Produced the year after the first film, The Night Strangler sees Carl Kolchak now situated in Seattle and investigating a series of murders that have an eerie similarity to ones that happened two decades prior. Once again, he finds out that these happenings have a supernatural reasoning and he finds himself having to try to put a stop to it.
The film opens up, as such things are wont to do, with a local dancer getting kidnapped, and Kolchak soon finds the story on his desk. Not long after he starts investigating, more bodies show up, and Kolchak being Kolchak, knows that things ain’t right. He soon gets drawn into the history of Seattle, and the history of the murders. On his investigation which takes him from the Old Seattle Underground City to Washington University, he finds that a local doctor is using the murders to help create an elixir of life – and has to make a new one every 21 years. So, it’s up to Kolchak to race against time, stopping a final victim from being taken and stopping the doctor once and for all. And, because Kolchak is who he is, the authorities don’t believe him and take the story from him, so he has to run the rest of his investigation in secret.
Once again, the film finds itself being carried on Darren McGavin’s more than capable back. And it is good to know that none of the character’s likeability has worn off from the first film. Even though the Kolchak he is playing in this film is a lot more worn out than he was in the first, he soon finds his footing again and is back to the Kolchak everyone knows and loves, doing what he does best – being a headstrong bastard who puts himself at odds with everyone.
Unlike the first film, The Night Strangler feels a lot darker, which could be due in part, at least, to the change in setting between Vegas and Seattle. That does go a long way to the darker look though, with the bright neon of Vegas being replaced with a darker Pacific Northwest feel. Even the set pieces have a darker feel to reflect this. However, the level of horror matches that of the first film – as I mentioned in the first review, it seems that people were a lot hardier back then and could handle the darker subject matters.
Sure, this film doesn’t feel as fresh as the first, but I think that could come down to the recency in which I saw it, rather than the fact that some of the set pieces have been designed as introduction to those that didn’t see the first film. However, that doesn’t take away from any of the charm of this film, as Kolchak (the series) has always held a certain innocent charm.