As an ardent lover of horror comedy, the one franchise that has consistently stuck with me, and yet has equally fascinated and disappointed me throughout the years, has been Fright Night. Whereas the original film from Tom Holland was a masterpiece of self-aware horror filled with inspired performances and incredible practical effects work, it has only been followed by a widely derided sequel and a middle-of-the-road remake with similarly inspired direction but an awful plethora of CGI. When the series was announced to continue with a direct-to-video sequel with no returning cast and a seemingly clean slate in terms of continuity, fans like myself were likely cautious to become optimistic, even with noted genre director Eduardo Rodriguez at the helm. However, even more surprising is that not only is the sequel, if it can be called that, good, but is likely the best entry in the franchise since the original, holding an essential charm that felt missing from the two previous films in the series.
Fright Night 2: New Blood is a reboot by the way of James Bond, as a brand new cast brandishes the iconic names of Charlie Brewster, Gerri Dandridge, “Evil” Ed, Peter Vincent and Amy, as the crew is transported to Eastern Europe where Brewster’s abroad teacher appears to be one of the creatures of the night. Of course, the film is not without it’s homages to the original, including line citations, replicated moments (a window reference to the original is one of the most endearing in this film) and design similarities, but as a whole, Fright Night 2 is it’s own beast. The film draws the line closer to horror than comedy in this outing, with the exception of the Peter Vincent character, who almost entirely exists in his own world of mean-spirited and dry humor. But overall, when it needs to be scary, it often times is, with a bloodsoaked and gothic inspiration worn on its sleeve. But overall, the most important aspect is the complete genuineness that appears throughout the film, as there’s a certain lovable enthusiasm behind the performances and the moments of terror come with a wickedly savage grin.
Eduardo Rodriguez was a great choice for the director for Fright Night 2, using his experience with practical effects work and visual flair and mixing it with a well-paced and incredibly tight script from Matt Venne to create something truly out of the ordinary: a damn fine direct-to-video film. The authentic locations and wonderfully detailed effects only add to the film’s effective mean streak, and the lack of big, overblown set pieces allow the film to stay as personal as Tom Holland’s first Fright Night. The cinematography from Yaron Levy is quite precise, as the colors and hues added to the filters never feel out of touch with the films atmosphere, and the digital picture seems sharper than ever. Furthermore, the score from Luis Ascanio is fairly standard, but overall, suitable to the story and the somewhat predictable plot points (a drawback of modeling a sequel off an archetypal story design).
Across the board, the acting, much of which comes from relative newcomers, is energetic and devoted to the material, often with a full understanding of the Fright Night universe and its mechanisms. Jamie Murray is exceptionally seductive and frightening as “Gerri Dandridge”, playing off her darker impulses and reveling in the sinister attitude she has learned to perfect on-screen in her multiple villainess roles. Will Payne, Chris Waller and Sacha Parkinson are excellent in their respective roles as Charlie, “Evil” Ed and Amy, each understanding one anothers place in the story and delivering the lines with sincere gusto that’s hard not to support and even root for, especially when the horrifying moments present themselves. The surprise of the film may lie within Sean Power as Peter Vincent, adding a blue-collar aesthetic to Vincent that has never been relegated in the characters past, even if he still acts money-hungry and overtly melodramatic in his “persona”.
For fans of Fright Night, hesitancy is expected and expectations may be raised, but Fright Night 2: New Blood lives up to it’s title, providing a rare direct-to-video sequel that honors its predecessor and stands tall in its own right. While the storytelling may be rough around the edges and the performances aren’t master class, the film is damn better than what any horror hound may expect, and thanks to Rodriguez and his cast, the fun and darkness of the franchise finds an appropriate balance here. For fans of gore, and sexy vampires that are more gory than glimmering, Fright Night 2 delivers as well, and with great visuals and an effective sense of humor to go along, you’ll be glad that FOX made good on their chance to make a Fright Night film that feels like Fright Night, for real.
Fright Night 2: New Blood is currently available on DVD/Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.