Perhaps Richard Roeper said it best: “Most sequels are like Frank Sinatra, Jr.—from conception there was just no chance of equaling the original.”
Movie lovers generally approach a sequel with well-founded trepidation: If they loved the original, the sequel is almost guaranteed to disappoint; if the original wasn’t very good to begin with… well, expectations drop to absolute zero. For every worthy sequel (The Godfather: Part II, The Empire Strikes Back), there must be 20 clunkers. An especially interesting phenomenon is when a solid movie is followed by a disastrous follow-up.
Why can’t moviemakers catch lightning in a bottle twice? Well, as Basic Instinct 2 proves, it’s not usually a good idea to wait nearly 15 years between films, especially when the star of the original movie has obviously had some cosmetic “work” done in the interim. With Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (the third film in the “epic” Martin Lawrence franchise) hitting theaters, MM thought it a perfect opportunity to look back at six awesomely bad (in some cases, so bad they’re good) sequels.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a curious misfire—it’s certainly more interesting than a typical slasher sequel. In fact, those looking for iconic boogeyman Michael Myers (who, of course, is the face of the Halloween franchise) will be sorely disappointed. Halloween III was an ambitious experiment by the original creators of the series, John Carpenter and Debra Hill; an attempt to turn the Halloween brand into a series of unrelated films using the spooky holiday as a backdrop. This notion didn’t exactly appeal to horror fans, who were looking forward to more promiscuous teenagers sliced-and-diced by Mr. Myers, and, as a result, this movie remains disconnected from the rest of the Halloween series.
The demented premise revolves around Silver Shamrock, a highly profitable mask-making company (owned by the sinister Cochran, played by Dan O’Herlihy), that plans to have millions of American children murdered when they put on their Halloween masks at the exact same moment in front of the TV set (it involves Stonehenge, don’t ask…). While the movie has an eerie, paranoid atmosphere (reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers), its convoluted, nonsensical plotting and less-than-stellar dialogue made it a bomb with critics and audiences. Perhaps due to its wild premise, Halloween III has gained something of a cult following over the years and, for all its faults, the movie definitely resonates in the viewer’s mind—just try getting the annoyingly catchy (and much-repeated) Silver Shamrock commercial jingle out of your head after watching the movie.
Staying Alive (1983)
At the time, it seemed perfectly natural that Saturday Night Fever (the 1977 breakout hit that launched John Travolta to superstardom) should warrant a sequel. So, where did the producers go wrong? By hiring the “Italian Stallion” himself, Sylvester Stallone, to write and direct. While the notion of nabbing Stallone (who better to tell an underdog story than Rocky Balboa?) might have sounded winning on paper, on-screen the results were a disaster. Everything about the movie is overdone and swimming in clichés—from the songs (several of which are performed by Stallone’s less-than-musically inclined brother, Frank) to the cringe-worthy dancing to the soap-opera storylines.
As it turns out, Tony Manero (Travolta) was considerably more endearing when trying to score chicks with his Brooklyn pals in the original than he is here, trying to make it as a professional dancer on Broadway.
The movie’s overblown, laughably ludicrous climax is a musical abomination called “Satan’s Alley,” a must-see for any fan of early ’80s excess. Staying Alive didn’t exactly live up to its title with critics and audiences, dying at the box office, and the movie all but destroyed Travolta’s career at the time. However, there is a happy ending to this story—11 years later, an enthusiastic young moviemaker named Quentin Tarantino revived Travolta’s dormant career with Pulp Fiction, which put him back on the A-list.
Troll 2 (1990)
This isn’t just one of the worst sequels of all time—it’s one of the most entertainingly bad movies ever made! Troll 2 revolves around a wholesome family of four who take an ill-fated trip to the town of Nilbog (hint: read that backwards, it gives you an idea of this movie’s ingenious cleverness), which happens to be overrun by… goblins! Wait… isn’t this movie called Troll 2? This masterpiece achieves badness on multiple levels—acting, directing, writing, special effects (the “goblins” look like Halloween costumes purchased at the dollar store) all fail at some primal level.
