The ASIDESTEPS CANON – no Jaws sequels – vol. II

Sequels, prequels and remakes.  One of the greatest pleasures of movie obsession is seeing the films you love reimagined, seeing how different directors bring their own peccadillos to the proceedings.  Remaking movies is as old as cinema itself, so quite why the concept is so frowned upon nowadays, I have no idea.  Anyways.  These are my personal favourites (though it bears underlining that in nearly every case the original movie is superior.)  No Jaws (1975 – Steven Spielberg) sequels though because they’re all terrible.

11. The Two Jakes (1990 – Jack Nicholson)

 

Sequel to Chinatown (1974 – Roman Polanski)

 

Jack Nicholson’s career as a writer/director is often neglected, such an emblematic actor of the seventies that he was, but he began behind the camera as much as in front.  A sequel produced many years after the first film (by which stage, its status as a masterpiece has been cemented) it makes the supposed mistake of being more concerned with continuing theme rather than plot.  And when your first film is considered to have one of the tightest plots in American narrative cinema, audiences are desperate for that story to continue.  But The Two Jakes concerns itself with excavating how individuals, presenting themselves as corporations, seek to exploit the natural resources of a land for their own financial gain.

 12. Breathless (1983 – Jim McBride)

 

Remake of À bout de soufflé (1960 – Jean-Luc Godard)

 

In covering one of the mot iconic and influential films of the sixties, McBride sought to topple it from its infallible status.  Works of art should not be adored.  Cinema too often seems to presented behind glass cases in the museum of critical status, rather than prodded and loved by people.  The frugality of sixties France is replaced with the neon-lit noir of America, with Richard Gere producing a typically earnest performance as the meandering and ultimately hopeless lead.

 13. Amityville II: The Possession (1982 – Damiano Damiani)

 

Sequel/prequel to The Amityville Horror (1979 – Stuart Rosenberg)

 

By making the subtext of familial abuse the text of the film (rather than the usual implicit cause of a poltergeist) Amityville II: The Possession rises above the usual dreck of cash-ins to marginally successful horror films.  The pain of reality for these children is more terrifying than the pain of the supernatural.  The film also features one of the most bizarrely disposable scenes of incest committed to celluloid.  The second half of the film is a fairly worthless cover version of The Exorcist (1973), but the parts of the film leading up to it are genuinely terrifying.

 14. Halloween II (1981 – Rick Rosenthal)

 

Sequel to Halloween (1978 – John Carpenter)

 

With Halloween (1978) being a financial success it produced a rash of imitators of varying quality.  One of the imitators was a Halloween sequel itself.  By and large, a rerun of the first film, Halloween II makes the underlying threat of Michael Myers killing his family explicit.  Set in an atmospheric hospital it features a number of shocking kills, many of which were filmed in reshoots by John Carpenter when he viewed a first cut that he found to be quite dull.  Most successfully the film features a desperate and deranged Donald Pleasance pummelling through the film, trying to convince people of the supernatural terror of The Shape.

 

 15. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

 

Third in the Halloween series

Completely unrelated to the ongoing story of Michael Myers, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was a failed attempt to launch the series into an annual horror anthology.  Inventive in its exploration of the control corporations seek to enjoy over people by preying on their basest desire to improve their material social lives, the film is cluttered with an underlying sense of unease.   This unease only deepens with the realisation that much of the violence in the film will be committed against children.

Following this film, there were three subsequent sequels that returned to Michael Myers and his murderous rampage, by now an explicitly unstoppable murderous force.  Mostly formulaic and diluted repeats of the first film, they feature redeeming performances from a returning Pleasance, and a genuinely admirable child performance from Danielle Harris, whose utter terror enhances what would otherwise be fairly tame scares.

16. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998 – Steve Miner)

 

Seventh film in the Halloween series, and direct sequel to Halloween (1978 – John Carpenter)

 

Ignoring every sequel that came after the original film – as these extended film series tend to do at various points in their existence – Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the franchise that made her a star.  She brings along her mother, Janet Leigh, too!  The film has a quiet exploration of an individual living with the shadows of a traumatic past – the constant unease, the always looking over the shoulder, but the film lacks any truly horrible kills, and suffers from a thoroughly unappealing supporting cast.  It is a film for people who have been told about the first film, rather than for people who have seen it.

