Carefully toeing the line between over-the-top horror comedy and straightforward bloodsucking gore, 'Fright Night 2: New Blood' is an interesting blend of direct-to-video low-budget badness with several amusingly creative touches that transcend its limited production origins. Venezuelan filmmaker Eduardo Rodriguez manages to inject some level of entertainment with a stylish visual flare that pulsates with energy. The screen is steeped with a sensual charismatic romance of the Romanian locations and oozes in eroticism much like the blood freely-flowing from the killer's victims. Rodriguez has yet to break into the mainstream, but as this movie demonstrates, it's high time he's given better material.
If for nothing else, Rodriguez makes a completely horrible rehash of an 80s vampire favorite into a bearable watch with a few sporadic moments of good action and pleasing suspense. Our supernatural bloodsucking villain, Gerri Dandridge (the incredibly seductive and titillating Jaime Murray), is a merciless, stone-hearted meanie, which in this age of 'Twilight'-horror staleness makes her a much-needed change of pace for the subgenre. Murray's performance as the eternally beautiful creature of the night is truly frightening as she hypnotizes and seduces the camera in a way so few actors can. You fear for your life when near her, but you also want to grovel at her feet.
Sadly, Rodriguez's talents behind the camera and Murray's excellent performance in front are completely wasted on a script that can't really decide what it wants to be. Matt Venne, who at the moment appears to be making a career writing largely unwanted horror sequels, pens this head-scratching and uninspired mess. It's actually a bit on the confusing side since the title suggests a direct follow-up to 2011's surprisingly enjoyable remake of Tom Holland's 'Fright Night.' There's also a reasonable level of expectation that this would likely follow a similar storyline to Tommy Lee Wallace's 1989 sequel of the original. Granted, the plot is set in a college environment and the main vampire is a seductive female, but the parallels end there. Missing, however, is a big-hair, roller-skating bloodsucker, a wolf-vamp hybrid monster, a frightful bug-eating Bozworth, a young intelligent woman as remotely attractive as Traci Lind and scenes of characters bowling for really no apparent reason.
Making the entire production a perplexing and inconsistent work of schlock begins with the fact that 'New Blood' has absolutely nothing to do with Craig Gillespie's movie. If you can't already tell from Murray's Gerri vampire, the story completely ignores the events of its predecessor, yet it brings back the same characters. Charley Brewster (a terrible Will Payne), Amy Peterson (a passable Sacha Parkinson) and "Evil" Ed (an unwatchable Chris Waller doing a horrible imitation of Stephen Geoffreys) are exchange students in Romania. But once Charley witnesses Gerri sucking on a victim from his hotel window across the street, the plot becomes a near carbon copy of Holland's original. Peter Vincent (a forgettable Sean Power) is now an unlikable hack ghost hunter who prostitutes his services when he's conveniently easy to find.
The filmmakers also try their hand at some witty dark comedy, especially with the exaggerated graphic kills, but when feeling like a confounding mix of both Holland and Wallace's films, the jokes fall on deaf ears, leading to several moments of stagnation and apathy. There's even one scene dedicated to an animated motion comic which provides an important piece of exposition that ultimately distances this production all the more from the other films. In the end, 'Fright Night 2: New Blood' is your standard horror rehash, but Rodriguez's stylish direction, which at times seem to be channeling Wallace's sequel, turns into a tolerable affair, especially with Murray's seductively hammy performance. The best praise I could give this follow-up is to say that it's better than any 'Twilight' movie, which isn't saying much.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Fright Night 2: New Blood' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Region A locked, BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9 inside a blue, eco-cutout case. The 100-minute unrated version of the movie is only available on Blu-ray while the DVD and Digital Copy contain the 99-minute, R-rated cut. A couple skippable trailers and promos kick things off before switching over to the standard menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Coming straight from an HD source, this kooky but weirdly entertaining sequel makes its Blu-ray debut with a strong and detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. And yet, as is often the case with digital photography, the high-def presentation has that unattractive, soap-opera video quality to it, making it feel generic, cheap, sterile and lacking any of the film-like characteristics. Granted, definition is incredibly sharp and revealing with distinct lines in the architecture, clothing and facial complexions, but there's also some very mild aliasing in those finer areas. On a few occasions, I almost suspected some artificial sharpening.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the image displays good black levels for the most part; however, there are several moments when the darker portions look murky and grayish. Poorly-lit interiors are drenched in deep shadows, creating lots of crush which completely diminishes delineation and totally obscures background information. Contrast is mostly well-balanced with crisp whites though the picture generally appears flat and dull. Colors fail to impressive in the slightest, appearing largely inert and inanimate, except for one or two sequences where primaries are accurately rendered. In the end, it's passable but also forgettable.
In the audio department, it would seem someone got a bit overzealous with the volume knob because this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is ear-piercingly loud and obnoxious. It's as if the producers purposefully increased the decibels in all six channels, hoping it would make their production seem more like a Hollywood blockbuster — or at least, distract viewers and keep them from noticing the movie's actual badness.
Instead, what this tactic actually does is completely neuter the upper ranges, causing a great deal of clipping and making the overall design so bright that it hurts ears. This is a real shame and a travesty because Luis Ascanio's score uses lots of horn and strings instruments, but they can't be enjoyed at their full potential since noise in several of the higher notes becomes noticeably audible and distracting. It also forces viewers to lower the master volume at the expense of intelligible dialogue, which probably wouldn't matter much anyhow since the other two channels tend to overwhelm conversations. The low-end is powerful with palpable weight that on occasion rattles walls and shakes the couch, but it also seems exaggerated and overstated, lacking in definition and a punchy response.
The same goes for rear activity, which is full of very loud atmospherics that have the habit of distracting instead of enveloping. In fact, several effects are so blatantly obvious and incredibly easy to localize that it practically rips the listener away from the movie's enjoyment. Panning and directionality is disgustingly vulgar and disruptive. Added to that is the fact that these effects are grossly artificial and synthetic, making this a terrible lossless mix which succeeds at making me not want to hear it again.
Supposedly meant as a follow-up to 2011's surprisingly enjoyable remake, 'Fright Night 2: New Blood' is a head-scratching mess that combines the two original vampire movies from the late 80s while also feeling a lot like a remake of Gillespie's movie with Colin Farrell. Bad as it is however, director Eduardo Rodriguez injects plenty of visual flare into the low-budget production and Jaime Murray's hypnotic performance makes it somewhat tolerable. The Blu-ray arrives with a strong and detailed picture quality while the audio presentation is an exaggeratingly loud travesty. Overall, vampire and horror fans might want to give this a rent.