Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fright Night 2 (2013)

Not to be confused with that other Fright Night 2.

I don't even want to know why the sequel to the Fright Night remake of 2011 is another reboot, and file it under "Things Man wasn't meant to know" like grandpa HPL taught me. Particularly, I see no reason to whine about it in a film I found much more entertaining than the remake it remakes without the boring US suburbia stuff that is so overplayed in horror.

Anyhow, I think we can leave out the usual synopsis and just say that Charley Brewster (Will Payne) again sees a vampire, nobody believes him, and the lamest incarnation of TV host Peter Vincent (Sean Power, whoever he is) comes to his help or not. Just this time around, the movie takes place in Romania where our teenage heroes are taking some kind of guest study course, and the vampire is Countess Bathory herself (Jaime Murray), moonlighting (tee-hee) as an art professor.

While this is all highly derivative of the other Fright Nights and every vampire movie ever, director Eduardo Rodriguez uses the possibilities of producing a direct-to-video movie with what I assume to be quite a budget for this sort of thing, at least comparatively, with aplomb, and stylistically very much in the spirit of European horror of the 70s.

Until now, all of Rodriguez's films I've seen were visually very bland, shot in the yellow, desaturated colours I've grown to loathe over the years, so it comes as a bit of surprise to not just find the director use colours in the classic, mood-enhancing ways we all know and love from European gothic horror but to use them very well, clearly aiming for the dream-like end of the horror spectrum where camera angles become as strange as the plot, and where an atmosphere of weirdness and the bizarre is much more important than coherence or logic. It's really the only direction to go with a script as plain silly as Matt Venne's (this is a compliment, obviously) whose finale surprisingly doesn't go for a huge plot twist and has the feel of something made up as the film went along. It's overcomplicated, it's strange, and it's rather a lovely thing in a film world full of movies constructed so tightly to after formula it's impossible not to know everything that will happen in them, and how it will happen, after one has seen their first acts.

There's a bit more sleaze and gore than I would have expected, too, both used effectively and enthusiastically. Direct humour does take a bit of a back seat compared to the other films in what I now have to call a "franchise"; in fact, the three actual horror comedy scenes stick out as if they belonged in a different movie. Add to that how much this Peter Vincent version lacks in personality, and that he might as well just not be in the film for all the importance he has, and it's difficult to shake the feeling that the script wasn't always a Fright Night script.

On the acting side, the film's a bit of a mixed bag, with Power as boring as his character, Chris Waller and Sacha Parkinson bad in a fun to watch way, or rather bad in different fun to watch ways as a comparison of their respective vampire scenes will show, Will Payne appropriately hysterical, and Jaime Murray doing a bang up job of overacting in a fun and conscious way and looking weird yet attractive.

I'm sure a lot of people will loathe Fright Night 2 as just another film that isn't the original Fright Nights, but I'm rather glad it isn't. If I wanted to see those, I'd just pop in their DVDs and watch them. Instead, Rodriguez delivers a film that might be a bit of a mess, but a mess in all the right, interesting, and strange ways, the sort of film that stands as a reminder that you can take the prospect of something as dispiriting as a remake of a remake, and end up with a fun, imaginative film. Plus, it's also a film that has a lot to teach regarding the dangers of overcomplicated occult rituals, and the existence of vampire sonar. What more could I ask of a direct-to-DVD movie?

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