It had its own sequel – Halloween: Resurrection (2002 – Rick Rosenthal) – which is unutterably limp and lame in building tension, but also features Busta Rhymes kung-fu fighting Michael Myers.  We go to the cinema to see things we have never seen before…

 17. Halloween II (2009 – Rob Zombie)

 

Tenth in the Halloween series and direct sequel to Halloween (2007 – Rob Zombie)

 

Rob Zombie’s first attempt at remaking the franchise – Halloween (2007) – is a patronising mess; a film convinced that by providing a mundane explanation for Michael Myers will add to his intimidation, not neuter it thoroughly.  The horror of Michael Myers lay in the fact that he was both fully man and fully supernatural; that his intentions were undefined and terrifying.  He is a murderous Jesus.  However, this film is an extraordinary affair, a thorough exploration of surviving trauma shot with a dynamic, almost Malick-ian view of nature.  Impressive.

18. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985 – Jack Sholder)

 

Sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984 – Wes Craven)

The Nightmare on Elm Street films took the gloriously inventive special effects from the first film, but repeated them with little of the wit and horror that made them so impressive.  They also feature a frustrating obsession with Freddy Krueger calling women “Bitch” which is oftentimes pretty sickening.  The first sequel is not exactly free of those issues, but is made interesting by the confusion the lead character is experiencing over questioning his sexuality.  The supernatural is meant to occur during the high emotions found in puberty, and the film is quite confrontational in its explicitness of this theme, perhaps designed to prey upon the unchallenged homophobia many of its original audience would have felt and therefore increase the sense of horror it would engender.

As for the rest of the films in the series:

  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987 – Chuck Russell) – is an entertaining play on the X-Men mythos, that has a real sympathy and understanding of mental health issues.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988 – Renny Harlin) – features some fantastically dynamic fight sequences in a junkyard.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989 – Stephen Hopkins) – is not worth thinking about.
  • Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991 – Rachel Talalay) – is the 3D film in the series, which means it has a bunch of meaningless effects shoehorned into a wafer-thin plot.
  • Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994 – Wes Craven) – is an over-praised, self-consciously clever film about filmmaking. Other genre directors (John Carpenter in the roughly contemporaneous In The Mouth of Madness (1995) and Dario Argento in The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)) have explored the consequences of making horror movies without resorting to the cheapness of self-referential filmmaking
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010 – Samuel Bayer) – is a not unappealing remake of the first film – though it sacrifices practical effects for CGI and makes the subtext of Kreuger’s paedophilia text.

19. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989 – William Shatner)

 

Fifth film in the Star Trek series

 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979 – Robert Wise) is a thoughtful science fiction film in the 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 – Stanley Kubrick) / Silent Running (1972 – Douglas Trumbull) vein.  But Star Wars and Trek are seen to be one and the same, and the subsequent entries in the series played to a more dynamic range.  The truth is, these films are largely dull unless you are invested in the characters, and that is only likely to occur if you watch hours of a repetitive television show.  The reason I highlight the fifth film, often considered to be the nadir of the series, is that it is a genuinely engaging, but sometimes fragmented piece of cinema.  Bizarrely, William Shatner was able to simultaneously express both absolute affection and complete disdain for the characters in the franchise, and this leads to some hilarious and ridiculous moments designed to prove how much more capable the cast was than the mundane scripts they were given within the franchise.

And then the crew goes and has an argument with god.  Who turns out to be a bastard.

 20. Star Trek (2009 – J. J. Abrams)

 

Eleventh film in the Star Trek series

There were six entries in the film series featuring the fictional crew of the television show Star Trek (three seasons of shows.) Then there were four films featuring the cast of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (seven seasons of shows).  In addition to this there were a further eighteen (!) seasons of Star Trek product produced whilst these films were being made.  It is not unfair to say that everyone was rather tired of the idea of Star Trek in 2009.  But no new films are ever made, only regurgitated ideas, and a semi-reboot (there is some very tedious explanation of this technically being an alternate universe to be had here) of the series was made.  The film is nothing particularly special but it does achieve the semi-impossible feat of bringing an energy to the film and television series that it had never experienced before, and it was a quite marvellous thing to behold.

It was short-lived; the two sequels to this film (the pathetically named Star Trek Into Darkness (2013 – J. J. Abrams) and Star Trek Beyond (2016 – Justin Lin)) quickly returned the series to its moribund roots.

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