Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

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“Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent must face more vampires, out for revenge.” — IMDb

I’m pretty firmly in the camp of leaving well enough alone when it comes to movies, especially when a sequel really isn’t warranted or needed. Sure, Fright Night ended on a loosely ambiguous note, giving you the feeling that there were more creatures of the night out there… but was there really any strong reason to bring it back? Personally, I don’t think so (Tom Holland, the director of Fright Night, apparently didn’t either, as he opted to direct Child’s Play instead.)

Three years after his traumatizing experience battling his vampire neighbor, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) has worked hard to put the memories behind him, thanks in part to his college girlfriend, Alex (Traci Lind). When he reconnects with Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), host of Fright Night and his vampire-killing partner in crime, he finds himself once again on the tail of some sinister creatures who this time are out for revenge…

** SPOILERS! **

I won’t lie, I’ve resisted this movie for a long time. I love Fright Night so much — SOOOO MUCH — and I just knew no sequel could do it justice. So I went into Part 2 with some hesitance and, while I wasn’t completely disappointed, I was ultimately right. It doesn’t stack up.

I was actually surprised by how much of the overall feel, the mood, of the first was brought into this sequel… though part of that may just be that familiar look and feel of movies from the 80s in general. The cinematography was great and there were several impressive scenes — views from the vampire bat’s perspective were fun, a quick shot where it segues from Charley making out with Alex seamlessly into him kissing Regine, an amazing shot of Alex walking down a foggy tree-lined path, the vampire on rollerskates gliding down the hallway in slow motion… to name just a few. Cinematographer Mark Irwin nailed it, and it’s no surprise — he’s got Videodrome, The Fly, and the remake of The Blob all under his belt, among many others.

I thought, superficially, that Charley Brewster was far more attractive in this sequel (am I attracted to men with mullets?), but he lost the indomitable spirit that made him so fun to follow in the first movie. He’s undergone intensive therapy to not only cope with the experiences but to full on convince himself that he hadn’t been dealing with vampires at all, that it was simply group hypnosis, so he is understandably skeptical (and downright stubborn at times) this time around. But it just made it that much more like any vampire movie (though it was a little bit fun to have Peter Vincent be more of the believer this time).

Many of the shots were reminiscent of the first, but I felt like it was less of a fun tip of the hat and more of them just re-writing the same movie. We had the same shot of Charley looking, bug-eyed, out the window blinds to see what seemed like vampires’ coffins being loaded into the building. The same shot of the rollerskating vampire dragging its nails along the lockers (just like Jerry dragging his along the brick in the alleyway). Peter Vincent is, once again, booted from his own show. They re-did the club dance scene, this time with Charley and Regine (and it was awkward as hell). Peter Vincent becomes convinced that the vampires are real, once again, by noticing their invisibility in his pocket mirror. Even Charley being the most disappointing boyfriend ever… I guess some things never change. I mean damn, Regine even gets killed the same way as Jerry, more or less. When Regine says “welcome to Fright Night” to them when they come to save Charley, I thought for sure that she’d follow up with “… for real” and copy Jerry’s line word for word.

The humor was there, and I think that was one of the few things that succeeded — it was dry and satirical and really well done at times. Louie getting the tips of his nails neatly snapped off by the slammed window (Louie in general was hilarious always), Charley asking Peter “if you’re so skeptical, why did you change into THAT?” when he just had to get into his vampire hunting get-up before they went exploring, the psychiatrist talking Alex through her emotions even as she staked him in the heart… well done.

I loved that they brought Brad Fiedel back — his synthesizer-heavy score is just perfection — but I almost wish they hadn’t re-used his signature “Come To Me”. Again, don’t mess with the best.

And ultimately, I thought Julie Carmen played a mean vampire — her first appearance on her version of Fright Night was particularly awesome — but no one, and I mean no one, can match the effortless charm of Jerry Dandridge. He carried so much of the first film on his shoulders that this sequel just has the most glaring black hole in his absence.

No match for Fright Night, in any sense, but still a decently solid movie on its own.

Rating: 6/10 | Director: Tommy Lee Wallace | Writer: Tom Holland (characters), Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Tommy Lee Wallace | Music: Brad Fiedel | Cinematography: Mark Irwin | Starring: William Ragsdale, Traci Lind, Roddy McDowall, Julie Carmen, Jon Gries, Russell Clark, Brian Thompson, Ernie Sabella

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