||These days it seems as if every movie out of Hollywood that makes even a slim profit or generates a modicum of publicity will also spawn a sequel, even if it's the company that holds the rights to the title putting out a far lower budgeted effort as a simple cash-in. This craze for sequels can be traced back to the nineteen-seventies at least, but it truly took off in the eighties where a mass of horror movies enjoyed their own franchises and a genre picture was not a genre picture unless it secured at least one cinematic follow-up, never mind the blockbusters that begged to reunite the cast and set about either building on what had gone before, or ruining the goodwill the original movie had delivered. Not every sequel can be The Godfather Part II or The Empire Strikes Back, but there were plenty of opportunities to kick back and really take the premise in a provocative direction; however, there were movies that missed that opportunity.
So here are six examples of films, discussed with spoilers, out of Hollywood with a following, large and less substantial, that were never continued. First up and we go to the somewhere near the beginning of the eighties when horror was more established than ever before, at times to its detriment, and The Entity which was supposed to be a cut above its peers because it was based on true events, much as The Exorcist had been around a decade before. Seeing as how it ends with the sobering information that the supernatural attacks it depicted were still continuing, you would have thought it was an ideal property to pick up the story once again, but it was not to be, all we had was murmurings of a remake come the twenty-first century instead. But what was the big deal about this chiller anyway? What was it that made some viewers claim it was one of the scariest films they had ever seen?
That premise and the way it was presented as all true was part of it, imagine being told any successful horror movie was drawn from fact and it would give you pause, but The Entity was particularly alarming as the film's stand-in for the anonymous victim, played with admirable conviction by Barbara Hershey, was assaulted, often sexually, over and over again. Director Sidney J. Furie concocted these attacks with underrated skill, emphasising the mundane surroundings and the unremarkable lead up to them, an everyday tone that would be abruptly interrupted by Charles Bernstein's rock equivalent of Bernard Herrmann's Psycho stabbing strings and Hershey would be thrown around the room (or even almost killed in her car). You could call these sequences repetitive, but Furie made that a strong point, that sheer relentlessness of the assaults that had no end in sight.
Hershey's Carla was persuaded to visit a psychiatrist (Ron Silver) who is sympathetic up to the degrees of believing it's a demonic presence that is conducting the victimisation, indeed he is dead against the local university's parapsychologists taking an interest, though if they had no then we would not have appreciated the genuinely bizarre climax as they attempt to freeze the Entity with liquid helium, one of the most eccentric sequences of horror in a decade with no shortage of them. That wasn't quite the end as the villain had a door-slamming, turn the air blue message for Carla, which you might have regarded as setting up an obvious sequel, yet perhaps it was the subject matter seen as distasteful, but it never arrived. Seeing as how this was a loose approximation of the actual events (which as ever, are disputed anyway) then a creative screenwriter could have had a field day conjuring up a scenario where the Entity was actually vanquished, rather than inhibited.
Now, only a complete maniac would make a sequel to one of the biggest financial disasters in movie history, but it does happen - there does exist a Showgirls 2, for example - and in 1986 there was a major flop that truly needed a follow up that would have got what it did right and ironed out all that it did wrong; that film was Howard the Duck. Marvel toyed with viewers of Guardians of the Galaxy by placing one of their post-credits sequences there which featured a computer animated version of Steve Gerber's cult classic creation, but back in the eighties, if George Lucas had announced he was producing a Howard 2 back in '86, he would have been judged entirely insane, such was the hatred for the mess that resulted when he tried to appeal to the hipster crowd rather than the family audience he was best known for with Star Wars, yet managed to draw in the hipsters simultaneously in the process.
Howard drew in very few at the time, as if you had espoused an appreciation for it you would have had your car keys taken away at the very least, yet over the years a few hardy fans began to make themselves known, willing to face the ridicule of liking a seriously ridiculed movie. It was the same old story: for the mainstream, comics were kids' stuff, so anything with a more adult bent was simply dismissed or ignored, even disdained if it ever crossed the radar. Thus adapters Gloria Katz and Willard Hyuck tried to address both camps, including near the knuckle jokes for the grown-ups and lots of chases for the little ones, which left the film pulling in different directions. Audiences came for the cute little duck, and swiftly left after the bestiality and animal rights material which did not fit their view of what a popular blockbuster should be, assuming they had not already been warned off attending a screening by reviews or word of mouth.
