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June 20, 2011

Midnight Top Five - The "80s Horror Sequels That Don't Suck" Edition

If you've been following my countdown of my favorite horror films of the 1980s - and if you're not, you like totally should click here - you might have noticed that a triad of sequels have made that list so far.  And, with only ten films left to make the list, I will also tell you that (SPOILER ALERT!) no more sequels will make the list.  What does that mean to you?  Well, it means that I need to take an opportunity to talk about some sequels that aren't necessarily great, yet still inspire me to make this Keanu face.
In fact, some might say that the '80s have sequels like WHOA. 
(I have no idea what that means, I heard it on the pop radio station.  So it's cool, right?)

Anyway, let's do this....
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
(1988, Dir. by Dwight H. Little.)
What it is: Though it carries a 4 in its title, Halloween 4 is the "Return" of Michael Myers in more ways than one.  Considering that Halloween II picked up at the conclusion of Halloween, and considering that Halloween III has nothing to do with Myers (well, I guess it does feature scenes from Halloween) Halloween 4 is actually the masked boogeyman's first return to Haddonfield. (Did you follow all of that?) The first film in the series which John Carpenter was not involved in - he wrote a story for the film that was primarily about the psychological effects Michael had on Haddonfield that was rejected - introduces Myers' niece Jamie - played by Danielle Harris - and puts the six-year old in Michael's crosshairs.  Oh, and it has this awesome scene with Hobo Jack.
What it is compared to Halloween: Not much, really.  The atmosphere of Carpenter's original is long gone, but this version does offer a few chills, particularly in a scene where Michael Myers seems to multiply and surround our heroines.  But the whole product is just a bit clunky, and the side characters certainly aren't as interesting as the ones in the '78 masterpiece.

What it is compared to the other Halloween sequels: Certainly my favorite of the bunch.  It's not as kill happy and uncharacteristically Michael as II, it doesn't have Tina effing Williams like 5, and it doesn't have the Dimension Films logo that brought crap in parts 6-8.  In fact, I feel safe saying that Halloween 4 is one of the very best horror sequels of the decade.  (Even if Michael wears hockey pads in it.)

Phantasm II
(1988, Dir. by Don Coscarelli.)
What it is: Y'know, I'm not sure if I've ever written about the Phantasm movies here.  That might be because I've only seen the first two (of four) films, or it might be because THEY DON'T REALLY MAKE ANY KIND OF SENSE AND THEY MAKE MY BRAIN CRAZY.  Despite that, I....well, I kind of like what I've seen in them.  This one - released 9 years after its predecessor - brings back Angus Scrimm as the incredible Tall Man and Reggie Bannister (now with a double barrelled shotgun), but adds a young James Le Gros and one of my young teenage crushes, Samantha Phillips.  Oh, and it doesn't make any sense either.  But it's cool doing it.
What it is compared to Phantasm: Both films don't make any sense (have I mentioned that they don't make sense yet?), and both films are cool doing it (I think I said that already too!), but Phantasm has some truly creepy moments and one of the coolest musical scores in horror film history.  It's a movie I will randomly recommend to anyone - even though I know it makes no sense.  Phantasm II is probably only for Phantasmphiles.

What it is compared to the other Phantasm sequels: How the heck do I know?  So, take this opportunity to look at that DVD cover above....tell me what that means, please.  WHAT DOES IT MEAN? I DON'T KNOW! THESE MOVIES MAKE SO LITTLE SENSE THAT I'M SHOUTING!!!!!!

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter/Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning/Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
(1984-1986, Dir. by Joseph Zito/Danny Steinmann/Tom McLoughlin
What it is: The Tommy Jarvis trilogy!  After wrapping up the Mommy/Jason/Mask events of the first three films (which is really all you need to know about those three films), The Final Chapter does the exact opposite of its title by starting an unintentional trilogy that takes the series to new heights.  First, young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) uses his makeup skills to best Jason, then crazy Tommy Jarvis (John Shepherd) survives a new beginning, then heroic Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) goes all Blobby in part VI.  (Read last week's MMOTW post for more on that - Thanks Enbrethiliel!)  Oh, and Jason kills a lot of people, including the mystical "Banana Girl" and at least a few topless lasses.
What it is compared to Friday the 13th: There are days when I want to like Friday the 13th, and there are days when it makes me angry like The Incredible Hulk.  And I can't help thinking that, if the original film was more like these three films - I might not have that anger.
What it is compared to the other Friday the 13th sequels: For pure laughs, I think Jason X is probably my favorite film in the fabled slasher series.  But if I'm actually getting down to slasher basics and picking ones I really do like - The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy is probably where I'd start.  In fact, if the rest of series didn't exist and it was just the TJ trilogy - I might say I really like Friday the 13th movies!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
(1986, Dir. by Tobe Hooper.)
What it is: I've already written on this one as a Midnight Movie of the Week, but it bears repeating that I kind of love it.  Hooper's sequel to his own grindhouse masterpiece - you know, it's the movie that's on the marquee when Travis Bickle talks about how filthy his city is - brings back Leatherface and his family while involving a radio hostess (Caroline Williams, who screams brilliantly) and a kinda crazy Texas Ranger (Dennis Hopper, who actually gives a super crazy performance) to the mix. 

