When it comes to the popular franchises, there’s only so much room a writer can take when crafting a sequel so as not to draw fanbase ire. A Friday the 13th should always have Jason Voorhees dispatching teens in ruthless ways. You can send him to space or on a boat to Manhattan, but the creativity doesn’t extend much beyond that. He is the main draw, after all. Same rules apply to Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Leatherface. Just as much of that is attributed to the slasher formula as it is their iconic status in horror. But what about the horror films that were successful on a much smaller scale, or the ones that simply didn’t feature a boogeyman with franchise-launching potential? Then there’s a lot more wiggle room.
For those horror movies, a sequel could be a blank canvas. Sometimes that meant simply pretending that the previous film didn’t exist; overwriting the story into something new. Sometimes it meant trying to assimilate the successes of more popular horror franchise. Or sometimes it was simply attaching a separate film altogether to a popular horror film in attempt to capitalize on its built-in fanbase; a sequel in title only. Which meant that we got a good number of wacky horror sequels over the decades. Sometimes that was a refreshing surprise, but sometimes the weirdness was just too much to process. For better or worse, here are horror’s 10 weirdest sequels:
Exorcist II: The Heretic
It’s a no-brainer that one of horror’s biggest blockbusters would get a follow up. With John Boorman (Deliverance) taking over as director, Ennio Morricone composing the score, and the talent of Richard Burton and James Earl Jones to its cast roster, the ingredients of a decent to stellar sequel are in place. But then William Peter Blatty has zero interest, Ellen Burstyn refuses to return, and Linda Blair only agrees to return if she never has to wear the demonic makeup. Ok, there’s still room for flexible creativity here. Except, what we got instead is the most disjointed, incoherent mess that’s pretty boring to sit through. It’s bolstered by the weirdest of directorial choices too. Instead of using actual scenes from the first film as a flashback to Regan MacNeil’s possession, Boorman instead decides to recreate them with a Blair double, in not so great makeup. Why? Synchronized psychic brainwaves, an uncomfortably sexual doppelganger of Regan, locust swams, and I’m still not entirely sure what Jones’ purpose in the story is as Lamont. Really, I’m not sure I get the story at all. It’s such an odd choice for a sequel that it’s easier to forget that it exists. Thankfully, William Peter Blatty made it even easier with his fantastic sequel, The Exorcist III, which is a more proper continuation.
Curse II: The Bite
How do you follow up an Italian-American horror adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space, a fairly close adaptation set on a farm from the perspective of teen boy Zack (a young Wil Wheaton)? With radioactive snakes, of course! Following a road-tripping couple, played by Jill Schoelen (The Stepfather) and J. Eddie Peck, their love story hits a major snag when Clark is bitten by said radioactive snake. Clark’s behavior starts changing, becoming more aggressive toward his lady love, but then he starts spawning a snake mutant creature from the site of his bite; his hand. That snake has a predatory mind of its own. The Curse was already a wacky movie on its own, so it’s a tough act to follow in terms of eccentricity. But at least it felt apropos of its title. The truth behind the strange, unconnected left-turn in this budding franchise is simple; look to the Italian director and co-writer Frederico Prosperi and the Italian production team. No one loved to slap well-known titles onto unconnected films like the Italians (see the Zombi series, La Casa series, or even The Church for examples).
Waxwork II: Lost in Time
The first film failed to earn back the $1.5 million budget in its theatrical run, but Vestron Pictures’ home release easily recouped the budget costs and then surpassed it. Which was a great thing for us for two reasons: Waxwork is such a great ‘80s gem and that ending was a complete improvised mess (that silly battle inside the Waxwork museum) when writer/director Anthony Hickox ran out of money to complete it as originally intended. Perhaps because of that, Hickox sort of backed the sequel potential into a corner; spoiler: the Waxwork burned down and effectively took all of the bad guys within with it. So, no big bad and no Waxwork, that makes a continuation a little trickier. So, after a brief recap, Hickox picks right up where Mark and Sarah left off (though Sarah has been replaced with actress Monika Schnarre after Hickox and Deborah Foreman had a messy breakup). Instead of stepping into exhibits and living the horrors within, Mark and Sara set about a quest to bring back proof for her murder trial, in the form of time traveling through alternate dimensions. Bigger, stranger, awesome cameos, and for sure weirder, Waxwork II contains the kitchen sink- including the originally intended ending. In a way, this sequel is more like a re-do. I’m okay with that.
C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.
While tying into plot points from C.H.U.D., in which Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal waste by-products hidden in the New York sewers by the government turned the homeless population into man-eating mutants, this sequel doesn’t share much else in common with its predecessor. Especially not in tone. This sequel forgoes the serious tone in favor of slapstick comedy. The movie stars the ever charismatic Gerrit Graham as Bud, the last specimen of a military experiment in which they took D.N.A. from the mutants of the first film to make super soldiers and wound up with zombies. Bud escapes straight smack into suburbia, and embarks on a journey to find his love, Katie. Of course, as a zombie, he eats people along the way. Discovers his zombie boner, and breaks into a big dance number. Yes, a dance number. Watching C.H.U.D. in no way prepares you for the weirdness that is Bud.
