We’re firing the opening salvo in the battle that is known as THS Fright-A-Thon. If you’re wondering what Fright-A-Thon is, you can check it out right here. But for the uninitiated, it’s a full-scale war involving all that is spooky, horror, and Halloween. Today, we’re starting with a review of Fright Night Part 2. Why not the first film? That one comes later. After all, why start off with something that everyone knows is good. The story of Fright Night Part 2 is much stranger than you can imagine. For me, after watching the first Fright Night many, many times throughout the years, was surprised to find that they made a sequel. Let’s start off with the availability of the film to watch.
It’s impossible to find a solid copy of this film. I tried. I love collecting movies, DVD’s, Blu-Ray discs, VHS tapes, anything. This movie is impossible to find on Blu-Ray in an official release. Sure, there’s a Spanish import that you can buy. I don’t trust it myself, and I don’t want to give money to bootleggers. So Scream Factory, or anyone that’s listening, PLEASE RELEASE THIS MOVIE ON BLU-RAY.
Introduction To Fright Night Part 2
The original Fright Night was a revelation. It started the careers of multiple people in the horror film industry. Most notably, Tom Holland (not Spider-Man). The characters and world he built were screaming for a sequel, no matter how well that film wrapped up the events. Tom Holland wasn’t available to direct or write the sequel however. He was busy working on another classic horror film, Child’s Play. So it was up to veteran of the horror genre, Tommy Lee Wallace to step in to the directors chair. Funnily enough, he also directed Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Which was a maligned sequel at the time of release, but became a cult classic of the genre in it’s later years.
In addition to Wallace, Tim Metcalfe and Miguel Tejada-Flores co-wrote the screenplay. Returning from the first film are Roddy McDowall and William Ragsdale as Peter Vincent and Charley Brewster. Outside of them, the rest of the cast is new to the series. Traci Lind plays Charley’s girlfriend, Alex. Julie Carmen plays the beautiful and seductive, Regine Dandridge. There were only two vampires in the first film, now we have a whole crew including a vampire/werewolf hybrid. Her crew includes: Brian Thompson as Bozworth, Jon Gries as Louie, Russell Clark as Belle, and Merritt Butrick as Ritchie. Ernie Sabella and Matt Landers round out the major cast as Dr. Harrison and Mel.
A Quick Synopsis
The film picks up a couple years after the events of Fright Night. Charley Brewster is at college (which looks suspiciously like UCLA), and he’s seeing a psychologist about those events. He’s now being convinced that Jerry Dandridge from the first film was not a vampire, but a serial killer and a maniac. Charley hasn’t spoken to Peter Vincent in a long time, and he has a new girlfriend, Alex. It’s the usual college kid experience for Charley, sleeping too much, staying up too late, and missing class because of it.
Charley’s psychologist suggests that Charley visit his old friend Peter to complete his therapy. So Alex and Charley take a night out with Peter at his apartment. While at the apartment, Charley, like the first film, sees four coffins being unloaded from a moving truck. On the way out from Peter’s apartment, Charley sees who the coffins are for. Charley is immediately smitten with the leader of the group, Regine. He and Alex leave and start fooling around in Charley’s car. He recoils when he sees Regine’s face, and Alex gets mad and leaves. This sets up the whole film with Regine popping up in Charley’s dreams and in his life. Slowly he realizes that the vampires of this film are not a dream and that they’re very much real.
The Highs Of Fright Night Part 2
Starting off with the strengths of Fright Night Part 2, the film doesn’t shatter the greatness of the original. That’s the first thing you have to look for in a sequel, especially one made relatively long (3 years) after the original. It doesn’t fundamentally change the motivations and functions of our two main characters either. While the first film had more focus on Peter Vincent, this sequel is 100% about Charley. That’s not to say that Peter is given the backseat in this one, he’s still just as important to Charley as in the first film.
The premise that a psychologist would make Charley believe that vampires don’t exist is genius. Contrast this with Peter Vincent’s fanatical view of the undead and vampires in this film. It’s a great role reversal from the first film. The cast of the film, while small, is also a real highlight. Seeing the evolution of the vampires from the first film in Jerry Dandridge and his friend Billy Cole to this group in the second is a treat. They’re not all just mindless killers, even the 100% mute Belle is given some good voiceless character work from Russell Clark.
