Fright Night (1985) is one of my favorite movies of all time. It has everything I love about the 80's: the music; the flashy lighting; optical special effects; latex monsters. With a good script and tight direction by writer/director Tom Holland, Fright Night has stood the test of time and proved to be a minor masterpiece wrapped in the guise of a lover letter to Gothic horror movies.
Following such a commercial and artistic success was never going to be easy, but with Fright Night Part 2 (1988) co-writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace and co. sure gave it their best shot.
William Ragsdale is back as Charlie Brewster, and so is the ever charming Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, the "fearless" vampire killer, and their performances are as good and lively as they were in the original Fright Night.
The problem with Fright Night 2 mainly lie with its script and budget. Reportedly produced on an even smaller budget than its predecessor, the sequel suffers from a script that is functional enough, even occasionally inventive, but one which lacks the punch and effective characterization of the original. Add to that the feeling that the film is somehow smaller in scope than the original, with slightly less action - probably because of the reduced budget - and you have a sequel at a disadvantage.
But that's not the whole story, as Fright Night 2, despite its faults, is a tremendously entertaining and stylish horror film, with gorgeous cinematography by Mark Irwin, and tight, kinetic direction by Tommy Lee Wallace. The pacing is a bit problematic, and the humor-horror mix doesn't work as well as it did in the original. But Ragsdale, and especially McDowall, are in top form, giving the movie an energy and liveliness that lift it above its faults.
The special effects are uneven, with fantastic matte paintings but less than stellar optical effects, while the make-up effects are mostly inventive and impressive. But, to me, the film's main power lies in its hypnotic atmosphere, bolstered by a terrific, ageless score by Brad Fiedel. Simply put, this is one of those movies that you just don't want to end. It's that entertaining. And the climax, though a little rushed, is more than satisfying.
All in all, Fright Night 2 is a horror sequel that works on many levels, even if it stumbles on a few, and is one of the most memorable horror sequels to come out of the 80's.
Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.