Since The Conjuring was released in 2013, it has spawned more spinoffs than it has genuine sequels. There was a sequel in 2016, which brings the main franchise total to two; with the Annabelle spinoff, its upcoming 2017 sequel, and the planned spinoff about the demonic Nun from the second Conjuring film, that’s three spinoffs to two main films.
Whether the film is a huge hit (The Mummy’s progeny The Scorpion King), a moderate success (the tangential franchise non-starter Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones), an anticipated indie (the hopefully still-happening spinoff to What We Do in the Shadows called We’re Wolves), or a barely connected film in an entirely different genre (anyone remember The Ninth Configuration, William Peter Blatty’s spinoff of The Exorcist about the astronaut who was on-screen for two minutes?), studios and rights-holders love the idea of being able to get more entertainment out of a proven intellectual property.
So where are these fantastic ideas for spinoffs from proven, popular horror movie franchises?
Original Movie: Jaws
We know a little bit of Quint’s history. He tells the residents of Amity Island, “Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy.”
We also know what he went through on the USS Indianapolis: “So, eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred sixteen men come out, and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.”
And we know about his violent death in the final act of the film. But what about the untold chapter in the middle? Revenge-driven Quint has retired from the military, and now he is devoting all his time on a quest to kill every last man-eater on the planet. His solo film is a nearly wordless story of a driven, Ahab-like figure out on the open sea in a single boat, the man against the elements.
Part All is Lost for its bleakness and silence, and part Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer for its unflinching brutality, the film is a true glimpse into the heart of darkness adrift in the heart of the sea.
The Spinoff Title: Quint
The Tagline: “Before It hunted him… He hunted them.”
Original Movie: Friday the 13th series
We all remember when Rob Dier showed up to Crystal Lake equipped and armed in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, ready to hunt Jason Voorhees after learning that his sister Sandra and her boyfriend were murdered by him. But what if Rob wasn’t motivated to go to Crystal Lake by himself?
What if there were someone who told him about the attacks? Someone who told him where to go and helped him arm himself? What if that person also had some vendetta to settle with Jason Voorheees?
It was Creighton Duke, the famed Jason hunter from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday! He hoped to use Rob to kill Jason, but when it didn’t work, he had to come back later and do it himself. We thought he died of a broken spine at the end of that film. But…
It turns out he faked his death. Now wheelchair-bound, Creighton travels around the country with his newly formed team of hunters, taking out weird backwoods killers and silent stalkers of campgrounds all over the nation.
The Spinoff Title: CampGround Zero
The Tagline: “Next stop: Cropsey.”
The Original Movie: A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Dr. Neil Gordon was one of the psychiatrists that worked with Nancy Thompson at the Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital with the teens who were being stalked by Freddy Krueger in their dreams.
While Nancy gave her life to stop Freddy Krueger, Dr. Gordon didn’t die. He went off and started his own research facility into the world of dreams. In doing research into the dream state, he discovers that Freddy Krueger isn’t the only dangerous thing haunting the dreams of young people in the town of Springwood, Ohio.
So Dr. Gordon does the only thing he knows to do: he gives the endangered children Hypnocil to protect them from REM dreaming while he finds other kids with the same powers as the ones he knew at Westin Hills. Recruiting a team of Dream Warriors to work with him, helping him free the children plagued with nightmares and getting to the bottom of the mystery of what other creatures are haunting the dreamscape.
The Spinoff Title: The Dream Institute
Tagline: “Don’t want to dream no more…”
Original Movies: Gremlins & Gremlins 2: The New Batch
When Billy’s father Randall acquired Gizmo the Mogwai as a Christmas present, he bought it from a strange little antiques shop run by the mysterious Mr. Wing. At the end of the chaos of the first film, Mr. Wing comes to collect Gizmo because they don’t know how to care for him properly.
Years later, Mr. Wing is offered a huge sum of money for his property by billionaire Daniel Clamp; he turns it down, but dies and his property is bought up by Clamp Industries. But that’s not the whole story of mysterious Mr. Wing…
It turns out Mr. Wing’s store is a mysterious, mystical shop that appears throughout time and in various places, and the items contained within the store are intended to teach people important lessons or change their lives. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of The Monkey’s Paw? That cursed object was purchased in Mr. Wing’s shop, along with many other strange and fascinating things through history.
