Movie sequels are frequently unnecessary. Motivated more by fiscal concerns than by the dictates of the plot, studios have pushed all sorts of unlikely, ill-advised, and outright weird sequels into production over the years. (And sometimes, someone has the good - or bad - sense to ensure that some of the weirdest sequel ideas don't get made.)
Most of the time, these are simply tired retreads of the films that came before, but every now and then, filmmakers take the opportunity to do something so bold, so ambitious, so out-of-left-field, or just so bad that the sequel transcends its limitations to become something else entirely. This isn't always a good thing, though sometimes it leads to a classic. James Cameron's 1986 follow-up to Ridley Scott's Alien switched gears pretty heavily from its predecessor and made a film that many consider superior, as just one example.
These are some of the weirdest, wildest, most WTF movie sequels ever made - flicks that took a hard left turn from their source material and did something very different. Sometimes to their great credit. Other times... less so.
- Photo: Buena Vista Distribution
There are sequels made long after the movies they're following, and then there's Return to Oz. Released nearly half a century after the MGM original, Return to Oz was made partly so that Disney could hang onto the rights to the subsequent Oz books, which the company had purchased years before. To say that it's a very different film than its predecessor is putting it mildly. For starters, it opens with Dorothy - now played by Fairuza Balk, in her first role, who is much younger than Judy Garland was when she played Dorothy in the 1939 original - still dreaming of Oz. The solution proposed by Auntie Em and Uncle Henry? Electroshock therapy.
While the flying monkeys in the original Wizard of Oz may have given kids nightmares, just about everything in Return to Oz is pure nightmare fuel, from the horrifying wheelers - bad-guy minions with wheels in place of their hands and feet - to protagonists like Jack Pumpkinhead to Princess Mombi, who keeps a collection of women's heads that she switches out with her own. The resulting film didn't fare too well, with Roger Ebert calling it a "complete disaster." But its very nightmare qualities also mean that those of us who were traumatized by it as kids never forgot it - and never quite got over it.
- Actors: Fairuza Balk, Piper Laurie, Nicol Williamson, Deep Roy, Sophie Ward
- Released: 1985
- Directed by: Walter Murch
- Photo: Warner Bros.
Asked to make a sequel to his cult hit Gremlins, Joe Dante made a film so notorious that it inspired not only a Key & Peele sketch but also an entire Twitter account that is now putting out its own scholarly publication devoted entirely to Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Massively misunderstood upon its release, Gremlins 2 has since grown into a cult icon, thanks to its layered satire of everything from the notion of a Gremlins sequel to the idea of sequels altogether, not to mention television, movies, and capitalism as a whole. The film's real estate mogul Daniel Clamp also shares some striking parallels with a reality TV personality who recently became president of the United States for a while.
At one point, Hulk Hogan breaks the fourth wall to directly address the audience watching the film - this is only after the gremlins have gotten into the projection booth and started showing a vintage "nudie cutie" - while the film is intro'd by a Looney Tunes cartoon and film critic Leonard Maltin plays himself, giving a negative review of the first movie on video before being assaulted by gremlins.
- Actors: Christopher Lee, Phoebe Cates, Howie Mandel, Frank Welker, Henry Gibson
- Released: 1990
- Directed by: Chuck Jones, Joe Dante
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Maybe the most notorious horror movie sequel of all time, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has the odd distinction of being the only film in the entire Halloween franchise - which currently numbers 11 pictures and counting - not to feature the masked slasher Michael Myers. This is because John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who co-created the original film, had envisioned the series as an anthology of unrelated tales centered on Halloween night, rather than the continuing reign of terror of one masked villain.
Halloween III was their first gesture in that direction, and at the time it proved disastrous. The release brought in the lowest box office of any Halloween film to date, and critics and audiences alike reacted dismissively to the absence of Michael Myers. It wasn't until decades later that Halloween III began to be reappraised, achieving cult movie status thanks to its, frankly, bonkers plot, which, according to New York Times critic Vincent Canby, "manages the not easy feat of being anti-children, anti-capitalism, anti-television, and anti-Irish, all at the same time."
That plot came from legendary British sci-fi writer Nigel Kneale, whose work was a huge influence on Carpenter. (His 1987 film Prince of Darkness is an homage to Kneale, as is the pen name that Carpenter wrote that film under.) Kneale didn't like the changes that were made to the script, however, and demanded his name be removed from the finished product - which is a bummer, because probably nobody but Kneale could have made something as ridiculous as Halloween III - with its robots, its sinister Halloween masks, and its druidic plot to steal a chunk of Stonehenge - as effective as it still somehow is.
- Actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Dan O'Herlihy, Stacey Nelkin, Dick Warlock
- Released: 1982
- Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
- Photo: Universal Pictures
Believe it or not, at one point Evil Dead II was going to take place not in the same cabin from the first film, but in the 1300s. The idea was dropped when adequate funding couldn't be put together to film the more ambitious sequel. Well, dropped for a time, anyway. Following the success of films like Evil Dead II and Darkman, director Sam Raimi was able to write a bigger ticket for the third installment in the franchise, and he and his co-writer and star decided to go back to that 1300s well.
Originally titled Medieval Dead, the result was Army of Darkness, the weirdest film in an already weird trilogy that combined vivid horror with Three Stooges slapstick to surprisingly great effect. Bruce Campbell was back as Ash, still sporting a chainsaw where his hand should be, but now hurtled back in time - along with his car - to defend a medieval castle against armies of "deadites." During the course of the film, Ash is menaced by tiny versions of himself, fights a shadowy doppelganger, and spouts plenty of one-liners, all before being returned to his own time (or hurtled into a post-apocalyptic future, depending on which version of the film you watch).
- Actors: Bridget Fonda, Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Embeth Davidtz, Bill Moseley
- Released: 1992
- Directed by: Sam Raimi