Within every successful horror movie, there lurks a swarm of not-necessary-even-for-a-second sequels. Probably because most horror movies are dirt cheap, and the ones that hit pay dirt pull in exponentially more cash than they cost. Like little blood-soaked lottery tickets. Finance one Friday the 13th, see dividends (and sequel dividends) forever. It’s why we’re up to twelve Friday the 13ths (Friday the 13th number 13’s coming next year- in an avalanche of “13” puns, probably).
Of course, the problem with this formula is that movie number 13 is rarely the winner that number one was. By the time we get that far, the only thing a horror sequel has in common with the original is the entity cutting a swath of destruction through the horny teenager community. Charmless, routine (and occasionally, batshit insane) affairs.
Another horror sequel’s in theaters today: Insidious: Chapter 3. Judging by the Tomatometer, people seem to think it’s pretty good (neat!)- almost comparable to the original, and light-years ahead of Chapter 2. One day, we’ll reach Insidious: Chapter 21 and that movie will be a sloppy disaster that brings shame to the name Insidious. But for now, let’s just examine the franchises that are thoroughly shamed already.
(NSFW Warning: Plentiful F-Bombs)
What Did It Become?: Michael Myers Kowtows to Busta Rhymes, Of All People
Halloween is an actual movie. That sounds like biggest “no shit” statement ever, but if you grew up in a time where Michael Myers was just another one of those dudes in masks who really loved stabbing, it was kind of a revelation. Halloween contains genuine suspense. Tons of neat tracking shots. John Carpenter’s most enduring synthesizer riff, by far. And of course, every concept that would become a slasher movie trope (and then a slasher movie cliche) in the years to come.
Halloween: Resurrection, not so much. It doesn’t veer as wildly into “we’re out of ideas so here’s something wacky, like Michael Myers On Ice!” territory, like so many other long-running franchises. But it is dull, murky to the point where it’s hard to make out what’s going on, over-gruesome (as opposed to Halloween, which was never that gratuitous) and kills off Laurie Strode for shits and giggles, mostly.
Also, there’s the above clip. Why would Michael Myers just shrug and obey Busta Rhymes’s orders? Busta Rhymes was being very rude. You’d think that would merit a stabbing.
Friday the 13th
(NSFW Warning: Dismemberment)
What Did It Become?: Jason Voorhees as a Power Rangers Villain
At least when Halloween’s sequels stretched on, they were still trying to be scary. At some point between 1980’s Friday the 13th and 2001’s Jason X, Jason Voorhees went from spooky slasher to cheap joke (even if the onscreen teens were still shrieking, gurgling, etc.).
Friday the 13th: Decaying Jason leaps out of Crystal Lake, pants are shat worldwide.
Jason X: Did you watch that clip above? It’s eerie how much it reminds me of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The bright colors, the quadruple-backflip choreography, the sheer joy with which characters cry “Hey slappy! Got a little something for ‘ya!” The android KM-14 even arrives to a screaming electric guitar pick scrape. Just think how easily that could continue into “GO GO POWER RANGERS!”
Would Jason’s prodigious bulk make him Bulk? Or would his decayed face make him Skull? Tough call.
What Did It Become?: Rapping Leprechauns, Lightsaber Leprechauns, Hairless Feral Leprechauns
Leprechaun was always kind of a crapshoot, but at least the first Leprechaun was consistent. It’s a cheapo horror comedy, where a leprechaun might impale a man to death by pogo-sticking on top of him (“Oh no… Nooo!!” cries the poor shopkeep, as the leprechaun pogoes ever closer…). It’s beyond abysmal, but I have no problem believing Leprechaun writer/director Mark Jones was trying to create something of quality. An Irish Nightmare on Elm Street, maybe.
Watch Leprechaun 4: In Space, and you’re acutely aware that everyone involved was either giggling through the entire shoot or sobbing quietly in a trailer. It’s barely even a movie; more like a feature version of the spoofy fake sequels you’d see in Extras or The Critic. The same goes for Leprechaun in the Hood. And Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood.
Although if we’re truly judging on “how far from the spirit of the original?” criteria, last year’s Leprechaun: Origins would win hands-down. Ultimately, the goal of any Leprechaun movie is a cringing dad-joke chuckle. Sucking all the cheekiness out of the gnarled wee gold-digger and replacing him with a snarling rat mutant is the foulest sin of all.
Or maybe awful ‘90s-era leprechaun rap (in the 2000s, no less) is worse. “Plenteous dope, this place is hot. There’s a lassie, she’s just my type.” It doesn’t even rhyme. What the hell were you people thinking?
(NSFW Warning: shark gore, shark roars(?), “smile you sonofa…”)
What Did It Become?: Spontaneously Combustible Psychic Sharks
Just think- if Bruce the shark had worked properly back in ’75, the original Jaws would have had so much more shark in it. And wouldn’t be nearly as terrifying. We know this, objectively (not really) because Jaws: The Revenge is chock full of shark, and Jaws: The Revenge is an abomination.
(And obviously a shark-ier Jaws would have been leagues above Jaws: The Revenge, but you get the idea).
Jaws: The Revenge gleefully shreds Steven Spielberg’s original handbook, and is all the more awful for it. Jaws is scary because Spielberg hid the shark, so Jaws: The Revenge is all shark, all the time. Jaws’s shark is cold nature- dull eyes, emotionless, munching on humans regardless of social class- so Jaws: The Revenge’s shark stalks Ellen Brody to the Bahamas with a very specific vengeance. They also share a psychic link for no reason.
One of the few spots of common ground between Jaws and Jaws: The Revenge– both sharks are taken out of commission in a big, meaty shark explosion. Only, Jaws’s final boom is set off by the scuba tank in the shark’s mouth. In Jaws: The Revenge, Ellen impales the shark on the jagged wooden bowsprit (aka “the front of her boat”). Then, it explodes.
Why would a shark explode, apropos of nothing? Because in the original cut, the shark just sinks to the ocean floor, like a real shark would. American audiences thought it was a snooze, so for the film’s VHS release, Universal shot extra footage of the impaled shark blowing into little shark chunks. The clip above is explosion-free, sadly.
(NSFW Warning: Language, Nauseating Handheld Camera)
What Did It Become?: Just Ask Clive Barker’s Butt-Hole
“Hello, my friends. I want to put on record that the flic out there using the word Hellraiser IS NO FUCKIN’ CHILD OF MINE! I have NOTHING to do with the fuckin’ thing. If they claim its from the mind of Clive Barker,it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.”
You heard it, folks. “Not even from [his] butt-hole. Which is what Clive Barker tweeted in righteous fury, after an ad for Hellraiser: Revelations claimed to be from the mind of Clive Barker.
It’s understandable, really. Dimension Films was stuck in one of those “you’ve got until Tuesday to make a Hellraiser movie or you lose the rights” situations, and threw together a crew to shoot however much Hellraiser you can get out of (reportedly) two weeks and $300,000. The results? Hellraiser: Revelations. Which falls somewhere on the quality scale between home video and the clothed sections of a porno movie.
Is it more true in spirit to Barker’s original vision (brutal dismemberment, shades of S&M, a slight sense of artfulness) then other late-in-the-game Hellraiser sequels? Yeah, probably. Especially considering that several Hellraiser sequels (Inferno, Hellseeker, Deader) started off as random horror spec scripts and had a few Cenobites copy-pasted in. But I’ll defer to Barker, and all his orifices, on this one.