In-between Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Mr. Wing went on a journey to find a new store caretaker. He passed on the caretaking of the store just before he was visited by Clamp Industries, and after he passed away, the essence of the store and the new caretaker disappeared into time, appearing unexpectedly to help, hinder, and change the lives of people everywhere with more mysterious purchases.
Spinoff Title: Antiquities
Tagline: “Buyer beware.”
Original Movie: Blade: Trinity
This spinoff should probably be fairly clear to anyone who has seen the movie, but let’s admit the truth: the one thing almost everyone liked about the third Blade movie was Hannibal King, played by Ryan Reynolds.
One of the members of the Nightstalkers (along with Whistler’s daughter Abigail), King is a reformed vampire and jokester who has more than a little bit in common with Ryan Reynold’s later character Deadpool.
This spinoff not only writes itself, in that the Nightstalkers were a comic book of their own and both the characters survive until the end of the film, but the spinoff very nearly did write itself: one of the alternate endings of the film revolved around Blade retiring after eradicating vampires from the Earth, while Abigail and King reunited as the Nightstalkers and turned their sights on werewolves. This ending can be seen on the DVD release of Blade: Trinity.
So why reinvent a pretty good wheel? King and Abigail set about battling the werewolves of the Marvel universe, perhaps running into Werewolf by Night (a comic book character no one but me is clamoring for).
OPTION 1: Nightstalkers
OPTION 2: King of the Nightstalkers
OPTION 1: “The war never ends.”
OPTION 2: “We were gonna go with the Care Bears, but that was taken.”
Original Films: Rosemary’s Baby/The Omen
In the haunting final scenes of Rosemary’s Baby, new mother Rosemary discovers that she has indeed given birth to the son of Satan, that her husband made a deal with the devil for his successful film career, and that all the elderly neighbors in her building were Satanists looking to have her child rule the Earth. “God is dead! Satan lives!”
But when the party is over and the elderly cult thinks about their plans in the light of day, they realize what a longshot it is to just have one child of Satan who will miraculously grow up to be the most powerful man in the world. So they decide to do some hiring and investing.
They turn one of the floors of their building into a day care center/after-school program, and they hire the best day care professionals they can find: Barb and Michael, a barren childless couple and lifelong day care partners. They start their first day of work, taking care of Rosemary Woodhouse’s child (after her mysterious disappearance at the beginning of the spinoff), along with a creepy young boy named Damien Thorn (showing up from The Omen) and a few other strange children.
Barb and Michael begin to suspect something is up when one of the children tells them he doesn’t like the “playtime” the kids all do at night with the seemingly kindly old owners; then the next day, the boy disappears. Barb and Michael start to look into it, only to find that the owners are less dangerous than their students.
The Spinoff Title: Devil Day Care
The Tagline: “We can take care of your little hell-raiser.”
Original Movie: Dawn of the Dead
While there are nearly too many memorable sequences of the original George A. Romero Dawn of the Dead to recount, one of the most fun and most often-discussed is the scene where the gang of roving bikers breaks into the mall, smashing and grabbing, goofing around with the zombies, and generally destroying the seemingly perfect sanctuary that Ken Foree and friends have set up for themselves.
Ultimately, of course, things don’t end too well for the bikers, some of who are shot in a firefight or killed by zombies, while the rest flee the mall with their loot in tow. Who can forget the one biker whose arm and body are ripped apart while he tries to get a blood pressure reading from the machine?
The bikers who made it out, though; we never saw what happened to them. Certainly, some of them survived, made it past the zombie hordes, and continued their SAMCRO-style shenanigans across a hellish post-apocalyptic landscape, an American motorcycle version of Mad Max. This is their story.
The Spinoff Title: Sons of Apocalypse
The Tagline: “The end of your world is the beginning of their ride.”
Original Movies: Halloween series
There is one building which has appeared in or been referenced in nearly all of the Michael Myers-centric Halloween films, but with the exception of Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake, almost no time has been devoted to its impact on the tragedy-filled nearby town of Haddonfield, Illinois. That building? Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.
As we learn in Halloween films 4-6, Smith’s Grove Sanitarium was not only the place of residence for Michael Myers for fifteen formative years; it was also the place where Cult of Thorn member Dr. Terence Wynn hid in plain sight of Dr. Loomis for decades.