The most interesting of these new vampires is obviously Regine Dandridge. Yes, Jerry’s sister is out to get Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent for “murdering” her brother three years ago. Julie Carmen gives the role a touching elegance while also oozing pure evil. She has one motivation on her mind, and she’s arguably more seductive and enthralling than Chris Sarandon’s performance as Jerry from the first film.
The Creature Effects Are Top Notch This Time Around
If you liked the effects in Fright Night, they’re even better this time around. Specifically the effects during the climactic moments of the film and those used for the character of Louie. His scenes are all very memorable from an effects standpoint, with the only one that looks hokey or completely fake being when Louie tricks Bozworth with a severed head at the bowling alley. Regine Dandridge’s effects as her human form and later in the film with her transformation into a full on monster are all great and add to the climactic fight in the apartment building that the movie is framed around.
A particularly gruesome scene is when Bozworth is killed. I won’t ruin it, but the effect of his body deflating and what comes out is truly ghastly.
Regine Dandridge Is The MVP
If this is Charley Brewster’s movie, Regine Dandridge makes a hell of a case for her to be the MVP. Her quest in this film is simple. Capture Charley Brewster and torture him for all of existence for killing her brother. It’s a pretty great motivation for a villain in a horror movie besides just “kill people for fun”. She’s also an equally as enthralling as her brother. The plan that she unfurls in this movie is slow but steady. Somehow, slowly, Charley starts turning into a vampire after their first interaction in Charley’s dorm room.
The scenes with her and Peter Vincent are the real highlight. She knows everything about Peter and basically destroys his life even more than it was destroyed before the first film. Peter is a coward and Regine takes advantage of that. She takes over his show “Fright Night”, she gets him fired, through this all Peter gets put into an insane asylum. Her plan and motivations are rock solid. Of the vampires from the 1980’s Regine definitely belongs in the upper tier of characters. She’s more than just a pretty face and that really shows off the great qualities of the character. Every scene that she’s in, she dominates the screen.
Peter And Charley’s Relationship Is As Strong As Ever
Later in the film, Charley gets more and more incapacitated by his vampire state. Peter and Alex have to do the heavy lifting on that end. Alex is the one that has to bust Peter out of the asylum and Peter is inevitably the one that overcomes his cowardice to save the day. Roddy McDowall was a goddamn revelation in the first film. He was the emotional and physical backbone of the film. That doesn’t change much here with the events of the film surrounding the power of his and Charley’s relationship as friends.
That’s not to say that everything in the film between them is peachy though. Obviously at the beginning of the film we’re started with Charley not even talking to Peter. As the film goes on, Peter gets more desperate to stop Regine and Charley tries breaking away from that. Charley gets more and more in her clutches and it hampers Peter’s efforts.
Roddy McDowall As Peter Vincent Steals The Show Once Again
Roddy McDowall shouldn’t be a stranger to anyone who loves film. His roles in Fright Night, Planet of the Apes series, and Overboard are classic. If Julie Carmen is the MVP, Roddy McDowall is the crafty veteran that keeps it all together. He brings back the sometimes heroic confidence and complete cowardice that made his character one of the best in film history in the first place.
Two scenes in particular are when Peter is at a bar, defeated, after Regine stole his show. He shows off that “Fearless Vampire Killer” confidence when the bartender recognizes him. It blows up in his face, because he tries assaulting Regine on the set of “Fright Night” and gets locked up. The final conflict in the film highlights these two main characteristics of Peter Vincent when he’s struggling to find a way to stop Regine. He scurries away but craftily comes up with a way to defeat her.
The Overall Atmosphere Of Fright Night Part 2 Is A Smash
The biggest thing you can take away from this film is how to add to the mythos and story of a film. The film has a darker tone that is matched by darker sets, darker lighting, and a sheen of unease. It’s fantastic to watch back to back with the colorful, vibrant, and relatively cheery vibe of the original film. There’s no teenage horseplay between Charley and his friend Ed here, it’s just Charley descending further and further into the state of being a vampire.
In Fright Night Part 2, the vampires are much more brutal and scary than the ones in the first film. They murder, they feed, and they brutalize people. As opposed to the quiet seduction and fury of Jerry Dandridge in the first film. A real highlight of this is Louie, Bozworth, and Belle decimating the people who work at the bowling alley in the film. That scene shows their lighter side though, with them fooling around bowling.
The soundtrack and score of the film contains some callbacks and use of the original song “Come To Me” but composed slightly differently for the second film. Outside of that track the rest of the film doesn’t have catchy tunes, but simple scores that amplify the overall feel and tone of the film. They’re dark, they’re dreary, and it plain works.
