Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Schlockbusted #9: "Fright Night 2: The New Blood" Review

I suppose this was bound to happen sooner or later. The dueling impulses of horror movies to generate endless sequels and invite modern remakes of classic films was a recipe for the kind of confusion brought about by a movie like Fright Night 2: The New Blood. Is it a sequel to the recent remake of Fright Night, or a remake of the original Fright Night 2, or both? Its billed as a sequel to the remake, but features a female villainess clearly evocative of the antagonist of the original Fright Night 2, and otherwise the plot is a reboot of the original Fright Night with no narrative connection to the previous remake. I'm at a loss for how to classify this movie, and even more bewildered by the fact that despite being a chintzy straight to DVD knockoff of one of my favorite 80's franchises, its one of the better vampire movies to come along in a long time.

If you've ever seen any of the Fright Night movies you know the formula, a teenage boy teams up with a charlatan supernatural expert to combat a vampire no one else believes is real. This time around its still Charlie, Evil Ed, and the girl whose name you don't need to remember studying abroad only to find out that their new History professor is secretly the vampire queen Countess Bathory, in this universe the inspiration for the vampiric side of Bram Stoker's Dracula. From the opening scene, a clever twist on the mirror bit viewed through a security camera, the style is a cut above your typical cash in low budget trash, and you really get the sense that the people behind this movie cared just a little bit more than usual about making the best movie they could with the budgetary limitations they had to work with. Its just enough to make the supernatural elements mysterious and fun to watch without being showy or overwhelming.

As a fan of vampire movies who has been living in a post-Twilight hell of shiny emo teenagers and creatures of the night who can inexplicably walk in sunlight, its so gratifying to finally see someone interested in doing the cinematic vampire justice. There are no modern tweaks to the mythos of vampirism, save perhaps for the welcome addition of bat sonar, and all the classic tropes are included and done right, which doesn't seem like all that impressive a feat unless you've seen it done so wrong as many times as I have. The temptation to pervert the traditional vampire into something other than it is, often draining it of all of its monstrous potential, is a common contrivance that typically starts with the desire to make them more human, and Fright Night 2 follows its predecessors' understanding that a vampire should be anything but. The Countess is an urban predator, a cruel, super-powered killing machine, and that is as it should be.

I can't praise Jaime Murray's performance enough in this movie. If you don't recognize the name, you might remember her as the pyromaniac from season two of Dexter, H.G. Wells on Warehouse 13, or the creepy white skinned alien queen on Defiance. She embraces the seductive savagery of this character with such gusto that she elevates what could have easily been some cheesy material in the hands of a less capable actress. About halfway through the movie, the action begins to heat up and basically never stops until the end, and Murray goes from sultry assassin to full on Terminator in one of the best extended sequences in an action horror movie in recent memory. It all culminates in a climactic fight in a giant ceremonial pool of blood where basically everybody becomes a vampire and the rules start to get a bit muddled, but by that point, you're either with it or you're not, and there was more than enough for me to forgive some of the last minute plot holes and narrative lapses.

Its not perfect, and die hard fans of the original might do themselves a disservice by holding it too strictly to the standards of the movie they love, but just on its own, and especially in the context of modern vampire movies, Fright Night 2: The New Blood is easily one of the best I've seen in a while. Admittedly the rest of the "good modern vampire movies" list is pretty anemic, but just seeing someone trying this hard and having this much respect for the subgenre is enough for this fan. The few novel twists on the formula, like making Peter Vincent the host of a Ghost Hunter style reality show or recreating the opening nude scene from the first movie with the always better inclusion of lesbianism were fun, and while a lot of it is a retread of what we've seen before, its certainly much better than the last time they tried it with a much bigger budget. Its on DVD and VOD as of now, and while I didn't expect to do so before I watched it, I highly recommend it.

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