FRIGHT NIGHT 2: NEW BLOOD
MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Will Payne as CHARLEY BREWSTER
Jaime Murray as GERRI DANDRIDGE
Sean Power as PETER VINCENT
Sacha Parkinson as AMY PETERSON
Chris Waller as EVIL ED BATES
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Eduardo Rodriguez
BY KEVIN CARR
It’s difficult to review a sequel without eventually comparing it to the original. When it comes to the sequel of a remake, it’s twice as hard to review it without comparing it to the original film and its direct predecessor. Knowing that, I’m not pulling any punches when it comes to the sequel/remake nature of “Fright Night 2: New Blood.”
I am a huge fan of the original “Fright Night.” It came out in 1985 when I was a teenager, and I enjoyed the hell out of it as a piece of solid horror fiction from that era. The remake in 2011 left a bad taste in my mouth, mainly because it made so many changes to the characters and delivery that it paled in comparison.
With these two films fresh in my mind, it’s hard to wrap my brain around “Fright Night 2: New Blood.” Like Disney’s “Pocahontas” (yes, I am ready to make a comparison between an animated family film and this unrated direct-to-video horror sequel), “Fright Night 2” relies too much on an existing story. Where “Pocahontas” was a ridiculous piece of revisionist history that bore little resemblance to the original (and actually quite well-known) story, “Fright Night 2” would have been better served as its own story.
“Fright Night 2” isn’t just a sequel of a remake. It’s a remake of a remake with a sequel’s name. The story follows Charley Brewster (Will Payne) on a class trip to Romania. His estranged girlfriend Amy (Sacha Parkinson) is giving him problems, so she finds it hard to believe it when Charley tells her that he thinks one of the local residents named Gerri Dandridge (Jaime Murray) is a vampire. It’s up to his buddy Evil Ed (Chris Waller) and legendary monster hunter Peter Vincent (Sean Power) to help him stop the creature.
Sound familiar? They didn’t have the decency to change the characters’ names. Aside from the setting in eastern Europe, this is ultimately a beat-for-beat remake of the “Fright Night” story. And that’s where it failed.
“Fright Night 2” expends too much effort following the story laid out by Tom Holland in 1985, in much the same way that cheesy “Dracula” movies over the years have tried too hard to follow Bram Stoker’s original tale (or rather the version of Stoker’s work that was seen in Tod Browning’s “Dracula” from 1931).
It’s when I delved into the special features that I realized the full nature of a missed opportunity with this movie. The character of Gerri Dandridge is based on a real Hungarian countess named Elizabeth Báthory. To be fair, this is pointed out in the movie, assigning Báthory similar status to Vlad Țepeș in creating the Dracula legend. What was just a throwaway story point in the movie was actually a great source of history that could have differentiated “Fright Night 2” from so many other direct-to-video sequels.
Making things worse in the film is the character of Peter Vincent, who has none of the charm and charisma that Roddy McDowall had from the original film. He didn’t even have the less-charming but still interesting flare of David Tennant from the 2011 remake. In “Fright Night 2,” Vincent is a washed up reality television show host who follows the “Ghost Hunters” formula. However, Sean Power is simply too dull in the role to make things interesting, and that’s comparing him to the rather dull casting choices of Will Payne as Charley and Chris Waller as Evil Ed.
In fact, the only actor that really works in their role is Jaime Murray as Gerri. She brings her gravitas from stints on “Dexter” and “Warehouse 13” to be a formidable foe in the film. Sadly, there’s no formidable hero to go up against her.
Still, “Fright Night 2: New Blood” isn’t a total loss. There are some cool elements of vampires introduced in this film (including the use of bat-like sonar to find their prey), and it’s nice to see some violent bloodletting in a teen vampire movie for a change. In the end, it’s not a waste of time, and “Fright Night 2: New Blood” is similar in tone and delivery to other direct-to-video sequels like what we get in “The Howling” and “Wrong Turn” franchises.
The Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary with director Eduardo Rodriguez and producers Alison Rosenzweig and Michael Gaeta. There’s also a handful of “Fright Night Webisodes” featuring the new Peter Vincent (which means you can skip them) and a look at the historical character of Elizabeth Báthory as a female version of Dracula.