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Old 03-28-2013, 11:12 PM   #25
DVD-fanatic-9
Remaking My Soul
 
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The more I watch Friday the 13th Part 2, the more I start to agree that it is more consistent front to back than the first film. But, the first film still has a far superior final half hour.

As for the rest of the (should-be) controversial choices here, we need to always remember why the original film made such a big impression in the first place. With Friday the 13th, it was about the deaths. And... that was it except that I think Betsy Palmer's performance was phenomenal and she lit up everything that worked about the last half-hour. So, the focus did shift.

The reason I believe no one has nominated Halloween II or Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is because we know the original films were significant works of art. It saddens me that most people who've replied here don't agree the same applies to Phantasm and Evil Dead. If these aren't art-horror films, what are they? Do people really get the impression they were hastily cobbled together low-budget drek that just wanted to shock people and so are now outdated because they can be remade or surpassed later in sequels with bigger budgets and more sophisticated technology? I say, with the exception of acting (which I agree can really pull a person out of a film as an experience), these films are probably the best examples of how with a low-budget, filmmakers have to try harder and show more skill to craft something great out of what little they have to work with. They're also excellent proof of the value of experimentation. How that translates to art and inspires future filmmakers to be equally creative (I look at these films when I marvel at the likes of The Howling, Creepshow, and A Nightmare on Elm Street to name a few).

That being said, I have to admit I think Gremlins 2 is easily superior to the original. I still love the original love to death and think it remains the creepier and darker film. But the sequel is BRAIN CANDY! It's not a superior film because of its budget, its budget is essential in showing what Mr. Clamp summarizes at the end- that the film is really about how unnecessary his giant techno-invention capital mechacenter was and how anything similar would be (and, of course, it was also an insanely astute and relevant cultural satire- I remember I nearly exploded when I heard an entire separate season set of Bewitched was being produced just to colorize it).

But, budget aside, I think there are a surprising number of sequels better than their originals. Just not typically of films as well-known as, let's say, Basket Case or It's Alive (strangely related examples as they clearly are). Except that I casually agree that Aliens is a lot more moving, energetic, and knock-you-on-your-ass experience than the original film. At least, it was when I last saw it in 2000. I'm apt to revisit it and say I think the characters were annoying or the story wasn't complex enough, etc. And, I did see it with surround sound on and bass cranked. But, I think that experience is valid and when I look for it- Evil Dead II or Phantasm II will not be my first stops. It'll be something like The People Under the Stairs (which I did not see with surround sound & bass and yet, I was ready to howl, clap, and cheer at many intervals), Arachnophobia (if you can sit perfectly still while that plays, you are not human), and Aliens.

I suppose this one is anything but a clear, cut-and-dry nomination because people love the original and many think the sequel is boring, but: Critters 2. I actually think the original is boring. Think about it, there's really nothing to the characters. The little boy is a blank slate who, even though he doesn't really do anything, somehow annoys the older sister who is inexplicably snooty and has a boyfriend with no personality who just tags along with her wherever she goes. Inexplicably. The parents have nothing interesting to say or do and, though he's very old-fashioned, there's no point being made about it. Then, the Crites come along and they are the scariest looking motherfuckers just about ever invented in the horror genre and... there is no gore in the film anywhere. Look at those freaking teeth. No gore. And the music score isn't scary either. I mean, even Gremlins knew to play the chilling chords and freaky electro-synth when the mother sees the first live gremlin in the film. And just in the kitchen scene alone, you have more nastiness and carnage than in 85 minutes of Critters. The sequel is clever, the characters are far more likable and fun, the writing borders on subversive at times, and...: GORE! Just a little, but it's there. Mick Garris gets dumped on a lot but he really did have something whenever he did films about modern family dynamics. Based on entirely original work (I'm including his first collaboration with Stephen King since Sleepwalkers was written as a screenplay for that specific production- and I think it's extremely underrated).

Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II is an obvious choice. The original Prom Night's best virtue (apart from the music and, of course, the stalker phone calls and broken mirrors were classic) was writing teenagers. They were smart, very smart. But the sequel matched that (not outdid it, no- what HML:PN2 easily outshined in character writing was Christine) and brought some great nightmare imagery, sexual issues, fantasy sequences, and religious baggage to the table. They actually do have a common theme other than the prom: bad girls / what makes a "bad girl" in terms of reputation. They both give the women some basic power to decide how their lives are run over anyone who might hold them back or stop them, I also have to give some serious credit to the original that the greasy guy Wendy takes along never turns into Billy from Carrie, slapping her around. Which of course was good writing and showed what low self-esteem she had in that film but the same good-idea-credit applies here in that...Wendy's pretty fine with her self-esteem and tells him what's-what. Prom Night shows there really are different kinds of girls in high school, which should have inspired other high school movies to stop stereotyping... But the other aspects of the movie began relying on things like the cops' investigation and who could be the killer... Mary Lou sticks pretty tightly to character, has fairly well-written characters, and just has much more to offer in general. It's much more satisfying when Vicki does something like kills the priest. And, you want to talk about pushing the envelope... this movie does it in ways I didn't think were possible. Like having the sympathetic dorky teen boy do something as sleazy as he does in the end (or for the way they execute it to be so entirely ambiguous- since this is kind of what a lot of people wanted to see Kelly's character reduced to) or... the infamous locker scene (another bit from the movie better than anything in Christine), and the scene where she...says goodbye to her parents (I refuse to spoil this moment just in case it's possible anyone reading this hasn't seen the movie).

