(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week, we head to Romania with the Countess of Bathory.)

Vampires are a common threat in horror movies, some would say far too common (and yes that someone is me). So it should come as no surprise that they’re also a frequent antagonist in DTV horror sequels. This column has already covered the sequel to 30 Days of Night (2007), and there are more on the horizon. Vampires are a cheap effect as all you typically need are fangs and maybe some digitally enhanced eyes, and you’re off to the bloody races.

Tom Holland’s (Child’s Play, 1988) other horror classic, Fright Night (1985), got a proper sequel three years later that, despite its current unavailability, is actually pretty solid, but the 2011 big screen remake didn’t fare as well. It’s unfortunate, but it’s also the reason we’re here today.

The Beginning – Fright Night (2011)

Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) was a fun-loving geek once upon a time, but now he’s a cool teen with popular friends, a hot girlfriend (Imogen Poots), and no time for his once best friend (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). When locals go missing around town, his friend Ed suggests a vampire is to blame – worse, Ed thinks it’s Charley’s neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell). Charley doesn’t buy it, but when Ed disappears and Jerry acts in some seductively threatening ways, he quickly comes to realize that the bloodsucker is real and just might be targeting him next. His only hope? A Las Vegas stage magician named Peter Vincent (David Tennant).

The DTV Plot – Fright Night 2: New Blood (2013)

Charley Brewster heads to Romania on a class trip, as you do, along with his best friend Evil Ed and ex-girlfriend Amy. Just moments after checking in to his hotel room, though, he sees a saucy brunette named Gerri Dandridge make a topless woman bleed in the window next door. Ruh roh! Looks like Charley’s being targeted by a vampire who just might be the legendary Countess Bathory. His only hope? The host of a ghost hunting show named Peter Vincent.

Talent Shift

Remaking a beloved horror/comedy classic is a bold move, but director Craig Gillespie (Mr. Woodcock, 2007) and writer Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1997-2003) managed to do right by the property. The cast does a lot of the work too as Yelchin, Poots, Farrell, Mintz-Plasse, Tennant, Toni Collette, Dave Franco, and Lisa Loeb all bring their charms to the film. The original’s Chris Sarandon even makes a cameo!

Those known talents deliver a solid watch, so let’s see the names associated with the sequel – director Eduardo Rodriguez (Stash House, 2012) and writer Matt Venne (White Noise 2: The Light, 2007) aren’t exactly known quantities, and the cast playing the returning characters? Yeah, I don’t recognize Will Payne, Sean Power, Chris Waller, or Jaime Murray either. That alone isn’t a knock, obviously, as everyone’s no one until they’re someone, and it’s also par for the course when it comes to DTV sequels. It’s definitely not inspiring, though.

How the Sequel Respects the Original

Charley Brewster hasn’t learned a damn thing from his vampire face-off back home in Las Vegas, because how else to explain his saying yes to a class trip to Romania? Oh, because this isn’t actually a sequel. This follow-up is actually more of a soft reboot out of pure laziness, but it (perhaps inadvertently) gives a nod to the original film’s 1988 sequel, Fright Night Part 2. In that film, Charley and friends have moved on to college but find themselves caught up in more vampiric shenanigans when a female vamp arrives to wreak saucy havoc. In that film, the lady bloodsucker is revealed to be the sister of the original’s Jerry Dandridge, and she’s looking for revenge on Charley. Here, though, the filmmakers have made the threat female mostly as an excuse to show some skin. In lieu of an actual narrative connection between her and the protagonists, the film instead casts her as a historical figure whose bloodlust has, over time, been responsible for numerous high-profile tragedies, including the Hindenburg disaster and the killing of the Black Dahlia. And yes, I do realize that none of this shows how the sequel respects the original.

So in the spirit of positivity, here are a few bits of note. While we still get CG antics, there are some bloody scenes in the form of people covered in the red stuff. And while the choice was made for budgetary reasons, the scene showing Gerri’s history via animation makes for a nice stylistic break from the rest of the film. And finally, all things being equal, this is one of the better-looking DTV sequels, as shooting in Romania allows for some bang for their buck when it comes to locations.

How the Sequel Shits on the Original

Taking a cue from the paragraph above, while New Blood isn’t really a sequel it’s still a pretty poor movie. It’s basically the same plot once again recycled from both the original 1985 feature and the 2011 remake – a male lead named Charley has a best friend named Ed and a girl he likes named Amy, and while Ed is turned into a vamp and killed, Amy is targeted by the vamp but survives with the help of a reluctant hero named Peter. The setups are near identical, but the differences between this version of the tale and those two previous ones are legion.

The most obvious step down comes in the form of budget, but while that affects visual effects, star power, and the scope of set-pieces, all of those things can be forgiven by talent, skill, and a creative script. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, we get none of that here. The big draw in both Fright Night originals is the charms, talents, and chemistry of their respective casts, but here everyone is dumbed down to their core characters, leaving nothing for viewers to find appealing about them. That’s fine if the genre elements make up for it, but that’s never the case here.

Conclusion

Like far too many DTV sequels, this one is a miss as it hits only the most basic of beats without delivering thrills or personality. We just don’t care about these characters, and the horror sequences fail to stand out in any way. Worse, and honestly this is the bigger crime, its ubiquitous availability to stream and on Blu-ray is a slap in the face for those of us still craving a release of 1988’s sequel, which isn’t available in any format.

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