Fright Night Part 2
The Dr. Thunder of Horror/Comedy
In 1985 audiences were gripped by one of the first main stream Horror/Comedies: Fright Night. It had great chills, funny characters, and some great gore effects. Fast forward three years later and a sequel is released. They've switched up the writer/director from Tom Holland to Tommy Lee Wallace, but the cast remains more or less the same. I guess Holland was too busy that year making Child's Play to bother with a sequel and Wallace had done Halloween 3 some years previous so he doesn't seem like a bad substitute, and really he isn't.
Wallace sets the movie an appropriate three years later, with Ian Vincent still hosting his late night show and Charlie in college pursuing cute co-eds. Charlie has undergone a great deal of therapy and has come to the conclusion that vampires aren't real and the events of the first movie were a kind of group hypnosis. This all works as a great premise since Charlie and Vincent need to reconnect and Charlie gets to re-discover vampires, plus college seems like a great setting and the next logical step. No sooner has Charlie decided to introduce Vincent to his girlfriend than he sees all the signs of vampires moving into Vincent's building. The plot is afoot!
Now, it's clear that Wallace wants to achieve the feel of the first movie and he succeeds in getting it right off the bat. Fright Night Part 2 feels like an addition, not a copy or something different, so kudos to Wallace. That's hard to do. Unfortunately, after the first act he doesn't seem to know where to take the rest of the film. None of the characters are really developed in any major way, particularly Charlie's friend Richie, seen for all of 10 seconds in Charlie's room thus establishing their friendship. The plot is super basic, pretty much a point A to point B affair. Of course one does not watch a Horror/Comedy for the plot. It's the jokes and the effects that move these puppies off the shelves (or digital queues these days).
Some of the jokes are pretty good, like a vampire acting like a vampire under the guise of a performance artist or a vampire psychiatrist. There simply don't seem to be that many of them to go around. Many of the ones that are there are good chuckles but that's it. A window shutting on vampire talons is a nice gag but you really need to be able to step it up later on. The gore is...well, there isn't much of that either, at least not until the end. In fact there aren't that many deaths to speak of. I think the vampires only manage to kill five people over the course of the film. All the cool effects come at the end and although they're on par with the first film they're just too quick. They also highlight my major misgiving with Fright Night Part 2: Apparently vampires are really easy to kill.
Fright Night Part 2 introduces the audience to a small gang of blood suckers led by the main villain, each with their owns quirks and specialities. Two are vampires. Another seems to be a ghoul-like vampire minion, similar to the one seen in the first film. An amusing Jon Gries hams up a performance as the vampire who hunts in a wolf-like form and can scale buildings. Then we have the hideously-80's-styled vampire on roller-skates and the bug-eating minion, a mind controlled human charged with protecting the vampires during the day. (A fantastic Brian Thompson, who I also loved as the shapeshifting Alien Bounty Hunter in The X-Files) The problem with these guys is that they're completely under developed. Even though they get a fair amount of screen time they never seem to do anything. When it comes to the climatic battle they're picked off pretty easily, although their deaths are a treat for the effects lovers out there. The confrontation with the main villain is a bit meatier but it still seems short and unsatisfying. They defeat the vampire by shining a small beam of light down a large elevator shaft. I loved it in Legend but here it seems like something the vampire could have just side-stepped, suffering nothing more than a sun burn. Similar, but not as well delivered, to the first film.
There is also a vampire bowling scene. This takes what could be a great opportunity to show the gang killing people, having fun, blowing off steam, and developing character and turns it into a giant waste of screen time. We aren't treated with visuals of the two deaths that do happen and then it's just a montage. You don't have to be undead to look like a tool bowling in roller-skates, the living can do that too.
I think I'm upset about the bad guys in this flick because most of them were such fun ideas but nothing was done with them. The first film doesn't necessarily raise it's villains up any higher than funny cliches, but at least we get to see them really give our heroes a run for their money.
Wallace and his fellow writers were also trying really hard to work in all the Dracula mythology they could. Having read Dracula, a vampire turning into a wolf-like creature and scaling a building is expected, but maybe a less avid vampire fan would be a little confused. The heroes also burn a vampire's mouth by sticking roses in it, which is such an obscure reference that they have to tell us it was from the book right after they do it. This really should have been a red flag in the writing room. Charlie's love interest also knows how to speed read. This is how she is able to read all of Dracula and learn the rose thing in just a few hours. It's probably another red flag in the writing room if you have to give a character an unexplained and uncommon ability just so that they'll be able to do something for two seconds and then never use that ability again. It was nice however that Wallace tries to get more into vampire mythology, few directors do that and his efforts do spice up the film.
Overall this film is far from bad, if you're a big fan of the first or you're into Horror/Comedies and it's the only thing at the store then it's worth checking out. Fright Night Part 2 has a nice taste but the flavor is hardly full bodied. Best served as part of a double feature with friends, you won't really need to pay attention and the other movie can make up for its shortcomings.