Successful horror franchises are easy targets for less than scrupulous producers. Naming your film (or in some cases, renaming your film) as though it’s part of a popular series is an easy way to attract an already-receptive audience – who hopefully won’t discover it has little or nothing to do with the original until they’ve already put down their cash. In other cases, franchises have included film entries only barely related to the original ideas, ticking off their tried-and-true fans. In preparation for our November 12 debate on the best horror sequel, we look at some supposed ‘sequels’ that were, well, not quite as advertised.
For some reason the fifth official installment of the Amityville franchise, this Montreal-lensed effort is the first Amityville ‘sequel’ not to take place at 112 Ocean Avenue. Rather, it’s about some yuppies flipping houses who come up against a haunted property that, like, totally delays their reno. The “Amityville curse” is responsible, of course. Apparently homes can catch it like the flu. But the ailment has exactly nothing to do with Ronald DeFeo, the Lutzs, or the infamous abode where it all began.
The Italians are undisputed masters of the not-a-sequel sequel. The infamous TROLL 2 was released four years after Empire Pictures’ middling fantasy-horror TROLL (1986), about an apartment building overrun by an evil magical creature. TROLL 2, which forgot to include any trolls, is actually about goblins invading a town and tricking humans into turning into vegetables. Or something. It makes no sense as is, but even less sense as a sequel to an established VHS hit. Bonus: 1992’s TROLL 3, also an Italian production, has nothing to do with the other Troll films either.
Before ALIENS was on the drawing board, the Italians were once again exploiting sequel possibilities with an unofficial follow-up to cash in on lingering box office interest. Originally titled ALIEN TERROR, this gory pseudo-sequel was always intended as an sly spinoff from Ridley Scott’s space-scare masterpiece, involving the return to Earth of a ship housing only a foreign invader. Facehugging, final girls and gross alien puppets are all present and accounted for, though this knockoff also seems obsessed with bowling and beheadings.
Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBI 2 has a fascinating history. When George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD was retitled ZOMBI in Italy, this film, already in production, did a quick title-switch to profit from ZOMBI’s popularity, despite having absolutely nothing to do with Romero’s classic. What’s even stranger is the film didn’t actually need to ride DAWN OF THE DEAD’s coattails – it was released as ZOMBIE in America, where it became a huge and influential hit lauded for its effects and outrageous gore sequences.
Perhaps the most famous example of a film diverging from the franchise, this slasher not-so-sequel takes a hard left into campy, occult horror with a plot about killer Halloween masks. Post-Michael Myers’ death in HALLOWEEN 2, John Carpenter envisioned his franchise operating like an anthology to tell new stories each year under the HALLOWEEN banner. That sentiment died a quick death when audiences demanded more teen-slashing mayhem. We happen to think it’s still a pretty good idea, and would’ve liked to see where that series might have gone. Couldn’t be worse than HALLOWEEN 6, right?