What it is compared to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: Again, not much.  The original film is one of the few horror films that can completely turn the viewer's world upside down, and that animalistic rage just can't be reproduced.  Good show, Mr. Hooper, but it's not quite amazing.
What it is compared to the other TCM sequels: This is an easy one.  The series' third installment features some good moments and a young Viggo Mortensen, but falls flat quick.  The fourth film, subtitled "The Next Generation" features a young Matthew McConaughey and a young Renee Zelleweger - and is certainly one of my least favorite films ever made. (Random story - a couple of years ago, on the Fourth of July, my ten year old cousin came to me excited because he had DVR'd The Texas Chainsaw Massacre last night and wanted to watch it with me.  Trouble was, the movie he recorded was said fourth film.   I watched it with him anyway....bad horror with a ten year old is still horror with a ten year old!  Thankfully, he was not impressed by the film either.) So, while TCM2 isn't as great as its predecessor, it's definitely the only other TCM film I regularly want to see again.

The Return of Swamp Thing
(1989, Dir. by Jim Wynorski.)
What it is: To me, this is like the '80s equivalent of The Blob.  OK, maybe I'm slightly exaggerating, but this was one of the movies that definitely shaped my life as a fan of cheesy cinema.  Wynorski - who was most known for creating films filled with T&A and no stories - surprisingly delivers a PG-13 Swamp Thing tale that - when you disregard the part where Swamp Thing turns into a buff dude and gets erotic with Heather Locklear - feels like a comic book movie for kids.  Oh, and dude gets to spend his time in a forest with Heather Locklear.  Wayne and Garth would call that EXCELLENT!
What it is compared to Swamp Thing: As much as I love Adrienne Barbeau and Ray Wise, Wes Craven's original Swamp Thing has never surpassed the cheesy sequel that I saw first.  While it might not be as charming and silly as the likes of Killer Klowns from Outer Space or the remake of The Blob, this is definitely one of the best examples of '80s monster cheese out there.

And, since there are no other Swamp Thing sequels to discuss....I got nothing left.  So here's Phantasm II's Samantha Phillips, who I love almost as much as Heather.  Be well, Midnight Warriors!


Enbrethiliel said...


The "Tommy Jarvis Trilogy" indeed! And they actually work together well, don't they? If I didn't know better, I'd say someone had done some thematic planning to make sure they would . . .

In Part IV, we see Tommy's and Jason's destinies intertwine when they face-off against each other and both somehow get the upper hand. Yes, Tommy kills Jason and seems to be the victor . . . but Jason also messes Tommy up so much that the movie ends with a hint that Tommy will turn into some sort of serial killer himself. Which is a point for Jason, you know?

Then comes Part V, which teases us for about two seconds with the idea that Tommy is the new killer. I have no good words for the twist in this movie, but I like the very last scene with Tommy and the hockey mask. It totally fulfills the promise of Part IV--even if it's just another version of the ending of Part IV.

And then Part VI came to save the trilogy. Tommy is obviously still struggling with his demons. (We can assume that the ending of Part V was either another one of his hallucinations or a moment of madness he was able to step back from just in time.) This time, he knows that the time has come to stop running away from his fears. But has any troubled hero's catharsis ever come at a higher price?

I already love Part VI, but what would make me love it even more is a moment in which we really see that Tommy will never have a crazy episode again. I don't mean the moment of peace at the end, when he achieves his mission, but a moment when everyone thinks he's crazy but he knows that he isn't and finally believes in himself again. Because wasn't what was goading him all those years a kind of self-doubt?

Then again, maybe that moment is in there and I should just watch the movie again. It wouldn't be a chore. ;-)

R.D. Penning said...

THE MIKE!!! Phantasm!!! It is my second favorite series of movies ever!!! Phantasm II is my least favorite of the four! The production company thought it would be a smart move to replace A. Michael Baldwin with James LeGros, but it was a bad bad move Mike! BAD! If they would have have kept the cast the same it would be the first series in the history of movies to use the same three actors for four decades of movies. They brought back Baldwin for the other two. These movies are so much fun, and I'm so glad it made your list. But seriously, let me know if you want to watch the other two. They only get better after 2.