Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Thursday Thirteen: 13 Sequels

The Thursday Thirteen is a recurring feature here at Plan D in which I post a list of 13 items/movies/books/etc. of any given category. The category this time around? 13 Sequels Worth a Damn.

1 - Revenge of the Creature (dir. Jack Arnold) - This movie adds the one thing to the mix that was missing in the original Creature from the Black Lagoon - John Agar. That said, the chemistry between the male and female leads isn't as strong as it is in the first film; while Creature... is still my favorite film, this one comes VERY close, and I've found that I can watch both of these movies back-to-back thanks to their running times, consistent directorial vision and 3D cinematography.

2 - Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (dir. Bruce Pittman) - This movie has absolutely nothing to do with the first film, essentially turning the Prom Night franchise into a supernatural slasher film (whereas the first film had no supernatural elements). Prom Night II takes a sort of Nightmare on Elm Street-lite approach with the killer dispatching her victims in their dreams, and Michael Ironside is in the film in a role that is delightfully atypical for him.

3 - The Revenge of Frankenstein (dir. Terence Fisher) - This is another movie that could easily be viewed immediately after its predecessor (The Curse of Frankenstein), and again, having the same director at the helm helps to make this happen. Peter Cushing's performance is as determined as the character of Dr. Frankenstein himself, which is fitting as this film made it clear that Hammer was interested in telling stories about Frankenstein the man as opposed to his monster(s).

4 - The Brides of Dracula (dir. Terence Fisher) - Brides... took a cue from The Revenge of Frankenstein in that rather than spotlighting the monster, in this case Dracula, it highlighted a man, in this case Van Helsing. Peter Cushing is one of the screen's best Van Helsings, and in this film, he not only delivers another solid performance, but, as the vampire hunter, he deals with these vampires in creative and inventive ways. (I love the final confrontation between Van Helsing and vampire in this film!)

5 - Wes Craven's New Nightmare (dir. Wes Craven) - Craven got meta before Scream. Growing up, my allegiance was more to Jason Voorhees than Freddy Krueger. I was aware of the Nightmare... films, but by the time I REALLY started to care about them, I was already into learning the behind-the-scenes stuff of movie-making, so I was less invested in the stories of the films and more invested in the hows and whys. New Nightmare fictionalized some of the hows and whys, and even though the conclusion falls a little flat, I still enjoy it quite a bit.

6 - Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (dir. John Carl Buechler) - Two words. Kane. Hodder. This was the first film that placed Hodder behind the hockey mask, and Jason Voorhees hasn't been the same since. No one played the character with such a raw sense of physical-ness before (or maybe even since!), and as sick as it might be to admit it, there's a reason why we cheer when Jason wraps the camper-filled sleeping bag around a tree.

7 - The Exorcist III (dir. William Peter Blatty) - Exorcist II: The Heretic failed on almost every level, but The Exorcist III is more than just a rebound. This is a smart horror film, and despite its shoehorn-ing into the Exorcist franchise, it delivers the goods with solid performances, spooky imagery and underrated direction.

8 - Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (dir. Sam Raimi) - Honestly, I've fallen out of the cult of Raimi a long time ago, but I still enjoy Evil Dead 2 for what it is. Is it a sequel? A remake? Whatever it is, make no mistake - I prefer the first film its true horror intentions and heart, but the wackiness and intentional campiness of Dead by Dawn can't be beat.

9 - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (dir. Roy William Neill) - This was the first time Universal mixed their monster movies, and the result is a lot of fun, even if Karloff wasn't donning the Monster make-up. The film is especially respectful of the previous The Wolf Man (Curt Siodmak wrote both films), and establishes that these classic Universal monster films all take place in the same "world" without results that felt forced. And the resurrection scene at the beginning of the film? Fantastic.

10 - Phantasm II (dir. Don Coscarelli) - Phantasm II is to Phantasm as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is to The Evil Dead. Sure, Mike is played by a different actor, and Jody is nowhere to be seen, but for the most part, this is film could be seen as a continuation, a sequel or a remake of the first film, and it works in any case. Reggie Bannister gets more screen time, and the hints of his badassery we saw in the first film blossom into full-on comic book hero proportions. The special effects are more refined, the score more realized, the look, the pacing . . . this is a solid entry in the Phantasm franchise despite the obvious Nightmare on Elm Street influence.

11 & 12 - Dawn of the Dead (the original) and Day of the Dead (the original) (dir. George A. Romero) - No-brainers. (No pun intended.)

13 - The Satanic Rites of Dracula (dir. Alan Gibson). Yes. Really. Look, I'm aware this film has some pacing issues. I'm aware Christopher-Lee-as-Dracula feels a bit tired in this film, but it's Lee and Cushing's final Hammer battle as Dracula and Van Helsing (even if it's the original Van Helsing's descendant). The plot? Dracula is tired of his existence and is ready to end things . . . by ending the world with bubonic plague variant. The script really needed more polish, and I understand all the criticisms aimed at this film, but 1) I've been on a fierce Hammer kick as of late, and, 2), we get to watch Cushing-as-Van-Helsing melt a small silver crucifix into a bullet mold in preparation to go after Drac.

(Have a suggestion for a future topic of The Thursday Thirteen? Email me at . . . )

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