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Why Some Horror Trilogies Work When Others Don't

Danielle Turchiano Danielle Turchiano
October 15th, 2008 10:12am EDT
ScreamRandy (Jamie Kennedy) from Wes Craven's Scream once said that in trilogies "all bets are off." Since a series has a clear-cut end when it is deemed a trilogy, certain characters-- even the leads-- don't have to be kept alive for countless resurrections down the road, which basically gives the filmmakers free range to do whatever they want. The shocks are bigger, the blood is brighter, and the deaths are more elaborate. Unfortunately, though, this often just leaves the filmmakers trying to one-up themselves with each subsequent installment, creating superfluous, and often inane, twists that in the end are too ridiculous to be considered scary.




Feast II: Sloppy SecondsProject Greenlight 3 winner John Gulager seems to take Randy's "rule" to heart a little too deeply with Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds, the sequel to his 2005 campy monster movie cult classic Feast, by throwing the picture he painted in the original completely out the window. When Feast was written, it was never assumed it would be spun-off, so it each character had a very specific arc; there were clear heroes and clear victims, and their journey was a creative, imaginative, funny story of strangers trapped in a bar, forced to fend off flesh-eating monsters. In Feast 2, though, Gulager ignores some of the cooler death moments of his first film and resurrects certain characters simply for the fact that he wanted to work with his family members again. Opening the film on the morning after the initial attacks, Gulager follows only one of his original survivors (Jenny Wade) as she journeys one town over, where the monster are feeding on a new motley crew. Feast 2's plot is more of the same, begging the question of why it was even necessary, but its brand of humor is also much more lowest common denominator than the original, with a heavy reliance on toilet humor and gags at the expense of Martin Klebba and its scantily-clad female cast members, dragging the whole series down into a lower-brow art form. Though the trilogy is not yet completely in the can, the release of the second installment this past Tuesday already earns this series a place in the list of Worst Horror Trilogies.




2000's Final Destination, starring Devon Sawa, did not really offer a uniquely terrifying plot, revolving on a kid who had a vision of his death in an airline crash and managed to avoid it. After all, half the audience didn't believe such premonitions were real, so the film lost them right there. Unfortunately for him, and the friends who were also pulled from the flight just minutes before it was set to explode, they found themselves staring down their own mortality soon enough, just in very different ways. While the concept of fate and inevitability of death is an interesting and admirable one to explore in film, it becomes redundant after the first in the series. Still, every three years a new installment was released, traveling to a new and different small town and following a new and different group of young friends, who all shared the common theme of having one "psychic" friend who seemed to doom them all. The "villain" in Final Destination was never a tangible being but death itself, almost in metaphorical form, and because of this, it is hard not to laugh at the over the top nature of so many of the characters' downfalls-from a pileup on a remote road to a sparking rollercoaster. Clearly, the objective of Final Destination was to shock with stunts, rather than the gravity of the aforementioned philosophical message, and that trick has been done before too many times to still be relevant.




Once in awhile, like with Scream, though, a trilogy franchise can come along and revitalize the horror genre. In 1996, Scream turned on a whole new generation to the slasher film, following the tale of Sydney Campbell and her Woodsboro High friends as they are terrorized one by one by a masked murderer who really only seems to be after her. The first true post-modern horror film of its kind, Scream offered the twist of team killers but also the realization that sometimes the evil in this world really is just the boy next door. Perhaps due to the expertise, wisdom, and sheer creativity of the man behind the series, Wes Craven, Scream's subsequent sequels never strayed from its original formula but never backtracked and rewrote history, either. Sure, the second one faltered a bit in suspense-the killers had to be who they turned out to be because those characters had no other point on screen-but the third resumed steam by turning its camera around self-reflexively and poking fun at the very genre which had been so good to the story in the past years. Scream also introduced the idea of witty humor instead of simple schtick to scary movies, and because of that, it turned a corner for the level of quality and taste a horror movie could provide. If more recent films followed in that example, the success would be much longer term and all the sweeter.

What are your thoughts about horror film trilogies or trilogies in general? Are there any horror series films that you feel would have been stronger if they had stopped at three?

Danielle Turchiano
Story by Danielle Turchiano

Starpulse contributing writer