J.J. Abrams’ release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, due next month, is the sort of bold risk that you can take when your last movie was, say, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s a sequel to Cloverfield, but from a Hollywood exec’s perspective, the purpose of a sequel is to be reliably pretty close to the original – often bigger and occasionally better, but definitely of a piece with the first movie, and if it’s a later sequel, also the most recent movie.
But while Cloverfield was essentially found-footage Godzilla, the new film seems to be a psychological thriller, as a young woman and survivalist live in a cellar and she has only his word that the surface is uninhabitable due to events in Cloverfield. There aren’t many other sequels that stray so far from their source material, but we’ve found the most interesting of the lot.
Here are 14 Sequels Drastically Different Their Predecessor.
14. Escape From The Planet of the Apes (1971)
Sequel to: Planet of the Apes (1968).
Original movie: A science-fiction tale of astronauts encountering a world with an ape civilization and human savages. In one of the most famous twist endings of movie history, Taylor, the last surviving astronaut, finds that he hasn’t traveled through space, but through time, and this world is the future of Earth, with human civilization ended by nuclear war.
The sequel: Set in the present, yet somehow even bleaker. Zira and Cornelius from the first film and new face Dr. Milo head back to 1970s Earth on Taylor’s craft, which is their only way to escape the doomsday bomb set off in 1970’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s unclear whether, but unlikely that, their brief lives on Earth make any changes to the timeline that would prevent the doomsday bomb from killing every living thing: human, ape or other.
13. Beware! The Blob (1972)
Sequel to: The Blob (1958)
Original movie: Cheesy but sincere monster mayhem.
The sequel: A camp classic, mostly satire with a few genuine scares. Now, bear in mind that it was the first film that gave us Burt Bacharach’s classic theme tune: “it creeps and leaps and glides and slides! across the floor, right through the door, and all around the wall: a splotch, a blotch! Be careful of the Blob!” But it was the second that gave us a hippie paying $400 for a haircut and an almost-victim fleeing naked from his bathtub through the streets. The first film has the significance of Steve McQueen’s acting debut, but the second has Larry Hagman as director – and it’s clear that he and his cast and crew had a blast.
12. Look What’s Happened To Rosemary’s Baby (1976)
TV movie sequel to: Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
Original movie: A psychological horror story involving Rosemary’s fear that her husband has made a deal with the devil to kill her child – ending with the twist that her child is actually the spawn of Satan.
The sequel: A weird mess in which Rosemary’s child, as he grows up, fails to fulfill anybody’s expectations. The Satanists who masterminded his birth finally decide to start over, manipulating him into fathering a new Satan-child, because maybe a daughter will do better this time. Yeah, maybe, but threaten to bring about the Apocalypse once, shame on you, threaten it twice, shame on us for believing you, you know? If you really want a sequel that doesn’t trample all over the premise of the original, try reading Son of Rosemary, the 1997 sequel to the original book by the same author, Ira Levin.
11. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Sequel to: Halloween (1978).
Original movie: Seminal slasher film introducing Michael Myers, a remorseless force of a human being who stalks and kills for the sheer pleasure of it.
The sequel: Science-fiction horror with fairy-tale overtones. Myers is nowhere in sight, but there’s a no less maniacal killer about: Conal Cochran, an Irish mask-maker with a business that’s gotten quite profitable. When children wearing his merchandise hear his commercial on Halloween night, its signal will activate a microchip in their masks, sending another signal that summons a lethal swarm of insects and snakes so the children can be sacrificed to the Old Gods. Had this movie been successful, Halloween might have become an anthology series, going into different horror subgenres or cross-genres with every installment. But it wasn’t, so every sequel before and after has Myers front and center.
10. Staying Alive (1983)
Sequel to: Saturday Night Fever (1977).
Original movie: It’s a rare musical that can lay claim to gritty realism, but Saturday Night Fever managed to do so. It both promoted and dissected disco culture and was one of the first examples of cross-media marketing, with the release of the soundtrack helping ticket sales and the movie helping sell records.
The sequel: Well, Staying Alive was also a musical that sold a lot of records, but grittiness and even realism were nowhere to be seen (and disco itself was long since dead). Director Sylvester Stallone was taking his own Rocky series to cartoonish extremes that same year, but even at its craziest, Rocky never seems to have pursued only its characters at the expense of the original movie’s themes. On the other hand, see Rambo.
9. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Sequel to: Well, really all the movies are follow-ups to the Star Trek TV series (1966-1969), but most films in the series, like most of the TV episodes, are futuristic science fiction, with more action occurring in the films.
The sequel: Time-travel adventure-comedy. Much like Escape from the Planet of the Apes, this movie takes a series known for being rooted in the future and sets it in moviegoers’ present. It’s also a much more lighthearted film than the first three, largely due to Leonard Nimoy having more influence over the production. Nimoy wanted more affection between the cast members, less of a straight-up battle or antagonist, more of a journey and the eco-friendly, thoughtful overtones more typical of the show than the movies. Doing things differently paid off: while the 1980s sequences now date it more than a little, the movie remains a sentimental favorite.
8. Evil Dead 2 (1987) and Army of Darkness (1993)
Sequels to: The Evil Dead (1981).
Original movie: Supernatural horror film involving a Book of the Dead that possesses a group of travelers and forces them to kill each other until only one is left – Ash – and the final moments put his survival in doubt.
