The profit-driven nature of filmmaking usually means that, if a movie’s a hit, sequels follow. And it’s sometimes the case that, particularly in the realm of low-budget sci-fi and horror, those sequels are trotted out in a rush, or don’t have anything to do with the movie they’re following.
This isn’t to say that the sequels on this list are necessarily bad – it’s a proper mixed bag of the great, the mediocre and the downright awful – but in each instance, these sequels have only vague links to their predecessors, or worse still, they’re entirely different films rebranded to fit an existing franchise.
Our list is by no means definitive – rather, we’ve chosen a collection of films that we find the most memorable. So without further ado, let’s head back to the year 1977, and a largely forgotten possession horror series…
Beyond The Door II (1977)
What the other movie was about: The original Beyond The Door was one of several possession-themed horror flicks that mysteriously appeared in the wake of The Exorcist in the mid-1970s. It’s about a San Francisco mother who begins to experience weird demonic symptoms while pregnant, and begins to suspect that the baby inside her may be the Antichrist, of all people.
Warner Bros didn’t take too kindly to the similarities between certain scenes in Beyond The Door and The Exorcist – spinning heads, projectile vomiting and so forth – and attempted an unsuccessful lawsuit. Shot mostly in Rome on a low budget, Beyond The Door turned a handsome profit of around $15m.
What this one’s about: Daria Nicolodi (Deep Red, Tenebrae) stars as a mentally disturbed woman who’s terrorised by her demon-possessed young son. Directed by the great Mario Bava, the sequel is better made than its predecessor, but that’s partly because it wasn’t shot as a sequel to Beyond The Door at all – it was originally titled Shock, and renamed for the US market to help sell a few more tickets.
Tenuous link to the previous movie: Child actor David Colin Jr was in the original Beyond The Door, but played an entirely different character. Another unrelated sequel, Beyond The Door III followed in 1989, and was about a demon-possessed train. Yes, really.
Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
What the other movie was about: Joe Dante’s Piranha, produced by Roger Corman and written by John Sayles, is arguably the best (and most fun) movie to follow in the wake of Jaws. As the title suggests, it’s about a shoal of militarised killer fish that escapes from captivity and feasts on visitors to a riverside resort. A movie so good that it was remade twice – once in 1995, starring William Katt and a very young Mila Kunis, and again in 2010.
What this one’s about: Admittedly, Piranha II does have a strong and clear link to its predecessor: it has killer fish in it. But the sequel was shot on a fraction of the original’s budget, was made by an entirely different cast and crew, and so far as we can make out, doesn’t even reference the first movie’s events.
This time, killer mutant piranhas terrorise unwary locals in the Caribbean. And just to make things more interesting, the piranhas have been given the inability to fly. The sequel’s sometimes described as James Cameron’s directorial debut, even though he was fired from the production during the first week or two of shooting. Producer Ovidio G Assonitis (who made Beyond The Door) had a greater hand in its making, and the results are bizarrely entertaining.
Tenuous link to the previous movie: In its earlier stages, Piranha II‘s script would have had a greater connection with the first movie, with Kevin McCarthy returning as scientist Dr Hoak. Another filmmaker from the Roger Corman school, Miller Drake, was set to direct, before Warner Bros handed the project over to Assonitis, who promptly replaced Drake with Cameron.
Incredibly, the idea for flying piranhas came not from the warped mind of a writer, but a Warner executive. And thus, one of the more curious sequels in movie history was born.
Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
What the other films were about: A true box-office phenomenon, 1978’s Halloween marked the beginning of a long-running franchise, and several decades of similar slasher movies. Jamie Lee Curtis starred as Laurie Strode, an Illinois babysitter who’s one of several teens terrorised by Michael Myers, a knife-wielding maniac who escapes from an asylum and goes on a masked rampage. The 1981 sequel, set immediately after the first movie’s events, took place in a hospital, upped the gore but misplaced quite a bit of the original’s creeping suspense.
What this one’s about: Having written, produced and partly shot 1981’s Halloween II, John Carpenter, along with partner Debra Hill, had grown weary of the slasher format. For the third movie, the pair had the idea of taking the franchise in a bold new direction: get rid of the masked killer and tell a series of different stories, each connected by a Halloween theme.
Halloween III sees Dr Challis (Tom Atkins) investigate the shadowy company behind a brand of mind-controlling novelty horror masks that have become the season’s must-have item. The story, originally written by Nigel Kneale but heavily altered by director Tommy Lee Wallace, takes in robot killers, a stolen bit of Stonehenge, and a mad millionaire played by Dan O’Herlihy (later of RoboCop fame).
