Fright Night Part II (1989)
Release Date: May 19th, 1989 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace Actors: William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall, Traci Lin, Julie Carmen, Jon Gries, Rochelle Ashana, Brian Thompson
erry Dandridge was a serial killer whom Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) believed to have been a thousand-year-old vampire. This belief was based on the next-door neighbor exhibiting vampiric tendencies and terrorizing his friends. Years and many hours of therapy later, Charley now realizes that it was merely his overactive imagination, probably spawned from his love of the horror TV show “Fright Night,” hosted by eccentric, washed-up actor Peter “Fearless Vampire Killer” Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who helped him dispose of Jerry the first time around.
After a quick recap of events, the story picks up with Charley reintegrating himself into the real world, apologetic to his loved ones for having put them through his mental ordeal – namely his girlfriend Alex (Traci Lin), who is studying to be a clinical psychologist. This second part, helmed by Tommy Lee Wallace, following up where previous director Tom Holland left off, assumes for the most part that viewers have seen the original 1985 cult classic. But, as with most schlocky horror films of the ‘80s, it barely makes a difference. In no time at all, Charley starts having visions of vampires, dons a pair of shades, and notices a group of suspicious strangers that start killing off random students. So it’s up to the sole believer to reteam with Peter to stop them. After all, they’re most likely vampires, Charley’s not as crazy as everyone thinks, and for some reason the murderers are out for revenge.
The vampires in “Fright Night Part II” are very much like ‘80s rock stars during the day, with bright-colored clothing, heavy makeup, and wild hair. And at night, they’re done up with impressive practical effects (along with yellow contact lenses) to make them stereotypically monstrous. The female vampires are seductresses when sucking blood, like performance artist Regine (Julie Carmen), although they can transform into hideous little bats; the male counterparts are usually disfigured, wrinkled, hairy beasts with large claws, such as Louie (Jon Gries). It can be assumed that he’s actually a werewolf instead – the gang of bloodsuckers contains creepy characters that don’t always conform to preconceived notions of undead humanoid guidelines. Other effects include the generous overuse of a fog machine, save for one atmospheric moment in an empty school that resembles a dream sequence from “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Characters talk to themselves to coach their actions; half-conscious dream states abound to blur the line between reality and fantasy; and a few awkward (intended to be sensual) dance and romance routines (such as a silly vampire bowling montage) plague the seriousness of the events. The film is supposed to be a gory horror thriller, but it’s unintentionally funny more frequently than it should be. Sadly, during the sparse minutes of specific comic relief, it’s never competently humorous. As Charley tries desperately to convince himself that vampires don’t exist, while also fending off notions of actually becoming one, the plot slows, detrimentally dulling any building tension. Subplots convolute the action, stretching the film into a nearly unbearable 108 minutes. By the time the final confrontation hits, it’s too late – the best blood and guts effects arrive, including some shockingly nasty little surprises, but they’re not enough to recoup waning interest.
– Mike Massie