Tagline: Welcome back…
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Writers: Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Traci Lind, Julie Carmen, Jon Gries, Russell Clark, Brian Thompson
18 | 1h 44min | Comedy, Horror
Budget: $7,500,000 (estimated)
In the annals of postmodern vampire flicks, The Lost Boys has achieved the kind of cult status rarely glimpsed in one of horror’s earliest sub-genres, but for many 1985’s glorious send-up Fright Night is the superior movie. Rather than embrace 80s culture like Joel Schumacher’s stylish, bratpack extravaganza, Tom Holland’s toothy antithesis paid homage to the traditional aspects of the sub-genre, giving us a Peter Cushing-like protagonist who had become outmoded due to the knife-wielding tastes of the modern audience, one who would have to rediscover his self-belief in order to defeat neighbourhood Nosferatu, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon). In a home video market oversaturated with cynical slashers, Fright Night was a breath of fresh air that was well-received by audiences and critics alike.
Of course, in Hollywood that doesn’t count for an awful lot, which may explain why the sequel to Tom Holland’s horror/comedy classic takes more than a leaf out of Schumacher’s book — or at least adopts the aesthetic trends of the day — ramping up the fashion and giving us a cast of big-haired characters who look like they’ve just stepped off the set of a Duran Duran video. So similar are Fright Night 2‘s children of the night that a better concept for a sequel might have pitted Julie Carmen’s wonderfully sensual Regine and her monster mash underlings against Kiefer Sutherland’s cocky rabble of commercially astute bloodsuckers. The original Fright Night did well at the box office but made almost $10,000,000 less than it’s brightly coloured counterpart. In comparative terms, the studio had lost money.
Ironically, Fright Night 2 proved a huge flop at the box office, grossing less than half of its estimated $7,500,000 budget. Had the derivative approach failed producers? Were people less interested in a Lost Boys clone involving characters who had proven appealing in their own right, or was this the kind of movie that didn’t really scream sequel? In reality, it was none of those things. In fact, so confident was creator Tom Holland in the second movie’s success that he and McDowell approached Live Entertainment chairman Jose Menendez to discuss a third film until the man McDowell called “the worst person he had ever met” was famously gunned down in cold blood by sons Lyle and Erik in one of the most shocking, high-profile double-murders in recent history. This led to plans for the third movie being scrapped, but it also meant that Fright Night Part 2 lost its country-wide distribution, playing in only two theatres, which resulted in poor box office returns. Despite the fact that things were looking rather good on a per-theatre basis, Fright Night Part 2 was essentially a direct-to-video release.
Tommy Lee Wallace, who was well schooled in the numbered sequel following his work on franchise anomaly Halloween III: Season of the Witch and the truly disturbing Amityville II: The Possession, would take over directing duties, so the franchise was certainly in good hands. The question is: is the movie any good? As a sequel to a much cherished movie which wrapped up affairs pretty definitively, no, but as a standalone vampire flick it’s actually not that bad at all, with just the right amount of humour and a sultry new antagonist with an irresistible presence to rival her predecessor. Perhaps the movie would have worked better as a standalone feature, but whether is would have received the same level of financial input without an established title is highly unlikely, so it’s something of a moot point. The movie’s plethora of new faces fit like a wolf skin glove. It just lacks the unique vibe that made the original such a left-field treat.
Three years have passed since his run-in with Jerry Dandridge’s toothy suburbanite and Charley is living a lie. As far as everyone else is concerned, Brewster has come to accept his own paranoid delusions regarding the so-called undead, but in reality he has a secret cache of vampire-slaying goodies stashed in his bedroom just in case. As for Peter Vincent, the great vampire killer is back on terrestrial TV hosting Fright Night, but rather than slinking back into the same old groove, Vincent is a man reborn, a responsible hero who bins his scripts in favour of convincing his teenage audience that monsters do exist . . . you know, just in case.
I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry, but you’d think the chances of Charley running into an almost identical scenario on his college campus would be pretty slim. Even more unlikely is that the vamp in question would turn out to be Dandridge’s vengeful sister, Regine (Carmen), a monster so hot she almost eclipses the original movie’s seductive dance as she sets about hypnotising Brewster, and would probably have succeeded if it were not for the presence of one William Ragsdale, who has to rank up there with the most sexless leading men in Hollywood’s heavily populated history.
Before long, the ravishing Regine begins to get into Charley’s head, appearing in all-too-real dreams which have her taste his blood and turn vamp, and when she usurps Peter Vincent as the host of Fright Night, taking her seductive act to the small screen, it is up to the down-on-his-luck actor to once again revive his dwindling spirit and wage war against her unholy brood, recruiting Brewster’s latest sweetheart, Alex (Lind), as he attempts to release his half-turned friend from his undead slumber. Lind pales in comparison to Amanda Hearse, whose transformation from kooky to sweetheart to ravenous vamp was truly remarkable in the original movie. Lind, through no fault of her own, seems somewhat tacked-on, a token love interest to flesh out the script. Sequels need those characters, it all just seems a little familiar and watered-down. It’s the nature of the beast.
Ultimately, the movie is a mixed bag. As a special effects-laden exercise in style, it is something of a triumph, with a gang of comical villains who exude 80s decadence. Carmen and company seem to revel in the screenplay, and for the most part it is fun and exhilarating, the perfect pop horror flick for a thrill-packed Saturday evening. Particularly amusing is John Gries as Lothario werewolf Louie, an arrogant ass with excellent comic timing. There’s also the wonderfully weird Brian Thompson as Bozworth, a bug-eating servant to Regine who succumbs to a particularly nasty disembowelling. As for those characters from the first movie, their presence seems a little ill-fitting amid the new formula, particularly McDowall, whose seems lost in a part that fails to fully utilise his considerable talents, reducing the star of the first movie to a bit-part player. With so many characters to accommodate it’s all a bit bloated ― a shame, since the screenplay is often as sharp as an elongated canine.
It is refreshing to have a female lead in a movie of this nature, the newly corrupt sexuality of the 80s proving a potent weapon for our sensual antagonist, as well as a savvy aphrodisiac for the movie’s teenage audience. In the end, it is the film’s conflicting elements that prove detrimental to its overall appeal. On the one hand, you have a cast of stylish villains oozing cult potential, but then you have some familiar faces, characters who no longer seem to fit the bill, and the only thing holding them together is the prospect of a money-spinning franchise that was never meant to be.
After stumbling upon Peter Vincent’s rescue mission, creature of the night Richie (Butrick) is blasted with a geyser of holy water, his corpse reduced to a smouldering pile of gunk.
All of Regine’s unholy brood are memorable in their own right: Russell Clark’s rollerskating Belle, John Gries’ randy wolfman, but the award has to go to Brian Thompson’s bug-eating Bozworth, who analyses his prey with the intelligence and enthusiasm of a wildlife documentary filmmaker.
Most Absurd Dialogue
Questioned by his therapist on the nature of Jerry Dandridge’s crimes, Brewster provides the kind of answer that will keep him out of the nuthouse.
Charley Brewster: Jerry Dandrige was a serial killer, cult worshipping, kidnapper.
Sure he was, Charley