The architecture of the sets and the camera work also adds to the decadent and Gothic look of this film. The best of these sets being the climax with Regine, Charley, Peter, and Alex.
The Lows Of Fright Night Part 2
While the film does build upon and add to it’s predecessor, there is something missing from the whole film. It’s hard to place exactly what separates the films, but the first film is definitely superior. Notably, Charley being obsessed with having sex with Alex is a bit of a turn-off in the film. I get it, he’s 20 years old and in college, we all thought like that. But at certain points in the beginning of the film, it goes over the top. It’s a minor thing, but it takes a bit away from Charley’s character in this one. Also, after Regine takes her hold on Charley, it makes more sense why he would change a bit in personality.
The pace of this film is a bit slower than the previous one. With the action less fast and furious than the first film. The climax of the film is also less of a fight against the evil of vampires and more of a commentary on Charley’s inner fight against the evil within.
The Most Questionable Section Of The Film
In the film, most things are pretty believable and understandable for your vampire tastes. The only scene that makes zero sense and is only there to provide Alex a way to get “Doctor’s Credentials” to bust Peter Vincent out of the asylum. She gets Dr. Harrison to try to help Charley with his current mental state. In a stunning turn of events, Dr. Harrison is a vampire and attacks her. Through the scene, he somehow creates a false body double of himself, smokes a pipe he didn’t have before, and even assists Alex in killing himself. If that sounds confusing to you, it is. I’ve watched this movie now over ten times in preparation, and this scene doesn’t make sense to me still.
It doesn’t take away from the overall film very much though, because it is still just a small scene in a pretty great film. The first time seeing it, it’s a pretty funny break from the point in the film where our heroes are really on the back foot. There are small hints that Robinson could be a vampire earlier in the film, like his drawer full of caffeine pills and his suggestion of bowling to Charley. These all don’t really add up though, and the revelation comes off flat, and out of nowhere. Also, it’s never mentioned if he and Regine are working together or if he’s just another vampire in Charley’s life.
Fright Night Part 2 Adds Up To Be A Worthy, Almost Mythical Sequel
To me, the quest to watch this movie could have been more worthy than the actual movie itself. Luckily, that was not the case. Where Fright Night is a genre classic that stands out among a crowded 80’s horror scene, Fright Night Part 2 isn’t as good. That goes with saying though, that the film is still fantastic. It goes without simply re-running the same thing as the first movie. That’s one of the major additions here. Normally horror sequels fall into retread territory and while this one has the same characters, it doesn’t simply rework them. It builds upon relationships that were made in the first movie and strengthens them.
The darker tone and less action oriented scenes of the film also work really well for me. I’m not expecting Peter Vincent and Charley Brewster to be kicking ass and taking names here. And they don’t. They win at the end of the film because of cunning and a bit of bravery from Charley and Peter. The bulk of the action comes with the scenes involving the four vampires. You get a somewhat climactic battle between the four of them and Peter/Charley/Alex, but it’s not very similar to what happens at the end of Fright Night. In an almost Force-like connection between Charley and Regine, he knows her every move in the last moments of the movie.
It builds and builds to a satisfying end that thankfully, doesn’t cheaply set up a sequel. My only real gripe with the ending is that we don’t see what Peter Vincent is up to after the events of this film.
A Well Worth Film, If You Can Find Somewhere To Watch It
While I would never suggest illegally watching a movie, I’m always a proponent of buying the physical release. In the case of this film, the mythical quest of trying to find a decent video of it, was well worth it. There are some on YouTube and I’m sure you can find it other places on the internet. The video I found was perfect, in HD, and didn’t have any artifacting or problems. I haven’t looked deeply enough into the bootleg Spanish Blu-Ray, but that is also another option and isn’t ridiculous like the VHS or DVD copies of the film.
If the original Fright Night is a 10/10 smash classic, Fright Night Part 2 is a 9/10. It doesn’t reset the paradigm for horror films, but it doesn’t embarrass itself and adds to the already rich story of this universe. It’s a shame that instead of another film in the universe in 2011, we got a remake. Also, don’t get this film mixed up with the TERRIBLE sequel made to that remake.
Fright Night Part 2 is the blueprint on how to make a horror sequel and how to do it well. I fully recommend it to anyone who loves vampires, horror, or the first film. It takes the honorable place as being the first in line for THS’s Fright-A-Thon. Give it a double feature with the original film and you won’t be disappointed.