31 Days of Horror(1)


The Original

Fright Night is a lovable 80s horror film with interesting characters, great goopy practical effects, and a killer premise.  Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) has a new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) who appears to be a vampire.  To stop Jerry, he enlists the help of a late-night horror marathon host, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) who is a sort of Peter Cushing meets Vincent Price character.

The two team up to defeat Jerry, saving Charlie’s girlfriend (Amanda Bearse) and losing his friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) in the process.  It’s a wonderful and fun cult film with a surprisingly sexual undercurrent seeing that the lead and the villain are both men.  Its subtext is neither as blatant nor as frequently brought up as in The Lost Boys but it’s still there.

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The Sequel

Having defeated Jerry, Charlie has gone off to college.  At some point he broke up with his girlfriend and started dating Alex (devastatingly beautiful Traci Lind) and underwent psychiatric evaluation to convince him that vampires don’t exist.  This is a problem because Peter Vincent still believes and is now using his late night horror show to parrot the dangers of vampires to the world.  Further complicating matters is Regine (Julie Carmen), Jerry Dandridge’s sister who has come into town looking for the men who killed her brother.  Regine has come with a duo of vampires (Jon Gries, Russell Clark) and a massive bug-eating familiar (Brian Thompson).  Regine sets out to ruin Peter’s career and turn Charlie into a vampire, holding him under her thrall.  Only Peter and Alex can hope to snap him out of it in time to kill Regine and save the day.

Stephen Geoffreys was approached for this movie but he decided that the script wasn’t any good and decided to go star in 976-Evil, then he faded into obscurity and entered into the “we don’t like to talk about it” portion of his career.  It’s apparent that the Jon Gries character was meant to be Evil Ed originally, thus explaining why the character is a “werewolf” (Ed turned into a wolf at the end of Fright Night, if you don’t recall) and Charlie never sees or interacts with him until the end of the movie.  Gries is fine but they should’ve rewritten his role because I don’t buy that Alex would be so willing to entertain a potential suitor when he looks like a 45 year old man (Gries was only 31 at the time but his craggy face and receding hairline make him look much older.)

A Fright Night 3 was discussed and in early planning stages, but the murder of Jose Menendez by his two sons effectively ended the project.  Reportedly Roddy McDowall and Tommy Lee Wallace had had an unpleasant business lunch with Menendez the day he was murdered and the next morning McDowall called Wallace and said, “Well I didn’t do it, did you?”

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Does It Hold Up?

That’s hard to say.  I don’t think that Fright Night Part 2 (not to be confused with the shitty direct-to-video remake of a remake Fright Night 2) is any better or worse than the first one, but it is very different.  There are parallels of course, the movie has several moments that are pretty much pulled straight from the first one like Peter Vincent being the one who discovers that Regine is a vampire by catching a glimpse of her in a mirror and his character arc is once again overcoming his cowardice, but the tone and trappings aren’t similar at all.

Now that the vampire is a sexy lady instead of a bathrobe-wearing Casanova, the sexual subtext between the vampire and Charlie is just text.  Regine is great, and Julie Carmen is a knock-out but I wish they had made her as much of a sleazy creep as Jerry.  Regine’s dance numbers are kind of tedious and I wish they would’ve gone for a more Elvira angle with her routines.

Alex is certainly a more active participant in this movie than Amy was in the first movie, she’s arguably the protagonist for the whole middle section of the movie, but she just kind of falls into a dull damsel role at the end.  Though it is a bit of a reversal that this time Charlie is the vampire, the movie doesn’t switch it up by having Alex be the one to vanquish Regine and save him.

All in all, Fright Night 2 is a little bit too loose and undefined to recapture the simple chemistry that made Fright Night so fun.  But it’s still a fine movie and a more than capable follow-up.

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Watch, Toss, Or Buy?

Buy it, if you can find it.

Where Can I Find It?

Fright Night Part 2 is available on DVD.