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Sequels that Kill

There's something to be said for sequels, which isn't the kind of thing you hear me utter very often. There's a reason for that. Almost all of them suck. But there are exceptions, and it's those exeptions that are on my mind. Think of a franchise like "Friday the 13th." If they'd stopped after one or two of those suckers, western civilization would be less one pop icon, namely a goalie-masked Jason Vorhees. Like it or not, he's as recognizable in many circles as Karloff's Frankenstein monster or Lugosi's Dracula. And he never would have existed if it weren't for a husky, insecure fellow named Shelly, who didn't appear until the third installment of the "Friday" film series.

Much has been made about the "Friday" movies representing the lowest end of the horror film spectrum, but of course the steady march of time has shown that far worse is possible. Watch part four, alone at night, preferably while it's storming outside. I promise you that under those circumstances, you will be affected by the film. And not just because it will make you jump a hundred-and-fifty times. Believe it or not, you might be surprised at some of the acting and the effectiveness of many of the shots. There's an appealing quirkiness to much of the film, and even some range. You get the feeling, watching the first four "Friday" films that most everyone involved was interested in getting the most out of what they had to work with. There was a sense that you were watching the combined efforts of a team.

The "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies never seemed to squeeze as much from their orange, but there are moments that shine in those films as well. With "Nightmare" it was the casting of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger that had the most beneficial effects. His acting elevated the films, but the later ones ended up suffering from scripts that became more interested in delivering obvious quips than in telling a story.

"Halloween" has had a run of less-than-stellar sequels as well, for a variety of reasons. But with that franchise, much ground was reclaimed with the excellent "H2O." Not only is "H2O" one of the best horror sequels ever made, it's one of the best slasher films, period. Sure, it lacks some of the shoestring innovation of the original film, but Steve Miner's direction is sure-footed enough (his involvement actually gives me hope for next year's "Day of the Dead" remake). The script rings true, and Jamie Lee Curtis delivers what may be the best performance in a slasher film.

And of course it's almost impossible to close this off without mention of the "Evil Dead" films. Not unlike the "Friday" phenomenon, we would be without the apocalyptic image of Ash and his boom stick had Sam Raimi (and, more importantly, Bruce Campbell) decided to call it quits after part two. The first film will always be my favorite in this series, but let's face it, "Army of Darkness" propelled Campbell from minor cult figure to major cult figure overnight. He's even authored a couple of hilarious books!

Will sequels ever again be good for more than turning a quick profit? Maybe if we stop paying to see the bad ones in droves. But as long as it's profitable to make crappy movies, that's what there will be more of than anything else.--Pete Mesling

Posted by Pete on March 4, 2006 3:00 PM
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