also played the Fallout series, and while it was great homage to the Fallout’s Interplay beginnings, it is not nearly as immersive as Skyrim.

I don’t want to spoil any of the storyline, for those of you who have not been fortunate enough to get your copy yet, but I do have one piece of advice: If you get any game for Christmas, this should be the one.  The sheer magnitude of the world is overwhelming.  Even from the very first ten minutes of the game, and the storyline had been set, that I could simply get used to the world by picking a direction and going off to explore.  One feature, which is presumably enhanced from the Ultima days, is the ability to pick up herbal ingredients from the wild flora and fauna of the world.  You can pick berries, catch butterflies, fish for salmon, go clam-digging or just do some old fashion bow hunting.  There’s something for everyone — and we haven’t even gotten to the quests and storylines.

The UI for the game works very well for the Xbox, in my opinion (having played both morrowind and oblivion on the console as well as PC).  It is quick and easy to find things you need in your inventory, without having to memorize what different icons stand for, as in Oblivion.  Having played the others on the PC, it took me some time to get the same alacrity with the controller vs. using the mouse/keyboard.  It’s obvious that the UI was developed with the console in mind, as it seems that PC gaming is quickly becoming a thing of the past. (At least not as pervasive as it had been).

There are many features to Skyrim that I love, and I have not even explored a fraction of the world as of yet.  Here are my top five, as of this writing:

5) The World is Beautiful:  There are many different environments to explore, each with its own appeal. From snow-covered mountains to swamps.

4) Werewolves are back: This was one of the biggest features I missed in Oblivion, and I am glad that they returned this to the game.

3) Skills System:  Their system has been greatly simplified with the addition of perks. The skills interface, with the constellation UI is very easy to use, and adds to the beauty of the game.

2) Followers/Spouse:  It is always nice to have a little bit of help from your friends.  Some of the quests I’ve done so far may have been nearly impossible had I not had a follower.   The jury is still out on whether we needed marriage added 🙂

1) Dragons: I have played quite a few games that had dragon components, including Dragon age.  The animations, the models and the battle sequences, as well as the rich history of the dragons, makes this by far the most exciting experience for the would-be dragon slayer!

After I’ve gotten further in the game, I’ll post another installment to give a more detailed review of the storylines, the quests and the replayability.