Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rant on Unnecessary Movie Sequels

I'm of the opinion that a good horror story lends so much to the imagination - not belittle the general intellect of the audience - that it sets the atmosphere for the mind to take over from the ending and come up with a far more haunting continuation if desired. Usually sequels don't work well for the horror genre; I mean, you don't tell ghost stories around the campfire in installments. It's just one-shot and that's it, right?

It seems horror sequels are seldom made because the original warranted it. Hollywood studios tend to make because they're easy. But even with name recognition and big profits from the original, horror sequels often fail to capture the essence of the first film. The plots tend to completely stray from what drew us to the story in the first place. Most times they don't even meet the minimum requirement for basic storytelling.

Now don't get me wrong, I can tolerate some sequels as long as they are of similar quality as the original - or at the very least stick to some of the source material while adding more detail or answering lingering questions from the prior film.

With that said, these are the top 6 sequels that irritated me the most.
Lost Boys: The Tribe (USA, 2008)
Lost Boys is admittedly campy but is still considered a popular homage to the 80s. Its plot makes use of a typical teen movie formula: family moves to new town, teenage brothers learn to adapt, make new friends and find love, all with a horror twist: the town is the home and hunting ground of a vampire motorcycle gang. I'd playfully test the longevity of many friendships by seeing who would sit through it with me and for how long. I'm not all that ashamed to admit that I have a soft spot for this cult hit, mostly because it was one of the first horror films I didn't watch between my fingers.
Unfortunately, no excuse can be made to justify a watching of the sequel. I even rented the uncut blue ray version in hopes that it would toss in a few charming extra's to make up for what I disliked in the standard edition. No such luck. The acting from the entire cast is pretty uneven, most notably in Kiefer Sutherlands' younger half brother, Angus. His inclusion was ill-advised and was an utter disgrace in comparison to what Kiefer brought to the lead vampire role . There are glimmers of hope whenever Cory Feldman shows up but those are immediately squashed as the film progresses. At times there were scenes that filmed too dark to make out what was going on, and not in a way that looked at all intentional. The whole film had a cheapo, made for tv feel to it anyway. The cringe-worthy rock rendition of "Cry little sister" and brief appearance from the Frog brothers at the end of the credits was the final letdown.

There's one more sequel after this called Lost boys: The Thirst but I heard it involves fang dentures so I decided to skip it.
S. Darko (USA, 2009)
Psychological sci-fi brain teaser, Donnie Darko really doesn't strike me as the sort of film that could be easily 're-imagined,' redone or added to so I was immediately skeptical of how well a continuation would play out when this was recommended to me earlier this year.

I'm glad I watched with zero expectations. The essence of S. Darko encapsulates everything that I hate about Hollywood's current sequel and remake trend. It had an interesting viral campaign but that's about it. I attempted to view this as an independent movie or a continuation of the Donnie Darko saga but found the experience to be pretty pointless. It would have been one thing had the film actually expanded on ideas involving quantum mechanics and alternate dimensions in an interesting way but it barely managed to achieve a discernible plot. Much like it's predecessor, the cinematography was really lush. I was enjoying the atmosphere of the film for the first few minutes, you know - before the actors started talking. There are some fascinating concepts buried beneath the less-than-amazing execution, but overall the film wasn't satisfying in the least. Donnie Darko can be explained and interpreted on many different levels, whereas this sequel is just not worth picking apart to find meaning in.

Human Centipede 2 (USA, 2011)

One of the most uninspired, creatively bankrupt films in the horror genre whose only merit is having sparked some hilarious parodies with catch phrases like “you never go ass to mouth” and “100% medically accurate”. I'm not gonna lie, the premise disturbed me just a tad because I don't want to imagine how trapped someone in the middle of the centipede chain must feel, nor do I want to dwell on the icky implications of such an ordeal. Maybe this shows what kind of jaded I am, but after viewing the first one I wasn't any more grossed out than I had been reading the summary on imdb. It is definitely an out there concept and some nasty stuff happened, but it didn't present anything close to the truly horrific moments that A Serbian Film did. In fact, I ended up laughing through most of it. That aside, the second film contained even more gratuitous over kill. Although it's filmed in black and white, during one scene the director decided to utilize color to further emphasize a particularly nasty incident. There is no motive for the actions of the villain (I'd have accepted anything just to have a story to follow) nor were there any creativity involved in the multiple onscreen killings. It just felt that the director wanted to release something even more shocking than the original. However, not even the uncut scenes ended up being a shock or surprise to me. I honestly cannot think of a single highlight in this film to warrant a recommendation, except that it's up on Netflix and perhaps you have two hours of your evening to blow off. It'd probably be fun for a sleepover.
Of course there's a third one in the works. This time with an even bigger centipede chain. 
Exorcist II: The Heretic  (USA, 1977)
I wasn't even aware that this film had spawned multiple sequels until someone at the library showed me an old promotional poster. I probably could have lived without the knowledge of its existence but the trivia surrounding this film was amusing so I decided to rent the second one just for kicks.

Original film’s makers, novelist/screenwriter William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin hated this film so much they humorously dubbed it “The Hairy Tick”. Apparently the movie flopped so hard the audience threw things at the screen during the ending credits. I can see why, as its narrative is a convoluted tangle of mess. Linda Blair reprises her role as Regan Macneil but was no doubt limited by this awful script and confusing plot devices. Several aspects of the first film were completely invalidated at times. Apparently she was never possessed by the actual devil. It was the Assyrian locust demon, Pazuzu all along. A few sequences were visually trippy but never horrifying. And even with its costly budget, the film suffered too greatly from its blah presentation, though it takes itself about as seriously as the Matrix.

Final Destination 3-5 (USA, 2006-2011)
Here's the perfect example of blatant cash grabbing. Non-corporeal grim reaper obliterates young vapid lives in the most inventive ways possible. Nobody ever likes the teenagers in these films so it was fun to watch, right? Indeed I enjoyed it for what it was until about the 3rd movie, after which I just gave up on the franchise entirely. Please refer back to Miko's wonderful review on the 5th movie. While it focused specifically on the final film I'd say it can be used as a summary for the series as a whole. Instead of actually renting or borrowing final destination 4 and 5, I found myself youtube-ing the death scenes for quick laughs. Worst of all, as the installments progressed, the suspension of disbelief proved harder and harder to maintain, not that we were expected to maintain it in the first place (pool vacuum death anyone?).There is something about the combination of surprise and anticipation that makes this corny set of movies entertaining but not quite worthy of being recommended over classics such as Ulli Lommel's 1980s Boogeyman, the supernatural slasher film that most likely inspired this series in the first place. 

Hellraiser 2-8 (UK, 1988-2011)
A very good friend of mine introduced me to this British film franchise 3 years ago after lending me the book The Hellbound Heart written by Clive Barker. The first film borrowed a few elements from the novella but since there are a lot of major differences I personally consider Hellraiser to be an entity all on it's own. The carefully cultivated aura of creepiness and perverse undertones made the first Hellraiser film a classic for me. Between the frightening but somehow extra-dimensional, frighteningly sensual cenobites (that play a relatively small role in the film, as most of the screen time is dedicated elsewhere) and that disturbing flaying scene at the very end, it was love at first watch. There is a unique intersection of popular horror themes that were compiled nicely in the first film but I believe that there is no need to expand up to 8 films beyond that. I've watched every single one of them in order, including Hellraiser: Revelations (though I cringed at the heavily cgi'd pinhead). “Jesus wept,” and so did I while sitting through most of the sequels in this franchise.

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