Had Halloween III been more successful, it could have spawned a string of annual Halloween-themed stories, but its middling reception resulted in Michael Myers’ return six years later. Although not without its faults (the whole Stonehenge thing really is a plot point too far), Halloween III really does have some strong moments, including great photography from Dean Cundey, and a gripping early sequence involving an assassination in a hospital and an exploding car.
Tenuous link to the previous films: In a mail-modern move, the original Halloween appears on the television in several scenes. Jamie Lee Curtis also turns in an easy-to-miss cameo as the voice of a telephone operator.
Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)
What the other films were about: Joe Dante’s The Howling wasn’t the most successful werewolf movie released in 1981 (the other being An American Werewolf In London) but it did give rise to the most sequels, including Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf, which followed on from the events of the first movie but mislaid the original’s shocks and wit. Howling II was also released with the horrifying subtitle, Stirba: Werewolf Bitch.
What this one’s about: The Howling took a trip down under with this largely unrelated sequel. Here, Australia has its own breed of kangaroo-derived werewolves roaming the Outback, and one of them (played by Imogen Annesley) moves to Sidney and becomes an actress in a horror movie called Shapeshifters Part 8. A great deal of Mora’s whacky humor misses the mark, but it’s hard not to warm to a movie that contains a werewolf ballerina.
Tenuous link to the previous films: Philippe Mora, who directed Howling II, returned for this independently-financed sequel – other than that, the connection to the previous movies is largely non-existent. Unlike the other sequels, Howling III doesn’t feature any of the characters from the first movie, and even though it claims to be based on Gary Brandner’s Howling III novel, The Marsupials doesn’t have much in common with it.
When Mora approached the Australian government for a financing deal, the response, he later wrote, was one of bemusement. “My Daliesque description of marsupial human women with pouches generated expressions of shock,” Mora later wrote. “I guess they lacked a certain sense of humor…”
Curse II: The Bite (1989)
What the original movie was about: Actor David Keith made his debut as a director in 1987’s The Curse, a loose adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s The Color Out Of Space. In it, a meteor lands near a farm in rural America and begins turning livestock and humans alike into raving monsters. Co-produced by the ubiquitous Ovidio G Assonitis, and shot partly in Rome and David Keith’s own farm, The Curse is cheap and trashy, but has all the fun and madness of a B-movie in the finest 50s tradition.
What this one’s about: Curse II is about a young man who’s bitten by a radioactive snake, resulting in his arm mutating into a deadly serpent. As the infection spreads, the poor soul then begins to give birth to lots of baby snakes. As bizarre as it sounds, Curse II benefits from some creatively horrible special effects from Screaming Mad George.
Tenuous link to the previous films: If the plot of Curse II sounds unrelated to the meteor-based horrors of its predecessor, that’s because it wasn’t originally intended as a sequel at all. The two Curse films that came afterwards weren’t related, either; Curse III: Blood Sacrifice featured Christopher Lee and voodoo, while Curse IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice was a possession movie set in an Italian monastery. All of them began with different titles (Panga, Catacombs) before being ushered into the growing Curse stable by marketing-savvy producers.
House III: The Horror Show (1989)
What the other films were about: 1986’s House was an entertaining comedy horror about a Vietnam veteran’s brushes with the supernatural in his titular haunted building. The second movie ditched the characters of the first but retained the haunted house theme and splashes of comedy (The Second Story was its amusing subtitle).
What this one’s about: House III drifted yet further from the original’s premise. This time, Lance Henriksen stars as a detective terrorised by an executed serial killer (Brion James) who’s taken up residence in the basement of his new house. Released with the title The Horror Show in the US, the movie was marketed as a House sequel elsewhere to capitalise on its name.
Most tenuous link to the previous films: Other than sharing the same producer (Sean S Cunningham) composer (Harry Manfredini) and cinematographer, House III has more in common with Wes Craven’s Shocker (which came out later in 1989) than its own predecessors, as is often noted. The Horror Show’s addition to the House line-up also meant that, when Cunningham brought out a true sequel, he ended up having to call it House IV.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)
What the other films were about: When John Carpenter made Halloween in 1978, little could he have known that he’d spark an entire wave of copycat slasher films that take place on well-known days of the year. 1980’s Silent Night, Deadly Night was one of the most controversial, featuring as it did an axe-waving serial killer in a Santa outfit. As the movie’s IMDb entry notes, Silent Night, Deadly Night wasn’t the first piece of entertainment to contain a killer Santa Claus – the idea also cropped up in Tales From The Crypt and the more obscure movie, Christmas Evil – but neither provoked anything like as much anger as this did.
