With new casting announcements every day, the Fright Night remake is well underway. If you recall my blog about The Lost Boys, you’ll remember that I’m a fan of the original but remain relatively positive in regards to an update. That said, for all the talk of Fright Night, there’s often very little talk of Fright Night Part 2. And why is that?
Mostly because it kinda sucks. [insert vampire joke here]
Put simply, Fright Night 2 commits the cardinal sin of movies: it’s boring. While arguments can be made for just how classic the original Fright Night is in the annals of horror films, it is extremely entertaining. More than that, it’s a successful horror-comedy, one of the hardest types of film to pull off…which Fright Night 2 sadly proves by failing pretty miserably.
For those who don’t know Fright Night (and didn’t look it up or just stopped reading this already), the 1985 movie follows Charlie Brewster, a teenage fan of horror films* who discovers that his neighbor is a vampire. Fearing such a bold new addition to the neighborhood, Charlie tries to alert the authorities to all the vampire shenanigans. Of course, nobody really believes him and now the evil vampire is out for blood. Literally.
So Charlie turns to the only person he thinks can help: Peter Vincent, former horor movie actor who now serves as a television horror host in the vein (eh? vein? vampires? puns!) of Zacherley or Elvira. Though it takes some convincing, the two set out, along with Brewster’s girlfriend Marcy Darcy and best friend “Evil” Ed (more on him in a bit), to take on the evil vampire Jerry Dandrige. Quality vampire name there, Jer.
While Fright Night 2 isn’t a flatout rehash of the first film, the basic story is essentially the same only far less memorable. They try to twist things around a bit with Vincent believing in vampires from the start and Charlie doubting himself, but it’s dropped relatively quickly as new vampire Regine starts messing with Charlie almost immediately. We then spend the next hour or so waiting for something interesting to happen. But let me set the scene first!
At the film’s beginning, we find Charlie three years later in college with a ridiculous hairdo and a new, bland girlfriend. Charlie is convinced that everything that happened years ago was some form of group hypnosis.
Psychology/psychiatry/whateverthehell is actually a big part of this film. At one point, Bland Girlfriend (BG from here on out)** even rebuffs Charlie’s attempt at saying he loves her by announcing “I came to college to become a clinical psychologist!” and walking away.
As it would happen, Jerry had a sister named Regine who comes to town looking for revenge. By making the vampire female we have Charlie being seduced by darkness rather than his girlfriend this time around. It doesn’t amount to much more than Ragsdale getting to make even goofier faces than usual, but this time while wearing a scarf. She easily seduces Charlie and starts to bleed him over the course of the film. And then we just kinda wait until the final showdown.
The reason people remember Fright Night today is because it was a lot of fun and revolved around interesting characters. (That was the most insightful analysis ever. “People like it because it’s good!”) Chris Sarandon hammed it up nicely as Jerry and brought a charming menace to the role. Whereas in the sequel we have Regine, who seems to find the movie just as boring as the rest of us. Julie Carmen seriously only has two looks over the course of this film: sheer boredom, or this odd pained expression as if somebody was poking her with a thumbtack.
More importantly, the original film had “Evil” Ed. Ed, played by Stephen Geoffreys, has this bizarre intensity that kinda captivates you. In an early scene, he mentions a pair of murders he heard about over the police band. While he starts out a bit timid and quiet, he eventually breaks into a joyous cackle when announcing that the bodies were decapitated. Geoffreys really gets all the best lines and scenes, particularly the one where Jerry appeals to his outcast nature in order to turn him. It’s good stuff.
Fright Night 2 doesn’t have that. What it does have is the guy who voiced Pumbaa in The Lion King as a psychiatrist. A vampire psychiatrist! So…that’s something. He actually gets one of the funnier scenes in which he uses his vampire powers to control a train crossing sign and then essentially kills himself. It’s funnier in the film, I swear.
Honestly, it’s not all bad. While Regine herself is beyond dull, the crew she hangs out with is just bizarre enough to be worthwhile. Let’s run through them!
Brian “Shao Kahn” Thompson plays Bozworth. He’s Regine’s driver who not only eats bugs a la Renfield, but also appears to be made of bugs a la Oogie Boogie. What a delightful mishmash of characters.***
Jon Gries plays Louie. While I’ve seen him called a werewolf, I’m pretty sure he’s just a vampire who digs the wolfman look that “Evil” Ed sported for a bit in Fright Night a bit too much. Either way, he’s a lot of fun and usually gets the movie’s best lines (“How ’bout that classical music? Tits, huh!?”)
And then there’s Belle…the rollerskating tranny vampire. Seriously.
Most of the film just kinda follows these characters around as they fritter about their everyday lives. Sadly, the everyday life of a vampire is not as fascinating as other movies might lead you to believe. They don’t even play baseball! They go bowling, though. So that’s pretty nifty.
If you can make it all the way to the finale of the film, there’s some fun special effects and gorey stuff. People fall off buildings, get their faces melted off, etc. But it’s all pretty quick and kinda meh at the same time. I should not be going “meh” at the sight of face-melting, Fright Night 2!
You would think that with rollervamps and not one, but two bowling scenes, this movie would be an instant classic, but alas it is not. What can I say, lightning doesn’t always strike twice. What a weird saying. Does lightning usually strike twice? I feel it odd that we would expect it to. Or is that the saying at all? I know there’s something about catching it in a bottle. Like a ship. I’m gettting confused. Drop me a line with your thoughts on the matter…or Fright Night. Whatever, I’m not picky.
*I always found it interesting that Charlie is set up as loving “Fright Night” and Peter Vincent and all that jazz, but has to go to “Evil” Ed for advice on warding off vampires. Guess he just doesn’t pay that much attention to the movies.
**I never mention her again
***Hi. That’s it. Just wanted to say hello. How have you been?
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey