Fright Night Part II (1988)
By: Lauren Monaghan on February 5, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Artisan Home Entertainment (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 108 minutes
The Movie
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Traci Lin, Julie Carmen
Screenplay: Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Tommy Lee Wallace Country: USA
In the world of horror, sequels, prequels, remakes and re-takes have long been all the rage – the longstanding filmic equivalent of the Rubik's Cube or Furby, if you will. Unfortunately, a lot of the time when an idea is revisited it inevitably seems to have been watered down, swished around and spat back out – a soggy and flavourless offering bearing the tooth marks of hungry movie execs. But thankfully there are some notable exceptions to this trend, and Fright Night Part II, the imaginatively named sequel to Tom Holland's 1985 Fright Night, can be listed among these successes as a fun, fangy film that continues to carry the flame of awesomeness lit by the original.

Now I admit, I'm probably a little biased on the matter. This was one of the first horror movies that I ever stumbled across, and after my little six or seven year old self finally got over the shock of seeing a hairy werewolf ogling semi-naked co-eds, it quickly became one of my favourite films. Of course this isn't to say that Fright Night Part II is juvenile or child-friendly, because it isn't… really all it says is that I was a very strange little girl. But that aside, the point of all this rambling is to point out that it's a good fifteen years on and this film still rates right up there on my list of favourite things to watch (though be assured it does now enjoy the company of zombie and chainsaw films rather than mermaids and talking crabs). It's no matter that as I write this review I'm probably on my one thousandth viewing, I still find Part II as exciting and amusing as ever.

Though I can't say exactly what drew me to this film as a kid, I know the biggest point of appeal for me now is how as a sequel it is able to tie in so nicely with the first Fright Night film, and in particular how it features the very same mismatched vampire fighting duo of its predecessor. There's something about the pairing of old Peter Vincent, the washed up, fraidy-cat movie star (Roddy McDowall), and young, guy-next-door horror fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) that really works. Maybe it's because wrinkly old guys and dudes in knitwear rarely get in on the undead fighting action nowadays, but seeing these two working together as a stake-wielding tag-team is just so much fun.

In the first film, Peter and Charley put their vampire fighting skills to the test against the bloodsucking Jerry Dandridge, and in this instalment the duo come face to face with Jerry's sister Regine (Julie Carmen), an undead seductress who's raring for some vengeance, more than a little miffed at her brother's demise. Keeping things interesting, along for the ride are Regine's creepy pals – an oversexed werewolf (played by Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Gries), an ambiguously gendered roller-skating vamp (Russell Clarke) and their bug-eating, bench-pressing chauffer (Brian Thompson). Together they're a ragtag team with a penchant for blood, mayhem and a little bowling with severed heads on the side.

As our heroes try to come to terms with their staggering bad luck in the encountering-evil department, Regine is busy plotting the death of Peter, attempting to vampify Charley for eternal torment purposes, and no doubt secretly wishing for her very own pair of skates. Because shoes with nifty little wheels? The ultimate in creepy vampire cool.

Along the way there's time enough for a few steamy dance sequences, the odd maggot-infested disembowelment, and plenty of other amusements in between – from the bad-guys-go-bowling montage to Peter's time spent in the mental hospital making interesting new friends, there's enough to keep you chuckling for a lot of the film's 108 minute entirety.

The effects in Part II are also fairly decent for 80s fare, with the convincing vampire makeup managing to be both spooky and kind of sexy at the same time, and the practical effects, which range from melting people to giant flying vampire bats, also working quite successfully… for the most part at least. Just try not to let your eyes linger on the werewolf too much – he kind of gives off a deranged Wile E. Coyote meets fan-made Furry fursuit vibe.
The picture quality of this 1.33:1 release unfortunately leaves something to be desired. After getting by for years with only a poor, battered VHS copy, I was expecting to pop in the DVD and be wowed. Instead I was stunned by the fact that the contents of the shiny new disc look pretty much the same as those of my well-worn tape. A little washed out and splattered with frequent tiny artefacts, the film is still certainly watchable, but disappointing all the same.
Overall the audio is fairly decent and clear. As with the first film, Brad Fiedel has put together a really great score for Part II, and even the meagre 2.0 Dolby Stereo treatment can't detract from it.
Extra Features
Zip. Zero. Zilch.
The Verdict
A truly great film, but a truly crappy release. Adding to the crappiness is the fact that despite the abundance of copies still hanging around, sellers are asking big bucks for this now out of print disc. My advice: only fork out the cash if you know you love the film already. For everyone else, see if you can mooch a copy off a mate, because with vamps bringing death on wheels and Roddy McDowall kicking supernatural ass, this movie is well worth a watch (or three).
Movie Score
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