Thursday, 22 October 2015

Jekyll (2007 Series)

So the story goes that when Fanny Stevenson read the first draft of her husbands new story, as he always asked her to do so she could give her opinions and criticisms, she dismissed it as utter 'nonsense', saying that in effect the story was really an allegory, while he was writing a story. Account differ, some say Fanny burned the manuscript while others say it was Robert Louis Stevenson himself, either way this was to force him to start it again with a clean slate, this time making it an allegorical story as his wife had suggested. One has to wonder if it has been his earlier version published would we still celebrate The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as one of the greatest horror stories ever written, or might it have simply been forgotten.

That was 1885, and now a hundred and thirty years latter the novella has been adapted many times and I'm sure you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know even the basics of the story. The tale of a scientist who drinks a potion of his own creation and develops a split personality, his own good self Dr. Jekyll and his dark alter ego Mr. Hyde, though it may surprise many who haven't read the novella to find out that it was a twist that Jekyll and Hyde were one and the same man, as in the book they had vastly different appearances. Most adaptations forgo this as most people already know the twist, even if they don't know it ever was a twist in the first place, and that many adaptations have cast a single actor in the duel role of Jekyll and Hyde. Todays subject does this brilliantly, the 2007 BBC series simply titled, Jekyll.

Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey, Jekyll is less of an adaptation of the novella but rather a sequel to it, sort of, the book exists in the shows universe and we even learn its origins later on but it's established at the beginning that the books events, or at least a version of them did happen. The plot of the show instead focuses on Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt) a man who has for some time been transforming into another version of himself, fitter, younger, stronger, faster, he has the mind of a child but the impulses of an adult, at first nameless he eventually takes the name Billy Hyde, after both the novella character and a street punk he beats up.  In this version Hyde is never really portrait as evil, more impulsive and amoral, there are few limits to his actions other than the ones Jackman himself has imposed, his selfish and out for number one attitude he starts with just make his character ark all the more compelling as he slowly starts to do things for others, such as in episode two where he saves one of Jackman's son's from a Lion, though you can debate weather or not this was for the child, Jackman or if Hyde simply just really wanted to fight a lion.  This si without a doubt one of my favourite version of Mr. Hyde put to screen, I love everything about him from his over the top actions to the way he reefers to Jackman as 'Daddy', it's creepy as hell but you can interpret why he calls him that many different ways.

We begin the series sometime after Jackman has first started becoming (the soon to name himself) Hyde, they have an arrangement, almost a time share for their body, though it's only Hyde who can force a change while Jackman having to wait until he's done, luckily Hyde tends to stick to their timetable. They communicate through the use of a dictaphone, where they have been, what they have done, 'we need milk and it's your turn to go to the shop' and so on. Our first scene is Jackman interviewing psychiatric nurse Katherine Reimer (Michelle Ryan), to be someone who can interact with both half's and help with his strange case. Of course the choice to hire her is also down to Hyde, but as we don't get to see him until mid way through the first episode the show cleverly waits and shows us the Hyde half of the interview in the second episode.  Though the main meat of each episode is in chronological order there are excellent use of flashbacks showing us the back story.

The first episode establishes the show nicely, introducing us to Jackman's condision, the strain it's putting on his marriage (his wife going so far as to hire a private investigator to follow him), Hyde's manic and childlike yet violent nature, and that more mysterious things are afoot, just who are the black van's following him everywhere? At the beginning Jackman is very much cool and composed, in control as much as he can be but still finding himself in moments of despiration, Hyde only shows up on schedule, if he misbehaves then he'll find himself strapped to a chair for his next change, and only Jackman knows the code to free him (they don't share memories or even knowledge of what the other half has done). And one of the main driving focuses of the show is Jackman's loss of control over the situation and Hyde becoming more powerful, at one point Jackman going so far as to declare war on his other half.

The show is full of twists and turns, it is equal parts mystery, sci-fi and horror and keeps you on the edge of your seat and at just six episodes it's not too long a watch so I don't want to give anything else away. The cast is fantastic, especially Nesbitt in the duel role of Jackman and Hyde, and Gina Bellman as his wife Claire, both give powerful performances. The supporting cast is wonderful too, including Denis Lswson, Meera Syal, Fenella Woolgar, Paterson Joseph and the previously mentioned Michelle Ryan, all of whom fill their roles perfectly.

While reading some of the background to the series I found out that Moffat has written a second series should the BBC be interested, unfortunately they weren’t.  I suppose it's lucky that the show didn't really end on any major cliffhangers though there were a few lose ends that could have been picked up and explored more and it would have been wonderful to visit these characters again and see what happens next. With a new TV incarnation of Jekyll and Hyde starting this week it's likely we'll never see the second series so I can just live in hope that one day they release the scripts in a book or even novelise them.

