10/11/10

Fright Night 2 (1988): A Sequel In Grave Danger! Call Peter Vincent!

After yesterday’s crazy, spoofy, culty vampire rock musical Son of Dracula, I thought it was high time I got a proper vampire involved in my Halloween festivities. Way back in the first Halloween Top 13, Fright Night came in at number 9 on the list. I’ve always thought I should have put it up higher. For twenty five years, I’ve enjoyed Fright Night, and it’s never gotten old to me. Watching it always takes me right back to the salad days of ‘80’s horror when vampire movies weren‘t played out yet. While I had seen the original many, many times, the sequel wasn’t nearly as fresh in my mind because its been out of print in any format for a number of years. Even the theatrical release was truncated, opening in merely 143 theaters, less than 10% of the screens given to Fright Night.  So imagine my surprise when it showed up on Cinemax last night after a showing of a certain John Carpenter movie. I set my DVR and woke up this morning for two things breakfast (Pop Tarts, cherry, breakfast of champions) and a healthy dose of Fright Night 2.

In the original film, teenager Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) convinces horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) to help him fight the neighborhood vampire Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). As the sequel starts, three years have passed, and thanks to ongoing therapy, Charlie no longer believes he faced a vampire. Instead he thinks he and Peter shared a delusion that helped them cope with battling a serial killer. The problem is Jerry’s sister, Regine Dandrige (Julie Carmen), a beautiful and mesmerizing vampire (who lives undercover as a performance artist), has come to town seeking revenge for her brother’s death. Soon Charlie and Peter are caught up in the world of the undead, and Charlie soon discovers the only thing scarier than being eaten by a vampire might be becoming one.

It took three years for Fright Night 2 to get produced, but surprisingly, the tone and style from the first film remained intact. This is even more of a shock considering that writer/director Tom Holland, who spearheaded the first film, did not return for the sequel. Instead, he was replaced by Tommy Lee Wallace, the editor of classic John Carpenter films such as The Fog and Halloween as well as director of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, with a script was written by Tim Metcalfe and Miguel Tejada-Flores, the screenwriting team behind Revenge of the Nerds. Fright Night 2 continues the delicate balance of campy and scary that made the first film such a joy, but that doesn’t mean that it comes up equal with its predecessor. Fright Night 2 is frighteningly devoid of character development, and while Regine’s cronies provide some comic moments, they don’t have anything on Evil Ed. The flick could have really benefited from Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) coming back for the second installment somehow, but Geoffreys chose instead to appear in another campy horror classic, 976-Evil.

The two cast members that did return for the sequel, Ragsdale and McDowell, were completely indispensable. If one or the other of them had been recast, then Fright Night 2 would have been a complete waste of time. McDowell turns in a typically strong performance though at points this time Peter Vincent seemed to verge a little too much on being a caricature of Dr. Smith from Lost in Space. However, for the most part, he performs well. Every time I see William Ragsdale in a film for some reason I want to get him mixed up with Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame, but I sure enjoy Ragsdale more in Fright Night 2 than Galligan in Gremlins 2. Ragsdale would go on to focus mainly on TV work after this film eventually starring in the sitcom Herman’s Head. As of recently, he appeared on the FX show Justified as FBI agent Gary Hawkins. As the vampire seductress, Julie Carmen (Night of the Juggler, In the Mouth of Madness) certainly looked the part, but I never felt like she was all that dangerous as compared to Chris Sarandon’s character in the previous film. However, the vampire’s cronies were much improved with character actors John Gries, as Louie the werewolf, and Brian Thompson, as Bosworth, sharing some really entertaining scenes. The scenes in the bowling alley between these two made the whole film worth watching.

The real problem with Fright Night 2 is Fright Night. If the first film didn’t exist, well, it would have been really hard for a sequel to get made, but putting that aside, as a stand alone film it might have been very interesting. However, comparing it to the original installment in the series makes it very clear why there was no Fright Night 3. While much of the same style comes through, the film lacks the danger and immediacy of the first film as well as coming up lacking in the laughs department. The special effects remain on par with the first film however the final effects really brought down the film by looking like a deleted scene from The Incredible Melting Man (1977). Fright Night 2 will satisfy the urge if you want to sink your teeth into a vampire film, but there’s a reason the original film is still in print, because it’s still the best.

Bugg Rating

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, it's fairly mediocre, especially compared to the first film.

    But I still kinda like Gremlins 2, even though it's got super-camp moments. (Hulk Hogan? Really?)

    ReplyDelete

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