‘Tis the season to be scary! I look forward to Halloween every year, and like many other Halloweenies out there, I like to psych myself up for the holiday by watching copious amounts of scary movies. More often then not, I usually end up revisiting some of the more established horror franchises in my quest for cinematic mayhem, and in doing so I am always reminded that several of the big game horror franchises have one thing in common -- They each contain a sequel that is a radical departure from the tone and theme of the original film. Below are four examples of horror sequels that took some interesting left turns.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
This is actually one of the few times that such a radical departure ended up being somewhat successful. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre has gone down in history as one of the most successful and influential horror films of all time. The lack of blood and gore in favor of psychological scares often surprised first-time viewers, and yet the film was still grouped in with all of the other bloody slasher movies of that time period on the basis of its title alone. This didn’t sit well with the director, Tobe Hooper, so when it came time to make a sequel, he decided to show audiences what a gore-filled Texas Chainsaw Massacre would actually look like. Black comedy, buckets of blood, and chainsaw duels featuring Dennis Hopper and Leatherface filled the screen when The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was released. Hardcore fans of the first one were shocked at such a major departure from the style of the first one, and many of them panned the movie. It has has since gone on to be a cult classic as audiences eventually embraced it as a wildly entertaining satire of the genre that Hooper helped to create. Even though the film bares almost no resemblance to the original, it does work on its own terms, and I recommend giving it a watch.
A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Apparently, Freddy didn’t like the fact that his first cinematic outing was so well-received, so he decided to take his revenge by starring in a film that seemed hell-bent on ruining the concept of Freddy Krueger. The interesting thing about Freddy, aside from those groovy nails, is that he can invade your dreams, take control of them, and kill you. A person can run and hide from a conventional killer, but one thing they can’t run and hide from is sleep. With those kinds of powers, Krueger was practically cruising down not only Elm but Easy Street. So, when it came time to make the second movie, the filmmakers came up with a much more innovative idea. In this movie, Freddy would try to posses a young man and use his body to kill people in the real world... like an ordinary person. The filmmakers apparently figured that Freddy must be pretty bored with his dream powers and would probably like to exchange them for the powers of a weak high school kid. This concept is so mind-boggling that it almost makes me forget the random homoerotic overtones that the movie exudes... almost. To be fair, the movie does have some genuinely terrifying moments, and had it been about somebody other than Freddy, it might have secured a reputation as a nice little stand-alone horror flick.
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
The Exorcist had a quiet foreboding tone that was punctuated by moments of intense horror. We never really found out why Regan MacNeil was chosen by the demon to be the instrument of its mayhem, and there was something truly horrifying about the randomness of it all. Exorcist II decides to give us an explanation whether we want one or not. It seems that Regan was one of many people around the world that possessed the ability to heal people, and the demon was body-hopping from healer to healer in an attempt to eradicate them all. The demon would, from time to time, also appear as a giant locust in charge of a huge swarm of locusts that like to decimate crops in their off-time. A lot of this information comes from James Earl Jones, who is dressed as a giant grasshopper and sits on a throne in a cave. This sequel, needless to say, has a slightly different look and feel than the first one.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
This one is pretty interesting. The original Halloween and its first sequel featured Michael Meyers, a brutal and unfeeling killing machine who would stop at nothing to end the life of his sister. Halloween III, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to do with that. When trying to figure out how to continue their franchise, which was made successful by Michael Meyers, they decided that the best thing to do was to get rid of him... and replace him with robots. That’s right, this movie is no longer about the unstoppable force that came back to his hometown to wreak havoc. This time around, we get robots and masks that eat your face when you wear them, but they only eat your face when you’re watching a television show being broadcasted by a large mask-making company, which is made up of insane Celts and led by a crazy toymaker obsessed with the powers of Stonehenge. Now, I do agree with the filmmakers that trying to shoehorn Michael Meyers into that story might have been a bit too much, but I can’t help but question a few of their other choices. The people behind this movie were hoping to continue the Halloween series by releasing a new movie each year that told a different Halloween-related story. That was a fine idea in theory, but ultimately, it was very confusing to moviegoers, and in the end, Michael Meyers was tossed back into the ring to do battle with a whole new generation of frightened babysitters.
(Photo via WENN)
Greg McIver currently resides in New York City. Check out his other reviews and articles at www.nerdtopiacast.com, and be sure to tune in to his weekly podcast Filmtopiacast 3000 which is currently available on YouTube, iTunes, and Stitcher.