Here’s the thing. I’m not very kind to sequels. I enjoy novelty and originality, and sequels are almost by definition not doing that sort of thing. Now, this isn’t to say that everything has to be groundbreaking or transcendent. A formulaic but well executed film works great for me; witness my love for the hallowed and well established conventions of the slasher film! Sequels, though, tend to have additional constraints that are difficult to overcome, namely their tendency to repeat themselves and to suffer in comparison to the original. There are exceptions, to be sure. For instance, my favorite Friday the 13th film is Part VI: Jason Lives! (the whole Friday series actually does a decent job introducing new elements into the relatively strict slasher formula, actually, but there’s also an element of nostalgia that distorts my impressions that should be taken into account).
Given my general distaste for sequels, I naturally decided to spend all weekend watching sequels to utter classics that couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations set by their predecessors. By most accounts, these… are not great movies. I may not have thought this through.
- The Omen (trailer)
- Lucy, Daughter of the Devil (short)
- Horror Movie Daycare (short)
- Damien: Omen II – The antichrist is growing up! Now thirteen years old, living with his aunt and uncle, and attending a military school. Occasionally, someone will catch on that Damien is evil… and then they fall prey to some sort of crazy accidental death (or, at least, one that appears to be so). And that’s pretty much it for the plot here. Basically a retread of the first film, but this time Damien’s innocence and vulnerability are lessened. There’s a nugget of a cool idea here, which is a sorta coming of age story for the antichrist, but the film does not go into a lot of detail about that. A couple of times, I thought they would have Damien struggle a little more to come to terms with his destiny, but it’s mostly just surface material. The accidents are more over-the-top (with the exception of the beheading in the first film) here, with the most notable set piece being a most excellent elevator gag.
The cast is actually doing pretty good work here too. William Holden and Lee Grant do well as Damien’s aunt and uncle, Lance Henriksen shows up as a military instructor who helps awaken Damien’s latent antichrist powers or somesuch, and Jonathan Scott-Taylor presents Damien as the potentially evil little shit he is. It’s repetitive and hokey, but I kinda enjoyed it for what it was. Nothing special, for sure, but if you liked the first, you won’t have any real issues with this one. **1/2
- Psycho (trailer)
- Here’s Your Problem… (Robot Chicken)
- American Psycho – Hip to be Square (clip)
- Psycho II – 22 years after the events of the first movie, and Norman Bates is being released from the mental institution. He moves back to his infamous motel and takes a job at the local diner. Nothing could go wrong here! Soon, a coworker moves in and he starts to get mysterious phone calls from what appears to be his long dead mother. Is Norman Bates still crazy!?
Look, nothing can really compare with the original, and to be sure, I think this movie makes an admirable attempt to progress the story. It’s actually a decent character-based drama. Director Richard Franklin does good Hitchock pastiche, and Anthony Perkins is still great reprising his role as Norman. There’s a bit part for sweaty Dennis Franz that’s fantastic, and some other supporting characters are well done. The second act is a little flabby and the movie is a bit too long, but there are some good twists and turns later on that keep things interesting. Like all the sequels in this post, this is completely unnecessary and pales in comparison to the original, but it has some redeeming factors and is maybe even a tad underrated. **1/2
- The Exorcist (amazing banned/unreleased trailer)
- Repossessed (trailer)
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXVIII: The Exor-Sis
- Exorcist II: The Heretic – Four years later, Regan MacNeil doesn’t remember the events of the original film, but she does have disturbing dreams that indicate her exorcism may not hold. A Vatican investigator and a hypnotic research specialist team up to see if they can free Regan from the demon Pazuzu once and for all. As a sequel to The Exorcist, well, it’s bad. Taken in context of director John Boorman’s filmography (nestled between Deliverance, Zardoz, and Excalibur), it looks better. There’s some really bizarre choices on display here, and a lot of the film centers on weird shared-hypnosis effects and, um, locusts.
Boorman’s got a keen eye and I like a good freakout as much as anyone, but the special effects struggle. There’s goofy giant locust composite shots that don’t work, a couple of people burn alive in strangely unconvincing shots, and there’s a car crash that’s just kinda sad. The plot isn’t particularly coherent and goes down some rather strange avenues. Richard Burton’s histrionic performance as the priest suits the film though, and Linda Blair does decent work as the troubled Regan. Both are asked to do ridiculous stuff, so their performances standout all the more because of that. The film certainly has its defenders (including, apparently, Martin Scorsese, though even he admits that the execution is lacking) and has garnered a bit of a cult following, and I can kinda see it, though it’s not a cult I’ll be joining anytime soon and the general reception remains one of profound disappointment. I can appreciate some of what’s going on here, but it ultimately doesn’t work. **
Phew, that was interesting, but I’m not rushing out to watch more sequels (though I remember The Exorcist III being pretty great – dat nurse scene!) I’ll be traveling this week, so posting/watching will be light. If I find time, I might still get a couple posts up and I’m loading my laptop with stuff I can watch during the flight, but who knows how much I’ll actually want to do…