As you most likely know, the Halloween film series is built upon the premise of the deranged killer Michael Myers wearing his trademark mask and going on a murder spree throughout his hometown on Halloween. This is more or less the plot of all ten films in the franchise… well, all but one film that is. The black sheep isHalloween III: Season of the Witch.
Halloween III veers drastically away from this formula, cutting out the character of Michael Myers completely. Instead, it replaces the iconic killer with a maniacal mask-maker that plans on killing children on Halloween as he attempts to replicate dark aspects of the Celtic holiday, Samhain.
In theory, the plan for the Halloween franchise was to have each film after Halloween II to have separate, stand-alone characters and storylines all revolving around evil being done on Halloween day; however, Halloween III did poorly with critics and audiences, so by part IV, the producers reverted back to centering all the plots around Michael Myers.
The Blair Witch Project debuted in 1999 to smashing success based on its clever “is it real or isn’t it?” marketing strategy, earning record-breaking profits from its miniscule budget of about $22,000. Audiences loved its “found footage” technique using handheld cameras and very low budget effects as they wondered the fates of three young people who disappeared while searching the woods for the fabled Blair Witch.
Seeing that there was more money to be made after this success, producers fast-tracked a sequel and in the process stripped out everything that people loved from the first film, including Haxan Films, the production company that made the original Blair Witch. Mostly forsaking the pseudo-documentary style of filming with handheld cameras and the “real story” campaign, the studio decided to use more big-budget style filming techniques and special effects for a bigger “commercial success.” But these changes did not go over well audiences. Additionally, The Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows was panned by critics earning it the Golden Raspberry for Worst Sequel of The Year.
Poltergeist is a 1982 Academy-award nominated horror film produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper about the Freeling family, whose house is haunted by an evil spirit that is trying to harm their youngest daughter, Carol Anne. It was immensely successful, eclipsing the $100 million mark at the worldwide box office.
As horror sequels tend to do after the original film is successful, Poltergeist II: The Other Side attempted to continue the story of the Freelings, eschewing in a new backstory to fit the sequels plot. In the original film, the Freeling’s house was built on a desecrated cemetery, which led to the otherworldly encounters with angry spirits led by “The Beast.” But in the sequel, the Freelings have moved away and The Beast becomes the spirit of a demented cult preacher that is tracking down Carol Anne and can now take a physical human form in our world. An additional new backstory about The Beast being attracted to the Freeling family women because they are clairvoyant is thrown into the mix.
All these changes and retcons (retroactive continuity) were not particularly well-received by audiences or critics, with the movie pulling in less than half of the original’s box office take.
The Ring was one of 2001’s surprise hits. Based on the Japanese horror film, Ringu, it scared viewers with a disturbing urban legend of a video that kills anyone who watches it seven days later. Things got even more frightening when we discover the truth behind the video and a girl with some interesting powers, finishing with a brilliant ending that was as memorable as it was terrifying.
While the first film was a brilliant ghost story of sorts with an intricate backstory, it had a specific set of rules for how the evil spirit could interact with the real world after humans watched the video. All of those rules are thrown out the window for the sequel. In The Ring Two, the evil spirit, Samara, can spontaneously possess people and influence outside forces in the real world (such as making deer attack people).
Rachel, the protagonist, also finds Samara’s birth mother, who was deemed impossible to find in the first film, and then eventually gets pulled into a spirit realm of the haunted video. It’s yet another example of ruining the groundwork of the original film by retconning plot details and adding new “powers” for the evil entity.
Jaws is arguably the most famous film on this list and one that doesn’t need much explanation. In a nutshell though, an unusually large and aggressive great white shark attacks a number of swimmers near an east coast town, prompting a team of shark hunters to seek out and kill it. This simple equation had incredible success making it an instant classic and giving millions a fear of going in the ocean.
However, the sequels didn’t fair nearly so well. Perhaps it’s because legendary director, Steven Spielberg jumped ship (see what I did there?) after the first film. In the first two sequels the large killer shark idea is expanded upon with more killings and different settings. But it’s Jaws 4 that really jumps the shark (zing!).
Jaws 4: The Revenge finds police chief Brody deceased, but when his son is killed by another killer shark, his widow develops a psychic connection to the shark that goes off when it attacks. What was once a thrilling film about real terror in the water, eventually digressed into an animal maniac that can only be stopped by a woman’s new “superpower.” Jaws 4: The Revenge was so bad that it earned a rare 0% rating on rottentomatoes.com and earned 7 Razzie nominations.