Seeing the original Fright Night at The Aero’s horrorthon last year was one of the most pleasant surprises I had at a movie last year. I was somehow all but virtually ignorant of the horror classic in all but the broadest strokes. This despite the film being so far down my alley that it was practically breaking into my house to steal shit.
Yet I was still skeptical about seeking out the sequel. This after all was not just any sequel but an Eighties Sequel. And it’s a general rule of them that an eighties sequel is going to be beat for beat like the original, expect a lot less enjoyable. I mean we are talking about a sub classification of film that requires the line of dialogue “I can’t believe this is happening… AGAIN!!!” to appear in nearly every single one of its entries.
But the lure of 35 mm and The Alamo Drafthouse proved too straong, and I ended up seeing Fright Night Part II with a crowd better and more primed for the film than the ones who sat through the film in 1988.
I wasn’t exactly wrong about what Fright Night Part II would be, but there was a surprising amount of fun to be had to it. Once expectations had been suitably lowered. Fright Night Part 2 takes place three years later with Charlie Brewster just getting out of a stay at a mental institute and into college. In this time period he’s been convinced that vampires don’t exist (This is more than a little hard to swallow, but it’s another staple of eighties sequels. If you’re going to repeat everything again you have to reduce everything back to square one). This gets tricky when wouldn’t you know it, a bunch of Vampires move into Charlie’s neighborhood and start stalking him and Peter Vincent.
This time it’s a posse of Vampires, (They’ve also brought along a ghoul and a werewolf played by ultimate 80’s genre character actor Jon Gries) and unlike the suave, urbane, Chris Sarandon they are totally 80’s. You have no idea how unintimidating a vampire on rollerblades is until you actually see it.
But it is fun to watch William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowell deal with it again, their chemistry intact (The film does suffer from the absence of Amanda Bearse whose quintessential girl next door performance added a lot to the film. Though her replacement is appealing as well.) McDowell in particular gets one extremely fine moment where he gets to articulate his reason for being to the incredulous patrons of a dingy bar. It may not justify the movie in and of itself, but it goes a long way towards doing so.
The film also carries over the top notch practical gore and monster effects from its predecessors. There’s no getting around the fact that Fright Night Part II is just a fun movie to look at on a very basic level.
Watching Fright Night II is like clammering onto a carnival spookhouse at the midstate fair for the second time. It’s predictable, more than a little cheesy and you know every beat before it arrives. But there’s still some fun to be had. Albeit not nearly as much as you did the first time around.