Blu-ray Review: Fright Night 2: New Blood

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I absolutely loved the 2011 remake of the 1985 minor classic Fright Night. For my money, Craig Gillespie’s respectfully reimagined update of the Tom Holland original was a textbook example of how to do everything right with a remake. Anton Yelchin (Chekov in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot) made a perfect Charley Brewster, Colin Farrell was darkly seductive as the vampire-next-door Jerry Dandrige, Christopher Mintz-Plasse captured the rage of Charley’s jilted former best friend “Evil” Ed, and—above all—David Tennant stole the show as Peter Vincent (reborn as a Vegas magician). It was scary, funny, and inventive; a remake that stands proudly alongside the original.

For whatever reasons, it tanked at the box office (despite largely positive reviews) but must’ve done well enough on home video to justify the new Fright Night 2: New Blood, now on Blu-ray. Fans of the 2011 film are sure to be disappointed (I know I was) to find that none of the original cast has returned. In fact, New Blood is really just another remake/reboot of the 1985 original. Unfortunately, it’s the junky sort of remake I initially feared the 2011 version would be.

The main characters are the basically the same in name only, with no reference made to the prior film. Charley (Will Payne) is dating Amy (Sacha Parkinson), though their relationship is on rocky ground due to some ill-defined indiscretion on Charley’s part. Ed (Chris Waller) is back as Charley’s vampire-obsessed best friend. They’re all in Romania as part of a student exchange program. Their professor, Gerri Dandrige (Jaime Murray), is quickly revealed to be a vampire (possibly real-life 16th century serial killer Elizabeth Báthory). There’s a sparsely-animated sequence that tells Báthory’s backstory. The idea might’ve been pinched from O-Ren’s origin in Kill Bill Volume 1, but it’s kind of cool nonetheless.

Fright Night 2 trio (380x214).jpgAnyone who has seen the first Fright Night (and if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch it before going near this) will not find any surprises in the way the plot unfolds. The main change is the Jerry/Gerri gender inversion. Once Charley convinces Ed that Gerri is, in fact, a creature of the night, they seek the help of Peter Vincent (Sean Power) to combat the blood-thirsty professor. Hewing more closely to the 1985 original, Peter is once again a TV host (of a Ghost Hunters-style reality series).

The results aren’t unwatchable, just terribly unimaginative. Director Eduardo Rodriguez stages a few decently suspenseful scenes, particularly a chase sequence in the tunnels below a subway system. The performances are uniformly bland, but at least the requisite T&A and gore provide a measure of visual distraction. But there’s just no escaping that this is a remake of a remake. If you’re going to do an in-name-only sequel, why not start with fresh characters altogether? Maybe that approach would’ve sparked some extra creativity.

For a low-budget, direct-to-video release, Fox’s 1080p transfer is totally adequate. This is a dark movie by design, and as a result there isn’t a ton of visual detail amongst the shadows. Yaron Levy’s cinematography looks fine, if generally unremarkable. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is similar in that it won’t leave anyone jumping for joy, but it does utilize the rear channels for some effectively directional effects.

The Blu-ray offers an “unrated” cut, while the R-rated version is on the included standard DVD. While I didn’t compare the two, the case lists the “unrated” at 100 minutes and the R-rated at 99. Special features include a commentary with director Eduardo Rodriguez and producers Alison Rosenzweig & Michael Gaeta. “Fright Night Webisodes” are basically fuller versions of the snippets we see in the film of Peter Vincent’s reality show. “Dracula Revealed” is a six-minute EPK featurette. Digital and UltraViolet copies are also part of this combo pack.
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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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