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January 28, 2009

Movie Sequel Disappointment

The bad news is that I was sick as a dog all weekend; the good news is that it gave me time to catch up on some movie-watching. I have a habit of buying (used) movies that look good, and then neglecting to actually watch them. Thus, I have a stack of DVDs, mostly horror/thriller movies, purchased months ago that have been sitting, unwatched. On Saturday morning, I crawled from my bed and onto the couch, grabbing The Hills Have Eyes II (2007) on my way through.

Before going any further, I would like to state for the record that I absolutely and completely, without a doubt, loved The Hills Have Eyes, both the original 1977 version and the 2006 remake. I had never seen the 1985 version of The Hills Have Eyes II, but I was banking on greatness similar to both versions of part one. I grabbed my favourite blanket, poured a glass of gingerly, and snuggled down to utter disappointment. Utter. Disappointment.

Nothing about this film made any sense. 10 minutes in, I knew exactly how bad this was going to be, and I wanted my $3 back from the Swap Shop. This movie was everything I’d hoped it wouldn’t be, from the ridiculous plot (National Guard Trainees taking on desert mutants? Really?) to the choppy, awkward overacting. The only redeeming character in this movie was Napoleon, (Michael McMillan ) but even his sweet, somewhat humorous personality wasn’t enough to save this sinking ship.

This disaster of a film got me thinking about horror movies; how much I love them, and how much I tend to hate the sequels. In fact, I’ll go a step further and state that a lot of the time, I tend to hate sequels, regardless of genre. Good movies have bad sequels, bad movies have bad sequels; it doesn’t seem to matter. Of course there are exceptions, sometimes a part 2 can be as good (or better) than a part 1, but I’ll venture to say those exceptions are few and far between.

The first Scream was enjoyable; the next two that followed didn’t measure up; I’ll say the same for I Know What You Did Last Summer (great) and its offspring (terrible). Jeepers Creepers was bad enough, it certainly didn’t warrant a second (and somehow even worse) attempt. The Blair Witch Project, Candyman, and The Exorcist have also all fallen victim to what I will name Terrible Sequel Syndrome. One of the worst sufferers has to be Leprechaun; what began as something hilarious, campy and all-around great became something almost too painful to watch – in space? Really?

But wait a minute, you ask, didn’t you mention exceptions? I did, that’s true: The Devil’s Rejects proved to be a wonderful follow-up to the brilliance of House of a Thousand Corpses. Each installation of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has been equally entertaining, disturbing, funny and disgusting. Let’s not forget Romero’s Dead series; those movies are pure genius, both script-wise and zombie-wise.
So, perhaps not all movies suffer from Terrible Sequel Syndrome, but then again, perhaps not all stories need a sequel. For some movies, everything that needs to be said can be said in the first film. On that note, I’d like to make a plea to Hollywood: Vacancy was one of the best horror films I’ve seen for quite some time (I love you Frank Whaley!), please leave well enough alone!

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