Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fright Night Part 2 – review

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Release Date: 1988

Contains spoilers

I reviewed Fright Night some time ago and promised that I would dig out the Fright Night Part 2 DVD some time soon… Hmm… taken a while. But, having posted more recently on the proposals for a Fright Night remake, a post that led to some good discussion, I realised that it was high time I got my backside into gear and dig out this sequel to the original classic film.

Our two main vampire hunting characters from part one are back. We have film icon Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), whose name was referential to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. We also have Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), who in this film has progressed from High School to college. He has a new girl, Alex (Traci Lind), and I remember thinking when I first watched this – too many years ago – why did Charley go through all the trouble of saving Amy in film number 1 to end up with a new girl?

The answer probably lies in the beginning of the film. We see edited highlights of the first film and then realise that Charley is with an analyst. He has been in therapy for three years and has got to the point where he believes Jerry Dandridge was a serial killer and the vampiric parts of his memories were as a result of mass hypnosis. His fear now is facing Peter Vincent again. He goes home and throws out his hunting paraphernalia and then cuts his neck shaving.

Peter Vincent is still hosting Fright Night, though he is want to go off script, much to the chagrin of the director. Charley and Alex visit him on set and then go back to Peter’s apartment. Peter is an old ham, loving to talk about his past film career. It is clear that he still believes in what happened to him and Charley. Charley, for his part, is diplomatic. When Peter takes Alex to see something, Charley looks out of the window and sees crates being delivered to the building. It is analogous to the beginning of the first film but Charley dismisses it.

Taking their leave, they take the elevator down to the lobby of the building. Alex goes off (presumably to a toilet?) and Charley is sat there when the new building occupants arrive and a strange bunch they are. The main person, Regine (Julie Carmen), is both beautiful and fascinating. They vanish upwards in the lift. Charley drives Alex and stops the car. We see Regine land on the roof and start tracing it with her finger as Charley gets amorous, too amorous really. This seems like a vampiric control. Alex leaves the car.

We then get the activities of our new bunch of vamps and henchmen, I’ll look at them closely soon. However, Regine targets Charley. She turns up at his dorm room, looking for Charley – but with a different surname, so as not to arouse suspicion – and then asks for a light, getting an invite in. She kisses Charley and then gently opens his neck wound with a fang before biting. In the morning Charley wakes with a scream – but was it a dream?

Our new characters are mainly vampires. Regine, herself, is the sister of Jerry Dandridge and after revenge. She is posing as a performance artist and we can guess at her age as she tells us that her brother was 1000 years old. She has come, as I said, for revenge. For Peter Vincent it seems to be a case of wanting to destroy his career and then taking his life – a minor revenge in the grand scheme of things as she recognises that he is a coward at heart. Charley she wants to turn and then torture for eternity.

Belle (Russell Clark) is the least explored character. A transgendered, roller skating vampire, I would have liked to hear more about him. Certainly, in the look and attitude, he seemed referential to Grace Jones’ character in Vamp, indeed he out-vamped Jones. Allegedly there is a deleted scene, not on DVD, that shows Belle turning Regine.

Bozworth (Brian Thompson, a perennial favourite turning up in many a sci-fi/horror series/film) is the daylight servant. Shown to be strong, he is analogous to Renfield and enjoys nothing more than catching a bug, giving its Latin name and then eating it. We discover later that his innards are fully made up of bugs in one of the, many, nice set pieces that litter the film.

Louie (Jon Gries) is one of the best characters of the film, certainly a comedy character. He became the subject, in the post I mentioned, of discussion with regular blog reader Anthony Hogg. Louie likes nothing more than turning into wolf form and, as Anthony points out, this leads to the regular misconception that he is a werewolf. He is not, he is most definitely a vampire. There are clues littered around.

In one of the set scenes, which I’ll mention later, he drinks a foaming glass of blood. He is constantly berated by Bozworth for not biting on the neck. He can just develop fangs. The film series already established that wolf form is possible, as Evil Ed (whose actor, Stephen Geoffreys, turned down the opportunity of reprising his role in this) took that form. Most importantly, having read Stoker, Alex realises that roses are a vampire apotropaic and thrust one in his mouth, causing it to burst into flame.

I mentioned set pieces and there are some stand out ones. I wish to mention a bowling alley scene, where Louie drinks the mug of blood. In many respects this felt like a low grade version of the bar scene in Near Dark, analogous but not having the same level of violence and sheer nastiness and replacing it with a comedy air. The scene with Louie pumping blood from a victim by compressing his chest, filling his pint glass, and the head of the victim ending up in Bozworth’s hand via the bowl return mechanism making the scene shine.

I was also most impressed with the capture of a vampire in holy vestments. Held within them the vampire began to melt and the effects were really well done. This underlines just how much the effects were ramped up from the first film and is one of the best done of such, well I would say decaying scenes but it really was melting, in genre films generally.

The general vampire traits are there. They can morph, vanish, turn to mist and so on. Eye mojo and mind control is evident. They are effected by all the general vampire wards and killing implements. One must question why, when Regine is trapped in a lift, she starts to tear at the floor. Why not turn to mist and get through a crack, or even through the first tiny hole she rips in the floor? Probably due to the need for hunting characters to get into position script wise.