Angry parents picketed outside movie theatres, and the furore grew to the point where its distributor decided to pull the movie from cinemas. Despite its curtailed run at the box office, Silent Night, Deadly Night was a success, and several low-budget sequels followed – which, oddly, failed to generate the same kind of media attention.
What this one’s about: The first two sequels continued the festive slasher theme of the original, but for some reason, the fourth entry staggered off on its own utterly bewildering direction. Brian Yuzna directs this weird story about a female reporter who investigates a murder and ends up on the wrong side of a witch cult.
Tenuous link to the previous films: Although it’s set at Christmas, there’s no killer Santa to be found in this straight-to-video oddity. Look closely, and you might spot a Father Christmas on a television somewhere, though. Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker wandered even further from the slasher template, with a killer toy storyline akin to Halloween III. Mickey Rooney was oddly cast as the maniacal toymaker, named Joe Petto.
Troll 2 (1990)
What the previous movie was about: The 1986 fantasy Troll was a low-budget, breezy tale about an evil troll on the hunt for an enchanted ring in a San Diego tenement building, but it also has a place in pop culture history for containing two characters named Harry Potter.
What this one’s about: The 1990 horror comedy Troll 2 – about a family menaced by a druid queen and her army of goblins – had nothing to do with the 1986 original, and that’s because it was filmed as Goblins before its name was changed to help it find a larger audience. Turning shoddy filmmaking into something approaching an artform, Troll 2‘s reputation is such that it prompted the making of Best Worst Movie, a documentary celebrating its awfulness and cult following.
Tenuous link to the previous films: None at all. Legend has it that Troll 2′s script, written by director Claudio Fragasso’s wife, was a response to several of their friends becoming vegetarians. With a creative genesis like that, how could the movie fail?
Confusingly, two films were marketed with the title Troll 3 in some territories – The Crawlers, which has something to do with mutants and nuclear waste, and Quest For The Mighty Sword, which is also part of the Ator movie series, but uses one of the goblin outfits from Troll 2. Our heads hurt just thinking about all this.
The Amityville Curse (1990)
What the other films were about: 1979’s The Amityville Horror was loosely based on the novel of the same name, itself an account of the Lutz family and their haunted house in a sleepy New York town. Having purchased the building on the cheap due to its bloody history, young couple George (James Brolin) and Kathy (Margot Kidder) experience all kinds of sinister goings on among its walls, and George responds by growing a beard and losing his temper a lot. A surprisingly good showing at the box office prompted the production of numerous sequels, each more crazy than the last.
What this one’s about: Fourth sequel The Amityville Curse is another haunted house movie, but despite its similar themes – ghosts, possession, aggressive insects – it’s not even shot in the same distinctive building as its predecessors, making its title the only true link to the first four movies.
Tenuous link to the previous films: The Amityville Curse is supposedly based on the book Murder In Amityville by Hans Holzer, yet this was already used as the basis for the prequel Amityville II: The Possession (1982), and its contents have no bearing on this 1990 entry at all. It’s all par for the course in a series that has so far included a haunted lamp (Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes), a haunted clock (Amityville 1992) and a haunted dolls’ house (the imaginatively titled Amityville Dollhouse).
The Omen IV: The Awakening (1991)
What the other films were about: The original Omen trilogy, beginning with Richard Donner’s hit first movie in 1976, detailed the birth, childhood, rise to power and defeat of Damien Thorn, the Antichrist. 1981’s Omen III was even subtitled The Final Conflict, which, along with the movie ending with the Second Coming, would rightly lead you to assume that the series had run its course. Needless to say, studio executives had other ideas.
What this one’s about: This made-for-television sequel introduced Delia, a young girl taken in by a well-to-do family who’ve no idea that she’s actually the granddaughter of Satan himself. Assorted deaths ensue.
Tenuous link to the previous films: Delia’s revealed to be the daughter of the now dead Damien, and the imaginative freak accidents are present and correct, but the made-for-TV production values make this belated reboot of sorts feel entirely disconnected from the original trilogy. Mind you, a man does get hit in the stomach by a gigantic wrecking ball, so it’s not all bad.
Sorority House Massacre II (1991)
What the previous movie was about: 1986’s Sorority House Massacre was an identikit Halloween clone, right down to the psycho escaped from an institution and his aggressive pursuit of teenagers.
What this one’s about: Four years after the original, this unrelated sequel appeared with the subtitle Nighty Nightmare. More teenagers are killed in a sorority house, but the movie doesn’t appear to have been shot as a sequel to the original movie at all – the killer’s a possessed teenager rather than an escaped maniac, and hilariously, there are flashbacks to an entirely different movie: 1982’s Slumber Party Massacre.
Most tenuous link to the previous films: Aside from the obvious genre trappings, not a lot.
Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1991)
What the previous movie was about: Taking in alien abduction, familial estrangement and gooey mutations, 1983’s Xtro might just be the strangest British movie of the 1980s. Philip Sayer plays an ordinary father who returns to his family three years after being whisked away in a space ship, tries to bond with his estranged son, and gradually changes into an alien. Some of its special effects scenes really push the boundaries of taste.
What this one’s about: Set in an subway science facility, the belated sequel – a kind of Aliens clone – deals with a group of soldiers fighting the xenomorphs who come wobbling out of an experimental gate to another dimension. Shot in Canada and starring Jan-Michael Vincent, it’s a far more conventional B-movie than the wacky original – there isn’t even a gratuitous panther attack, which is just criminal, really.
Tenuous link to the previous films: The only real link to the original Xtro is director Harry Bromley-Davenport, who reportedly made Xtro II in order to retain the rights to its name. Xtro 3: Watch The Skies followed in 1995, which was about soldiers encountering an alien on an island. Bromley-Davenport stated in 2010 that a “much stranger” fourth movie was in the works, but at the time of writing, nothing more has emerged.
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996)
What the previous movie was about: Taking the title from Stephen King’s short story, abandoning its plot, and using it as the basis for a science fiction movie about virtual reality, 1992’s The Lawnmower Man is about a simple gardener who gains godlike powers after he’s plugged into a computer mainframe by a scientist. Jeff Fahey plays the gardener, while Pierce Brosnan stars as the scientist, but they both played second fiddle to the computer-generated special effects, which were quite a novelty at the time. Stephen King liked the movie so much, he sued its producers for linking his name to something which “bore no meaningful resemblance” to his 70s tale.
What this one’s about: The gardener with the godlike powers survived the events of the first movie, while a teen computer hacking genius named Peter Parkette has to stop him from taking over all the computer systems in the world.
Tenuous link to the first movie: Although the plot sounds like a conventional sequel, it actually feels more like a remake with an entirely different cast. Pierce Brosnan’s nowhere to be seen, and Jeff Fahey’s character is now played by Max Headroom actor Matt Frewer. The only returning character from the first movie is Austin O’Brien, whose Peter Parkette character was simply the cute kid next door in that movie. The R-rated scenes from the first movie were also softened in an attempt to get more teenagers in to see the sequel – there were even plans to make a third Lawnmower Man with X-Men-style superheroes in it. The teenagers didn’t turn up to see Beyond Cyberspace, and the third movie never happened.
American Psycho 2: All American Girl (2002)
What the previous movie was about: Mary Harron’s adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis’ savage 80s yuppie satire American Psycho was a classy affair. Starring a pre-valet Christian Bale as a Wall Street tycoon with a secret passion for “murders and executions”, it emphasised the black humor in the book rather than its exceedingly graphic violence. Bale was terrific as Patrick Bateman, a man whose vanity is almost as astonishing as his bad taste in music.
What this one’s about: Mila Kunis stars as Rachael Newman, who killed Patrick Bateman (not played by Christian Bale) as a young girl and subsequently takes up his mantle as a serial killer. Essentially a slasher movie about Rachel’s murderous attempts to kill her way into the FBI, American Psycho 2 features William Shatner as a college professor and contains precisely none of the original movie’s razor-sharp wit – and for good reason…
Tenuous link to the previous films: American Psycho 2 began as a production called The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, and was even filmed under that title. Lions Gate then decided to alter the movie to fit in with the successful American Psycho, with a new opening which attempted to provide a link to Harron’s movie – much to Kunis’ chagrin.
“When I did the second one, I didn’t know it would be American Psycho II,” Mila Kunis later revealed. “It was supposed to be a different project, and it was re-edited.” The result, she maintained, was “bad”.
A second sequel was threatened a few years ago, but so far, nothing’s come to light.
White Noise: The Light (2007)
What the previous movie was about: Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan, an architect who attempts to contact his missing wife through recordings of hissing static, but manages to attract the attention of some nasty demons at the same time.
What this one’s about: The Electronic Voice Phenomenon concept of the original movie is summarily dismissed in this unrelated sequel, which rather makes a mockery of its White Noise title. Instead, it’s about Nathan Fillion’s grieving Abe, whose family was killed by a maniacal gunman. After attempting suicide, he emerges back in the land of the living with a unique gift: the ability to see a white aura around those whose deaths are imminent.
Tenuous link to the previous films: None. Much like its predecessor, The Light’s a less than brilliant movie, but wins extra geek switch for Fillion and Katee Sackhoff, who plays a friendly nurse. Mind you, having Craig Fairbrass from EastEnders (and Cliffhanger) as the killer of Abe’s family is a bit distracting.