Often times, it’s very strange to see how the stigma behind things in the film world can change so quickly, whether it’s to remakes, 3D or film distribution. And while the former two categories can change with an inventive or groundbreaking appropriation of that element, the latter has been a change coming for quite some time, as the world of digital distribution, instant streaming and rising advertising prices have given more and more filmmakers the idea to turn to the world of VOD and direct-to-video distribution. And while the association with those worlds used to be an indication of lower quality or “cash grab” status, these mediums have become more about delivering subversive or gore-heavy content to fans directly without the need for multi-million dollar ad campaigns and huge, demanding stars in front of or behind the camera. This summer was a clearly indicative of that point, as more and more imaginative, great films found themselves going to VOD while star-and-CGI-laden blockbusters were flopping left and right.
And even with established franchises, the DTV/VOD market has allowed new, talented filmmakers to come in and try new things with an older property. A great example of this would be Venezuelan director Eduardo Rodriguez, who returns to the world of studio filmmaking with Fright Night 2, now on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD from 20th Century Fox Starring Dexter’s Jamie Murray, Will Payne, Sean Power, Sacha Parkinson and Chris Waller, Rodriguez saw an opportunity in to add his own spin on the beloved franchise, blending more humor and gore while remaining respectful to the films that preceded it. In preparation for the release of the anticipated follow-up, Rodriguez spoke to Diabolique about legacies, shooting without a rating and how his entry ties in ideologically with the biggest action franchise of all time…
DIABOLIQUE: So first, let me address the question that’s on most fans minds: is Fright Night 2 a follow-up to the Colin Farrell remake or is it a remake of Fright Night Part II, which also featured a female Gerri Dandridge?
EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ: I don’t think it’s either a remake or a sequel. I think Fright Night 2: New Blood is its own separate story, although there are similarities. The one thing I thought was pretty cool was when I got the script, it was basically using the same setting and the same names for all the characters and to me, that was pretty unique because it was a separate story and it’s not really related to the previous stories. I thought it was a little bit of a play on the “James Bond” movies, where it’s always James Bond, no matter who plays him. The character is always James Bond, and he’s always on James Bond adventures, no matter how he is trying to catch the bad guy. Fright Night 2 was a little bit fresh and different, and we weren’t trying to remake anything or make a sequel. It has its own story, but it has the same names and same plot in the sense that it’s about a kid whose next door neighbor turns out to be a vampire. I thought that [James Bond dynamic] would be cool but I don’t know; we’ll see what happens.
DIABOLIQUE: You must have been very careful about selecting your projects after your experience with Curandero, especially when it comes to studio films. What specifically attracted you to the project initially?
RODRIGUEZ: I think it was the script. They approached with the script, so they already had a script that I thought was really well-written. I thought the characters were fun and it had a lot of elements that I liked. It was gory and scary. I’d never done comedy before, since I come from straight horror movies, and that was something that attracted me [to Fright Night 2] because it was a little bit different and I’m always attracted to something different for each project. That was a little scary because I didn’t know how [comedy] was going to work out. But at the same time, it was intriguing and exciting to tackle the whole comedy aspect of the series and see how we can make that work.
DIABOLIQUE: Were you a fan of the Fright Night movies previous to working on this film? If so, were you ever concerned about living up to the original film or the remake?
RODRIGUEZ: I was a big fan of the original [Fright Night]. I never saw the sequel to the original until they approached me with the project. I thought it was a really cool movie. I liked the gore and I liked that it wasn’t straight horror. It was funny and they managed [the humor] very, very well, like the original Fright Night.
As to living up to expectations, I don’t worry about it too much. I just wanted to explore that world, and I just thought it was cool to see these kids again, fighting a different vampire, seeing who’s going to get out of her trap or not, seeing who survives. But I never put myself in that situation where it’s like, “How am I going to live up? Is it going to be worse? Can it be better?” To me, that’s not really what matters. If you like a story and you want to tell that story, the result may be better or worse, but to me, that’s not really important. Each Fright Night movie is unique in its own way.
DIABOLIQUE: Considering you have a horror background as a filmmaker and you’re tackling a series known for deconstructing vampire films, is there anything that conventionally happens in vampire films that you wanted to avoid, or embrace, in this film?
RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I think the sexiness of the vampire is always interesting to explore. You know, these creatures who seem to be all powerful have all of those weaknesses at the same time. They’re sexy and attractive, but why are you being drawn to the dark side of their mythology? I think that’s always been interesting and intriguing to me. I definitely wanted to explore that.
I think that all the conventions of the vampire films are always fun, like the stake in the heart and garlic. We came up with a new ability where Gerri uses sonar to see in the dark, and I thought that came out really, really cool. There are a few other things that I came up with that I think are going to be cool and, hopefully, fresh. I haven’t seen every single vampire movie, so I don’t know, but I haven’t seen it yet.
DIABOLIQUE: As a filmmaker, it must be difficult to break new ground with a vampire movie, as the mythology of the vampire has been spoof, readapted, modified and cannibalized in the name of artistic license. Was there anything you wanted to do in Fright Night 2 that hasn’t been done before in a vampire film?
RODRIGUEZ: I had a “Crocpire”! Look out for a “Crocpire” at the climax of the movie. That was actually inspired by The Discovery Channel, and I applied it to the vampire. I haven’t seen that before and it was fun to shoot.
