Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"What If?" Sequels: Part 1

The horror genre - and especially its slasher sub-genre - is notorious for having series of never-ending sequels. In fact, some of the longest-running, most expansive film franchises started with low-budget slasher movies from the 70's and 80's - namely HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELMS STREET.

But these three titans of terror are not alone in the franchise market. Some others - such as PSYCHO,  SCREAM, CHILD'S PLAY, and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE - have expanded into their own huge franchises, with sequels, prequels, spin-offs, comic books, and novelizations. Heck, even low-budget exploitation fare like Wes Craven's THE HILLS HAVE EYES have enjoyed franchise success, and low-budget titles like PROM NIGHT, BASKET CASE and SLEEPAWAY CAMP have each spawned into cult-favorite franchises. More recently a craze of rebooting old slashers like MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS, and THE FOG has become a new form "sequels" that continue the stories.

But the reasons for making a franchise out of a certain movie has always baffled me. Yes, Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream were overwhelming successes and guaranteed a sequel. But what made The Hills Have Eyes deserve a sequel, a remake, and a sequel to the remake (I'm not bashing - I find campy humor in the 1985 sequel and the 2006 remake is one of the most badass movies of the past decade).

Sometimes its for the best that certain movies never continue their stories (BLACK CHRISTMAS and THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW are extra creepy because they don't have a sequel), but sometimes it makes you wonder how a stand-alone movie could have continued (especially with great villains in the mix)?

So, in my opinion, here are the first 5 of 10 movies that should have been franchise starters:


10. TOURIST TRAP (1979)

Original Film's Logline: After experiencing car troubles, a group of young friends become stranded at a secluded off-road museum, where they are stalked by a mysterious plaster-faced killer with the power to control inanimate objects with his mind.

How the Original Ended: As it turns out in the end, Plaster Face and museum owner Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors) are actually the same person, and after killing all of her friends, Molly (Jocelyn Jones) is left alone to fight him. She ends up subduing him and escaping, although its quite possible that we haven't seen the last of Plaster Face.

Sequel Idea: Some of the best horror franchises are built around interesting and unique villains that can do unique and interesting things. Plaster Face is a telekinetic serial killer - think Sissy Spacek from CARRIE without the embarrassing girl problems. So in a sequel, Plaster Face's kills could get more and more creative and gruesome (unlike the original film's rather tame deaths, due to its PG rating). Just think about the insanely inventive death scenes where Plater Face could take ordinary objects (such as a scarf, in the first film) and turn them into deadly weapons without ever using his hands. It could be like FINAL DESTINATION, only with a tangible villain. The sequel should move Mr. Slausen/Plaster Face to the grounds of the city, where he is living under an assumed name to escape prosecution or capture.

The setting of Tourist Trap is, what I believe, kept it from achieving greatness. The film's setting overshadowed its unique elements, like the cool twist of having Slausen and Plaster Face literally be the same person, and the telekinetic aspect to the killings. Instead, it comes off too much like other backwoods slashers, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and most notably MOTEL HELL and HOUSE OF WAX. The House of Wax remake in 2005 was largely inspired by Tourist Trap, and shares more in common with this film than it does with the 1953 original.

9. HELL NIGHT (1981)

Original Film's Logline: As their final right of initiation, four college pledges are forced to spend the night inside an abandoned mansion where they are stalked by a monstrous man who is the surviving member of a family massacre that occurred at that very mansion years earlier.

How the Original Ended: Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) believe that they have killed the mutated killer of Garth Manor... only to discover that the killer has a brother! Seth and Jeff are picked off rather quickly, leaving Marti to take on the ghoul. She kicks his ass, hitting him with a car and impaling him with a gate.

Sequel Idea: Marti would have to return. She would just have to. She was such a badass heroine. She could have become the Ellen Ripley of teen slasher films. And with a sequel, Marti could grow from traumatized victim into hardcore mutant butt-kicking bitch. And you know Linda Blair would have been down to return. In the sequel, more would have to be explored in Garth Manor... maybe both brothers didn't die, or possibly there are even more siblings that survived the original Garth Manor massacre (they said the boys had a sister, didn't they...)? In any case, I would envision a small film crew from the college making a short documentary about the events of Garth Manor for their thesis project, and then murders begin anew. Before filming, they try to get Marti to join them, but she initially refuses. Eventually, Marti comes around and wants to make sure the teens are safe. Soon, she's face to face with Garth terror once again!

Ever since the PROM NIGHT came in number one at the box office back in 2008, Screen Gems has been trying to develop a remake to Hell Night. And they want it to be PG-13. Luckily, that project seems to have slowed down. To this day, the idea of having my proposed Hell Night sequel could work. Heck, Linda Blair certainly could use the work.


