Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fright Night Part 2 (1988)


Title: Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Cast: Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Traci Lind, Julie Carmen, Jon Gries, Brian Thompson

The very last minutes of Fright Night (1985) consist of the close up of a dark, lightless window. Now the window is dark because Charlie and Peter Vincent killed the vampire that used to live there, so the house is now empty; or is it? Suddenly we hear Evil Ed’s signature laughter echoing through the darkness and two red eyes light up the dark room and boom, the credits roll, the movie is over and you’re left wanting more! Ending the film this way was a smart move from Tom Holland, the director behind the ultra successful 80’s vampire flick. In this way, Holland left the window open (so to speak!) for future films. Unfortunately, Tom Holland never returned because he went on to direct Child’s Play (1988) and since he took Chris Sarandon to star on that one, well, that’s why Jerry Dandridge never returned for a Fright Night sequel either. But fans of Fright Night clamored for a sequel! I wanted to see more of Evil Ed! I wanted to see Charlie and Peter killing more vampires! So what happened? Well, Fright Night Part 2 ended up getting made eventually, but there was no Evil Ed anywhere in sight! The character that left us wanting more was not on the sequel! Why not? The answer to that question is that actor Stephen Geoffrey’s declined to star on Fright Night Part 2 because he decided to be a part of 976-EVIL (1988) instead; can’t say I blame him. Making 976-EVIL offered him the opportunity to work alongside legendary horror icon Robert Englund, a.k.a Freddy Krueger himself!  


So anyhow, for whatever the reason, this second film wasn’t produced by Columbia Pictures; instead Live Entertainment stepped in as the producers of this flick. Now this was a company that was run by Jose Menendez, a man who was famously shot gunned to death by his own two sons! So that answers the question as to why there’s was no Fright Night part 3! And believe it or not, there was going to be a Fright Night part 3, unfortunately, the murders happened and so Fright Night Part 2 ended up being the last film that Menendez and Live Entertainment ever produced! So this sequel has a tragic tale behind it, it was the last nail on Live Entertainments coffin. But putting aside this tragic tale, did Fright Night Part 2 end up being a worthy sequel to the original? What I mean is, the first film is such a nearly perfect spooky movie, with so many awesome moments. Such memorable characters, such a cool villain, such great atmosphere, could this sequel equal or surpass the originals awesomeness? Well, I’d say that no, it didn’t surpass, but it isn’t a bad sequel either.  It is a lesser film in some ways, but at least it didn’t disappoint. So what went wrong and what went right with this one?


Well, for me one of the things that went absolutely right for me with this one is the fact that it picks up right where the first one left off. We pick up with Charlie trying to cope with the events of the first film by going to the shrink; who by the way manages to convince Charlie that everything that happened in the first film was the product of mass hallucination. Basically, according to his shrink Peter and Charlie  battling the forces of evil was all a figment of Charlie’s over active imagination. He’d seen too many horror movies! So anyhow, Charlie is basically burying everything that happened to him somewhere in his subconscious, he wants to pretend that none of it ever happened. Unfortunately, reality has other plans for Charlie. Jerry Dandridge was a 1,000 year old vampire and he had a sister! And she’s here to exact her revenge! And Charlie and Peter are on her list! But her revenge is systematic, she has a plan. Can Charlie and Peter conquer their fears and face the forces of evil ones again?


So yeah, that’s the premise for the sequel in a nutshell. The big problem for me with this sequel is that it basically repeats the first movie step by step. Sure it has a couple of new elements here and there, like for example Charlie is now a college student and he has a new girlfriend, but I think that’s about as far as the new elements go. Now here’s were this movie turns into a Xerox copy of the first: Charlie is still trying to make out with his girlfriend, and for some reason, same as in the first film, the girl doesn’t want to go “all the way”. I’m like, what’s going on with Charlie? Why don’t girls want to make out with him on both films? Then, we have the same situation of Charlie trying to convince Peter Vincent that vampires are roaming the neighborhood once again. A vampire even repeats  “welcome to Fright Night”; one of the most recognized lines from the first film! But fear not my dear reader! Thankfully, along with these familiar elements we also get groovy new stuff like Julie Carmen playing Regine; the vampire with a vengeance. She’s beautiful, she’s sexy and she’s Jerry Dandridge’s sister! Awesome casting choice right there, whenever she’s on screen she eats it up. Ditto for the rest of the vampire crew that tags along with her, I especially enjoyed Jon Gries performance as a werewolf/vampire/biker dude. This is the second time that Gries has played a werewolf, he also played one in The Monster Squad (1987). By the way, the make-up effects work is excellent on this one, the vampires look especially vicious and their demises are pretty creative which is always a highlight on any vampire movie.


In conclusion, I’d say that Fright Night Part 2 can be repetitive at times, but quite inventive at others. If you love the first Fright Night as much as I do, you will definitely feel like you’re visiting old friends, Peter and Charlie continue having that father son/good friends type of relationship which is the core of these movies. Now, if you still thirst for more Evil Ed, than you should do what I did: go on the internet and buy the Fright Night comic book series that was printed way back in the 90’s by a comic book company called Now Comics. Yeah, that’s right, Fright Night had its own comic book series and it lasted for something like thirty issues.  The first few issues are actually really good. The first two issues are an adaptation of the first film, and from the third issue on its Charlie and Peter’s adventures battling the forces of evil “wherever they may be!” You’ll be treated to Charlie and Peter battling everything from vampires and aliens to whatever the heck writers and artists could come up with for each issue. The series felt at times like a homage to the old EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt, with a different horror story in every issue. But one of the story arcs was all about “The Return of Evil Ed” and focused on how Evil Ed had survived the events of the first film and opened up a night club and ended up being a DJ! Eventually, Evil Ed finds a way to stumble into Charlie and Peter! It was a pretty cool series, I own it and cherish it, if any of you guys out there love Fright Night as much as I do, then do yourselves a favor and get this entire series. They even went and did a comic book adaptation of Fright Night Part 2! It was a cool way to see these characters live on long after the credits for Fright Night Part 2 rolled.


Rating: 3 out of 5   




3 comments:

moe joe said...

tristar once had international rights.

Jack Thursby said...

Good write up Franco. I love the first film. This one's just okay. I didn't like how they "reset" the characters and rehashed the plot. Still Roddy McDowell's performance is a lot of fun again.

Love the trivia on the comic book series. I haven't read it myself but good to hear they followed-up the Evil Ed storyline.

Francisco Gonzalez said...

Jack: Yeah, the comic book series was so awesome for me, I mean, Evil Ed was a live and kicking and running a night club, kind of like From Dusk Till Dawn where he closes down and feeds on whoever is left inside...later aliens show up and they even did a Return of Jerry Dandridge story arc!

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