Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fright Night Part 2 (1988)

Reviewed by Jeremy Melton

“Do you have a taste for terror?” and “The suckers are back” are the two taglines that grace the box for this little gem. Unfortunately, the designers for this box did not match Curtains by giving us three tag lines. However, as often as the characters say, “Forewarned is Forearmed”, I am going to unofficially make this the third tag.

Even without my superior tagline, though, the box for Fright Night Part 2 is a classic. A lipstick lesbian piece of artistry only rivaled by the original movie poster for The Howling 2. If you don’t know from the box alone that you are in for a great movie, then you’re not paying attention.

Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and released three years after the successful first entry, this movie stands as one of the greatest and worst sequels I have ever seen. As a director, Tommy Lee Wallace is perhaps best known for nearly destroying the Halloween series with his “franchise” concept of a Halloween movie without Michael Meyers. About witchcraft. And exploding masks.

Okay, for some reason, he was allowed to continue working. And he was finally able to destroy what could have been a successful line of films by releasing Fright Night Part 2.

Maybe Mr. Wallace had trepidations about changing a formula that was working after the disaster of Halloween III. I can understand that. But come on… Really. The formula did not need to change. Hell, the EXACT SAME movie could have been made again with a new cast and different character names and everyone would have been satisfied. See? That would be the same formula. Instead, though, Mr. Wallace does a 180 from Halloween III and decides to keep two of the three living central characters from the first and introduce a villainess that is the sister of the original script’s vampire. Then, he decided to really focus on the comical elements. Christ almighty.

Here we go.

In the tradition of every single Friday the 13th movie, this sequel begins by recapping the original. However, Tommy Lee Wallace certainly learned from the mistakes made by his contemporary, Lee Harry, who had helmed the sequel to Silent Night, Deadly Night a year earlier in 1987. Instead of letting the recap run for about 90% of the film, Tommy Lee keeps it to 38 seconds at the beginning. I have to give him some credit there.

On the other hand, that really says a lot about the original. I mean, they showed about three clips at under a minute and I really feel like had I not seen the first, I would be completely caught up.

Then, at second 40, we see our hero from the first entry, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale). I have to say, too, no actor was better suited to a very particular time period than Ragsdale. The first shot of him shows him in all of his late 80s glory. He is wearing a pastel button shirt with a grey sweater over it. I cannot prove it, but I believe it is the same sweater that my grandmother wore around her house whenever it got chilly. Most importantly, though, we see that famous Ragsdale hair. It is a blow-dried wonder. Big, parted on top and nicely mulleted at the neck, it is a beaut. For a similar look, I would suggest looking at pictures of Jo from the last season of the TV show Facts of Life.

We quickly find out that Charley has been in therapy for the past three years and has come to the conclusion that the events of the original movie were nothing more than mass hysteria. There are no such things as vampires. It was all in his head.


It does however, set up the way this movie is different from the first… This time, vampire hunter Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) is the one trying to convince Charley that vampires exists. It is totally visa versa from the original!

Oh, and Charley is dating Alex played by Traci Lind instead of the vastly superior Amy played by Amanda Bearse (who also sported a nice Ragsdale haircut during the heyday of her popular series Married With Children). Let’s face it, Alex may be the better looking leading lady, but she is nowhere near as entertaining or funny. She is just a pretty dud.

She is also a bit of an asshole. Early on, Peter Vincent asks Charley if he told Alex about what had happened to the two of them three years earlier. Alex answers up that “…Charley has told me all about…the vampires” in an eye-rolling, snotty tone. Screw you, lady. Charley is not being critical of Peter here. So, just keep your mouth shut and be polite.

Obviously, before you know it, vampires are moving in next door (this time next door to Peter Vincent and not Charley. Visa versa!!).

And Charley can’t get laid.

So, is everyone caught up?

Given its similarities to the first and its lame plot concoctions, why do I love this movie? Because of its similarities to the first and lame plot concoctions. This movie is so insanely ridiculous that one cannot help but what it, mouth agape, and wonder, “how did this script get approved?”.

Here are some of the highlights:

About 14 minutes into the movie, we get some sort of tranny vampire coming out of the fog to attack some random college girl. On rollerskates. Not the college girl, mind you. The vampire comes through the fog in slow motion ON SKATES! This is the kind of weirdness that is only matched by the slasher on ice scene from Curtains.

There is a doofus werewolf-type character named Louie that is pretty awesome. I am calling him a werewolf-type, because it is unclear that he is a werewolf, exactly. After falling from a windowsill, one of his vampire buddies says to him, “You’re supposed to bite her on the neck”. This left me thoroughly confused… Since when do werewolves need to bite their victims on the neck? Louie is played by Jonathan Gries, who I recognized as the actor who played the homeless guy named Rusty on Seinfeld. Of course, I have watched every episode of Seinfeld about fifty times.

20 minutes into the movie, Charley is bitten by Regine, the sister of the first movie’s villain, Jerry. If there is one thing the Fright Night movies did right, it was give their bad guys good hillbilly names. Seriously, don’t Jerry and Regine live together in Port Orange, Florida selling pot out of their trailer home?

Anyway, as you can see, a lot of stuff happens before this movie hits its half hour mark.

The movie really hits the skids (in a good way) when the monsters all go bowling. I am not sure that I need to comment any more on that.

You can pretty much guess how the rest of the movie goes.

The big surprise, though, happens after the credits start rolling. The familiar Fright Night theme begins. Then, electric drums enter and the song becomes “Come to Me” by Deborah Holland. This bit of pure 80s pop cheese must be one of the earliest uses of sampling that I have ever heard. The whole song is built around the Fright Night theme.

“Forewarned is Forearmed” is four fingers.


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