DIABOLIQUE: Was it liberating as someone from the independent and international crowd to have a studio film experience that also gave you the creative freedom of an unrated production?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, definitely. That was a blessing. I love gory and bloody stuff. That, to me, was definitely a plus. We couldn’t do everything that we wanted to do because, unfortunately, we had a limited amount of resources and a limited amount of time, but just by not having the restrictions of someone saying, “Okay, this is going to be a PG-13 movie from the get-go,” kind of frees your imagination and you can do a lot of crazy stuff that otherwise you wouldn’t be able to. But [having no rating] was definitely a plus for me.
DIABOLIQUE: Was there anything that you wanted to do in this project that came up spontaneously or that you wanted to experiment with that wasn’t in the script?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, there were a couple of things that we came up with after I got the script. One of the main things was, actually, at the time, the sequel did not have a female vampire. When I first got the script, Gerri was still a male vampire and I said, “Well, if we’re making a new story, why not change Gerri into a female? We can keep the name and change it a little bit, but we can change him into a female vampire and explore that side of the vampire world.” Then I saw Fright Night Part II, and then it was a no-brainer.
But that was one of the things that I brought to the script, and there were a couple of set pieces that weren’t in the script that Matt Venne, the writer who was a pleasure to work with and a really cool guy, and I came up with. There’s a catacombs chase sequence that wasn’t in the original script. We came up with a few key things after I got the script that was just fun to explore.
DIABOLIQUE: I believe this is the first Fright Night film to take place in Europe on the vampires own turf, which is uncommon for many modern vampire films. Was this something you saw as a tool to do some things differently, in terms of the location and things you can explore in terms of the mythology?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, totally, and again, that was a huge plus because our budget was very small and just being there, on location in Romania, made the movie look so much better. It’s like they always had the real thing. If you need a castle, they have a castle and it looks amazing. That helped us a lot because maybe, if we shot it somewhere else, we wouldn’t have the resources to create all of the architecture and the cool stuff over there in Bucharest. So that was good, and the mythology of the vampire is so native to that country that everything was just perfect. It was the perfect setting for a vampire movie.
DIABOLIQUE: From the images released from the film, the design of the vampires seems very individually crafted. There are the fangs and dark eyes, but it seems you were definitely playing around more with the design of Fright Night 2’s vampires. Was it important to you to express your own visual interpretation of the vampire?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. I mean, you definitely want to stick to the rules because it’s such a well planned mythology that you almost don’t want leave it dry, but at the same time, I’ve always wanted to do something a little bit different. We definitely tried to create something new, and at the end, one character becomes this newfangled vampire creature. We had this amazing make-up artist, Todd Tucker, and he really came up with a really, really cool design. He came up with some really different, threatening and visceral, so he helped us out tremendously. I think we split up that responsibility very nicely.
DIABOLIQUE: For Fright Night 2, you’re mostly working with a cast of young, up-and-coming actors as well as the genre-friendly Jamie Murray. Did that element compliment your directing style, as they don’t really bring an ego to the set and may be more collaborative?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. I think that’s always a matter of attitude. I’ve worked with some big names, and sometimes they’re really, really collaborative while there have been times I worked with people who were just starting and they had a crazy attitude that I just didn’t understand. But I think that’s a matter of personality and the attitude that you bring to set.
I have to say that with my actors, Will [Payne], Sacha [Parkinson], Chris [Waller] and Sean Power were all amazing, super cool and game for anything. They were really talented guys and I had a pleasure of working with all of them. Jamie, of course, brought all of the experience she had and she really knew what she wanted to do with Gerri, her character. As you said, it definitely helps my work and then it makes it easier when you let the actors do their thing. Maybe I’ll give them a suggestion here or there, but if they come prepared, did their homework and knew what they wanted to with their characters, it makes your life a lot easier on set, especially when you don’t have a lot of time on set.
DIABOLIQUE: To date, the Fright Night films have all had a self-reflexive and meta element to the character and the humor, as Charlie, Peter Vincent and “Evil” Ed are aware of vampire films. Was that self-reflexive aspect of the characters a benefit as to twisting the expectations of the audience?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, and that’s what makes Fright Night 2 different. That’s one of the cool things about making this version of Fright Night. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but that element made me think, “What if the Fright Night story always has the same character and they always have to fight these vampires?” I do have the experts on the vampires in Peter Vincent and “Evil” Ed, who basically know all of the mythology of the vampire. Ed is the one of them that is a huge fan and knows all the little details of the vampire world and Peter is the one who does it for the money. I think they compliment each other really well and that definitely helps us.
First of all, it helps story-wise because then you can say all the information to a viewer who is not as familiar with the vampire world as others. It helps because then you can give all that information in a very natural, funny way. So having these characters as a part of the way to define that world definitely helps the story.
DIABOLIQUE: Now that Fright Night 2 is here for the world to see, what’s next in your trajectory? Do you currently have anything in development? If this film is successful, would you care to return for another Fright Night?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I would love to! As I said, I had a lot of fun in Romania. Everybody was really cool and the actors were super nice, so I’d love to come back and revisit it if the opportunity comes at some point. Aside from that, there is a TV show that I’m developing, and there’s a script for a small movie that I’m trying to get the financing together for so I can hopefully shoot that soon. But I’m going to stay in the horror world, which I love.
Fright Night 2: New Blood is now available on DVD/Blu-ray and VOD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. You can find it at Amazon, iTunes and other major retail outlets. For more from Eduardo Rodriguez, Fright Night and 20th Century Fox, check back here at DiaboliqueMagazine.com.