Lost and Found: Fright Night Part 2

For a stretch in the 1980s you couldn’t visit the multiplex without tripping over vampires in the lobby. The Lost Boys, Near Dark, and The Hunger are among the classics of the era. Tom Holland’s Fright Night (1985) ranks near the top of that crowded field. A near-perfect horror comedy—a genre-blend that was perfected in the eighties—Fright Night balances its humor with some truly effective and bone-chilling scares.

With Fright Night being a hit, Columbia Pictures’ enthusiasm for a sequel was high, until a shakeup in leadership led to them dumping the project. Landing at the much smaller New Century Vista Film Company, Fright Night Part 2 eventually got made and came out four years after the first film. After a rumored international opening in 1988, the film had a very brief theatrical run stateside in the spring of 1989. A few months later, in August of ‘89—and this is where the film’s bad luck turns tragic—head of New Century Vista Jose Menendez and his wife were shot to death by their two sons. You may have heard of them: Erik and Lyle Menendez.

Immediately after the murders made global headlines, New Century Vista fell into chaos and Fright Night Part 2 became a casualty, tied up in rights issues that would make it hard to find on home video for decades. There was an initial VHS that dropped without fanfare, followed by an eventual DVD that quickly went out of print. It seems the few people who’ve actually seen the movie love it passionately (including me), while a depressingly large number don’t even know it exists.

The brilliant Roddy McDowell returns as famed vampire hunter Peter Vincent. A legendary actor bringing to life a legendary character is bound to be memorable, and McDowell steals every scene he’s in. This was a particularly fruitful time in McDowell’s career, where he left indelible marks in genre films like this (Class of 1984 is also peak genre-era Roddy). William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster is also back and, just like in the first film, he’s the often clueless and annoying hero we still can’t help but root for. He’s Everyteen USA, eighties edition.

One of the unfortunate results of Fright Night Part 2 being criminally overlooked is that Julie Carmen doesn’t get the credit she deserves for her excellent turn as the vampire Regine Dandrige—the brother of the first film’s head vamp Jerry Dandrige, memorably played by Chris Sarandon. The eighties were stacked with memorable movie bloodsuckers, and Regine deserves a seat at that table. Carmen possesses the same hypnotic quality as the vampire she’s playing: one look into her eyes and you’re under her sway. In short, she’s exquisitely seductive, as the very best vampires should be. She deserves her own post in the “Bad Girls We Love” series, plus inclusion in an as-yet-unwritten sequel to “They Want to Suck Your Blood” from last October.

Brad Fiedel’s score is eerie, suiting the movie’s off-kilter tone perfectly. The film looks fabulous, retaining that very specific eerie eighties horror look of the first film. Movies never quite looked like they did during that period again, and I miss it. Director Tommy Lee Wallace helmed another under-appreciated sequel, Halloween III: Seaon of the Witch (1982), along with the TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It (1990). Over the years both have grown exponentially in cult stature, and Fright Night Part 2 is more than deserving of the same fate.

With the DVD long OOP and the region-coded Spanish Blu-ray not an option for many people, at least there’s a good-looking transfer of the entire film on YouTube. That’s where I’ve revisited it a few times over the years, while I wait impatiently for this lost classic to finally have its day in the sun on region-free Blu-ray. Or, this being a vampire film, maybe I should say, “have its night in the moon” instead?

Fright Night Part 2 is currently streaming on YouTube

One thought on “Lost and Found: Fright Night Part 2

  1. I guess I’m part of a small percentage of people who’s seen this sequel. I pride myself on tracking down hard to find movies, so I knew I needed to find it when I reviewed the Fright Night franchise back in 2018. Can’t say that I felt the same way about it, but I guess I just liked the original too much.

    Liked by 1 person

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