And yet, this movie is so unintentionally funny (the acting and dialogue so awkward and unnatural, it seems that the cast have to be aliens in disguise), that Troll 2 ends up being a hell of a good time. Where else could you find a scene in which a young boy’s dead grandfather appears to him, telling him he must urinate on his family’s food at the dinner table? This is a movie whose true badness can only be comprehended by watching it. Side note: Michael Stephenson, who plays the young son in the movie, recently made Best Worst Movie, an entertaining documentary about the making of Troll 2 and its newfound popularity as a cult classic.
The Godfather: Part III (1990)
In all fairness, the third and final entry in the Godfather saga isn’t nearly as bad as the other sequels on this list. The problem is—when you (in this case, legendary moviemaker Francis Ford Coppola) create one of the greatest sequels of all time (The Godfather: Part II), the pressure is on to create an even more brilliant third installment, so chalk this one up as a massive disappointment rather than as a horribly made film. Familiar faces from the previous films are here (Al Pacino and Diane Keaton as Michael and Kay Corleone) and talented actors on display (Joe Mantegna, Eli Wallach, Andy Garcia), but Coppola’s passion for the project never feels as strong as it did for the first two installments, and much of Pacino’s performance pales in comparison to his previous portrayals of the character.
What should have been a gut-wrenching, defining end to a classic crime saga instead goes out not with a bang, but a whimper. One of Coppola’s biggest blunders was casting his teenage daughter, Sofia, in a pivotal role as Michael Corleone’s daughter. Sofia (who had never had any previous extensive acting experience) is painfully stiff and self-conscious in the film, dragging down an integral subplot (One wonders how things might have improved if Winona Ryder, Coppola’s original choice for the role, hadn’t bowed out to do Edward Scissorhands). Sofia’s acting was universally panned, and she “won” two Razzie Awards (Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star) for her performance. Ironically, 10 years later, Sofia Coppola followed in her father’s footsteps and revealed her true calling in life, as one of the most talented moviemakers of her generation (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides).
Batman and Robin (1997)
For eight long years, Batman fans had to live with the damning reputation of Batman and Robin. Unlike Tim Burton’s dark, gothic Batman films that rejuvenated the franchise, director Joel Schumacher (who also helmed 1995’s Batman Forever) went in a significantly campier direction that seemed more attuned to the silly 1960s TV series than the original comic books; blocking out the darkness and moral complexity of the original work with garish colors and cringe-worthy jokes.
George Clooney, attempting to make the big-screen transition after leaving “ER,” makes his first and only appearance as Bruce Wayne, showing little of the effortless charisma that would soon make him one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s jokey villain, Mr. Freeze, is one of the worst foes Batman ever encountered in the movies. Schwarzenegger’s hammy, phoned-in performance is the antithesis of Heath Ledger’s chilling, psychologically complex work as The Joker in The Dark Knight. However, all was not lost for the Batman franchise. In 2005, an innovative British moviemaker named Christopher Nolan (with help from Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne) revitalized the franchise with Batman Begins and in 2008, delivered the best Batman film to date with The Dark Knight.
Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
In 1992, Sharon Stone uncrossed her legs (sans underwear) and became a star. The movie was Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct, an erotic thriller (written by the notorious Joe Eszterhas—of Showgirls fame) in which Michael Douglas stars as a detective who lets himself get too close to prime murder suspect Catherine Tramell (Stone). Fourteen years later, Stone returned (without any of the central parties from the original) as Tramell and made an embarrassment of herself.
This time, she’s involved in another murder case, and it’s her psychiatrist (David Morrissey, perfecting a deer-in-the-headlights expression throughout the film) who gets romantically involved with the deadly seductress. Despite Michael Caton-Jones, an accomplished moviemaker (Shooting Dogs, Rob Roy) behind the camera, Basic Instinct 2 is a disastrous, ill-begot sequel, in which much of the blame can be connected to Stone, who, with her enhanced features, not only looks creepy, but whose acting has grown steadily worse with age.