Once More With Filming

Some “recently watched” (the term is relative) horror sequels.

Species II (1998)

We open with the climax of a manned mission to Mars and the astronauts infected by alien DNA that they have unwittingly brought aboard their craft. Back on Earth, the powers that be realise something has gone terribly wrong and bring together the two survivors of the team that hunted down Sil in the first movie, Dr. Laura Baker and Press Lennox (Marge Helgenberger and Michael Madsen, both of whom are probably just there for the pay day – I find it slightly telling that Press doesn’t agree to hunt alien until offered $1m). The female astronaut is killed before she can do any harm, while another is uninfected, but senator’s son Patrick is off the radar and copulating with just about every other woman he meets, producing alien young who will mature into monsters. With the help of Eve (Natasha Henstridge), a Sil/human hybrid that Baker has been experimenting on, the team track him down, but there’s the added danger that Eve’s alien DNA will be activated by close contact and she will mate with him, creating a new and even more dangerous creature. This is pretty much a by the numbers film, taking much of what is original to the franchise from Alien (and H. R. Giger had input with the creation of both monsters). The main twist is that the monster is as sex obsessed as a hormonal teenager in a Richard Laymon novel, and that allows the plot to throw lots of naked flesh at the screen (target demographic?), but it never feels anything except exploitative and sometimes, as with the drawn out attempted rape of a woman taken from a supermarket, a lot worse. We are meant to sympathise with astronaut Patrick, who is struggling to retain his humanity, but Justin Lazard’s performance only distances with its quasi-unfeeling portrayal, and soon the attempt is sacrificed to the creature’s monstrous nature. Similarly Eve is torn between the human and alien aspects of her nature, and the safety of the whole planet hinges on the victory of the former, but it never seems less than predictable and rather tired in the way it plays out, with “human” Eve coming through just when we need her. That aside, we’re left with the special effects, and I’ll admit that there are some impressive gore effects, with stuff splattering up the walls and bursting out of bodies, while the copulating monsters are visually memorable, but it’s not enough to save the film from the essential banality of the storyline.

Sinister 2 (2015)

The first film had something going for it, with the idea of an ancient demonic entity that preys on young children, leading them to murder their families. The sequel continues this theme, with the daisy chain of death embracing another family, only this time around there’s an estranged father who is a bit of an arsehole and a former detective from the previous film who has realised what is going on and is trying to break the chain. And that is pretty much the plot in a nut shell. Where it differs from the previous film is in the sheer brutality of the family slayings. Instead of simple hangings, we now get families eaten alive by alligators or nailed to a church floor with rats inside heated metal bowls placed on their stomachs. It’s almost as if they decided to compensate for the lack of much in the way of originality by cranking the yuk factor up to the max. I liked the first film, but this just felt like it was going for the gross out and nothing else. The things that unsettled or scared before, are now simply meh, while what’s new is mostly repellent. The puzzle that so engrossed viewers in the first film is now an open book, with the characters trailing behind those of us who have seen what’s gone before. There’s also a lack of any star name attached to the project, an actor or actress with the screen presence to carry us through the dull moments as Ethan Hawke did in the first film. It was inferior to its predecessor in every way.

The Fly II (1989)

And we are back among the flies, this time with the sequel to Cronenberg’s 1986 remake. Long story short, Martin is the son of Seth Brundle and Veronica from the previous film, and born with fly DNA as part of his genetic makeup, meaning he is stronger and more intelligent than a normal human being, but as he ages at an accelerated rate the negative aspects of his condition figure more prominently. Martin has been “adopted” by industrialist Anton Bartok, who financed Seth’s experiments and is still hoping for a return on his investment. The stem of the film concerns Martin’s gradual realisation of how he is being used and growing attraction to employee Beth, culminating in the moment when he revolts against his keeper. I have mixed feelings about this film. Leads Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga don’t do much with their roles, mostly going through the motions. Martin’s kindness to a dog that has been deformed in one of Bartok’s tests is about the most we have of genuine emotion from him, the rest seeming just like teenage tantrums because he can’t have everything he wants (but perhaps that is the point). There’s an appealing subtext in the film’s implicit criticism of big business and putting profit before morality, with Bartok’s ultimate fate providing a certain satisfaction, even if it was almost entirely predictable. The real star of the show is the special effects, which are just as alarming as those in its predecessor, and I guess I enjoyed it more than not, but I won’t be in any hurry to watch the film again. It seemed too much like a formulaic outing, lacking the vision, artistry, and star chemistry of Cronenberg’s offering.

So any of you guys think of a horror sequel that is as good as or even better than its predecessor?

Aliens, possibly, but any others?

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2 Responses to Once More With Filming

  1. Rolnikov says:

    The Purge: Anarchy was good, but haven’t seen the first film so can’t say for sure that it’s better. I preferred Blade 2 and Hellboy 2 to the first films. Friday the 13th Part II? All those films are pretty bad, but the second one does introduces Jason as the killer.

    • petertennant says:

      The Blade and Friday 13th films have all sort of melded in my mind, a filmic centipede of horror, so honestly can’t say if you’re wrong or right. I did definitely prefer the first Hellboy though, so you’re probably wrong 😉

      One possibility that occurs to me is Scream 2. I liked both of the first two films in that franchise, though it went downhill thereafter. With its reinvention of the first film’s plot as entertainment, I think 2 has a slight edge.

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