Hollywood has always loved a viable franchise. Take a look at the original A Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Nightmare was originally funded by Wes Craven and Robert Shaye who leveraged every possible asset to make the film happen. Shaye’s fledgling studio, New Line Cinema, was so strapped for cash that at one point they were unable to pay their crew.
However, when the comparatively low-budget film eventually proved successful, New Line Cinema went public and — among their assets — the Nightmare franchise tempted Hollywood with its promise of easy, dependable money. For the next seven years, New Line Cinema — by then called “The House That Freddy Built” — milked the Krueger cash cow for millions until its udders finally went dry in 1991.
Of course, three years later, in 1994, Craven returned to the franchise with a new “final installment” called Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. That finality lasted until 2010, when the series was rebooted by director Samuel Bayer and backed by producer Michael Bay.
There are side-effects to producing sequels too fast, though, and Nightmare is no exception. No film in the franchise ever quite captured or realized Craven’s vision as well as the original. As sequels accumulate, the source material is often watered down, diluted or otherwise altered. Sooner or later — typically sooner — this results in an unrecognizable product, a product that purports to honor the original but, instead, winds up defacing it.
On this list, we examine six instances of Hollywood overextension. In these cases, execs with a hunger for profit dipped their fingers a little too often into the cookie jar and, eventually, stuck audiences with a plate full of crumbs. From a second entry often accused of being a remake of its predecessor to a film that was never intended to be a sequel at all, we look at six of the best movies that spawned the worst sequels.
6 The Hangover Part II
Rotten Tomatoes Freshness Rating: 34%
One of the most enduring comedies of the last decade, The Hangover impressed audiences and critics alike. Netting a cool $467 million worldwide, the movie enlightened us all about the consequences of buying ecstasy from dudes who hang out in the parking lots of Las Vegas liquor stores.
People’s major gripe with The Hangover Part II isn’t that it's necessarily bad - it’s that it offers nothing new. Plot point for plot point, it’s almost a complete rehash of the first movie. In both films a group of guys meet the night before a wedding, Zach Galafianakis accidentally drugs them all, they wake up the next day with no memory of the night before, with Ed Helms having endured some kind of grave bodily damage and then everything — more or less — works out in the end.
5 Predator 2
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 25%
About Predator 2, Roger Ebert said, “the predator is imaginary but the people who made this film are not,” and that about sums it up. With writing so juvenile it could’ve been handled by a pair of sixth graders crammed into a wood paneled station wagon with a copy of Generic Action Movie Mad Libs, the movie takes one of the most imaginative creatures ever committed to film, shoehorns him into an urban setting, and pits him against the tediously named “Jamaican Voodoo Posse.”
Seriously, every character in this movie is like a caricature of themselves. They’re all pointlessly stereotyped snapshots. Because of this, Predator 2 does not benefit at all from its award-winning cast. The way the film is scripted, the director could’ve cast Daniel Day Lewis as the film’s protagonist, Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, and he’d have turned in a performance with all the emotional depth of a Chippendales cop.
4 It Runs In The Family
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 45%
Most people aren’t even aware that the 1983 classic A Christmas Story has a sequel. Those people are fortunate. Continuing the story of Ralphie Parker, critics rightly noted that It Runs In The Family had “none of the original cast […] and none of the original heart.”
The main story arc of the film follows Ralphie on his quest to find a top capable of defeating the local bully’s top in a game of “Kill.” While it sounds innocuous, Ralphie’s obsession with tops occasionally verges on the perverse. The top belonging to the film’s cloyingly annoying bully is dubbed “Mariah” and is described as “quivering” and “vibrating from every pore” as it spins a slow circle around Ralphie’s top.
3 Halloween III: Season Of The Witch
Rotten Tomatoes Rating 33%
1978’s Halloween revolutionized horror and ushered in the age of the low-budget slasher film. The movie’s central bogeyman, Michael Meyers, escapes from an Illinois sanitarium and embarks upon a county-wide murder spree with an almost supernatural efficiency. For the most part, every movie in the Halloween franchise follows this basic formula.
Every movie, that is, except Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Season of the Witch tells a convoluted story altogether unrelated to Michael Meyers. In the film, a malevolent mask manufacturer creates a line of masks that contain a “fragment of Stonehenge” that will kill their wearers when the company’s Halloween special airs. There’s also mentions of witchcraft, androids and a lot of really bad 80s synth music.
While not necessarily terrible, Season of the Witch ultimately disappointed its viewers because it failed to deliver what it promised and, instead, delivered a hodgepodge of hackneyed Halloween cliches that Roger Ebert called, “one of those Identikit movies, assembled out of familiar parts from other, better movies.”
2 American Psycho 2
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 11%
Bret Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho, was a bit nonplussed when he heard that Lions Gate intended to make a sequel to the 2000 movie based on his book. After seeing the finished product, you can’t really blame him. What made the original American Psycho work was that it functioned as a biting commentary on materialism and self-indulgence.
In American Psycho 2, there’s no pretense of a higher meaning. The film functions, largely, as an extended episode of Criminal Minds that offers its viewer no refuge from its pointlessness in the form of commercials. In fact, the film was never intended to be a sequel at all. Lions Gate — seduced by the critical success of the original — added a couple of oblique links to American Psycho and joyously lobbed the resulting garbage at an unsuspecting audience.
1 Next Karate Kid
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 8%
When it was released in 1984, every kid in America wanted to be The Karate Kid. The film spawned action figures, video games and rekindled modern interests in ancient martial arts. At its height, countless picnic tables were waxed on and off and more than one unlucky middle schooler got their jaw fractured by an unfortunately emulated crane kick. The movie taught us the value of fair play, the joy of rooting for the underdog and — above all else — the efficacy of sweeping the leg.
Let’s not mince words, Karate Kid, Part II and Part III were pretty bad but The Next Karate Kid dipped its toes into a whole new pool of awfulness. Considered Hilary Swank’s break-out performance, the film has little else to boast about. Filled to the brim with worn out coming-of-age cliches, the film grossed less than $9 million domestically and effectively euthanized the aging franchise.
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