We are currently living in an era of franchises. Ever since the MCU began to dominate the box office, it seems that every studio is trying to build the next hot franchise. Sequels and fran-chises can be a good thing don’t get me wrong. Films like Aliens, Scream 2, and The Devils Re-jects are regarded just as good as their predecessors, and in some circles even better than the original. We’ve also all experienced the worst entries in horror franchises, movies so bad they stick in your mind. Movies like Halloween Resurrection, Troll 2 and Leprechaun 4: In Space. Those films are all objectively bad films, however, I can still remember them, even though I haven’t seen them in years. Then we have truly great films that never needed a sequel or fran-chise, to begin with. So let us take a look at some truly great genre films that you probably forgot even had sequels.
The Crow is one of the best films of the ’90s. It is an imaginative film, with depth and heart and lots of kickass action and rock n roll. The film cemented Brandon Lee as a pop culture icon and helped to legitimize comic book movies in mainstream media. On a personal level, this is one of my all-time favorite films and has always had a special place in my heart. The film is a brilliant exploration of, love, loss, revenge and the afterlife. Brandon Lee portrays Eric Draven, a musician who is murdered the night before his wedding alongside his wife. One year later he is resurrected by a magic crow so he may enact vengeance upon those responsible. Brandon Lee is the driving force behind this film. He gave a once in a lifetime performance that sadly led to his accidental death during filming. Every time I rewatch this film I am always amazed at how Lee brings Draven to life and, makes him feel so relatable. You are behind him 100% on his mission of revenge.
With how good this film it’s sad that because it was a hit the studio only saw dollar bill signs. Every single sequel to The Crow feels like a shameless imitation only trying to squeeze every last cent out of the first film.
The problem is none of the sequels have a performance like Lee’s. Each sequel copies the formula of the first film and simply puts a different protagonist in the same situation. It’s not the actor’s fault they are in a bad sequel. Very few actors can give a good performance when working with a bad script and direction. Each entry is as forgettable as the last and they are as follows. The Crow City Of Angels, The Crow Salvation and The Crow Wicked Prayer, there was also a brief tv series The Crow Stairway To Heaven. The only sequel worth anything is the second entry. The leading actor Vincent Perez seems to genuinely try to give a good performance and do his own thing with the role. Unfortunately, the studio wanted a carbon copy of the first film and meddled with the final product, scrapping any sense of originality from the film. The real essence of The Crow is the character of Eric Draven and the brilliant way he was portrayed by Lee. Draven was a common man in life, there was nothing unique or special about him. But he came back from the dead for love. It is a simple concept that is executed so brilliantly, which is something that none of the sequels had.
The Lost Boys
The 80’s movie that made being a vampire cool. Ask any horror fan what are their favorite vampire movies and I guarantee this will be on everyone’s list. The Lost Boys was the birth of the modern vampire film. By the time we hit the ’80s, the vampire film had run out of juice, or blood if you will. People had grown tired of seeing the same old thing. Creepy gothic castles, with a Romanian setting usually in the 1880s or early 1900s.
This film still adhered to the classic vam-pire mythology but also put a fresh new twist on it. For one thing, the vampires were teenagers and their lifestyle was that of rockstars. They slept all day and partied all night, they will never grow old or die, but they must feed. For the first half of the film you want to be part of their gang led by their mysterious and charismatic leader David, played brilliantly by Kiefer Sutherland. David is what makes the movie for me. From the first time he is on camera all focus is on him. With his leather coat, rocker mullet and punk rock attitude, David is a perfect representation of what vampires represent. He is a predator who does whatever he wants whenever he wants.
I also really love the rules for becoming a vampire established in this film. You drink a vampire’s blood and become a half-vampire and you only become a full vampire after making your first kill. That’s such a unique and powerful way to convey the vampire transformation.
Throughout the film we see Michael struggling with the urge to kill after unknowingly drinking David’s blood. He doesn’t want to become a killer but the urge to give in and accept the full power of vampirism is intoxicating for him. This film brought life back to the vampire genre, it’s a shame the same can’t be said about the two sequels, The Lost Boys The Tribe and The Lost Boys The Thirst. Both were released straight to DVD in the late 2000s and everything that made the first film is gone. There are worse horror sequels than these two but, they are so mediocre they don’t justify their existence. The second film copies the plot of the first film for the most part but with less interesting characters. The third film attempts to explore the world of vampires more internationally but by this time we don’t care. Both sequels are missing what made the first film so great and inspiring to horror fans. A perfect blend of horror and comedy, that is always a tough thing to pull off. One of the greatest modern vampires ever created with the character of David, and of course the most important thing of all, death by stereo.
The movie that made us all afraid of tiny children. Creepy children have become common, sometimes exhausting trope in modern horror. In a lot of modern films it feels less like a means to tell a scary story, and more like a lazy plot device for cheap scares. Upon revisiting 1976’s The Omen it holds up incredibly well. This was the movie that also played on the American viewer’s fear of the devil and cementing the idea of the antichrist forever in cinema. I think what made this movie work so well at the time of it’s release, was a simple thought going through every viewers head upon the first view. How can this cute and innocent looking child be the vessel for absolute evil? Sure bad things happen a lot around him, but he can’t be the one making it happen right? For parents watching this movie what probably hits them the most is Robert Thorn’s char-acter played by Gregory Peck. He is faced with a horrible dilemma when he learns the awful truth about his son Damien Thorn, he is the son of the devil who will eventually destroy humani-ty. And to prevent this, he must murder this little boy whom he has raised as his son.
That is some truly intense and dramatic horror that not a single sequel in this franchise has managed to recapture. What makes this film so great is the fact that Damien is just a small child and manages to convey such an evil presence whenever on camera. That and a truly brilliant performance from Gregory Peck as a loving father faced with an impossible decision. This is lost in the second film Damien: Omen II in which Damien is now 13 and adopted by his aunt and uncle. For one thing, it ruins the last shot of the first film with Damien holding hands with the president, which is sad-ly even more terrifying today.
The last shot indicated that Damien would grow up in power and eventually rise to take control and destroy us all from the world of politics. In the second film, Damien feels just like a normal angsty teenager, and that’s just not scary. In Omen III: The Final Conflict Damien is now an adult and risen to a position of power. The main plot focusing on his attempt to halt the second coming and fulfill his destiny. By this time I am completely checked out because all the dread and terror the first film is gone. The third film doesn’t feel like a horror film, it feels more like a religious-political thriller. There was also a fourth film Omen IV: The Awakening that did not follow the Damien storyline and is the most forgettable of the bunch. And of course, there is the 2006 remake of the original film. It’s not a bad film, however, it is completely unnecessary as it brings nothing new to the table.
Unfortunately not every film can produce a good sequel, especially in the horror genre. Not every film needs a sequel, and if they do the filmmakers should strive to do something daring and original. This usually is not the case as most of the time they rely too much on the first film and trying to recapture what it achieved. As stated before sometimes a truly great film can’t be replicated.