Let’s face it, we love to be scared. There’s something about sitting in a darkened room and watching a spooky movie that just gets the blood pumping. We have been treated to some truly amazing films of the horror genre but since Hollywood likes to keep a good thing going no matter how awful it is, we have also seen some truly terrible sequels to those great films. As Halloween is approaching, let’s examine a trio of Halloween horror sequels that lessen the legacy of their predecessors.
Now, the first film in this franchise is legendary in every sense of the word. The score is iconic (think of another film where you instantly know what it is with just two notes), the issues with the mechanical shark helped to make the film even more terrifying and it helped to create the summer blockbuster season we love and miss. At the time, Jaws was the highest-grossing film of all time and Universal wanted to make more films like it and they desperately wanted director Steven Spielberg to return for the second film, but he wanted nothing to do with an additional film that had a subpar story. In addition, the delays in production and stress caused him to take a break and return to dry land to direct Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In spite of Spielberg’s absence, Universal went full steam ahead into production of Jaws 2 and hired John D. Hancock to direct and since history likes to repeat itself, the filming became tumultuous and Hancock was fired only a month into filming. Both Hancock and numerous Universal executives have provided many explanations as to why Hancock was dismissed so we’ll probably never know what really happened behind the scenes. Jeannot Szwarc was then tasked to finish the film.
The premise of Jaws 2 is ridiculous and stereotypical of a horror sequel. Sometime after the events of the first film, a new luxury resort has opened on Amity Island and people have moved on following the grisly deaths of several citizens. However, once new victims are being discovered, Chief Brody believes that another shark has laid claim to the waters off Amity Island and he is forced to hunt down and kill the beast before his son becomes its latest kill. With the exception of a few details, the film unfolds in largely the same way as the first film; there’s an attack to open the film, Chief Brody encounters indifference and skepticism from the citizens and elected officials, there’s a major attack that finally gets people to believe Brody and thanks to more indifference, he goes on a suicide mission to rescue his son from the giant shark and of course, the shark is killed in a fantastical way courtesy of an oversized power line that’s inexplicably miles off the coast. Jaws 2 fails to live up to its predecessor in a myriad of ways. For one, it lacks the same sense of terror from the first film as they were glad not to have the mechanical shark malfunction and showed it off every chance they got. What made the first movie work well was how little we saw the shark and how the music became the shark in many moments of the film. In addition, the first film benefited from an all-star cast that included Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gray, and Murray Hamilton and while the cast returned, except for Dreyfuss, their characters remain unchanged, their arcs are identical and they even repeat some of the same actions from the first film.
Is Jaws 2 the worst sequel that’s ever been made? Probably not but it’s an unnecessary sequel. The first film ended perfectly; Brody blows up the shark and saves the island and it’s completely ridiculous to think that a new equally giant shark would arrive at the same island where a different giant shark killed people. Now, one can understand the desire to make a sequel to the highest-grossing film at the time and this was actually the highest-grossing sequel for a short time until Rocky 2 was released but in hindsight, a better attempt should have been made to retain Spielberg as the director, the original writers and remember that sometimes less is more.
This is another case of creating an absolutely legendary film and wanting to milk that legacy for more money. When Alfred Hitchcock released the first film in 1960, he inadvertently created the slasher subgenre and introduced audiences to one of cinema’s most infamous villains, Norman Bates. By all accounts, Psycho II had a rather typical production cycle; the filmmakers had received the blessing from Hitchcock’s family to make a sequel, Anthony Perkins had signed on to reprise his role as Norman Bates and the film was a moderate success once it was released in 1983. Psycho II is more infamous thanks to the franchise it spawned with the sequel Psycho III and the television sequel, Psycho IV: The Beginning and later, Gus Van Sant inexplicably decided to make a shot-for-shot remake of the original film starring Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn.
Upon closer examination, Psycho II has some enormous flaws. For one, it’s trying to replicate a similar formula from the first film and the entire twist of Norman Bates adopting the “Mother” persona is lost as the film ends in a near-identical fashion as the first film as Norman speaks to himself in his mother’s voice. In addition, the plot is convoluted and no clear motive emerges as to why Norman’s new friends wish to torment him so much. It’s odd to think that a film as iconic as Psycho spawned three additional sequels with a near-identical premise each and every time but then again, sequels are nothing new, hence why we also got three sequels to Jaws.
The definitive follow-up/reimagining of the Psycho lore was the television series Bates Motel starring Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates as begin their new life as motel owners in a small town. It’s a slow burn as Norman’s madness is fully explored and revealed in horrifying detail as he slaughters innocent people and the Mother persona comes to life in a way the original films were not able to explore. Bates Motel remains one of the best horror television shows of the 21st century and is available to stream on Netflix.
Really, any one of the Halloween sequels following Halloween II could be in this position but Season of the Witch is rare in that it doesn’t contain or even reference the characters of Michael Myers or Laurie Strode, the famous villain and protagonist of the series. When John Carpenter and Debra Hill originally created the first film, they intended the franchise to be an anthology series with new films and new characters in each film that was centered on the night of Halloween and while this was a revolutionary idea at the time and seems to be the norm in television now, this was a misguided attempt to inject unnecessary new life into a franchise that became confusing after the release of this film.
The first film in the franchise was and is an amazing movie and holds up remarkably well more than 40 years after its release. Halloween II is a worthy sequel but the third film derailed the series, despite Season of the Witch having gone on to gain a cult following in the years since its release. Now, the timeline of the Halloween franchise is confusing and almost impossible to decipher. The franchise experienced two retcons prior to the 2018 soft reboot which served as a direct sequel to the original film. For starters, Season of the Witch is a science fiction/horror hybrid film with a town that’s been sustained by the business of selling Halloween masks that are also imbued with microchips that possess people. There’s also androids in disguise as humans, the power of Stonehenge, and a cliffhanger ending that’s unresolved to this day.
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The Halloween franchise has been able to enjoy the consistency that’s eluded other horror franchises like Friday the 13th and Child’s Play but it contains other questionable entries like Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers where the evil that possesses Myers somehow is transferred into his young niece, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers which features a young Paul Rudd fighting a cult eerily similar to the stories from the Satanic Panic of the 70’s and 80’s, and Halloween: Resurrection which even features the death of Laurie Strode. The franchise has returned to prominence following the release of the aforementioned film in 2018 directed by David Gordon Green and with two additional sequels planned for 2021 and 2022, Halloween refuses to die.
There are plenty of subpar horror films but it’s disappointing when we are treated to a truly game-changing film of the genre and its legacy is almost tainted by an unworthy sequel. However, the original films mentioned here are always worth watching even if it’s not the spooky season. Horror films will always have a place in our society. They enable us to exorcise our demons (sometimes literally) and subvert the injustices of our time and draw parallels through time and me personally, I just hope no one gets the idea to try and make a sequel to Get Out.
Featured Image Credit: Psycho II Youtube