Evil Dead II: Supernatural horror slapstick that pits Ash against more possessed victims and sometimes gets him possessed himself. By lightening the tone, director Sam Raimi freed up his wild, kinetic style to achieve a greater range of emotional effects.
Army of Darkness: Arguably just as much of a departure in that same direction, hurtling all the way into screwball comedy while sticking Ash in the Dark Ages to deal with related supernatural threats.
7. Troll 2 (1990)
Sequel to: Troll (1986).
Original movie: Dark fantasy film involving a troll’s possession of young Wendy Potter’s body, and her brother Harry Jr.’s attempts to learn magic to free her. (Yes, there was a wizard named Harry Potter, Jr. in 1986, 11 years before the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. They’re common names and all, but still, that’s a little eyebrow-raising.)
The sequel: This B-horror comedy contains no trolls and none of the Potter family, which makes a little more sense when you learn that it was originally a non-sequel film called Goblins, about a group of vegetarian goblins that pursues a family, hoping to turn them into plants and then eat them. If you think that’s not quite in the spirit of any form of vegetarianism, you’d be right, but that’s the least of this film’s problems: it’s widely considered among the worst ever made.
6. Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
Sequel to: Highlander (1986).
Original movie: Action fantasy epic in which nearly immortal warriors battle each other in single combat until only one survivor, Connor Macleod, to take the prize of ultimate knowledge, a prize which he or she can use as they see fit.
The sequel: An apocalyptic science fiction actioner, in which nothing is internally consistent nor is anything consistent with the first film. The immortals, thousands of years old and human in the first movie, are now stated to be no older than 600 and secretly aliens, and there are new ones running around, despite the whole point of the first movie being that Macleod was the last. Also, the ozone layer has failed, except it hasn’t. So incoherent that most fans prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist.
5. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Sequel to: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
Original movie: Classic 1980s-style horror where Freddy Kreuger, the killer who literally haunts your dreams, stalks and kills teenagers.
The sequel: Meta-horror in which Kreuger escapes from the previous Nightmare films and begins stalking and killing the cast and crew responsible for making them, especially Heather Langenkamp, the first film’s star (playing herself). Craven would get even more meta in a couple of years with the first Scream, but this was a surprisingly well-acted and directed meditation on the effects of horror movies (good and bad!) on the people who make them. The other surprise is that, for all the movie’s meta-awareness, this version of Freddy is less funny and more scary, not the other way around.
4. Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)
Direct-to-video sequel to: Leprechaun (1993).
Original movie: Horror comedy about a deranged killer leprechaun with magical powers, trying to recover his gold and not caring how many corpses he leaves along the way.
The sequel: A science-fiction horror comedy in which the Leprechaun is somehow in space now, courting an alien space princess and planning to kill her shortly after they’re wed, but then some space miners show up and kill him for interfering in their operations, and kidnap the princess because she’s got regenerative blood, but one of the space miners urinates on the Leprechaun, which allows the Leprechaun to possess – er, part of his body – via gonorrhea – oh, forget it: trying to summarize this movie is like trying to describe a dream. Almost as much of a divergence is the next film in the series, Leprechaun in the Hood.
3. Firestarter 2: Rekindled (2002)
TV movie sequel to: Firestarter (1984).
Original movie: Sci-fi thriller based on a Stephen King book, focusing on Charlie (Drew Barrymore), a young girl who can start fires with her mind. She’s a heroine, not a threat: it seems her parents volunteered to take the drug LOT-6 for the government while in college, and it granted super-powers to them and their offspring. But now the agency that created LOT-6 wants to claim her as its property.
The sequel: Sci-fi thriller with a grown-up, orphaned Charlie (now played by Margeurite Moreau) facing a team of LOT-6-taking agency loyalists, making this more of an inverted X-Men than an inverted Carrie.
2. Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)
Direct-to-video sequel to: Cinderella (1950)
Original movie: The archetypal “Disney princess” film, with everything that implies. Plus a lot more side comedy with cartoon animals than you may remember.
The sequel: Completely bonkers time-travel magic fantasy romance-adventure. As Cinderella prepares to be married, her wicked stepmother and stepsisters steal her fairy godmother’s magic wand, turn the fairy godmother into a garden gnome, and wreak havoc, employing time travel, memory erasure, death traps and magical disguises so that elder stepsister Anastasia can marry the prince after all. It’s a little charmingly self-aware, at least as crazy as anything in Back to the Future II, and it beats the dull vignettes that made up Cinderella II by a country mile.
1. Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (1985)
Sequel to: First Blood (1982).
Original movie: John Rambo is a troubled and abused Vietnam vet, first run out of town, then detained and abused by sadistic small-town law enforcement until he snaps. Though he mostly uses nonlethal means against his tormentors, one is killed and Rambo breaks down into PTSD-fueled tears as he’s taken into custody.
The sequel: Trautman, Rambo’s commanding officer from the first film, offers him freedom in exchange for going back to Vietnam to free some POWs. He does so, showing up another corrupt officer in the process. The first film was ultimately respectful of what Vietnam meant to our nation’s history; the second Rambo movie – and all the others that came after – are basically attempts to rewrite that history.
Can you think of any other sequels that differ greatly from their predecessors? Let us know in the comments!
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