But in these days of Deadpool changing the landscape for comic book movies, what if Howard had done so way back in the mid-eighties? He would not have had to go all Fritz the Cat, that notorious Ralph Bakshi version of R. Crumb's counterculture comic strip, but that had been the cool target Marvel had aimed for and often hit with the Gerber source: when Howard ran for President of the United States a lot of them thought it was a great idea. In what we were offered, Howard was a little guy (or guys) in an obvious suit, but take the Who Framed Roger Rabbit route and animate him and you could have a more versatile character to build the story around, certainly more so than some poor bloke of restricted height perspiring in an unwieldy outfit. Lea Thompson was Beverly, Howard's sort-of-girlfriend here, but she merely ended up kidnapped by the bad guy (Jeffrey Jones): give her more to do in a sequel and put those excellent ILM effects to good use and who knows?
If there was one form of movie almost guaranteed to get a sequel in the eighties, it was the horror movie, yet still there were those who missed out, and Retribution from 1987 was one of them deemed not worthy of a continuation, that in spite of it enjoying an ending becoming so typical of the genre in this decade, the "bad guy's dead, oh no he isn't" final scene. Obviously such additions were present because the hope was that this would turn a profit sufficient to justify getting the team back together for another go, and in the case of this effort the issue that we were always one step ahead of the characters would no longer apply, since we had already established in the first movie what was going down, therefore all bets could effectively be off for the second. Here we were offered the familiar tale of the worm that turned, except the man who devised it had a fresh take on that sort of material.
This time was worm was turning against his will, for when he slept he would be possessed by the spirit of a murdered gangster, a spirit who vowed vengeance on the group who put him to death. Played by Dennis Lipscomb, a familiar supporting actor given a rare lead, poor old George started the story at rock bottom and could barely claw his way up the greasy pole to any kind of peace of mind, for we initially encountered him when he is jumping off a building on Halloween night, not being able to take it anymore - his non-existent personal life, the utter lack of interest in his artworks, his pitiable finances - which is the perfect moment for the simultaneously expiring gangster to enter his soul without him knowing. Obviously he survives and goes through rehabilitation (Lipscomb illustrated his commitment by limping throughout the rest of the movie), where his nice psychiatrist tries to build up his self-esteem in daily sessions.
The trouble with that is, he suffers terrible nightmares, and we can tell it's down to the influence of a possessor which is every bit the victim George is, only George is a meek chap who wouldn't lift a finger in anger. Which didn't stop producer-writer-director Guy Magar going way over the top in a horror that struck a novel tone of deepest sympathy for its pathetic hero and the disadvantaged he was surrounded with, and a real gusto for the setpieces where glowing-eyed George would slice a man in two at an abattoir, or cut another's hand off with a welding torch, all for the sake of the gangster's revenge. As any eighties shocker would ask, why stop there? But stop there TV director Magar did, returning to the small screen after what was patently a labour of love whose cover was a familiar sight in video rental stores across the world - maybe it was much recognised on the shelves, but rarely rented? Whatever, Magar showed real talent and deserved another shot at features.
Could the lack of profits for 1997's The Relic also be the reason we never had a sequel for this good old fashioned monster movie? It was drawn from a series of novels co-written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, a successful partnership on the page that did not translate to one in the cinema thanks to the middling, though by no means disastrous, business this adaptation did. Maybe it was because the two stars were decidedly second rank, as Penelope Ann Miller as the regulation beautiful lady scientist of the sort even the nineteen-fifties saw rather a lot of, and Tom Sizemore as the world-weary cop who investigates the murders, had seen their profiles rise about as far as they would go, and after this for whatever reason they fell from the spotlight as far as film went, so studio bosses lost faith in their ability to bring in the punters. Here they proved themselves perfectly serviceable performers in genre works.
Which was really all they needed to be, for we were here to see a great, big creature tear the heads off hapless characters and... eat their hypothalamus! Their what? It's explained in the movie, though the precise motivation for munching this part of the brain is less clear other than it sounds scientific and going for that sort of explanation, leaning on the science fiction side of what was plainly a horror flick. Presumably they wanted to allude to the king (queen?) of sci-fi shockers, the Alien franchise, particularly because they had a beast designed by the legendary Stan Winston, though they found that an issue when it was not completed for much of the production so what looked like a coy restraint in showing it to the audience in all its glory was more to do with troubles behind the scenes. Nevertheless, it was nice to watch a horror that, as in times past, was not going to play its hand too early.
Besides, once we finally got an eyeful of the monster, it could be reused for that all-important sequel, er, couldn’t it? Nope, because though a franchise must have been on the studio's mind, it was not to be, no matter that even something like Mimic eventually had its follow-ups, albeit a couple of straight to video efforts that nobody warmed to much (meanwhile another '97 horror Deep Rising also went lacking for obvious-seeming second instalments). The Relic had an ideal premise for bringing out new menaces in that it was caused by a plant which mutated its victims into ghastly, carnivorous behemoths (or as much as a behemoth as a beetle can be, to mention one incidental creature featured), which contrasted nicely with the rejection of superstition as Sizemore represented in favour of Miller's cool head (though she still screamed). It was basically a haunted house yarn in a museum, and more fun than the actual Night at the Museum series.