I did like one point, which defended genre fans. Alex’s taste is somewhat cultured and highbrow and she accuses Charley of enjoying “low grade melodrama”. Charley defends himself and she mentions a Peter Vincent movie, Bloodsuckers from Beyond. It becomes clear she is judging without having seen it. Charley mentions what a good book Dracula is. Alex does read it and admits that it is a great book, then, of course, it saves her life. The point; the genre might have highs and lows, but there is some truly artistic endeavours out there that are dismissed because they are genre and, somehow, thought unworthy.

The acting is great. Ragsdale and McDowall work well together, forming a real chemistry and the rest of the cast support that dynamic. Gries makes for a great surfer/rocker comedy character and is a joy on screen. Carmen is exotic and seductive as Regine but, if I am to be picky, whilst she plays a great character she is not as charismatic as Sarandon was in the first film – though Carmen is much more pleasing to look at from this reviewer’s point of view!

As for the story? It does nicely follow the first film but , it does rehash it somewhat. Vampires arrive, rather than one, however this time it is Charley, rather than Vincent, who needs convincing. Not entirely true, Charley’s belief vacillates and he faces self doubt between belief and rationale. It is Charley that needs rescuing from a fate of undeath, by Vincent and his girlfriend, rather than his girlfriend by Charley and Vincent. All told, however, the plot runs fairly parallel.

As such it perhaps does not hit the same height of the first film, but it is still a great film and a worthy addition to the vampire cannon. The DVD, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Only available as region 1, it seems to have fallen to some obscurity and, I noticed, is now being sold for silly money. The print is poor, a direct video transfer it would seem and certainly not cleaned up in any way, and there are no extras to speak of. The extras don’t bother me so much but a nice print of the film would be wonderful.

For the film itself. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK


Anonymous said...

Loved your review of the movie.

You even picked up on something I never really gave much thought to: the nod to genre fans.

One of the things I like about the Fright Night movies is such subtext, bereft from a lot of genre works. It helps take it up a notch.

I'm also glad you established that Louie was obviously not a werewolf. One of your descriptions illustrating this ("The scene with Louie pumping blood from a victim by compressing his chest, filling his pint glass, and the head of the victim ending up in Bozworth’s hand via the bowl return mechanism making the scene shine") was a bit startling, but a nice touch.

True, too.

I've also recently wondered if the opening montage ("Previously, on Fright Night") is a nod to the opening scene of Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1965).

That, too, begins with a recap.

As you mentioned, the film tends to retread a lot of ground in the first film. Though, it offers reversals of the plot incidents in the first film (saving Charley from vampirism, rather than his girlfriend, this time around), as you also gave not to.

I agree with your assessment of Carmen's performance against Sarandon's as a vampire.

As far as I'm concerned, Sarandon's performance was probably one of the best ever in vampire movie history. So, she had a hard act to follow. At least she didn't try to replicate it, though.

I presume you got the reference to Belle turning Regina in a deleted scene, from its IMDb trivia page.

There, it notes:

"In one scene, bite marks appear on Regine's neck, this clip was added in at the last second, as a reference to a deleted scene of a flashback in which the roller skating vampire drinks her blood and makes her a vampire"

Interestingly, it also vaguely covers the reason for "Evil" Ed's absence from the movie:

"Stephen Geoffreys was offered a role to reprise his 'Evil Ed' character from Fright Night (1985) but turned it down."

I find this a bit odd, considering that Geoffreys went onto starring in gay porn after the first film.

(Definitely not a rumour, check out his filmography)

Maybe he just found his "calling".

Anyway, with all the loose threads hanging about from both films (what happened to Amy? "Evil" Ed?, etc.), you'd think there was enough material for a sequel, rather than starting from scratch with a remake.

I wouldn't even mind if it was direct to DVD, as per the Lost Boys sequel.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Anthony, glad you liked the review.

Whether the opening montage was referential to DPoD or not I couldn't guess at. If it was it was subtle, but as you say both opened with such montages.

I did get the piece re Belle from the imdb page, hence the word allegedly as I have no definitive proof - a nice print on DVD with deleted scenes would be welcome!

Stephen Geoffreys alternate career path seems to have occurred a few years later, perhaps he was concerned with being typecast - though he did end up in a Masters of Horror episode quite recently!

Many thanks to you for getting the discussion going on the remake post - it got my backside into gear and got me to dig the film out.

Anonymous said...

Great review and entertaining B-movie. That rose part in the movie is especially nice touch, and, I agree, so is the nod to genre fans.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Christine

Unknown said...

I also appreciate your comments with regard to Louie. Over the years many have referred to him as a werewolf when he is clearly a vampire who revels in unliving in a variety of wolf forms. I've never heard of wild roses affecting werewolves but they clearly burn Louie. I thought Jonathan Gries did a great job in the role. Also appreciate the info on IMDB about Belle turning Regina in a deleted scene, it sorta explains the appearance of the bite marks on her throat. Not a great film but worth watching. It deserved a much better marketing campaign than it got when released back in 1989.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Scott, the Louie thing is a common misconception, isn't it.

Glad you liked the review and thanks for the comment, and I fully agree re the marketing :)