Slumber Party Massacre II
While The Slumber Party Massacre was a surprisingly effective slasher film, this sequel is really only tied to its predecessor by its lead final girl Courtney, the younger sister of final girl Valerie Bates in the first film. Years later, Courtney still suffers nightmares from the events, and her sister has been locked away in a mental hospital. A sad ending to Val’s story, of course, but the sequel doesn’t give you much time to dwell- between Courtney’s hallucinations, her surreal nightmares, and the bizarre Rockabilly psycho stalking her with a drill-guitar weapon is a jarring distraction. Seriously. The Driller Killer, sporting a leather jacket with fringe and a pompadour, breaks into song and dance just about every time he pops up. It’s almost as though writer/director Deborah Brock drew inspiration from Grease when crafting her boogeyman. The influences by other popular franchises are overt; look to characters Officer Krueger and Officer Voorhees, and a main character named Sally Burns in a cross between actress Marilyn Burns and her character Sally Hardesty from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
House II: The Second Story
Save for both features being produced by Sean S. Cunningham, this sequel has absolutely nothing in common with its predecessor except that it too is a zany horror comedy that features a gargantuan house with supernatural abilities. The sequel doesn’t even feature the same house from the first film, nor any reference to its characters, which was probably a smart choice considering this lead protagonist also happens to have a long family history intertwined with the supernatural occurrences of the mansion. Eschewing the literal ghosts of Vietnam induced guilt in favor of caterpuppies, mummy Great-Great-Grandpas with an affinity for beer, dinosaurs, and a wild west evil in search of an Aztec power, an Indiana Jones-like exterminator (John Razenberger, giving a Cheers connection bridge between films) House II has pretty much anything you can think of. Including a Kane Hodder cameo. Full confession: I still want a caterpuppy.
The Gate II: Trespassers
Remember that cool ‘80s movie that starred Stephen Dorff as 12-year-old Glen, who opened the gate to evil in his backyard with his neighbor Terry when they played a heavy metal album backward? It turns out opening the gate to dark forces isn’t nearly as cool or as fun when you’re a depressed teenager wallowing in self-pity. In this sequel, Glen’s family has moved away and Terry’s home life has gotten much, much worse. Which means he’s decided breaking into Glen’s former home to bust that hell gate open again is somehow a very enticing idea. Sounds pretty normal on paper for a sequel, right? Except, what plays out is so very different than what you’d expect or want from a sequel. It turns into a “be careful what you wish for” type horror story as Terry (now Terrence) and his buddies use a captured Minion to grant whatever wish they desire. This, of course, leads to horrific consequences. Oh, and the wishes literally turn to feces. So that’s a thing. Look for a minion getting stoned and crashing a car sequence, and an oddly much slower pace than the original. One nice thing is that Louis Tripp reprises his role as Terry. Other than that, this oddball sequel does its own weird thing.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 really set the weird franchise tone by attributing much of its runtime to re-edited scenes from the first film. The immediate follow up continued Santa Claus Killer Ricky Caldwell’s spree, this time played by Bill Moseley. The connection between the three still makes sense. But the fourth entry decides to drop that connection and go for broke. Actor Clint Howard makes an appearance, in a weak connection between sequels, but it’s also set around Christmas. I think. This one follows a reporter investigating the death of a woman that spontaneously combusted as she flung herself off a building to her death. The reporter finds herself the center of attention among a cult of witches looking for their next sacrifice. The mythology behind the cult is strange and convoluted, but it’s taken to a whole new level with the weird bug thing. Larva that are inserted through a vagina to emerge from a mouth as a fully-grown cockroach, to the reporter being turned into a bug herself, it’s pretty nutty. I should probably mention that it’s this point in the franchise where Brian Yuzna has taken over, so gooey creature effects probably isn’t much of a shock. Unless you were expecting a Christmas slasher, that is.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
Hot on the heels of the smash success of The Blair Witch Project, Artisan Entertainment was extremely eager to move forward with a sequel. Original creators and production company Haxan preferred to wait until the fervor died down a bit. Artisan won and enlisted relative newcomer Joe Berlinger to take over directorial duties. The concept is surprisingly clever; a self-aware world where The Blair Witch Project has been a massive hit and sees an onslaught of curious visitors to the town of Burkittsville, Maryland, a group of tourists find more than they bargained for. It dropped the found footage aspect, mostly, in favor of traditional filming. Beyond that, though, messing with time is always a pitfall of film, and the narrative fell into a convoluted mess full of obnoxious characters, none of it nearly as clever as it thought it was. Part of that was studio tampering; Berlinger has been vocal about Artisan stepping in to re-cut and reshoot scenes to deliver a much more commercial friendly horror feature. It only muddied the already murky waters. While there’s enough intriguing mythology there to warrant its fanbase over the years, it’s still an odd stain on the would-be franchise that never quite got off the ground.
Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf
While this sequel might be the only one to directly follow the events of the original film, it’s vastly different. Gone is Joe Dante, state-of-the-art special effects by Rob Bottin, and an overall sense of danger and unease. Instead, there’s director Phillipe Mora and his desire to bring New Wave eroticism to the fold. Yup. Ergo Stirba, immortal werewolf queen ruling over Transylvania, played by Sybil Danning. Stirba seems much more beastly witch than werewolf, and look for Christopher Lee phoning it in, in a rare bad performance. There’s not really much about this movie that won’t raise an eyebrow. Weird wizard light battle showdowns, a very un-wolf like werewolf queen with a bondage kink, and a trio of heroes that literally fumble their way across Transylvania, you’d be forgiven for wondering how this was called Howling at all. Still, it all pales in comparison to the most bizarre end credits of all time; look for a cut of Sybil Danning ripping open her shirt to bare all…17 times.