We’ve seen the stalking and carnage that Michael Myers brought to the streets of Haddonfield, and we saw a hint of the complicated machinations of the Cult of Thorn in snippets. But what if we got a film devoted to the dark, secret goings-on inside that facility in its past?
While a young, earnest Dr. Loomis starts working at the facility and trying to reach the mostly catatonic Michael Myers, we watch Dr. Wynn being seduced by the Cult of Thorn, testing young Michael in the dark of night, recruiting others into his plan, and pulling the wool over poor Loomis’ eyes.
The Spinoff Title: The Grove
The Tagline: “The Night HE Checked In.”
Original Films: Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters 2
Okay, this is the least like a traditional spinoff of all of the films included here. This is not so much a spinoff of a series with ancillary characters that continue off in their own direction a la Annabelle. This is closer to the strange phenomenon of Paranormal Activity: Tokyo Night.
That film is a sequel/remake about the events of the original Paranormal Activity film essentially happening again, in slightly different ways, to Japanese woman Haruka. It makes total sense to spin that film off, given the immense popularity of ghost stories in Japanese horror films. So my pitch for another mostly unrelated series spinoff involving Japan and ghosts is…
Yurei Bureku! (approximately, Ghost Breakers) A continuation of the original franchise in which Venkman, Stantz, Spengler, and Zeddmore have become experts in the paranormal and a worldwide phenomenon. When ghosts start appearing all over the world instead of just New York, the Ghostbusters recruit people from various countries to be the protectors of their geographic areas.
This leads to a crack team of Japanese investigators, led by grizzled ex-police officer Saito (Takeshi Kitano), who investigate every piece of haunted technology, creepy old temple, and long-haired ghost girl sighting. And for die-hard fans of the original, the team has to consult a particularly difficult case over Skype with their mentor, Ray Stantz (a quick cameo by Dan Aykroyd).
The Spinoff Title: Ghostbusters: Land of the Rising Dead
The Tagline: “When there’s somethin’ strange in your prefecture… who you gonna call?”
(BONUS RIDICULOUS SPINOFF PITCH)
Original Movies: The Purge series
Sure, the world of The Purge is a scary one, a world where for one night a year, any crime is legal (including murder). Buildings are burned, bodies pile up, people are wounded, infrastructure is destroyed. It is a night of hell on Earth.
But that’s just twelve hours. Something happens the rest of the year, right? My guess is that they spend an awful long time cleaning up a pretty bad mess, and the rest of the time plotting what they’re going to do for the next Purge.
It’s a funny coincidence that series writer/director James DeMonaco is talking about a series version of The Purge; however, I think his ideas and mine might be different. I’m thinking tentpole network franchises. We could have a Law & Order or a Chicago Fire-style hit on our hands that will spawn numerous ancillary series for years to come.
We start with Purge: Fire, where brave firemen spend twelve hours trying to protect themselves and their families, then have to suit up for work and go put out all the fires that are still burning from the night before. The main character is arson investigator Thad Simmons, a man whose job is nearly obsolete because everyone waits to commit arson until the night when it’s legal. He drinks to hide his fear of not being needed anymore.
Then we spin off to Purge: Medical, where brave doctors and nurses spend the year treating the devastating side effects of wounds from gunshots, hammers, chainsaws, hedge clippers, screwdrivers, retro-fitted killer cars, and so on. Dr. Melissa Hartigan has started a new paramedic program with her ex-husband Jared Grant to travel and help people on Purge night, and they’re testing it out in the run-up; Dr. Hartigan thinks Jared is immature and reckless, but he’s also passionate and so very sexy.
And finally, Purge: Wealthy Victims Unit, where we learn about the secret police force inside the police force that actually DOES investigate some Purge crimes, if they are committed against rich white people. Officer Dack Moretti is conflicted; he has a deep desire to solve crimes, but he is also blue collar and doesn’t like the disparity in the system. He’s just one man, trying to good in a bad world.
Spinoff Titles: Purge: Fire, Purge: Medical, Purge: Wealthy Victims Unit
Purge: Fire– “We didn’t start the fire.”
Purge: Medical– “We didn’t start the murder.”
Purge: Wealthy Victims Unit– “We figured out who started the fire and the murders, and we kidnapped them and handed them over to the New Founding Fathers.”