Anyone crafting a paper on the uselessness of movie sequels could cite Fright Night Part 2 as a prime example. It xeroxes the most generic traits of the first film, but loses all the humor and charm in the translation. What’s left is an exhausted, bankrupt movie: Competent makeup and special effects serve a lazy story. Talented actors play hollow versions of their earlier roles. This second verse is a little bit louder and a whole lot worse.
The plot is so by-the-numbers, you could almost build it out of a movie sequel kit: Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale) is now a dorky college kid. He speaks with a therapist (Ernie Sabella), who convinces him that the events of the first film were not what they seemed. Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), Charlie’s blood-sucking nemesis, wasn’t really a vampire at all, you see. He was a serial killer. Many of his supernatural feats can be easily explained. (Here, the film commits the same unforgivable sin as Ghostbusters II, by pretending the magic of its predecessor never happened. This is a great way to turn off your audience, right from the jump.)
Charlie also has new girlfriend. Alex (Traci Lind) is eager for him to move on from his troubled past. Naturally, we know he can’t outrun his destiny. A beautiful vampire (Julie Carmen) stalks Charlie, and seems determined to seduce him. Turns out, she’s Regine Dandridge, Jerry’s long-lost sister. Whether she means to feast on Charlie or simply enslave him, it certainly feels as if his destruction is imminent.
Meanwhile, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) is back to hosting his B-movie horror show on late night cable. He seems hungover from the supernatural spectacle of the first film. After you’ve battled real vampires, how could the movies ever compare? When workers start moving mysterious crates into Peter’s apartment building, he naturally grows suspicious. Unfortunately, Charlie’s mind has been changed by therapy: There must be a rational explanation. After all, vampires don’t exist.
See, doesn’t this sound fun? Yay! Fright Night Part 2 actually delivers the worst of everything. After spending the first half attempting to marginalize the first movie, the filmmakers devote the second half to ripping it off. Some fans might claim that Part 2 distinguishes itself by flipping the genders and making Charlie the victim and Alex the savior. For me, that’s like saying Vanilla Ice didn’t crib “Ice Ice Baby” from “Under Pressure” because one note is different. While some bad sequels eschew everything that made the first film endearing, others attempt to simply reheat the leftovers. By some miracle, Part 2 finds a way to do both.
A big reason why the part one scored so big was its casting. Ragsdale was a natural as the awkward, geeky teen misfit. McDowell brought tattered likability to his has-been horror star, adrift in the twilight of his career. Best of all, Sarandon infused Jerry Dandridge with heaps of smarm, charm, and all-out menace. He had tons of fun playing the mega-villain, and it showed. Nobody looks like they’re having a good time here. This has the feel of a paycheck movie, and I truly hope the stars bought themselves something nice.
Nothing about this middling sequel should deter you from seeing the first Fright Night. That movie is a valentine to classic horror, made by ardent fans of the genre. Part 2 is a valentine for an ex you never want to see again.
104 min. R. YouTube.