Since this is the first That’s Horror-ble for a while, I thought I’d start with something easy, something in horror that is universally thought as ‘not a good idea’ territory. Think the Twilight Zone of the movie industry, where bottles roll uphill and Shia Labeouf isn’t Indiana Jones’ son. This, my dears, is sequel territory, the wild west of filmaking, the true test of a director that will prove he’s able to hold up a series with good cinematography and interesting plots, rather than just sells outs to a broken and dead franchise.

Sequels, or as I call them, farm animals (because they’re just big cash cows. Geddit?), are a continuation of a story, a successor made to improve on the original idea while taking criticism and flaws into account. Sequels are natural, some stories are just made to be continued. Hell, even books dating back to ancient Greece had sequels (The writer Homer’s Odyssey expands upon themes and characters introduced in his earlier work Iliad). And if the Greeks did it, no doubt Hollywood would take a crack at it, with the first ‘film’ sequels being introduced in silent, black and white films. I’ll be honest, I can’t really bash sequels all that much. Sure, most of them are done for monetary gain, and many companies do tend to beat a dead horse. A whole herd of them, in the case of the Friday the 13th series. But a lot of sequels actuall do what sequels intended, and improve the films they were based on. Mad Max 2, Toy Story 2 & 3, Aliens, Star Wars Ep. 5, Terminator 2, Spider Man 2, the list goes on. All of them are testament to how to set up and keep a franchise alive. There are so many good films in So many genres.

Except for one.

Can you guess which?

I think you can?

Need a clue? It’s the whole point of this series, Einstein.

No, it’s not romance. Just go sit down, you’re not helping.

it’s horror, obviously.  In a genre usually so limited by budget, and so focused on the connection between it and the viewer used to scare it, sequels are, to put it bluntly, awful. More often than not, they’re just not scary, which to be honest, defeats the entire point of horror.  There are a ton of reasons why it just doesn’t have as many good, long lasting franchise compared to other genres. The main one being, as stated, lack of scariness.

The biggest sinner of all in this regard is Paranormal Activity. Even though the jump scares were plentiful, and the plot was simple, it reignited the public’s interest in found footage films. Supposedly, so scary that people left during the Cannes Film Festival, the film, love it or hate it,  brought tremendous success with limited tools, and being as successful as it was, well, it has to be at least reasonably good, right?

Then they made a second one.

And a third, a prequel, of course.

And a fourth.

And an unofficial spin off. Wait, counting those cheap ‘Mockbuster’ rip offs that company The Asylum creates, I think we can raise that to 3 spin offs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, after one whole year without a new film in the series, they’re launching into numero cinco, and a Latino spin off called The Marked Ones. Now, I’d like to know, at what point did this series drop off the relevancy chart? I mean, sure, I like found footage, I enjoyed Blair Witch, but seriously? Even the rip off got a sequel, the rip off!At this point, there is no innovation, there’s no fear, all the jump scares have worn off, and beating the dead horse is putting it gently. They bought a whole second horse that’s identical to the first one, and pummeled that one as well. The series is the prime example of what happens when you try to capitalise on the first of a series in horror without innovating. A sequel should be able to stand on its own as a title, be able to tell it’s story while improving on the faults of the first one. This, on the other hand, was done for money. I see no other reason as to why so many were created other than to capitalise on the success of the first Paranormal Activity, and because they were scared of changing anything for fear of losing fans, they stagnated completely.

It’s sad, but it’s a lesson you must learn in horror, or indeed in any form of entertainment: You cannot just slap the number 2 on somehing and call it a sequel. You have to be different. If you already have an established world, monster, villain, you cannot expect people to be interested if we learn nothing more about said world or monster, which is difficult with something like this, as an air of mystery is actually required. Nevertheless, expand upon your idea,give your audience a reason to want to go back to the world you’ve created, and you’ll have a successful sequel

Let’s talk survival horror, because it gives a good insight into another way horror sequels fail miserably, particularly in video games

Survival horror is a term taken from Resident Evil, and it describes a certain type of horror game.  In it, the player is given limited weapons ammo, or in some cases is left completely defenseless. Many of these games used clunky controls and what would be now considered bad gameplay to their advantage. Controlling the character and camera would be difficult, especially under times of pressure, adding an element of panic, which worked really well. As said though, nowadays, if one were to do that, given that we have such powerful technology, there’s no excuse, and it just comes off as cheap. Many series fell due to this, but Resident Evil, right up to number 4, really showed how well done survival horror can be done, even without clunky mechanics and gimmicks. the player had to stop walking to shoot, the camera controlled better but still added to the panic, and it was overall just a joy to play.

But here’s where things went downhill, as the next in the series, Resident Evil 5, received positive reviews, but fans of the older titles (myself included) didn’t enjoy it. Why? For the simple reason that it was not longer survival horror anymore. 5 had a lot more action, and gathered tension more from the adrenaline rush, of fighting of hordes of baddies, and things were generally more fast paced and exciting, which turned it more into an action-adventure game. It was no longer intended to have the same scare factor the others did. That’s alright to do, there’s nothing wrong with branching out of survival horror, a genre which really is dying. The only problem was that it didn’t completely cut it’s ties with horror. The player still had to stop moving to shoot, the game never paused, which meant enemies could attack you at anytime, and it still tried to freak you out with disturbing enemy designs. perhaps it’s just me, but when a game still holds on to tropes just for the sake of retaining some ties to a genre, it falls flat. Sequels need to know which ties to cut, which flaws to improve on, and what it needs to change genres.

Considering how long this post is, we’ll leave it at that for now, but stayed tuned for part two on sequels. Have an idea for a post or just want to leave feedback? Leave a comment letting me know your opinion. This isn’t YouTube, the comments section should be fine 😉

-Fiachra

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