TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1988)

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FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1988)

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Fright Night Part II might be one of the most under-appreciated sequels…at least by it’s distributors, as it does have a cult following…of all-time, as the film got an under-the-radar limited release back in the day, despite the success of the original and even worse treatment with sub-par full-screen VHS and DVD releases. A proper release is still eagerly awaited.

The sequel takes place 3 years after the original Fright Night. Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is now in college and finishing up years of therapy that has him believing Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) was only a serial killer and the delusion of him being a vampire was all created in Charley’s head to cope with the horrible events. Charley also has a hot new girlfriend, Alex (80s flick cutie Tracy Lind) and hasn’t talked to Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) in years. As for the Great Vampire Killer, all the attention has gotten Vincent his Fright Night TV show hosting job back and all seems well when the two finally get together to bring closure to their horrible experience…until Charley sees large boxes being moved into Vincent’s very apartment building and gets a chilling feeling of familiarity. And his deja-vu is certainly warranted as Jerry Dandrige’s vampire sister Regine (a smoldering Julie Carmen) has come to exact revenge with her ghoulish entourage, the androgynous Belle (Russell Clark, who also choreographed Carmen’s performance art sequences), lupine shapeshifter Louie (Jon Gries, who also played the werewolf with nards in Monster Squad) and hulking, insect eating chauffeur Bozworth (genre favorite Brian Thompson). Regine’s plans are simple…turn Charley into one of the undead, murder those he loves and take over as host of Fright Night for good measure…then torture Charley for all eternity.

I have no idea why this sequel has been treated so badly over the years. It’s not quite as good as the first flick, but is actually a pretty solid follow-up and a good deal of fun. The film is directed by John Carpenter alumni Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III, Stephen King’s It) who co-wrote the script with Tim Metcalfe and Miguel Tejeda-Flores. Wallace delivers a good looking film, having learned a lot about shot framing from Carpenter, and while it’s not quite the fun-house that the original chiller is, it mixes horror with humor well and has a number of fun/spooky scenes with plenty of action. The plot also works in giving us a second installment that isn’t forced and provides us with enough elements from Fright Night to feel like a continuation, but also does it’s own thing. Regine is a known personality, recognized as a performance artist and she moves around out in the open, as when she takes over hosting duties on the Fright Night TV show. If the film falters a bit, it’s that it’s momentum slows down somewhat in the middle act as Regine continues to seduce Charley and Vincent is institutionalized for attacking Regine on the show’s set. The film does pick up for it’s final confrontation, though it is not as bombastic and fun as the first film’s. Overall, the movie seems to have a slightly lower budget and thus the action is a bit scaled down, but I think Wallace makes up for it with some very clever bits and by having some ghoulish fun with his premise and characters such as Regine’s thugs having a gruesome bowling night while she is off premiering on TV. The make-up FX can be a bit rubbery at times, but that adds some charm now and Brad Fiedel returns to score, so it feels like a Fright Night  film. Not sure why all the disrespect from it’s labels.

The cast are having a good time, too. Ragsdale and McDowall pick up right where they left off in the original, but with Charley being a slightly more mature character three years later and Vincent seems to have developed a bit more of a backbone since he last battled bloodsuckers. The two actors seem to really enjoy working together and their on-screen chemistry is infectious. Lind makes a welcome addition to the team as adorable and smart Alex. In a turn of events, it is she who comes to Charley’s rescue and proves herself a resourceful and spunky heroine in true 80s fashion. I liked her better than Amanda Bearse’s whiny Amy. Julie Carmen is smoldering-ly sexy and conveys a definite lethal quality as Regine. It is completely believable she can seduce Charley…and those scenes are hot…despite his dealings with her kind and it is a little disappointing the actress wasn’t given an opportunity to put up a bigger fight in the scaled-down climax. As her eccentric undead thugs, Clarke (whose character is mute), Gries and Thompson all seem to be having a good time, especially the nice touch of Thompson’s Bozworth reciting the Latin genus of his insect meals before consumption. Creepy fun! A good cast who all get the tone of the material and their individual characters.

So, in conclusion, I like this sequel a lot and will never understand the terrible treatment it continues to get. It is not as good as the first film, but is a worthy enough second go around and the cast is charming as always, as is the 80s nostalgia it now carries with it. It succeeds far more than it fails and despite a slow mid-section and a slightly less exciting ending, it is a solid sequel and left me wanting to see a third installment back when I first saw it and McDowall was still with us. This film is crying out for a Scream Factory special edition, but apparently the label who owns it (I believe it’s Lionsgate) won’t budge in allowing it (so I am told), or do anything with it on it’s own. With it’s cult following, I don’t see how a release wouldn’t do well. The film also stars Merritt Butrick (Kirk’s son in Wrath Of Khan and Search For Spock) in one of his last film appearances before his AIDS related death in 1989.

Rated 3 (out of 4) fangs.

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)

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FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)

Fright Night is a fun 80s horror flick written and directed by Child’s Play‘s Tom Holland. The story is simple…teen and avid horror movie fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) gets a new neighbor next door, the charming and handsome Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), who Charley quickly comes to believe is a vampire, but obviously, no one believes Charley. As he tries desperately to convince his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and weird friend “Evil” Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) of his neighbor’s deadly nocturnal activities, he also turns to horror movie actor Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who is the closest thing he knows to a vampire killer. But even if he can convince them, can this motley bunch stop a real vampire before he turns his fangs on them? Obviously it’s no spoiler to say that Sarandon’s Dandridge is quite the bloodsucking fiend and Charley and Co. are in for the fight of their lives…and a fun and suspenseful fight it is.

As with the 1988 Child’s PlayHolland takes his story seriously, but gives us plenty of humor to go along with the chills and thrills, of which Fright Night has plenty, as we watch Charley first trying to out the fiend then incurring his wrath. This movie is so delightfully 80’s now, too, with it’s clothing, hairstyles and synthesizer filled music, but it is still a lot of spooky fun under Holland’s guidance and his cast is one of the reasons. Ragsdale plays the lead role perfectly, he’s a nerdy teen with the same urges and active imagination as most boys his age, but he finds the hero within when faced with a horror from out of one of his favorite films. The legendary Roddy McDowall couldn’t be better as cowardly horror star, Peter Vincent, who is forced to overcome his fears and become the vampire killer he’s played for years, to battle a frighteningly real monster and save himself and his new friends. Chris Sarandon makes a delightfully sinister, yet charming villain as the vampire next door, playing the role with equal parts sexy and scary. He is very convincing as a powerful and lethal predator, but you also have no problem believing he can charm Charley’s single mom, or his girlfriend Amy right out of Charley’s protective arms. And while on the subject, Bearse is fine as Amy being virginal and sweet at first and then getting to vamp it up under Dandridge’s influence. And Geoffrey’s is amusing as “Evil”  though he does go a bit over the top at times in a flick that’s played mostly straight. He does provide some comic relief and the character is endearing despite his overeager performance and by no means disrupts the film. The SPFX in this decently budgeted flick are top notch, as far as the abundant make-up and visual effects go and while the end is a bit overblown, it is in a Halloween spook-house kinda way and is an entertaining, if not slightly bombastic finish.

An entertaining horror flick that’s become a bit of a classic and now has some added 80s nostalgia to bring to the spooky mix and is a Halloween season favorite of mine as well. Spawned a Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III) directed sequel in 1988 featuring Charley and Peter Vincent battling Dandridge’s vengeful sister, played by Julie Carmen. The sequel is pretty entertaining on it’s own, though, for some reason, was shown little attention by the studio and audiences when it was given a limited release before going to VHS and later DVD.

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fangs!

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