Friday, October 4, 2013

Fright Night 2: New Blood (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

After enrolling in a student exchange program, Charley Brewster (Will Payne), “Evil” Ed Bates (Chris Waller), and  Charley’s ex-girlfriend, Amy Peterson (Sacha Parkinson) travel to Romania to study European art. Charley is still fighting for a second chance with Amy after he was caught kissing another girl, but Amy refuses to accept Charley’s gifts (a box of chocolates, roses, etc.). As a die hard fanatic for all things horror, Ed is salivating at the thought of meeting his idol, Peter Vincent (Sean Power), the famed host of Fright Night, a paranormal reality show, and Peter is recording the latest episode in Romania.

One night, Charley witnesses a woman biting another woman in the neck through his hotel window. The very next day, Charley comes face to face with the same woman. Gerri Dandridge (Jaime Murray) is Charley’s professor for the European Arts class, but no one believes Charley, when he tries to warn everyone about Gerri’s secret life as a vampire. Determined to prove everyone wrong, Charley investigates Gerri’s apartment for more clues.

At Gerri‘s apartment, Charley witnesses the ritual sacrifice of an unsuspecting victim, and Charley spots a Renaissance style painting with a woman, who resembles Gerri. Ed’s research confirms Gerri is the woman in the painting, and her real name is Elisabeth Bathory. As a countess, Bathory was turned into a vampire by a monstrous creature, and as “The Blood Queen,” Bathory went on a murderous rampage for centuries, until she decided to settle into a more inconspicuous lifestyle to avoid any unwanted attention.

Charley and Ed try to recruit Peter Vincent for help, but Gerri attacks the trio of Charley, Amy, and Ed on a subway train one night, after Peter runs away. Gerri is able to attack and turn Ed, and Gerri eventually captures Amy. Unable to convince a petrified Peter, Charley attempts a rescue mission for Amy alone.

Armed with a wooden stake, garlic, and holy water, Charley prepares for a one on one showdown with Gerri, but  the rescue mission takes a bizarre turn, when Charley discovers the truth behind Amy’s kidnapping: in order to receive the gift of immunity from sunlight, Gerri must turn a virgin (Amy), who was born at midnight during the Blood Moon……and this virgin turned vampire must murder her true first love (in this case it’s Charley) to complete the ritual. Will a vampiric Amy murder Charley to help Gerri achieve her dream of becoming a Day Walker?

Will Payne is no William Ragsdale. Hell, I think Anton Yelchin did a better job with the Charley Brewster character in the 2011 remake. Despite a strong effort, Payne is on the bottom of the Charley Brewster totem pole in the Fright Night series for quality performances. Unlike Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who almost ruined the fucking character in the remake), I thought Chris Waller did a nice job of mimicking Stephen Geoffreys’ Evil Ed. Ed is supposed to be a whacky and eccentric horror buff, who’s kind of a dick at times, and Waller really embodied this persona. Although, the dialogue for his character was just awful (more on that later). Oh, and we see a third last name change for Ed here. In 1985 you had Ed Thompson, in 2011 we had Ed Lee, and now it’s Ed Bates. Sacha Parkinson is harmless as Amy. She’s not as good as Amanda Bearse, so as far as quality goes, I’d have to put her on the same level as Imogen Poots (can’t compare Poots’ Amy and Parkinson’s Amy, because Poots was the “hottest girl in school” as Amy. Two completely different characters).

The honor for best performance goes to Jaime Murray, and it’s not even close. Murray is fun to watch as this brutal and delightfully evil vixen. I guess you could say Murray’s Gerri is the modern version of Julie Carmen’s Regine from the original Fright Night 2. But unlike Regine, Gerri doesn’t use her good looks to play mind games with Charley. Instead, Gerri constantly torments Charley by mocking and taunting him with a “I might be a vampire, but nobody else is gonna believe you” approach. So in the end, Julie Carmen’s Regine was more of a seductress, but New Blood doesn’t rely on Jaime Murray’s sex appeal as a weapon, because Gerri is more vicious and nasty than Regine, and she’s willing to fight (remember, Regine ordered her entourage to do most of the dirty work for her in the original).

The worst performance? Sean Power’s Peter Vincent, easily. They tried to copy the blueprint used for Roddy McDowall’s Peter Vincent: the pompous and pretentious “expert,” who turns into a jumpy coward, when he runs into real vampires, but when the moment of truth comes, he mans up, and shows some courage to help save the day. David Tennant’s Peter Vincet in the remake was the star of a stage show at a hotel, and in New Blood, Power’s Peter Vincent is a famed host of a Ghost Hunters-esque reality show. McDowall set the bar, and Tennant’s portrayal of Vincent wasn’t bad, but Power is just awful. He’s not believable at all, and his performance drags the quality of this cast down a lot.

