SCARY HORROR STUFF: 3 Examples of How the Horror Genre Successfully REINVENTS the Sequel
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

3 Examples of How the Horror Genre Successfully REINVENTS the Sequel

Look, I love sequels just as much as the next guy. Swear. But you have to admit, when it comes to horror films (and even horror books) -- sequels wear thin! They're almost like a cash grab. The draw and excitement's all petered out; and it's largely due to the one fault of the genre itself: that the element of surprise is the lead in any premise (unless you're Freddy Kreuger, Jason Voorhees, Chucky, or Michael Myers, of course).

Horror Movie Sequels Typically Don't Do Very Well!


In a nutshell, once that sequel hits, we already know what to expect, which makes for a lifeless experience and one without the classic twists, curdling blood and making you want to shred your nails with your teeth. We saw it with SINISTER 2 (although I still rather enjoyed that sequel -- however nowhere near as effective as the original). We saw it with ALIEN 3 and ALIEN: RESURRECTION (and in all fairness, I loved ALIEN 3 but loathed RESURRECTION). And even the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films started to lose their luster over time.

I call it the SEQUEL-ITIS EFFECT of horror films: wanting to take advantage of the draw and milk that money cow for more. Something no horror movie should have to do.

However, there are exceptions. It just takes a bit of a creative imagination to "twist" the whole idea of a "sequel" on its head. And when you think about it, that twist shouldn't really work in the grand scheme of an entire made-up universe with a linear flow.

Yet, It DOES WORK With the Horror Genre, and Here Are Three Examples of It:

  • CLOVERFIELD

Arguably the most interesting monster *slash* found footage flick ever developed. And it sparked a lot of interest. So needless to say, when 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE was released, people started asking questions: is this a sequel??

With a resounding, effective, and rather frustrating NO, people were given probably the best version of how the sequel to any horror flick has been reimagined.

No. Technically, that 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE flick is not a sequel. However.... It follows the premise that this is about the same story!

Consider the MCU, for instance. All those films leading up to the AVENGERS.... All those films afterward leading up to AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. And so on and so forth. They're not in and of themselves sequels. But in the grand scheme of the larger framework, the entire universe of characters.... THEY ACTUALLY ARE.

CLOVERFIELD and 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE are exactly like that. They exist in the same universe, the same overall story. And it was just announced that indeed there will be two more films to follow up on the franchise -- GOD PARTICLE and OVERLORD.

For the most part, both new movies slated to be filmed will be rather disconnected from the linear flow of the first edition. We might not even see or hear any reference to the giant monster of the original movie either. In fact, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE offered no reference at all. No big monster. Nothing. Not even the characters in that film were connected with the characters of the original flick.

And, yet, somehow.... That structure for this CLOVERFIELD franchise...worked!

  • INSIDIOUS

Bravo, I say. And honestly it was a difficult push for this one as the actual sequel of the original film almost fell prey to SEQUEL-ITIS. Even the third film struggled a bit.

But once again, true to form, THE LAST KEY, which was recently released not only destroyed the box office, but tickled the fancy of many horror aficionados by doing the one thing it really didn't do in the previous installments:

It allowed Lin Shaye, the REAL MVP of the movie series, to SHINE.

Instead of going the linear route, it went backwards. If you remember, Lin Shaye's character Elise ended up dying right at the end of the first movie. The second one followed suit in linear fashion, but THE LAST KEY took a step back before the original film's timeline to explore a new story in Elise's arc, who we get to experience before her death, that made it interesting all over again.

And, of course, you better believe it: there will be a fourth INSIDIOUS, following up the third. Now that's how you make sequels.
  • UNBREAKABLE

Oh, yes. I included Shyamalan in this one. But, hey, the film UNBREAKABLE was, well, unbreakable. Probably just as powerful of a hit as THE SIXTH SENSE was. The thing is we really weren't expecting anything else to come of this movie. The loose ends were tied so neatly. There wasn't any hint of a sequel or a follow-up or anything. We just let it go.

And M. Night pulled out SPLIT. Need I say more?

The genius of it was that we went into SPLIT not even thinking that this was tied to anything. We thought this was a standalone film (and a good one at that). Until....

No spoilers here. Needless to say, Shyamalan just wrapped on filming his third film GLASS, which will bring the characters of UNBREAKABLE and SPLIT together in full fashion. When you think about it, that's an excellent way to bring stories together in a "sequel"-type format, but without actually being a sequel.

But, technically, SPLIT is a sequel. Just not on the surface. And that's the exact magic of keeping the story fresh. It's not a straight line of a story at all. They're two lines going in separate directions -- but meeting together later down the road. Makes for a more interesting experience.

What It All Boils Down to Is Trying to Highlight the CHARACTERS and the STORY, But NOT the BRAND


Again.... Unless you're a guy wearing a fedora and red-black rugby, or a hockey mask. Otherwise, if horror films really want to expand beyond that of the first edition.... Just color outside of the lines! And explore something new. That's one of the only ways to successfully reinvent the idea of the sequel.

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