Diehard fans of the 1985 Fright Night are likely wondering what they've done to deserve yet another Hollywood reboot. But the new Colin Farrell-ed Fright Night isn't the real enemy here. The worst Fright Night retread is the 1989 sequel, Fright Night II, which pits original heroes Charley (William Ragsdale) and Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) against vampire Jerry's sexy sister Regine (Julie Carmen). Unlike the original film, Fright Night II is out of print-and there's a reason.
The sequel is basically a boring remake of the first film, with some added twists that only serve to muck up its internal mythology. As in Fright Night, Charley is forced to confront the existence of vampires, convince the people around him that they're real, and not scare his hot girlfriend away. In order to drag things out, Fright Night II takes place after Charley's been in therapy for three years. He now no longer believes in vampires, which is a convenient way to force more conflict into the plot. After everything he saw when he battled Jerry, how would anyone be able to make Charley believe it was all in his head?
Even more frustrating is the role Peter Vincent plays. When Fright Night II begins, he's still very much a believer. But as soon as Charley visits him with fears of a new vampire in town, Peter completely blows him off. There can't possibly be another vampire, he explains, because these things don't happen twice. That is some backwards logic, Mr. Vincent. More to the point, it stunts the plot: we spend way too much of Fright Night II asking the question of whether vampires of real. Yes, of course they're real. We saw them in the first Fright Night. How is this even an issue?
All that aside, Fright Night II is weirdly sincere. It's not a straight horror film, but it's not funny either. What happened to the sense of whimsy that made its predecessor so entertaining? The only scene that comes close to the original Fright Night is when the gang of vampires take over a bowling alley. Using a severed head as a bowling ball is always hilarious in my book. The rest of the movie is lots of seductive dancing, because vampire Regine is a performance artist or whatever. I guess I can see her appeal, but when she's saying crap like, "Do you know how to use your lips, Charley?" it's hard to imagine anyone falling for it.
Part of the humor problem is that Fright Night II lacks the original's most entertaining character, Evil Ed, who does in fact survive the events of Fright Night. Apparently Stephen Geoffreys turned down a part in the sequel, perhaps because he was too busy starring in gay porn. (I can't verify this, but yes, Evil Ed went on to have a career doing gay porn.) Without the goofy vampire, we're left with Regine and her sidekicks, who are mostly silly in the wrong ways. I think they're supposed to be scary, but they're pretty much too absurd to be taken seriously.
And let's talk about the messed-up mythology I mentioned earlier. Fright Night wasn't exactly reliant on traditional vampire lore, but at least it was consistent. Fright Night II is nonsense. Vampire Louie gets really hairy when he vamps out-he's basically a werewolf, except for the blood-sucking thing. And vampire Bozworth (now there's a name!) dies from a deep scratch to the stomach. Seriously. He eats bugs throughout the movie, gets sliced, and withers away as all the insects spill out. Icky, yes, but how is that a legitimate way to kill a vampire? I should note that Louie is seriously injured when Charley's girlfriend Alex shoves a bouquet of roses into his mouth, which is an actual weapon against vampires but is still stupid.
Aside from the bowling scene and a few neat gross-out moments, Fright Night II is a weak follow-up to a unique cult classic. It is, however, nice to see the underappreciated Brian Thompson as Bozworth. He played Luke, one of Buffy's first vampires, as well as the blue-skinned Judge in Season 2. He was also on The X-Files, Birds of Prey, Charmed, and several Star Treks, if you need more cred. Oh, and Charley's shrink is played by Ernie Sabella. You know, the voice of Pumba.