BY KARL PFEIFFER
Disney just hired Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright to helm a new Night Stalker movie? With Johnny Depp set to star and produce? Consider my day made.
The Night Stalker was originally a 1972 movie that spawned a sequel and a short television run called Kolchak: The Night Stalker. It was quite popular at the time and starred Darren McGavin in the lead role of Carl Kolchak. (If you don't know your older TV stars, well, shame on you. He's the dad on A Christmas Story. If you don't know A Christmas Story, well, get off my lawn. Or I'll shoot your eye out, kid.)
The original formula was quirky, using comedy and lighthearted wit to present a reporter looking into some darker supernatural topics...
That said, ABC ran a remake in 2005 starring Irish actor Stuart Townsend. This version of the show took a much grittier take, replacing the original wit with a kind of brooding darkness that turned off many original fans. I often wonder if I might be, to date, the only person who respects (no, adores) the reboot. It was absolutely brilliant. The show was elegant, with musing monologues to bookend episodes to the haunting tunes of Philip Glass. Intensely thematic, the reboot studied the supernatural like an X-Files spinoff, but toyed with the ideas of evil - from the supernatural to the natural, from serial killer types to the more ghostly - all while building questions of reality and the nature of inherent evil in the flawed, more antiheroic character of Kolchak himself.
It was doing some real intellectual work and I loved it. Then ABC cancelled it in the middle of a two part episode just before sweeps.
It didn't work because the pilot episode was very, very slow, the show was under-marketed (a shame since it came out right about the same time as Supernatural and would have made for good competition), and they dropped it in a time slot against the MLB playoffs, The Apprentice, and possibly Grey's Anatomy. They pitted it against the top shows on TV at the time, where the only people who knew about it were the fans of the old show who saw the more serious twist as a butchery, and without giving it a chance, it shriveled up and died.
The show still lives on over at Hulu.com, for free. I highly recommend it.
And so I find myself in a bit of a strange place. Now we've got another remake in the pipes, but I can't help but get excited. Depp (who is already doing remake duty in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows) in the lead seems like it might take some getting used to, but if I think hard enough (we've already seen him with the white bermuda hat in Rum Diaries) I can start to see echoes of the old Kolchak. Further, Edgar Wright is one of my favorite directors; no one else utilizes filmography to the comedic extend he does. I'm in my comedy happy place any time I watch one of his films. There is so much cleverness and dry humor in his work; I can't get enough.
So my call on this?
Make this happen. I mean, like, tomorrow, please. It might take some getting used to, especially for me, as I was never very sold on the original version. I already know the fans are a tough sell, but I think the formula is set, and can stand to be a fantastic modern addition - rants about remakes aside.
But what do you think? Were you a fan of the original series? Did you watch the reboot when it was on ABC six years ago? Will this be a hit or should they just let a sleeping dog lie?