Fright Night 2
There have been a lot of bizarrely conceived franchise films in the horror genre, but this year’s Fright Night 2 nearly takes the cake. The numeral in the title suggests it’s a sequel to the well-received 2011 remake starring Colin Farrell, but the plot is a direct lift from the 1985 original. It jettisons all the updated plot elements from the 2011 film, yet keeps the character names the same. Remakes and sequels are completely valid, as long as they have something new to bring to the table. Fright Night 2, however, seems to take great pains to make sure it treads well-worn ground, at least as far as the story is concerned.
Seriously, I’m at a loss as to why this movie was even made.
The Story (Ha! Story. Good one.)
After an admittedly effective opening sequence at a deserted gas station that has nothing much to do with the rest of the film, we settle into the story proper: Charley Brewster (Will Payne), “Evil” Ed Bates (Chris Waller) and Amy Peterson (Sacha Parkinson) are American exchange students arriving in Romania to study art history. Charley and Amy had been dating until Amy caught Charley canoodling with another girl, though Charley insists it was all a misunderstanding. Hoping that a new locale will be the catalyst for a fresh start, Charley makes reconciliatory gestures to Amy which she politely, but firmly, rebukes. What’s a guy to do? Spy on the neighbor in the building across from his dorm, I guess. In this case, an impossibly seductive woman who has no compunctions about staging her lesbian trysts in front of an open window for all to see. As the two women embrace erotically, Charley think she sees blood dripping down one’s back. He shrugs this off as a “Naw, couldn’t have been” moment, but he remains unsettled by what he thinks he saw.
The next day in class, Charley is astounded to discover that the woman he voyeuristically spied on the night before is actually his art history professor, Gerri Dandridge (Jaime Murray), who makes a grand entrance amid a frenetic audio visual presentation that would give Michael Bay the jitters.
When a student disappears and Charley witnesses Gerri disposing of what looks like a body wrapped in plastic, he breaks into Gerri’s apartment to investigate, but is forced to hide when he hears the front door open. What he sees, he has no rational explanation for: an old woman sacrifices a young virgin (I presume: she’s awfully tatted up and sporting a pair of porn-star fake boobs for a virgin) and bathes in her blood, emerging as the young and beautiful professor Dandridge. Convinced that his teacher is vampire, Charley and Ed seek the assistance of the host of the online monster hunting reality show, Fright Night, one Mr. Peter Vincent (Sean Power) to help him blah, bah, blah…I don’t think I need to continue any further. You know this story as well as I do.
It isn’t until the last act that the movie finally departs from the established template, though the broad strokes are still the same. There’s still a kidnapped girlfriend, a confrontation between Charley and the vampire and a last minute appearance from Peter Vincent that helps turn the tide. Layered in with these tired story elements is a bunch of nonsensical shit about how Countess Elizabeth Bathory was the true inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, how Gerri is actually the bloodthirsty countess and something about her needing virgin blood to be able to walk in the daylight. Her plan somehow required Charley to become a vampire and can only be stopped by Charley killing himself with a stake through the heart. Or near it. Or…something.
In the audio commentary the producers talk about screenwriter Matt Venne and how he was able to turn in a first draft of this screenplay in a week. They also mention something about two months of re-writes, but I’m doubtful. This movie definitely plays like it was filmed from a first draft. At times you get a sense of where the writer wants to go with the story, but there are too many pieces missing. I’m not sure if that’s because he forgot to write them in or the producers wrote them out due to time or budget constraints, but that’s all irrelevant, anyway. I can only judge what’s on the screen.
The 2011 film updated the story in ways that made sense and though it was telling us a story we’ve already heard, it was still fresh and interesting. There was a sincere sense of discovery as the film toyed with our expectations. And, of course, it was anchored by a wonder performance by Colin Farrell as Gerry Dandridge. In contrast, Fright Night 2 feels utterly terrified to do anything different. Regressing back to the 1985 concept of Peter Vincent’s character is a transparent, cost-cutting measure. It’s much easier to film some cheap, handheld webisodes than some elaborate Vegas stage magic act, sure, but the whole movie feels not only cheap in execution, but cheap in imagination. Still, I’m almost willing to give it a pass due to the laughable retelling of the story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Nothing says “we ran out of money” quite like delivering the bulk of your exposition with flash animation.
