Category Archives: Lists

Sequel Showdown: 2s, Twos, and IIs

Sequels.

There are lots of them, but what are the best ones? Let’s play ‘em off against one another until there’s an ultimate victor. To save on needless speculating, only films where more than one sequel was made (or is scheduled) can buy in…

Where better to start, the crowded Part 2, Episode II, Return of blah mini-verse.

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1981-1987

Friday the 13th Part 2; Halloween II; Psycho II; A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2;
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Well, what to pick? To nobody’s surprise, Friday the 13th Part 2 gets my vote as the best first sequel out of this bunch. Second place goes to Psycho II. Last would be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

EDIT: Having checked, I rated TCM2 half-a-star higher than Hello Mary Lou.

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1987-1993

Slumber Party Massacre II; Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2; Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers; Child’s Play 2; Maniac Cop 2;
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

Easy choice from the ‘lost years’ of the late 80s into the early 90s; Sleepaway Camp II is clearly the best film; the worst is Slumber Party Massacre II.

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1997-2003

Scream 2; I StillĀ  Know What You Did Last Summer; Urban Legends: Final Cut; Camp Blood 2; Jeepers Creepers II; Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp

Hollywood’s magic money fingers touched the genre in the second half of the 90s and budgets and aspirations were cranked. Scream 2 wins this round, with silver going to UL2 and last place obviously landing on the steaming crap that is Camp Blood 2.

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2003-2010

Final Destination 2; Wrong Turn 2: Dead End; Boogeyman 2; Cold Prey II;
Hatchet II; Scarecrow Slayer

Cold Prey II dances into first place with ease, though Final Destination 2 was a kick-ass sequel in its own right. The remainders range from interesting to painful. I’ll leave it up to you to arrange the order of those.

The Finalists

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An odd cross-section of first-sequels, all with various advantages of their own:

  • Scream 2 is a truly incredible sequel, one that equals if not, in some ways, improves on the original. The writing is sharp, the suspects many, and it represents the zenith of the 90s slasher boom in a lot of ways.
  • Sleepaway II is the best of its series – funny, bloody, campy and at camp (always a plus in my book), and Renee Estevez is the final girl in it.
  • Cold Prey II is the best sequel I’ve ever seen in terms of carrying on the story, finding a way to resurrect the killer, and even bringing back cast members to play the cadavers of their former selves. It’s sensational.

However, Friday 2 is – and always has been – everything I want out of a slasher film. Fast, furious, a high body count that doesn’t go stupidly ballistic, and Amy Steel. It could only be improved by somebody digging out the cut footage, slamming it back in and, presto!, the best the genre has to offer is even better, and for that reason, the entirely predictable winner is…

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What would your pickings be?

Next time, Part 3s!

Title Recall: The Big Three

In a purely geek way, it’s interesting to observe the evolution of the title cards over the ‘big three’ slasher movie franchises as they desperately tried to remain relevant over time… Remakes n’ shit have NOT been included. We need them not.

From humble jack-o-lantern beginnings, Halloween kinda kept hold of its creepy off-yellow fontage for the most part, via the LED-laden electro of the non-slasher third instalment, to sleepy town in the shadow of gloom of the fourth, forgetting to put the suffix on the fifth, going all bold and brash for six, a bit fanciful in round seven and then curiously cheap looking in the much-maligned eighth

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…And then the calendar flipped over to Friday. Friday… the 13th!

Like Halloween, the first two films feature almost indentical logos, the second exploding out of view to reveal the shiny metallic Part 2. They 3D-ified it next, then it was scrawled over Jason’s now-iconic hockey mask before the sub-title came smashing through; Part V revisited the original logo, dropped the instalment number and elected the ‘new style’ hockey mask that only lasted one film. Jason went all Bond for numero six; The New Blood returned to a basic red-on-black in the series’ by-then-standard fontage, repeated it with a New York backdrop for eight, then came the Jason-monikered films, flames-a-lickin’ for the first, floaty, DNA-stuff for the second.

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Last but by no means least – unless you’re talking body count – is Fredville.

The original film bears an almost childlike cartoony quality to it that was quicky shunned in the subsequent, and conversely less scary, sequels. Part 2, like it’s Friday counterpart, bore such a long title that it had to display it on two separate titles, again with the sheeny, metallic thing.

Elm‘s three and four, the closest pairing in the series, went for duplicated fontage, had dropped the unneccessary “part” and there you have it. The fifth, again strangely similar to Friday V, missed off the number and stuck the crayon suffix on a second card.

Finally, 1991’s “final” instalment goes down the bold factory-stamp avenue, not too dissimilar to The A-Team really…

Where is New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason? They will appear in later, more appropriate lists.

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Title Recall: Remakes, ‘Reimaginings’, Re-whatevers

Having gleaned that little is to be learned from title cards, here’s some old-to-new comparisons: Films that were re-thingied for the ‘audience of today’…

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The modest effect of the title over the sorority house of the impeccable original was replaced by a garish scrawl of ‘cool font’ for the 2006 remake, which will also later be included in the ‘weird font’ collection. Shows all subtlety had been hoovered out of it.

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The long, slow zoom into the jack-o-lantern of the 1978 film was creepy enough, while John Carpenter’s plinky, unforgettable theme clunked along. Considering Rob Zombie’s no-holds-barred approach in his grubby remake, the white-on-black title is pretty drab.

