Fright Night Part 2

The first Fright Night was a fun 80’s throwback to classic vampire movies of days gone by, which gradually ascended to cult classic status thanks to it’s breezy tone and it’s climatic explosion of cool special effects; and so the idea that the vamp hunting days of Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent might still continue after bloodsucker next door Jerry Dandridge bit the dust wasn’t completely far fetched. After all, we were still in the midst of that decade’s horror boom and 1988 alone gave us such latex stuffed extravaganzas such as The Blob remake, A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 4 and Hellbound: Hellraiser II and studios were always on the look out for splashy genre fare where a sizable chunk of the budget went on prosthetic clad set pieces. So with the two protagonists returning, but without orginal director Tom Holland as he was off helping birth Chucky into existence with the first Child’s Play, we returned to the pointy toothed terrors of Fright Night… but is this a franchise that got de-fanged before it could sink it’s gnashers fully in?

Three years after horror fan Charley and has-been actor Peter Vincent managed to vanquish the former’s vampiric neighbour and we find things are starting to happen again. Charley, now in college and emerging from some weapons grade therapy, now believes that the horrors that befell him during high school was merely a hallucination and that Dandridge was, in fact, just your average, everyday serial killer and is hoping to lead a normal life as his relationship with new girlfriend Alex heats up. Vincent, however is still hosting his cheesy TV show but still remains convinced that vampires are real – it’s a good thing too, as the new tenants in his building turn out to be a gaggle of vamps who have targeted the duo for revenge. You see, their leader, an interpretive dancer by the name of Regine, is actually Jerry Dandridge’s sister (dun dun DUUUUN!) and has plans for Charley that involves centuries of torment. As Alex and Peter gird their loins against the assault of Regine’s flaky, undead entourage, Charley has to resist the lure of actually becoming his foe’s eternal plaything as he gradually succumbs into becoming her literal batty boy…

There’s many things about Fright Night Part 2 that will appeal to fans of big, blustery 80’s horror; a healthy injection of humour, a big synth score (by Fright Night and Terminator composer Brad Fedel) and the aforementioned final reel SFX blowout are all present and correct and will no doubt give out the requisite warm feelings that fans will appreciate – but when viewed objectively by someone not overdosing on nostalgia, Fright Night Part 2 turns out to be a paler imitation of it’s predecessor… or should that be anemic?
The first issue is with our returning lead and his continuing struggle with sexual politics; having Charley Brewster be somewhat of a thoughtless clod when it comes to being an attentive boyfriend was part and parcel of the character in the first film but despite the fact that Regine has him under her seductive spell for much of the sequel, our lead still somehow comes across as a bit of a two-timing prick and therefore fairly tough to emphasize with.
Another issue is that the film seems to take forever to get to the point and has each of it’s main characters drifting the main plot like water circling a drain. Whereas the first movie had a sense of urgency thanks to the predatory villain living right next door to our hero, no one, including the filmmakers really seems to give a shit about Regine and her Count Olaf style hangers on living in the same apartment building as Peter Vincent an not much is made about it other than Charley doesn’t have to make as many stops when he realises some heinous vampire shit is decidedly going on. There’s a fair amount of suspension of disbelief required (y’know, besides the existence of vampires) when it comes to Regine’s bizarrely slow-paced plan, especially when she somehow manages to get Peter Vincent fired from his job hosting creaky old horror movies on Fright Night and replaces him on his graveyard television slot. Vamp based hypnosis aside, who on earth would hire an interpretive dancer to fill in for an old horror star and why would she waste her time doing it? Is she still introducing cheap 60’s schlock inbetween her artful pieces, if not does that mean she has to dance for the whole length of a movie to fill the required time and are horror fans actually ok with this?
Director Tommy Lee Wallace, helmer of the unfairly maligned, Myers-less Halloween 3 and who went on to bang out the 1990’s It miniseries keeps things ticking along with the occasionally noticable flash of style – a vamp attack from Regine’s androgynous roller skating henchperson filmed entirely in slow motion is actually quite creepy – but arguably makes the villians a little too jokey as the movie seems to have a bizarre obsession with bowling…
The cast work well together with Roddy McDowell still comfortably being a national treasure as the jittery Vincent and despite often feeling like Lost Boys castaways and being saddled with the occasional dud gag, the bad guys are fairly memorable. Julie Carmen cuts a sultry figure as Regine, it’s amusing to spot Jon Gries (aka Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite) as chilled “dude” with a penchant for transforming into a wolf monster during a date (we’ve all been there, am I right ladies?) and Brian Thompson’s bug eating Renfield type character has a magnificently yucky end…
And that brings us to that special effects laden climax I keep harping on about that’s actually worth waiting for and blasts you with funky shit at a rapid fire pace for the final 15 minutes like it’s life depends on it. Thompson’s character pays dearly for his strict, all-insect diet when thousands of the bastards pour from a ragged stomach wound, a vamp forced to ingest a stream of holy water has his throat grotesquely balloon out and then burst and Regine’s midway transformation from human to bat while being trapped in a lift is a truly spectacular example of 80’s prosthetics at their finest and it all has the soothing affect of making things seem worthwhile when in actuality you’ve really been a mildly above-average vamp comedy with five-star physical effects.

Less Count Dracula, more Count Jocular…


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