The gore is pretty half-hearted, too. Gallons of blood are splashed across the screen but the actual prosthetics are pretty lacking in inspiration. Oh, they’re not bad, per se, they’re just…dutiful. There’s no moment, not even one, where I thought: “That’s pretty clever.” The vampires have big hoary teeth that rattle around in their mouths when they talk just like those little plastic ones you got at Halloween when you were a kid. Also surprising, is just how little vampire action actually occurs on screen. The movie prefers to spend its effects budget on needless wirework and a totally superfluous car crash scene.
Most grating of all, Fright Night 2 boasts the most obnoxious incarnation of Evil Ed yet. He’s a chucklehead knuckle dragger, loud and boorish and utterly lacking in wit. I can’t totally blame Chris Waller because I’m sure the character was written that way. There’s no way you can avoid being obnoxious when you have to spout bile like: ”Correctamundo, Chuckster!” But the British actor does have a tough time maintaining his American accent, like he didn’t care to stay in character. Can’t really fault him for that, either.
The cast is predominantly British, the director Venezuelan, the producers American and the locale Romanian. It almost sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. In fact, it is the beginning of a bad joke. The punch line: you spent money to watch Fright Night 2.
The producers and writer may have skimped on the script, but the cinematographer and his crew did an admirable job, and this Blu-ray looks great. Fright Night 2 opts for a very contemporary look; the visuals are sharp and full of high contrasts. Colors range from deep and saturated to extremely hot and blown out, while blacks are dark, dark, dark. Details is not lacking and there’s no digital noise to speak or compression issues apparent. Unlike the movie itself, I find little to complain about.
Although presented with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, Fright Night 2 is plagued with the same kind of barren soundscape that’s characteristic of low budget or direct-to-video features. It’s your typically front heavy mix, thought does pepper the back channels with some legit discreet effects every now and then. It’s a serviceable mix, especially for a film on this budget level, but not on par with the visual presentation.
Not a lot of supplements have been produced for Fright Night 2. Be thankful for small mercies.
The first, and only one of real substance, is an Audio Commentary with Director Eduardo Rodriguez and Producers Michael Gaeta and Alison Rosenzweig. I was shocked to learn that the producing brain trust behind this fiasco was actually involved in the making of the 2011 film. If nothing else, they explain why this “sequel” essentially serves as a reboot: Fox has big plans for a direct to video Fright Night franchise, with Fright Night 3 already in the can and parts 4 & 5 on the drawing board.
There are four Webisodes of Peter Vincent’s Fright Night program. Watching these makes me wonder why any sane person would think that monsters exist and that it’s a reasonable expectation that Peter Vincent believes in them. The webisodes are cheaply made and tacky, though they play just fine as clips in the movie proper.
Finally, there’s a short featurette, Dracula Revealed (6:16). In it they get some hacky author to back up the film’s premise that Countess Bathory was actually fifty percent of Bram Stoker’s inspiration for the novel Dracula. I assume that it’s an attempt to lend credibility to the film and the canned, EPK interviews of the director and cast, but I don’t really care either way. It’s a lame feature that smacks of desperation.
A movie doesn’t have to be blazingly original to be entertaining, but it has to have a greater ambition than laying the groundwork for more sequels. It, first and foremost, has to want to tell an interesting story with relatable, even sympathetic characters. Barring that, it can always be a visually inventive carnival ride; shallow, but fun. Fright Night has neither the ambition to fulfill the first condition, nor the budget to fulfill the second. In fact, the only ambition it seems to have is to part you from your money. Don’t let it. There are far better iterations of this exact same story on film and watching any other movie with the words “Fright Night” in the title is a far better way to spend your time.
i actually didn't like the remake (it just felt like the first movie but filtered through with obnoxious characterisation) and i definitely won't see this one, time to release a BluRay SE of the original
I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought this movie sucked big time. Seeing as the remake seemed to do alright and wasn't that bad I was surprised this had nothing to do with it and was a DTV sequel. Like you said though, the worst part is that it is mind numbingly boring with nothing of interest visually or in its narrative (or lack of). The characters were so flat and poorly written too, I just kept shaking my head at the screen wondering what the hell the people behind this were thinking.
This is definitely one to forget about.
And yet the original Fright Night 2 remains unreleased on blu-ray.
The worst movie I've seen this year. Just terrible in almost every single way. A bland and lifeless cash grab.
Ironically enough, the more $$$ this new DTV series makes, the more motivation there is for someone to sort out whatever issues plague the original FN2, and get a wide release of the first FN (unencumbered by Twilight Time's overpriced / limited nonsense).
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