I've already pretty much said I think Children of the Corn II is a few shekels better than the original. The first film had a little atmosphere, a decent music score, and some okay slashing scenes. But the story and characters sucked. And, you have to admit- watching a scene like Burt telling the children what tyrant-sized hypocrites they are taking the Bible out of context to justify killing people is all kinds of bad. It's shallow, lacking passion... it's defending the Bible (when just reading it as it's written should puzzle any sane person since it clearly advocates slavery among many other outrageous, bizarre, and anti-human values), the kids look like they haven't slept in years (I know what you're thinking, but remember: they actually have to get up and run after people with knives and pitchforks minutes later, so I'm having trouble sustaining my belief that these are dangerous tykes), the character makes no actual solid points in any capacity, and the movie later cuts from him to the children's faces like this were some kind of, ya know: religious VHS your weird Aunt or Uncle picked up at the some little small town backroad convenience store. It took itself too seriously, failed so much harder, and is at times tedious to watch. The Final Sacrifice is anything but serious. I say the acting's an improvement (though no one can replace Courtney Gains), the death scenes are incredibly entertaining, the characters are almost likable, the writing has some damn good ideas even if there are things left unexplained and loose ends not tied up, and even at its' worst- it's watchable.

Demons 2. The original has better music, better gore, Nicoletta Elmi (easily the best actor or character in either film), and the demons/zombies are scarier. But, unlike Friday the 13th, this movie goes in the opposite direction. It starts off strong and goes steadily downhill. Until by the end- I wasn't impressed by the motorcycle slaughter, I wasn't scared or disturbed by the apocalyptic rampage in the city, and I didn't care a bit that what's-her-name died and the guy lived. No, I remember their character names. But when the movie turns into a gorefest, it wears out its welcome very quickly. It proves that it can't turn the intensity dial back, they cranked it up too high. So, what they do instead is break it off. Which of course is like taking the movie off Life Support. It gets long-winded and boring, stops being creepy, gets absurd and even sexist (I'm sorry but: a brick wall has the magical power to make every woman spontaneously burst out in fits of hysteria? Bullshit), and loses its energy. The sequel does exactly the opposite. It starts quieter, much more bleakly, and builds itself up perfectly... though it's still incredibly schlocky, its pacing is almost masterful. Plus, I liked the characters. Even though there is nothing to them, there is at least one really good, really surprising idea in the movie: the monster baby. Did anyone else get the impression that it might not have known it was dangerous and could have killed Hannah? That it...might have been looking for a surrogate mother? It was also kind of cute for a rubbery monster and really seemed to be trying to just be near Hanna... I don't know, I just always thought there was something more to that scene. At least that baby wasn't as ugly as the baby marsupial in The Howling III.

Silent Night, Deadly Night Parts 2 and 3. Short story: the first film is bad. The third film is okay. The second film is great.

Leprechaun 2. This is what Children of the Corn II should have been: fun. And in the years (almost 2 decades) since I first saw it, I haven't once felt the slightest bit guilty about finding it the pinnacle of comedic, quirky, (night)-in-the-life-of character-oriented monster in-the-modern-day movies. It's like The Borrower without body swapping and Warlock without the Leprechaun having to spend any time adjusting to "modern city life." Which means: there's no fat. There are no slow spots. It's airy, breezy, really smart, almost sophisticated (well... just compare it to the likes of Munchies or Rumpelstiltskin or the Ghoulies franchise), the special effects and gore have improved so much since the first film, and most of the cast are fun. Maybe the 20-something's are a little lacking but they didn't bother me. I can't even think of any flaws. I love the first 3 films almost equally but this is the only one I'll defend. Except that the 3rd film has to be seen to be believed. A lot of great gags in that one. But the first film is actually pretty close to being a solid film. It gets stronger on each rewatch for me. Unfortunately, it's also easily the most PG-13 feeling of the franchise. (And that's saying something after Part 4, which could have been made by Nickelodeon. Just remove the nudity, allusions to homosexuality, cut the cast's ages in half, and file down Leprechaun's teeth and nails and you have Space Cases.)

Speaking of Ghoulies... the original film is pretty bad, so I'm tempted to put all 3 sequels ahead of it. But part 3 was so stupid and the first movie at least had good ideas, so I'm not going to do that. So, Ghoulies II and Ghoulies IV are better than the original.

And, lastly, Sorority House Massacre 2 and Hard to Die / Tower of Terror. I actually think they have atmosphere, Chuck Cirino's music scores are amazing (I've tried to track down the MP3's but I did find the entire score to Transylvania Twist which I also recommend), the house in part 2 looks great, the blood-on-the-walls was inventive and I always thought it was cool, and the cast are fun. A lot of fun. A lot of people hate these movies, I can't figure for the life of me why. It's possible that without the music, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on in defending these movies but... look at just what the music does for the movies. If the performances are seriously flawed, the music evens everything out. I actually felt like Linda was injured and slowly had to struggle to make it down and up the stairs, you know- the pacing works great. I don't see any real flaws here other than perhaps failed anti-feminist commentary. Wynorski probably does hate feminists but he still cast Toni Naples as their spokesperson, who comes off as a completely strong, unpretentious police woman. In both films. I don't really count it as a pro or a con. I don't take issue with objectification of women in film unless there's an insulting message underneath it. I didn't find one here.
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