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Another case of reverse-subtlety. The original Friday‘s block logo came a-rushin’ towards the audience and shattered an unseen pane of glass upon arrival. The 2009 re-do omitted such theatrics for a rather unmemorable fade-up a good way into the movie, once Jason had already done away with several teen campers.

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Here’s a curious paradox. Prom Night of yore is heaps of fun, but has a rather random title card, that just appears while doomed young Robin meanders to her death at the start of the film; it seems strangely out of place and understated. The tame-as-a-teddy-bear redux in 2008 opted for credits over a long aerial scan of the locale in, dare I say, slightly more appropriate fontage. Dress it up any way you want, it still sucks.

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Canada’s answer to Friday the 13th zoomed into the mouth of a screaming woman a few minutes in for the funky title card and a little drop of blood fell from the hearts. The 3D remake in 2009 went for a hole-in-the-wall effect, before it all shot towards us, y’know, to make us jump out of our seats.

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Wes Craven’s Elm Street logo looks a little like a child’s felt tip rendition of the title, but it zooms towards us with a creepy ‘zwoooooooommm’ sound and is bizarrely unsettling. The remake, like so many, waited till all other credits were done before appearing rather innocuously and unfrighteningly.

So there we go, in most cases, even credits can’t be bettered by fancy-pants remakes with more money n’ better stuff. There was more resting on a good product back in the day.

Stand by for various other bizarre groupings.

Title Recall: Seeing Red

What can we learn from a film from its title card?

Turns out, not much!

Even so, it’s interesting in a strictly dorky way to look at the various options taken over the years in slasher cinema. So let’s start with the old favourite: RED LETTERING ON A BLACK BACKGROUND. Ooooh.

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There’s that lovely white ‘in’ on Bodycount and Maniac Cop, Bloodmoon, and Severed Lives all tried to be different with big all-screen hogging super-size lettering, effectively warning us of the affronting danger soon to follow! Meanwhile, The Burning is all ‘hey I’m cool, I’m subtle, nothing to be afraid of, kids.’

Happy Birthday and Rosemary’s Killer opt for ‘classy’ fontage. Ooh la la.

Neigh so interesting really, but nice to see that some filmmakers tried to jazz it up a bit with ‘crazy’ fonts or a bit of blood splatter effect. But it’s odd how some of these fonts appear creepily similar. Hmmm.

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Look how Sleepaway Camp II utilises different sizes and… and… stuff.

The Boogey Man‘s all graffiti-lite scrawl, suggesting a mythical, uh, mythos to the title character.

Crap on a cracker, if you think that was boring then A). you should’ve had the task of image capturing from over 100 DVDs and B). wait till we get to the white-on-black borefests.

Rules are made to be slashed to ribbons

Google “slasher movie rules” and you’ll find no end to the listings of do’s and don’ts of the dead teenager flick: Don’t walk backwards slowly, don’t investigate strange sounds, don’t say “I’ll be right back” and so on and so forth…

Scream may have listed and then broken most of these rules, but it wasn’t the first. Je regardeĀ  how often “Sex = Death” a.k.a. “Only virgins can survive” is broken…

Way back in 1981, when the slasher movie opus was in its relative infancy (and commercial peak), Friday the 13th Part 2 broke the golden rule that said the final girl has to be a virgin, or at the very least, sexually undemonstrative.

Ginny – Dame Amy of Steel – quite evidently gets it on with her on/off shag-thing (and boss) Paul, long before any of the horror unfolds. While she may not be as flaunty as the other girls in the film, who either talk about sex a lot, initiate it a lot, or wear tight little cut-offs, the very fact that Ginny has sex at all is quite the progressive step in a genre often criticised for puritanical representations of pre-marital sex and punishment thereof.

Even further back in time – and before the slasher movie ‘rules’ had been established by clone-after-Xerox of Halloween‘s basic plot structure, Black Christmas (1974) elected a heroine who was not only pregnant by her boyfriend, but planning on an abortion!

One of the many reasons that Black Christmas is so damn good is this risk it takes with the central character, the one the audience is supposed to root for above all others. It’s worth noting that Jess (Olivia Hussey) isn’t all just “I’ma no havin’ ma baaaaybee, I wants to go to Ayia Napa!”, she provides a thoughtful rationale around her choice. If only 5% of modern horror films could be this brave…

OK, so it’s a post-Scream example, but the central concept of Cherry Falls (2000) flipped the entire cliche on its head. As the brilliant tagline told it: “If you haven’t had it. You’ve had it.”

It being sex.

The killer terrorising the tweens of your common-or-garden small town only makes a play for the virgins. The high school population’s resolution? A “Pop Your Cherry” party, where they all just romp around in the most unromantic way imaginable. Despite candles.

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Several of the heroines that came after the late 90s self-referential cycle were that little bit more real: Julie in I Know What You Did Last Summer has off-camera sex with her boyfriend at the start of the movie.

Elsewhere, young moms occasionally step up to the final girl plate: Kara in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers; Jessica in Jason Goes to Hell; Heather in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare; and whatever Catherine Hicks’ character was named in Child’s Play. They’re surely not girly little virgins. Kara, for instance, is regarded as “paying for her mistake” by her father. She messed up, but she’s all good now. All are single mothers (Heather widowed during the film), so none are having a lot of sex.

But there you have it, not every rule is written in stone. Sometimes you can have sex, but only if it’s the right KIND of sex and you’re not stupid about it.

Next time: Does the black guy REALLY always die first?

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