Also funnier than the entire Night of the Museum series was 2000's Dude, Where's My Car, one of the most purposefully idiotic comedies ever made. But there can be something liberating about being so silly, and if the antics of the stoner heroes Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott) were never going to be transcendent - it was always going to be that stoopid movie, even to its fans - then the act of watching a bunch of professionals carrying out some of the least sensible scenes cinema had ever witnessed was not to be dismissed. Maybe a more serious accusation against the film was that it was relentlessly sexist, those of that opinion not noticing that, as often with these things, it took female characters to point out what a bunch of dopes the men were being, and also that there was a hefty dose of lampoonery towards the males in Philip Stark's smarter than it appeared screenplay.
This included the way that there was a lot of unspoken attraction between Jesse and Chester, sometimes subtly (watch for their embarrassment when their fingers touch briefly on the fence) to the outright, blaring, how could you miss the joke type set-up, chiefly the sequence where they stop at the traffic lights (not in the car they were originally seeking) and notice model Fabio is parked next to them. He has an attractive woman next to him, so after gunning their respective engines in macho competition, Fab makes great play of smooching with his lady friend, whereupon Jesse lustily snogs Chester and seems to think he has got one up on this hunk of masculinity judging by his self-satisfied grin. Sure, they seem to fantasise about other attractive females having their wicked way with them, but they don't seem to twig that their most significant relationship is with each other, not their twin girlfriends (Jennifer Garner and Marla Sokoloff).
Not even Bill and Ted went that far, though there was, as noted, a big influence on Dude that was barely acknowledged since it took the science fiction premise of a bunch of weirdos seeking the MacGuffin that could hold the potential to destroy the universe (hey, think big!) and made it the excuse to have the protagonists wander through a series of ludicrous situations. From the marijuana-puffing dog to Brent Spiner's ostrich farm to the Chinese restaurant drive-thru where the voice over the intercom keeps demanding "And then?!" the level of invention when it came to the extremely daft was almost admirable, which made the possibility of more from this story a prospect its fans would have readily welcomed. And yet, although there were definite plans for a sequel entitled Seriously, Dude, Where's My Car? it never happened, and Kutcher and Scott moved on to other comedies that were not as high profile (unless you lived in Canada and saw Goon).
Another comedy that appeared tailor made for a second instalment arrived in 2004, as television's South Park team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone served up as blunt an instrument of satire as they could, in keeping with political times where everyone was increasingly polarised and each side was characterising the others as utter morons. Team America: World Police was that movie, inspired by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's classic sixties puppet series Thunderbirds (which funnily enough was made into a movie that year too, only with live action), but the Tracy family would never have dreamed of being as violent as the T.A. band of secret agents. Parker (on directing duties) and Stone were also influenced by a movie that was a complete flop in the eighties, Megaforce, where a secret organisation battles terrorists in a production designed to sell toys, an arrangement that may seem prescient, but back in 1982 nobody was interested.
However, as this duo discovered, there was plenty to laugh at in Megaforce, and you could see the gags that summed up the gung-ho nature of American action movies in general during that decade that defined the form. Therefore we had jokes about montages (accompanied by a song with explanatory lyrics), the attitude that the United States foreign policy was never wrong when there were terrorists destroying all that was decent, and the U.S. Army doing an abundance of destroying itself with complete lack of irony. But Parker and Stone didn't leave it there, as they had the bleeding heart liberal left in their sights as well, encapsulated in the puppets representing Hollywood's vocal political lobby which would, according to this, view every terrorist atrocity with the caveat that the killers had their hand forced by the Western governments. Whatever you thought about either opinion, Team America was curiously ambiguous in its message.
South Park was similarly scattershot in picking its targets, leaving its creators difficult to pin down, but judging by their campaign in cartoon form against Donald Trump's Presidency, they would have had a lot to say had Team America been brought back, and their fans would undoubtedly have welcomed it. However, the problem with that was that while ingeniously designed, the film had been sheer hell to make, with both Parker and Stone at breaking point by the end of the shoot thanks to the utterly frustrating methods of puppetry, so much so that Stone not only said he would never make a sequel, but neither would he ever make a film with Parker again (South Park continued, however). With the plot's chief villain, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il having since died, his son would seem to be obvious for lampooning, particularly when the alien cockroach that inhabited his Earthly form escaped at the finale. But it is not to be, and this joins the ranks of sequel-free movies in sequel-hungry Hollywood. When you see what is followed up, it's easy to feel the missed opportunities.
[Eureka has released The Entity on Blu-ray, a big step up in quality from the DVD, though the sole extra is the trailer in SD, plus subtitles.]