The direct to DVD sequel conundrum is something that’s stuck in my craw for some time now and I guess now is as good as time as any to get things off my chest.
I hate them. I truly, truly hate them with every fibre of my being… Now, to clarify, I’m referring to sequels of theatrical releases that made enough money to warrant continued interest, but not enough to go all out on another big, budget extravaganza. This gave us frustratingly lukewarm continuations of such noticable genre pics such as From Dusk Till Dawn, Starship Troopers and Darkman that compare as favourably to their originals as a night on Broadway would to watching an unrehearsed school play version of the director’s cut of Heaven’s Gate.
It was a huge practice in the 90’s, shit, even Disney was banging out sequels that felt suspiciously like knock offs, but aside from the odd Tremors sequel, it’s a practice that thankfully doesn’t happen that much any more – however, every now and then a baffling nugget slips out and this brings to the bewildering release of Fright Night 2: New Blood; the sort of sequel-but-not-really reboot that flapped in undercover of night despite no one even remotely wanting it…
Charley Brewster, his best friend “Evil” Ed and Charley’s painfully recent ex, Amy, have all arrived in Romania on a school art trip; but things immediately go downhill when Charlie spots two women engaged in a romantic entanglement only for one to sprout fangs and feed off the other. As bad as this may be, things take another sizable shift toward destination: fucked when Charley finds out that this vampire woman is actually Gerri Dandridge (Hustle and Spartacus’ Jaime Murray) his art teacher for the entire holiday who is fully aware that he’s seen her engaging in her toothy antics.
Diving headfirst into playing along with as many “boy who cried wolf” shenanigans as he can, Charley gets even more of an eyeful after breaking into Gerri’s apartment, hiding in her coffin (!?) and witnessing her bleeding a local woman dry and bathing in her blood to restore her youth. It’s around this point that Charley and Ed figure that enough is enough and try to enlist help in the form of Peter Vincent, a washed out TV personality who hosts his own monster catching reality show (think Ghost Hunters but way shitter) who is regularly found in one of the many strip joints in the area. Agreeing to work for the fee of a paid lap dance (classy dude, that Vincent), matters go seriously awry when Gerri attacks Charley, Ed, Peter and Amy on the subway and the vampire discovers that Charley’s ex has the special kind of blood needed to cure her of the crapper parts of her bloodsucking curse (ie. she’ll be able to go to the Seychelles and get a tan this summer that won’t make her exfoliate into a puddle of goo). Kidnapping Amy, turning Ed (therefore damning him to an existence of trying to talk through fangs twice as big as his mouth) and scaring off a Peter who’s never actually seen a real monster in his life, it’s down to Charley gather together a modest armoury of vampire fighting tools and head to a local castle to face off with this vampire vixen and thwart her diabolical plan…
So, for anyone remotely familiar with Tom Holland’s 1985 original or the 2011 remake, the above synopsis might have caused some confusion as you might have recognized some familiar character names pop up… well, in a attempt to confuse things even more, despite carrying the title Fright Night 2, this movie actually has the audacity to style itself as a something called a “homage sequel“, a term that instantly make me want to rage-vomit, shit flecked, hate-blood directly out of all of my eye sockets first least 20 unbroken minutes straight. This means the plot and characters are technically similar (ie. pretty much ripped off) but instead of an American suburb we get a brand new – and noticeably cheaper – location in a murkily shot Romania that managed to wildly miss the point of every other Fright Night movie ever made. The whole reasoning behind the orginal was to bring a mythical being such as a vampire out of the realm of creaking castles and dusty crypts and make it nice and at home in a neighbourhood uncomfortably familiar, this version of events tries to get as much gothic imagery on screen as it’s permit to shoot will allow.
The weird thing is, as with any tacked on spiritual sequel or tacked on follow up, is that if the producers actually dropped all references to Fright Night the film wouldn’t be all that bad… I mean, it still wouldn’t be good, but at least it wouldn’t feel like such a random and unnecessary slap in the face of fans of the original or even the Colin Farrell remake. The proof of this is found in random little story details that hint that the filmmakers had a few good ideas that were smarter than just naming their gender-swapped villain from Jerry to Gerri; the first of this is the tying of Dandridge directly into the legend of 15th century, blood bathing fanatic, Elizabeth Bathory – which, again, is a cool idea but directly flies in the face of what Fright Night is supposed to be – and the other is the suprisingly orginal use of vampires using the bat-like ability of echolocation to track down their fleeing prey. However, thus ends up being realised by filming the screen with so much strobe lighting and screeching audio that you’d be convinced that the film was launching a brutal passive aggressive attack on any poor soul with photo sensitive epilepsy – points for effort though… Despite these sweetly innovative things, however, the film ends up biting itself in the foot by also being fairly inconsistent with Gerri’s abilities too – she’s tough enough for a speeding car to bounce off of her like she’s the Hulk but you can stick a crucifix directly into her eye as easy as posting a letter?
While director Eduardo Rodriguez should be credited for making proceedings seem slicker than they probably were (there’s some legitimately cool sets and even a final act monster suit), the horror isn’t scary, the humour isn’t funny and the characters are as empty as the veins of one of Gerri’s victims.
If the orginal Fright Night was a bat, majestically swooping through the night sky, Fright Night 2: New Blood, with it’s dependence on an already established name, recalls that other creature that latches onto other things and drain them dry for all they can… leeches.