Original Film's Logline: After accidentally committing matricide as a young child, a now grown college student returns to his beach house with his friends for spring break, where his now crazed father stalks them and kills them in increasingly creative ways out of vengeance for the mother's death.

How the Original Ended: After killing all of their friends, psychopath Ed Sr. (Jack Chatham) confronts his son Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) and his girlfriend Pam (Ruth Martinez), attacking them and refusing to die until finally, Ed Jr. and Pam are able to chop off Ed Sr.'s legs and drive away, leaving him for dead.

Sequel Idea: Okay, don't bite my head off, but I'd prefer a reboot of The Mutilator over a sequel. I mean, really, how could the story actually continue after the original? Ed Sr. gets bionic legs and slowly, over the course of the franchise installments, becomes a cyborg? Or Ed Jr. just snaps and picks up the role as the mutilator? No, they all sound... pointless.

Rather than having a sequel, The Mutilator is ripe for a remake. Face it people: the first film is really not a good movie, but it has interesting ideas. Take the basic story - a father wanting revenge on his son for killing his wife - and you've got a classic slasher film story. But why not amp things up? Rather than having the crazed father attacking his one child, why not have him target twins or - wait for it - triplets. And with each triplet comes slasher fodder friends, too. And rather than having the mother get murdered, why not have her die of birth complications? Then the triplets are left in the care of their father, who goes mad after his wife's death and tries to kill the infants but they are rescued and put up for adoption while the father is sent to a sanitarium. 18-years later, the father is released, and the triplets are on their fall break.

7. HUMONGOUS (1982)

Original Film's Logline: A woman is raped at a cocktail party and, years later, her offspring grows up as a savage monster who stalks and kills teens shipwrecked on his abandoned island.

How the Original Ended: After everyone else is killed by the monster, Sandy (Janet Julian) is on the run and finds the monster's shrine, and - ala FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 - she pretends to be his deceased mother until finally burning down the shrine and killing the monster. She then goes and sits on a dock, waiting for help to arrive.

Sequel Idea: Well, the problem with Humongous is that it borrows so much of its story from Friday the 13th Part 2, especially the ending where the final girl finally defeats the villain. What started as a fresh story in the genre (monster stalking teens stranded on his island) eventually suffers from a technical lack of creativity. And that's a shame, but its also ultimately a franchise killer.

Like my suggestion for the above film, The Mutilator, the idea would not be to create a sequel to Humongous, but rather a complete reboot that could stand completely alone. Once again, the idea is there, the execution was just weak. Humongous' basic plot reminds me of a classic ancient Greek myth - a monster on an island terrorizing people. So let's think about it and apply it to Humongous - set it in ancient times (perhaps after the Trojan War). A soldier is returning home to his loved one, but when he arrives home he discovers his village has been pillaged by bandits, and the said lover has been taken along with other virgins by these bandits. They take her on their ship, but a storm shipwrecks them onto Dog Island, where they encounter the beast - the monstrous offspring of a witch who was raped by a criminal. While the slayings begin, the soldier follows clues in search of his girl. How could would a slasher film be in the style of 300 or IMMORTALS? The gory possibilities are endless.


Original Film's Logline: A professor, obsessed with cryptology, takes a team of students into the forest to investigate a series of gruesome killings that he believes is connected to the legendary creature Bigfoot.

How the Original Ended: Does it really matter? A bunch of people die and Bigfoot still walks the lands. Professor Nugent (Michael J. Cutt) and his cadre of Anthropology students discover that Bigfoot raped a hermit called Crazy Wanda (Melanie Graham) and then she gave birth to his mutant son. Oh, and there's also a cult that worships Bigfoot.

Sequel Idea: Night of the Demon has a lot going on for such a low-budget movie - aside from being a standard backwoods slasher, it also features Bigfoot, a Bigfoot cult, a mutant child, and a bunch of random killings (yes, this is the movie where someone dies by getting their penis ripped off while urinating in a bush). The best part of this movie is that Bigfoot is such a crazy character and villain. Well, that, and the fact that its unintentionally hysterical.

Still, over time Night of the Demon has gained a larger cult following than it deserves, largely due to its campy nature, its rather obscure availability, and the fact that it is about Bigfoot. A sequel should simply continue the story, further investigating Bigfoot and the crimes he has committed. It could be interesting to continue looking at the idea of Bigfoot cult, and seeing if they somehow control him (like the Thorn Cult in HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS). But at the end of the day, a sequel to Night of the Demon just needs to feature Bigfoot destroying a bunch of people.

Stay tuned for the final 5 slasher movies that deserved - or still deserve - a franchise. 

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