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

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

Oh, you got me right in the pantaloons, partner.

The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

Miss Livingstone, I presume.

Stage Fright (1950) (SPOILERS) This one has traditionally taken a bit of a bruising, for committing a cardinal crime – lying to the audience. More specifically, lying via a flashback, through which it is implicitly assumed the truth is always relayed. As Richard Schickel commented, though, the egregiousness of the action depends largely on whether you see it as a flaw or a brilliant act of daring: an innovation. I don’t think it’s quite that – not in Stage Fright ’s case anyway; the plot is too ordinary – but I do think it’s a picture that rewards revisiting knowing the twist, since there’s much else to enjoy it for besides.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you ripped the fronts off houses, you'd find swine? The world's a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) (SPOILERS) I’m not sure you could really classify Shadow of a Doubt as underrated, as some have. Not when it’s widely reported as Hitchcock’s favourite of his films. Underseen might be a more apt sobriquet, since it rarely trips off the lips in the manner of his best-known pictures. Regardless of the best way to categorise it, it’s very easy to see why the director should have been so quick to recognise Shadow of a Doubt 's qualities, even if some of those qualities are somewhat atypical.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert.

Dr. Strangelove  or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) (SPOILERS) Kubrick’s masterpiece satire of mutually-assured destruction. Or is it? Not the masterpiece bit, because that’s a given. Rather, is all it’s really about the threat of nuclear holocaust? While that’s obviously quite sufficient, all the director’s films are suggested to have, in popular alt-readings, something else going on under the hood, be it exposing the ways of Elite paedophilia ( Lolita , Eyes Wide Shut ), MKUltra programming ( A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket ), transhumanism and the threat of imminent AI overlords ( 2001: A Space Odyssey ), and most of the aforementioned and more besides (the all-purpose smorgasbord that is The Shining ). Even Barry Lyndon has been posited to exist in a post-reset-history world. Could Kubrick be talking about something else as well in Dr. Strangelove ?