Skip to main content

If you really want to help me, just go out there, catch the vampires and bring them here so I can kill them.

Fright Night Part 2
(1988)

So ingrained on my memory is the trailer for Fright Night Part 2 – I can only assume it was a regular on rental releases at the time – that I’d half recollected it being for the original, rather than a flick I’d never seen. Until now. I probably shouldn’t have bothered, for while Fright Night has modest charms, its sequel is all but bereft of them, and so – getting back to the point of my first sentence – entirely at odds with its trailer, which makes it seem even broader, wackier and funnier than the first.


Returning are Roddy McDowall and William Ragsdale as, respectively, no-budget-movie-turned-real vampire killer Peter Vincent and teen Charley Brewster, who last time discovered a vampire not quite living next door. But they’re the only ones. Tom Holland and Chris Sarandon were off making Child’s Play – earlier plans for a sequel had been quashed by the high-minded David Puttnam’s accession to the Columbia throne – so in stepped Tommy Lee Wallace, with prior horror sequel form. Unfortunately, not of the most illustrious kind. He helmed Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the franchise’s ill-fated attempted to detour into an anthology series that, despite a Nigel Kneale screenplay (rewritten by John Carpenter) suffered from clodding, paceless direction. Not unlike Fright Night Part 2 (Wallace would go on to make the TV version of It along with a cheap sequel to John Carpenter’s Vampires). Wallace also rewrote the screenplay, by Revenge of the Nerds storysmiths Tim Metcalfe and Miguel Tejada-Flores. It isn’t up to much.


The device of the hero now in denial feels like it’s been done a number of times, and super-mulleted Charley being out of therapy, now at university and encouraged to put his fears to rest by visiting Peter Vincent again, means the picture’s in a holding pattern for far too long. Second spin moments that could have been used for Die Hard 2-style disbelief (Charley seeing coffins outside of Vincent’s window, Vincent getting fired from his show) only really come together the once (“Such a thing simply couldn’t happened twice, Charley”).


Instead, there are lacklustre replacements for the absentees; Evil Ed is now Jon Gries’ Louie (who does at least have an amusing moment with a mouth full of wild roses), Jerry Dandridge is now his attractive but rather bland sister Regine (Julie Carmen), and Amy Peterson (who by this point was in Married with Children) becomes forgettable squeeze Alex (Traci Lind).


There are a few point scorers on the periphery. Brian Thompson (The X-Files’ alien bounty hunter) is (vamp servant) Bozworth, given to reeling of the Latin names of bugs as he snacks on them (he’s memorably reduced to a heap of maggots when killed). Ernie Sabella’s Dr Harrison indulges in analysis after Alex stakes him. Merritt Butrick (most famous as Kirk’s son) has a minimal role as Charley’s friend Richie, and there’s the sense of much of it ending up on the cutting room floor (Butrick died of AIDS before the picture’s US release). 


Generally, though, Kim Newman (yes, him again) summed it up best in The Virgin Film Yearbook Volume 8, when he noted “It is quite an achievement to leave an audience totally unmoved by a black, bisexual, mute, roller-skating, disco-choreographer vampire”.


Charley spends much of the movie suffering the early stages of vampirism (I’m not quite clear on the logic here, as I don’t recall him sucking anyone, but I may have zoned out), having a vile reaction to garlic pizza and wearing sunglasses round the clock. At least, until galvanising himself at the climax.


Unsurprisingly then, what nuggets there are in Fright Night Part 2 mostly derive from McDowall’s irrepressibly cowardly Vincent. After suffering the indignity of having his show given to Regine, he attempts to stake her live on air and is sent to the state mental hospital (“It’s like he’s stuck in one of his movies”). This is the best passage of the picture by some distance, with Vincent asserting his mojo (“If you really want to help me, just go out there, catch the vampires and bring them here so I can kill them”), receiving a round of applause from the inmates when he arrives (“I believe you, Mr Vincent, I believe you… They’re the ones who are wackos”) and aided I his escape by one of their number (Josh Richman, of River’s Edge).


Alas, the sequence is too short, and it simply isn’t enough. The lore behind the picture’s release is more interesting than the actual movie, with McDowall and his director lunching unproductively with Live Entertainment chairman Jose Mendendez prior to his murder by his sons the same evening; McDowall reportedly phoned Wallace the next day, and said “Well, I didn’t do it. Did you?” It was also this development that put the kibosh on a tentative Fright Night 3 (with Holland returning). The picture, which had received only a limited release, was pushed quickly out of theatres and onto video. Wallace considered the original script for Fright Night Part 2 too campy. Ironically, it could have done with more of exactly that, as the results are mostly over-anaemic.




Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

Trouble’s part of the circus. They said Barnum was in trouble when he lost Tom Thumb.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
(SPOILERS) Anyone of a mind that it’s a recent development for the Oscars to cynically crown underserving recipients should take a good look at this Best Picture winner from the 25thAcademy Awards. In this case, it’s generally reckoned that the Academy felt it was about time to honour Hollywood behemoth Cecil B DeMille, by that point into his seventies and unlikely to be jostling for garlands much longer, before it was too late. Of course, he then only went and made a bona fide best picture contender, The Ten Commandments, and only then pegged it. Because no, The Greatest Show on Earth really isn’t very good.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

Sorry I’m late. I was taking a crap.

The Sting (1973)
(SPOILERS) In any given list of the best things – not just movies – ever, Mark Kermode would include The Exorcist, so it wasn’t a surprise when William Friedkin’s film made an appearance in his Nine films that should have won Best Picture at the Oscars list last month. Of the nominees that year, I suspect he’s correct in his assessment (I don’t think I’ve seen A Touch of Class, so it would be unfair of me to dismiss it outright; if we’re simply talking best film of that year, though, The Exorcist isn’t even 1973’s best horror, that would be Don’t Look Now). He’s certainly not wrong that The Exorcistremains a superior work” to The Sting; the latter’s one of those films, like The Return of the King and The Departed, where the Academy rewarded the cast and crew too late. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the masterpiece from George Roy Hill, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, not this flaccid trifle.

You had to grab every single dollar you could get your hands on, didn't you?

Triple Frontier (2019)
(SPOILERS) Triple Frontier must have seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix, even by their standards of indiscriminately greenlighting projects whenever anyone who can’t get a job at a proper studio asks. It had, after all, been a hot property – nearly a decade ago now – with Kathryn Bigelow attached as director (she retains a producing credit) and subsequently JC Chandor, who has seen it through to completion. Netflix may not have attracted quite the same level of prospective stars – Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum were all involved at various points – but as ever, they haven’t stinted on the production. To what end, though? Well, Bigelow’s involvement is a reliable indicator; this is a movie about very male men doing very masculine things and suffering stoically for it.

What lit the fire that set off our Mr Reaper?

Death Wish (2018)
(SPOILERS) I haven’t seen the original Death Wish, the odd clip aside, and I don’t especially plan to remedy that, owing to an aversion to Charles Bronson when he isn’t in Once Upon a Time in the West and an aversion to Michael Winner when he wasn’t making ‘60s comedies or Peter Ustinov Hercule Poirots. I also have an aversion to Eli Roth, though (this is the first of his oeuvre I’ve seen, again the odd clip aside, as I have a general distaste for his oeuvre), and mildly to Bruce when he’s on autopilot (most of the last twenty years), so really, I probably shouldn’t have checked this one out. It was duly slated as a fascistic, right-wing rallying cry, even though the same slaters consider such behaviour mostly okay if the protagonist is super-powered and wearing a mask when taking justice into his (or her) own hands, but the truth is this remake is a quite serviceable, occasionally amusing little revenger, one that even has sufficient courage in its skewed convictions …

Our "Bullshit!" team has unearthed spectacular new evidence, which suggests, that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster.

Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
Cheeseburger Film Sandwich. Apparently, that’s what the French call Amazon Women on the Moon. Except that it probably sounds a little more elegant, since they’d be saying it in French (I hope so, anyway). Given the title, it should be no surprise that it is regarded as a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie. Which, in some respects, it is. John Landis originally planned to direct the whole of Amazon Women himself, but brought in other directors due to scheduling issues. The finished film is as much of a mess as Kentucky Fried Movie, arrayed with more miss sketches than hit ones, although it’s decidedly less crude and haphazard than the earlier picture. Some have attempted to reclaim Amazon Women as a dazzling satire on TV’s takeover of our lives, but that’s stretching it. There is a fair bit of satire in there, but the filmmakers were just trying to be funny; there’s no polemic or express commentary. But even on such moderate terms, it only sporadically fulfils…

I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
(SPOILERS) There isn’t, of course, anything left to say about 2001: A Space Odyssey, although the devoted still try, confident in their belief that it’s eternally obliging in offering unfathomable mystery. And it does seem ever responsive to whatever depths one wishes to plumb in analysing it for themes, messages or clues either about what is really going on out there some around Jupiter, or in its director’s head. Albeit, it’s lately become difficult to ascertain which has the more productive cottage industry, 2001 or The Shining, in the latter regard. With Eyes Wide Shut as the curtain call, a final acknowledgement to the devout that, yes, something really emphatic was going under Stanley Kubrick’s hood and it’s there, waiting to be exhumed, if you only look with the right kind of eyes.