Five words: Cross-dressing, roller-skating vampire. No, I'm not describing an as-yet-unidentified fangless, vegan vampire from Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series that didn't make the jump from the printed page to the big screen. This particular vampire appears in Fright Night II , the 1988 sequel to writer-director Tom Holland's (Child's Play) 1985 horror-comedy, Fright Night. Fright Night co-starred the late, great Roddy McDowall (Dead of Winter, the Planet of the Apes series, The Poseidon Adventure, Cleopatra) as B-movie actor, late-night TV horror show host, and fearless vampire killer, Peter Vincent (named after horror icons Peter Cushing and Vincent Price). Vincent's one-time ally and nominal hero-protagonist, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale, not to be confused with Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame), also returned for the semi-anticipated sequel.

After several years of intensive counseling, Charley no longer believes in vampires. He's allowed himself to be convinced that Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), was a serial killer and kidnapper, not a blood-sucking vampire. For the sequel, Charley also gets a new best friend, Richie (Merritt Butrick [Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Square Pegs]), and a new girlfriend, Alex (Traci Lind), with better fashion sense than her predecessor (it's still the 80s, so it's only a marginal improvement). She's a psychology student who doesn't believe in the supernatural. That changes when she gets her very own undead stalker, Louie (Jon Gries), a werewolf who wants to displace Charley in her romantic affections.
Following the general) rule for sequels, "more of the same, but different" (i.e., unimaginative, but effective, Fright Night II switches the gender of the vampire from male to female, and makes Charley the object-of-desire (instead of his girlfriend). A performance artist by profession, Regine (Julie Carmen) wants to avenge the death of her bloodsucking brother at Charley and Vincent's hands. Regine decides to transform Charley into a vampire gradually over several nights. Once Charley becomes a vampire, Regine will torture Charley in inexplicable, unexplained ways for eternity or until a second death doth them part (e.g., sunlight, stakes through the heart, etc.).

As a world-renowned performance artist, Regine can afford a large retinue of vampires, including the above-mentioned cross-dressing, roller-skating vampire, Belle (Russell Clark), Bozworth (Brian Thompson), Regine's bug-eating bodyguard and driver, and a spacious, expensively furnished apartment in Vincent's building, presumably so Regine can throw lavish parties for the fashion challenged and give her roller-skating vampire room to well, roller skate. No one else seems to live in the apartment building except Regine and Vincent, so party noise doesn't seem to a problem.

Taking over for Holland, co-writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace (Vampires: Los Muertos) gives us only one scene of Belle stalking an unsuspecting victim, an unnamed art student (Rochelle Ashana), through the underlit, smoke machine-filled corridors of an empty university building, culminating with Fright Night II's most indelible image of Belle roller-skating toward his victim in slow motion. An African-American, cross-dressing, roller-skating vampire is more comical than scary, but maybe that was Wallace's intent. Alternatively, Wallace wanted late 1980s audiences to react with revulsion at Belle's gender-bending appearance, but that might be reading too much into what Wallace actually intended.

Even cheesier and campier than its predecessor, Fright Night II isn't for everyone, but if you like overcooked 80s cheese, then Fright Night II may be just what you're looking for. Unfortunately, Fright Night II is no longer available on DVD, so finding a copy to rent or buy might be difficult. The other alternative, waiting for a late-night cable airing, isn't outside the realm of the possible (I've seen it that way several times), but you might have a long, long wait ahead of you before you can enjoy Fright Night II's campy pleasures. Unfortunately, Fright Night II's failure at the box office ended Peter Vincent's fearless vampire killing, at least as played by Roddy McDowell. Peter Vincent will be back in the inevitable remake (coming in 2012).

So have you seen Fright Night II? If you have, what's your favorite/least favorite scene?
categories Cinematical