ReelReviews #19: Fright Night 2 (2013)

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APRIL 28, 2014 SCREENING: FRIGHT NIGHT 2 (2013)

 

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: Fright Night “2” is not a sequel to 2011’s Fright Night. It’s not even a remake of the original Fright Night II from 1988. Despite the title, it’s actually yet another remake of the original 1985 film. You can think of Fright Night (2011) and Fright Night 2 (2013) as different ways of retelling the original 1985 movie in modern times. It’s almost as if someone in Hollywood had a contest and told two different film crews to watch the 80s film and come up with their own separate ways to keep the basic storyline intact but radically alter the material for a fresh, modern take on the story. Going into the film with this in mind, you can view the 2013 film objectively.

For a low budget, direct-to-video movie with a bunch of unknown actors, I thought the results were pretty damn impressive. That’s not to say this movie doesn’t have flaws or that its any kind of award winning film, but it is very creative and entertaining. However, it starts off strong and ultimately finishes pretty weakly. Interestingly enough, it shares the common trait that is predecessor had of re-inventing the original Fright Night story so much that you won’t know will happen next, even if you’ve seen the 1985 movie a dozen times. The basic characters are there and it takes you from point A to point B, but does so in a completely different way. Even more interesting, it tends to make the opposite choices that the 2011 remake did. For example, the 2011 movie decided to change the villain, a vampire named Jerry Dandringe, from merely a suave SOB to a bloodthirsty psychopath who still maintained an aura of a nice guy on the surface. Here, the vampire is “Gerri Dandridge”, a sophisticated female college professor, and it turns out she’s really the famous historical figure Elizabeth Báthory. The latter was a real life figure who used to bathe in the blood of her victims and claimed it maintained her eternal youth.

The Bathory twist had me very intrigued but it seemingly re-invented Fright Night from the ground up. In other ways, its much more faithful to the 1985 movie than the 2011 remake. The famous late night TV horror show host who has the persona of a real life “vampire hunter” but is just an actor was memorably played by Roddy McDowell in the 1985 movie. The 2011 remake radically changed this to a Las Vegas stuntman played by David Tennant of the Doctor Who fame. The 2013 movie goes back to Fright Night’s roots and once again the vampire hunter is a late night TV star – although this time he’s cleverly changed to a reality TV host to make it more relevant for modern times. Sadly, while the character is a major player in both the 1985 and 2011 movies, he’s reduced to a much smaller supporting role here. Another change that was more faithful is that the main character’s sidekick is much closer to the 1985 version, so much so that many of us watching the movie expected him to say one of the famous lines from the original like “You’re so cool, Brewster!” or “Dinner’s in the oven!”

Unfortunately the film de-evolves to standard vampire fare towards the end of the movie, but the journey it takes us along the way makes it worth while. In terms of the cinematic legacy of vampire films, I doubt this movie will make a blip on the radar. But as an obscure, cheaply made, direct-to-video remake that is falsely advertising itself as a sequel to a remake, it’s a pleasant surprise. I think it’s worth a watch.
** ½ out of ****

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