Jekyll is a wonderful series and a fantastic example of how you can modernise a classic character, Moffat would do this again a few years latter with the incredibly successful Sherlock which he co-created with Mark Gatiss (who has a small role in one episode of Jekyll). This is a series I highly recommend, pick it on and check it out.

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Comparing Fight Night's

So for the first time I've watched a remake right after watching the original, namely 1985 and 2011's Fight Night's, I gotta say while I prefer the original I really enjoyed the remake (despite Colin Farrell's goofy CGI vampire face).

The basic story is the same, Charley Brewster finds out that his next door neighbour, Jerry Dandrige, is a vampire, and he seeks the aid of a celebrity who claims to know all about vampires, Peter Vincent, to help him kill the vampire. While Vincent is reluctant at first and too fearful he eventually comes to Brewster's aid and they face the vampire down together. Outside of that the films are pretty different, sure the occasional line or scene that similar but even these are few and far between.

In the original Charley (William Ragsdale) becomes suspicious when he notices strange goings on with his neighbour, beginning when he see's a coffin been carried into the house, been a horror film enthusiast he immediately has his suspicions. His girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and friend 'Evil' Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) don't believe him eventually coming to the conclusion he is mad and they try to convince him that Jerry isn't a vampire.

Some thing the sequel did different was that it was Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who first suspected and found out that Jerry was a Vampire after a number of people in the neighbourhood have gon missing. He goes to Charley (Anton Yelchin) for help who initially doesn’t believe him, and it's only once Ed himself goes missing that Charley begins to investigate on his own. In fact Charley and Ed's relationship is very different here, unlike in the original where they were friends but Charley still made fun of Ed (calling him 'Evil' Ed despite his dislike of the nickname), here they used to be friends, both nerds until Charley got in with the cool kids and starts to ignore Ed, where in the original it was said Ed was bullied we see it much more in this version. Other things they did different was that Charley's mother had a bigger role, been central in a chase scene about midway through the film and getting in on some of the action, in the original she never found out Jerry was a vampire, true she isn't part of the climax of wither film but she's still more proactive in the remake, a change I really do like.

But possibly the biggest change in the character of Peter Vincent, my favourite character in both versions. While in the original he is a down on his luck actor, once famous for playing 'Peter Vincent Vampire Killer' in a series of Hammer style horror film he's now a late night horror host, Peter Vincent now been his stage name as well. He's a very fearful character and is ashamed of it, though he is also very brave, in the heat of the moment he won't hesitate for a moment to do the right thing, such as a scene where after realising Jerry is a Vampire and locking himself in his apartment Ed knocks on the door saying the vampire is after him, Vincent doesn’t hesitate for a second to open the door and pull the boy inside.

The remakes Peter Vincent, this time played by David Tennant has been re-imaged into a Chris Angel style Vagus stage magician, pretty successful too, and while the original didn't believe in vampires but pretended he did for his fans, this version does and in fact collects artefacts and weapons that can be used against them (and other supernatural creatures), though this doesn’t stop him initially believing Charley is mad when he comes to him taking about the vampire next door. He has other elements from the original character such as how fearful he is, such as a scene where he lock himself in a panic room, he sees a friend dead on the CCTV and there is this brief look where you can see how ashamed he is of himself, but like the origional he shows how brave he is when he over comes his fear and helps Charley.

I liked this change, while I do prefer the original I simply can't see anyone but McDowall playing that role, but reinventing the character so he's still recognisable as Peter Vincent but enough has been changed so that it's a unique and different take, personally I wish more remakes would take this kind of approach to character, rather than been cookie cutter copies.

Of course you can't talk about Fright Night without taking the vampire himself, Jerry Dandrige.  In the original Chris Sarandon plays the character as the perfect gentleman, cool and sophisticated, while Colin Farrell's is a more tough down to earth guy.  Again both work really well and it's great that they didn't just flat out copy the original, both actors are great and really sell these characters as both menacing and charming.  Guess it's down to each viewer to decide which they think is sexier.  Oh, but keep an eye out in the remake for Chris Saradon's cameo.

The other cast and characters were good as well, most feeling like natural modern version of the original.

Though there are some thing I didn't like in the remake, mostly the CGI, some of it work and does look pretty good other times it's just goofy, especially when they add the oversized cartoony mouth onto Colin Farrell's mouth, it's such as shame as I know how well the same affect could be done with practicals, in fact the original did the same effect on Amanda Bears and it still looks great today.  Also the less said about CGI blood the better.  But the practicals they do use in the film are very effective and offer some great scares.

I really like both of these film's, while I may prefer the original I say both are worth a watch, they are scary, funny and a ton of fun, check them both out.

A small change is that while in the original Jerry was often seen eating fruit, particularly red apples, in the remake he eats green apples, I'm not sure why this change would be here other than perhaps Colin Farrell may prefer green apples.