Fright Night Part II

fright_night_part_ii_ver1Oh man, was this one a tough one to find.  It doesn’t seem to exist in very many places on streaming (at least not in a way that I don’t have to pay extra for it) and even Netflix doesn’t have it available on DVD (it’s in my “saved” list).  And while I am not the biggest fan of watching an illegal upload of a movie on YouTube, I really had no choice.  And I guess that’s appropriate considering that nobody in 1988 knew that this movie ever hit theaters (more on that later).

In case you’re not familiar with this film, it’s a sequel to the 1985 movie Fright Night, which stars William Ragsdale (Herman of Herman’s Head) Charlie Brewster as a teenage guy whose next door neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire and he enlists the help of Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell) to kill him, especially after Jerry seduces Charlie’s girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse, aka Marcy from Married … With Children).  It’s a brilliant movie that mixes horror and comedy masterfully about two years before The Lost Boys and really pays a great tribute to late-night chiller feature stuff you’d see on syndicated and local channels at the time.

With the sequel, Charlie has graduated from high school and is attending college.  He and Amy have broken up (there’s a cut scene that says that after being turned into a vampire and then changed back after Jerry was killed, she dumped Charlie because she wanted to date older men; in reality, Amanda Bearse was committed to Married … With Children), and he’s now dating Alex (Traci Lind).  He’s also been going through extensive therapy courtesy of Dr. Harrison (Ernie Sabella) and is now “cured” of what were delusions about fights with vampires that never happened.

Except we know they did, Peter Vincent knows they did, and so do the four vampires that move into Peter’s apartment building, led by Regine Dandrdige (Julie Carmen), Jerry’s sister who has come for her revenge.  And that revenge is what drives the plot, although we don’t discover that until a ways into the film because Charlie’s convinced that vampires aren’t real and Regine is slowly seducing him so she can turn him into one of them and then torture him for eternity.  From there, Alex and Peter have to take it upon themselves to save our guy.

Up until a few years ago when Scott Gardner and Chris Honeywell covered both Fright Night and Fright Night Part II on a Two True Freaks episode, I was convinced that this movie was probably one of those crappy direct-to-video sequels that had little or no connection to the original film.  After all, there are a ton of those, especially in the horror genre (American Psycho 2, anyone?).  But after they talked about how it was a continuation of the first movie, I was intrigued and that’s why it wound up on the Netflix DVD queue.  Of course, I didn’t know then that it would take this long to actually watch the movie, and I also didn’t know then that the reason I hadn’t really heard of it is that nobody really had back when it was released in 1988.  This was more or less a direct-to-video release because the studio pulled the promotion for it as well as the possibility for a third entry in what was supposed to be a trilogy shortly after its head–Joe Menendez–was murdered by his sons Eric and Lyle.  He’d really been one of the only champions of the film, so the project faded out with his death.  And by the way, if those name sound familiar to you, those are the infamous Menendez brothers.

Anyway, as far as horror sequels go, it’s a really good one.  Ragsdale is wonderfully neurotic, McDowell brings the same over-the-top performance that made Peter Vincent such a likable character in the first one.  The villains are good as well–Regine travels with three other monsters, which is something you’d expect when you have to “up the ante” for a sequel.  While they do dress like a DeBarge cover band (because it was the Eighties), they wind up being pretty cool, much of which is owed to the great job that the makeup crew did.

The brightest spot in the film is Alex, Charlie’s girlfriend.  Amanda Bearse wasn’t terrible in Fright Night as Amy because she was a girl next door character and Bearse had the look for it–it’s just that I had a hard time thinking of her as someone other than Marcy Rhoades.  Alex, on the other hand, isn’t going to let herself be seduced and is no damsel in distress.  In fact, she confronts a vampire and kills him on her own at one point and then takes the initiative to recruit Peter to save her damsel in distress, which is Charlie.  So, she’s kind of a vampire slayer before the more famous one that Kristy Swanson would play a couple of years later.

Like I said, this isn’t easy to find.  It’s not streaming and a DVD is currently going for nearly $120 on Amazon with eBay proving a little cheaper here and there.  But you can find it on YouTube, so I would check it out, perhaps as a double-feature with the original.

Watch or Skip?

Watch.

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