Terror Tuesday Report: Fright Night Part II (1988)

Posted by John Gholson - September 20th 2011 @ 9:28 am
The Film

So, FRIGHT NIGHT PART II picks up right after the first film, with Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) changing his memories of the events in the first film (vampires move in next door) through therapy, and keeping an arm’s length relationship with TV horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who’s still convinced they killed vampires together a couple of years before.  Everything’s hunky-dory for approximately fifteen minutes of this sequel, until Julie Carmen shows up as Regine, with her entourage of monster movie weirdos (including audience favorite Jon Gries as a sleazy werewolf).

She’s got her sights set on Charlie, wanting to turn him into a vampire, for a reason that feels too obvious despite it being the film’s only surprise. Fright Night Part II is energetic and amiable enough, but it almost literally can’t find a good reason to exist.  Too light on both scares and comedy, the film mostly consists of Charlie sneaking around once again and peeking at vampires through windows, trying to convince the one character who shouldn’t need any convincing (Vincent) that the bloodsuckers are back.

I’m not usually one to “Monday morning quarterback” a movie, but how much better would Fright Night Part II have been if it was Peter Vincent trapped in the early stages of vampirism?  Why couldn’t he have been the target of Regine’s revenge plot?  The fact that he isn’t the movie’s star means that he’s not off limits to a downbeat fate.  We’re never going to buy that Charlie Brewster is in any actual danger of becoming a vampire, and it robs Fright Night Part II of any of the dramatic tension of the original.

The original Fright Night may not be a masterpiece of suspense, but there’s a question as to whether or not Amy (Charlie’s girlfriend in the first film) will succumb to Jerry Dandridge.  The film can only mine tension from “my neighbor is a vampire” for so long; halfway through the movie Charlie loses his friend Ed to vampirism, so when Jerry sets his sights on Amy, it creates drama.  Amy is a likable, secondary character. She’s important to the plot, but not the star, meaning she’s more expendable than Charlie.  The filmmakers might actually go there (and they do).

There’s never any danger in Fright Night Part II, and it hurts the film.  I can dig on the hilarious roller-skating androgynous vampire and the completely nonsensical gore effects (which are all crammed into the movie’s final minutes), and be diverted but not engaged.  Fright Night Part II is an echo of the original film, while still being slick enough to almost forgive its lack of ambition and the way it dawdles with the story.

The Reaction

I’d imagine that audiences responded the same exact way in 1988 as they did tonight in 2011.  The audience was attentive and entertained, chuckling at the right moments, then shuffled out of the theatre into a world (Austin’s Sixth Street) far scarier than anything seen on the screen in Fright Night Part II.

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  1. Sov
    September 21st, 2011 | 2:28 pm | #1

    Just watched this a month or so ago. Overall it wasn’t that. Not as good as the first of course but watchable. I also agree it would have been much better to have vincent infected. BTW how cheesy was the glam vamp roller skating in the beginning?

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