Charlie Brewster lands in Romania along with fellow students “Evil” Ed, his best friend, and Amy, his one-time girlfriend. Charlie soon suspects that his teacher, Gerri Dandrige, is a vampire.
Tom Holland’s Fright Night (1985) is a fan favorite from the 80’s. It was also remade in 2011. Fright Night 2: New Blood is the follow up to that film. Wrong. Instead it is another retelling of the original story bringing Charlie Brewster, Evil Ed and Amy back yet again to the forefront along with Peter Vincent and Jerry Dandrige. But, wait: this time, it is Gerri Dandrige, a female version of the vampire and Peter Vincent is a ghost hunter this go around. In addition, the location is moved overseas to Romania. It is as confusing as it sounds when combined with the baggage from previous versions of the story. The crime: the story itself is actually interesting and is great fodder for a terrific horror film, but suffers with all the baggage brought to it by associating it with the Fright Night franchise.
Fright Night 2 begins with Charlie (Will Payne) Brewster, “Evil” Ed (Chris Waller) Bates and Amy (Sacha Parkinson) Peterson arriving to their foreign exchange school classes. Amy and Charlie are having trouble with their relationship and Evil Ed is trying to convince Charlie to join him on tours of local haunted locations including the castle of Vlad Dracula. But Ed’s plans are postponed when they are introduced to their teacher, the attractive Gerri Dandridge (Jaime Murray). Soon they discover that Gerri is actually a vampire preying on the American students who wander too far off. Ed convinces Charlie to enlist the help of Peter (Sean Power) Vincent, the host of an international paranormal investigator TV show in defeating the supernatural threat.
Will Payne steps in for William Ragsdale (1985) and Anton Yelchin (2011) as Charlie Brewster bringing a strange combination of William Ragsdale and Crispin Glover to the role, heavy on the young Clover. It’s a bit bizarre and oddly fitting. Payne does a great job dealing with the conflict of knowing Gerri is a vampire against the authorities and his best friends not believing him, until its too late. He also gets the opportunity to don some fangs and blood. Good times. Sacha Parkinson is rather fetching as Amy, Charlie’s girlfriends. She, unfortunately, does not rise to the level of Amanda Bearse or Imogen Poots. She never gets that impressive scene, either when being seduced by the vampire or turning into the vampire that faces Charlie. Chris Waller tries his best to give his own unique interpretation of “Evil” Ed and it succeeds in many ways. Again, much like Parkinson, is suffers by comparison to the original and he also never gets the opportunity to make that last impression as a victim of Gerri’s allure. And, we never get that “You’re so cool, Brewster” signature line.
Peter Vincent is one the Eighties greatest non-monster creations, the reluctant, unassuming hero that bumbles his way to victory. No one can replace Roddy McDowell as the horror host. But, the idea that Peter Vincent as the host of a ghost hunting TV reality series is a bit more interesting than the Las Vegas magician version from the 2011 remake, even if David Tennant was fantastic in the role. Sean Power steps in to tackle Peter Vincent in Fright Night 2: New Blood. Again, the baggage of those that traveled before him hinder Power in making a lasting impression, but he fares better than the others. His nonchalant, sarcastic attitude would have benefited the film had he had a larger role. As a reality TV host, he is a terrific addition to the story even if the line “Welcome to Fright Night, for real, bitch” is a real groaner.
The best thing about Fright Night 2: New Blood is the addition of Jaime Murray as Gerri Dandrige. She is magnificent as the female vampire antagonist. She is beautiful, frightening and imposing. She is what a “Jerry Dandrige” needs to be in a Fright Night film. She far exceeds most everything else in the film and is, in many ways, worth watching this film for alone. She make an impressive Countess Dracula character. The one thing she lacks is a great supporting cast of creatures of the night. Colin Farrell owned his version of Jerry in 2011 with a basement full of vampires at his disposal. Chris Sarandon was equally impressive in 1985 with his “Renfield,” Jonathan Stark as Cole. Jaime Murray is left to carry the “horror” all on her own; she is supported by a terrific back-story where she is not a lineage of “Dandrige” but rather linked to Vlad Dracula and Elisabeth Bathory. It’s a fascinating set up that could have used far more integration into the film. Jaime Murray makes the most of it with class and style.
Eduardo Rodriguez is the director of Fright Night 2: New Blood brings an attention to detail and composition that far exceeds the direct to video release the film is receiving. Rodriquez’s film looks fantastic. He handles the Gothic, historic feel of Romania with a keen eye giving the film a menacing ambiance that elevates the script. His direction allows the film to jump ahead of the negative aspects of the baggage the script brings by forcing it into the Fright Night world. His handling of the reality TV show spots are tight and effective. The angles he chooses to frame Gerri Dandrige accentuate the character’s striking presence needed for creating the threat brought into Charlie’s life. The final confrontation between Gerri and Charlie, Amy and Vincent is also handled very well with terrific staging and confidence.
Fright Night 2: New Blood fails because of its title, the characters and the forced nature of the script being shoved into the Fright Night franchise. It is frustrating, aggravating and destructive. Why? Because the story itself, removed from the weight of this association, is actually very promising. Regrettably, it is nearly impossible to not bring the baggage of the previous films into this random sequel. It is jarring…and a curious mistake. Ironically, if this were proposed in another medium, say television or a web series, it most likely could be moderately successful, far more interesting than a film. But as a film where it’s title so emphatically implies a sequel to a remake, the damage is irrefutable. It does not help that much of the acting is not up to snuff by comparison and the Fright Night references are stale and old. It is a good thing that actress Jaime Murray takes everything as serious as she does, providing the film with a terrific Gerri Dandrige and a seductive, imposing vampire. Director Eduardo Rodriguez tackles the script with a promising style and eye for composition that rises above the material. The script by Matt Venne contains a lot of great ideas when they do not directly involve the Fright Night franchise. His use of Romania, Vlad Dracula and Elisabeth Bathory are incredibly interesting ideas that get buried under the weight of Charlie Brewster, Evil Ed and Peter Vincent. Again, it is frustrating – the whole affair is infuriating and ultimately unsatisfying, like an ice-cold burger purchased from a fast food restaurant. Bleh.
2 out of 5
Fright Night 2: New Blood (2013)