Director Eduardo Rodriguez’s style isn’t something to brag about, but there’s one unique technique that deserves some recognition. Gerri uses echolocation to track down Charley and Amy in the tunnels of the subway station. Rodriguez shows select shots for different parts of the tunnel, while Gerri is bobbing her head around looking for Charley and Amy. What’s weird about all of this is, Gerri isn’t in bat form, when she uses echolocation. Oh well. Still a cool little technique for Gerri‘s character, and a refreshing change for vampire flicks.

For the most part, New Blood is about as predictable as predictable can be. You knew Gerri was going to turn Evil Ed at some point, kidnap Amy, and force Charley into a big showdown at the end. The finale? It’s a clusterfuck for good and bad reasons. Going back to the predictability, you KNEW Peter Vincent would find his courage, and return to help save the day, and he did.

Before that happens, Charley fights vampire Ed to the death. Vampire Amy turns Charley, they fight and roll around in this gigantic pool of blood, and Peter uses this half axe, half sword contraption to pierce a hole in Gerri’s chest, but he misses the heart. For a second, you think vampire Charley is dead, but a stake misses his heart. Gerri, in her mutated form, tries to kill Peter, but Charley screams to the top of his lungs to break all the windows during sunrise, and the rays of sunlight are enough to finish off Gerri.

They were able to throw in a few surprising twist and turns during this finale, but at the same time, it’s just too much. Instead of a thrilling conclusion, New Blood ends with this hectic calamity, that’s  too frustrating to sit through. And Charley screaming to break the windows creates a ridiculous and unintentionally funny moment.

A weak cast outside of a select few is a big problem for New Blood. With the exception of two scenes (Charley shoving a cross into one of Gerri’s eyes, and Ed’s torso busting open, after Charley pours a bottle of holy water in his mouth), the gory stuff in New Blood isn’t shocking or gruesome enough to pull a reaction out of you. And some of the dialogue here is cringeworthy, with Walker’s Ed receiving the worst lines (“She’s fuckin’ smokin’ hot dick face!” or “Penis breath!” a lame insult used by a thirteen year old).

What happened to the memorable moments? Fright Night ‘85 was loaded with memorable moments. You had Charley spying on Jerry for the first time, Jerry dancing with Amy at the club, Jerry turning Amy, Jerry turning Ed, the moment of Peter finding his courage, when he spots the sunrise behind Jerry, and Jerry’s demise. And in Fright Night 2 ‘88, you had the dance scene at Regine’s party with Charley and Regine. New Blood? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Kind of hard to categorize New Blood. They want you to believe New Blood is a sequel to the 2011 remake, but that’s impossible. Charley killed Ed in the remake, and Gerri has no relation to Jerry Dandridge whatsoever. So considering all that, I’m viewing New Blood as a remake of the 1988 original. But that’s where the dilemma becomes more complex, because New Blood clearly mirrors events in the ’85 original. Gerri takes Amy from Charley, turns her into a vampire, and she forces Charley to fight the vampiric Amy by locking him in a room with her. Jerry did the same thing with Amy and Charley in the ‘85 original. Gerri turns Ed, and Ed tries to kill Peter as a vampire, because Ed is disappointed his idol is just a phony coward. After Jerry turned Ed in the original, Ed goes after Peter with intentions of killing him. Although, Ed and Peter only have one battle in this film. On the other hand, Ed and Peter fought each other twice in the original.

That’s my biggest  problem with New Blood. I never got the sense they were genuinely trying to pay homage to the original Fright Night films. They copied the steps from certain parts in the original Fright Night, but you don’t get the feeling you’re seeing a wink moment, or something to remind you of how great the original was. Instead, New Blood takes a half-hearted and lazy approach to try and deceive Fright Night fans into thinking they’re paying homage to the original. I mean, I guess you could count the play on words with Gerri Dandridge paying homage to Jerry Dandridge as a wink, but with no real connections to the previous films, the play on words feels like a mere coincidence.

And the ONE true attempt at paying homage to the original is horribly botched by Power. During the end, Peter shouts “Welcome to Fright Night, bitch!” To give a brief backstory, McDowall’s Peter would say this (minus the bitch part) to open his TV show, Tennant’s Peter also said this to open his stage show, and both Jerries (Colin Farrell and Chris Sarandon) mocked Peter with his signature catchphrase. Anyway, Power sounds like a goof, and tacking on the “bitch” part made everything worse.

But I guess you have to expect that from a straight-to-video horror “sequel,” because my worst fears were confirmed about halfway through the movie: they just used the Fright Night name to lure Fright Night fans to this film with the hopes of selling some DVDs and Blu-Rays, and you can’t forget about the rentals.

I appreciate the effort to give Gerri a more thorough and detailed backstory, but if you decide to pass on New Blood, you’re not missing anything special. Remove Fright Night from the title, and New Blood is just another generic straight-to-video horror flick with a lot of blood, an overall sub-par cast, some respectable gore, and some T&A (not from Murray, though. A few tease shots with Murray, but that’s about it). Going with a deserved mediocre score for this shameless cash-grab sequel, because New Blood is a mediocre film.

Rating: 3/10

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