The ASIDESTEPS CANON – no Jaws sequels – vol. VII

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.

61. Scars of Dracula (1970 – Roy Ward Baker)


Sixth film in the Hammer Dracula series

Nominally, much of the appeal of the Hammer Dracula series depends upon the erudite interplay between Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, but they appeared apart in the series as much as they appeared together.  The films have a provincial charm, and speak to a very British tradition of ghost stories and theatrical tradition.  With three walled, almost stagey sets, the film seems as much a product of a long-forgotten method of filming, that of British television in the sixties and seventies, long before it became just crap movies.  This film is a memory of wet Sunday afternoons, with nothing to worry about except the adventure unfolding in front of us.  A later entry in the series, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974 – Roy Ward Baker & Chang Cheh), loses Lee, but regains Cushing, and becomes a wonderful blend of the vividly-colourful Hammer tradition and delightful charm of seventies kung-fu movies.

62. Dawn of the Dead (1978 – George A. Romero)


Semi-sequel to Night of the Living Dead (1968 – George A. Romero)


Moving away from the claustrophobic, racially charged initial film, Romero widens his eye to a larger canvas.  Here, his target is commercialism, which he confronts in a fairly blunt way.  Subtlety is not something you can afford when using zombies.  By setting his movie in a shopping centre, he preys upon the idle fantasies we indulge whilst spending money we’re worked far too long for; that a mall, with its plethora of distractions and sugary treats, could be just a little more dangerous and a little more real.

63. Day of the Dead (1985 – George A. Romero)


Third in Romero’s zombie film series

Difficulties meant that the third film in the series couldn’t make the canvas broader, but instead reduce the series back to a base-under-siege type story.  But the film benefits from it significantly, and Romero ensure that the reality of sexual violence is as pronounced as any zombie threat.  Romero stands apart from the mindless use of zombies by most creators in his insistence of treating the walking dead as a new kind of lifeform, with burgeoning intelligence and infantile attempts at culture.  It ensures a more textured reality than the ones presented in the majority of films.

64. Diary of the Dead (2007 – George A. Romero)


Fifth in Romero’s zombie film series


But zombies remained popular, and by the turn of the millennium, money was readily available for him to extend his trilogy by making another zombie picture.  Land of the Dead (2005) is a too glossy, too star-filled entry to be valuable to his ongoing series, but the following film – nominally the first entry in what was a forsaken second trilogy – is thoroughly enjoyable.  Using the ‘found-footage’ schema that prevails in modern horror films, Romero created a whole world, one where safety was never possible.  Every moment of respite, every potential new ally, led to further death.  The zombies are lumbering and plainly stupid, but they are relentless, and there is no hope of escape, only the possibility of delaying it.

The following film, Survival of the Dead (2009) continued some of the ideas in this film by exploring how an isolated society would cope amongst the zombie pandemic, but it lacks the escalating tension that drives this film.  It remains to be seen whether a further entry will ever be made.


65. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981 – George Miller)


Sequel to Mad Max (1979 – George Romero)


There’s only so much exploitation I can handle in my life, and Ozploitation can’t quite reach the upper echelons of my interest.  I think it’s something to do with the insincerity of the accent.  But this sequel becomes something radiant; a sweaty, almost impossible car chase that is littered with leaking petroleum and mangled carburettors.  It presents the utter hopelessness of dystopia; where the last remaining semblances of dignity and compassion have been abandoned, and only the survival instinct remains.


66. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015 – George Miller)


Fourth in the Mad Max film series

Thirty(!) years after the third entry in the series (the faintly preposterous Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985 – George Miller & George Ogilvie)) Miller returned to his malfeasant film series.  It was a sequel that had existed in rumours and mutterings, and I didn’t quite believe it when it finally came out.  Using the template of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, it played as an extended, thoroughly brutal chase sequence.  But the vivid intensity of the colours, and the clattering of the soundtrack elevated this film into something quite spectacular.  A black and white version is available.

67. Before Sunset (2004 – Richard Linklater)


Sequel to Before Sunrise (1995 – Richard Linklater)


The appeal of Before Sunrise depends largely on your openness to romanticism and your tolerance of self-indulgent twenty-somethings.  But the sequel sweetly recognises the missed opportunities of youth and the desperation with which some people will strive to in order to capture a potential glimmer of hope and escape from their lives.  We all live with our abandoned relationships and regret and the words not said.  This film’s brilliance lies in the openness of its ending, where we never are quite sure whether they will throw everything away in the chance to build something on a neglected potentiality.  Will he get on the plane?

68. Before Midnight (2013 – Richard Linklater)


Sequel to Before Sunset (2004 – Richard Linklater)


Well, it turned out he didn’t get on the plane, and this subsequent sequel deals with the fall out when you casually destroy a life you once built.  The film delays the simmering mutual hostility of its central couple, before exploding in a near forty minute argument.  Here, the self-indugence starts to creep back in the series, but never quite dominates due to the texture and depth of the frame of their argument.  The success of the film is evident in the potential sequels you begin to dream of in your mind.  I’ll see you, Ethan, Julie and Richard, in 2022.


69. Staying Alive (1983 – Sylvester Stallone)


Sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977 – John Badham)

Sylvester Stallone continued his exploration of the immigrant experience in Staying Alive, the only film he directed that he didn’t star in.  Transposing the rhythm of his boxing movies onto the equally physical movement of dance, Stallone applied montage, light and quick editing to create a movie dependent on the tension of achieving a perfectly executed jump.  Whilst the male form is fetishized and fantasised, this film offers a glimpse into the unapologetic sexism of Tony Manero, who shares the needy, goofy humour of Rocky Balboa, but stands in opposition to him through his inability to view women as anything other than objects.


70. Army of Darkness (1992 – Sam Raimi)

Sequel to Evil Dead II (1987 – Sam Raimi)

The third entry in the series plays down the horror elements of the series, but replaces it with an action-adventure ethos that is utterly engrossing.  Working on a wider canvas than the previous films, it is an essential entry in the populist, humorous, action-adventure stunt-heavy cinema that began with the Roger Moore Bond films and really only exists nowadays in the work of Edgar Wright.