Not exactly a Late Review this, more just a few thoughts I wanted to share.
Over the festive period, I took in a few films that were new to me, rather than some of the dusty discs on my shelves, and a couple of them were belated sequels to beloved films.
Were they all good/satisfying/necessary? Read on and see if you disagree with me – and don’t worry, this is very spoiler-light!
Curse Of The Cat People (1944)
First up was Curse of the Cat People, which felt like a much stranger movie than it’s predecessor (a story about a woman who thinks her heritage allows her to transform into a panther – so pretty strange in itself).
I’ve seen the Jacques Tourneur original a few times and enjoy it not just for the famous Lewton Bus, but the feeling of dread, otherworldliness and unease it makes through (basically), just shadows and sound.
Curse… was only made two years later (so not strictly a belated sequel, but what the hell), and carries over some characters from the original to move the story on. However, it’s a completely different beast, less about one woman’s obsession and paranoia, and more about a young girl’s curiosity about her father’s first wife (Simone Simon, reprising her role from the original).
By focusing on the child, we’re invited into a new world of fantasy, and one which explores imaginary friends, ghosts, isolation and lies, in a genuinely fascinating melding of elements. With this fusion, the film created something new and intriguing, but probably less effective than its predecessor. This, for me, was most evident with a nod to the Lewton Bus which made me smile but, frankly, was far less effective.
In fairness, I was genuinely surprised by this one, and it’s great to see a franchise try something new. However, it felt like the links to the original weren’t that strong and the film could have been better served as a standalone piece.
Personally, although I enjoyed it well enough, I’ll revisit Cat People again before I rewatch this one.
Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
This was not a film I expected to watch, if I’m honest. Sure, I’ve a soft spot for the original, and some of the classic Sherman Brothers songs are bloody brilliant. More importantly, it’s a film I’ve unintentionally revisited on several occasions while channel surfing on lazy afternoons, and before I’ve realised, watched it through to the end, but it’s not a film I’ve actively sought out.
Mary Poppins Returns, on the other hand, felt like a cash-in when it was announced. Another example of a major movie studio plundering its back catalogue and cobbling together a half-arsed follow-up to reinvent the IP and make some easy money. When it aired on Christmas Day, it seemed a decent enough way to pass a couple of hours while the kids played with their new toys, but I wasn’t expecting much.
Which made it all the more pleasing to discover that not only does the sequel hold up alright as a film, but it actually works as a Mary Poppins film too, with Emily Blunt a more than acceptable substitute for Julie Andrews, and Lin-Manuel Miranda good fun as her lamplighter friend.
Again, this is a follow-up that honours the original, especially noticeable with the Marc Shaiman music owing a considerable debt to the Sherman Brothers (though I’ll admit none stick in the mind quite so well as the originals).
Also the cartoon fantasy sequences which should look anachronistic to a 21st Century audience, but fit perfectly with the tone of the film. Throw in a cast that was clearly game and keen not to disappoint, and one very special cameo, and you’ve got a belated sequel that sticks close to the spirit of the original.
Of course, none of this doesn’t mean it’s not a cash-in by Disney, but as sequels go, it could’ve been a lot worse, and I’m sure I’ll end up inadvertently watching it again before too long.
Halloween Kills (2021)
I love the original 1978 Halloween, though I’ve little fondness for the follow-ups. I recently rewatched Season Of The Witch, which I thought was really trying to do something new and interesting with the franchise, but could generously be called a noble failure.
With that in mind, I went into the 2018 Halloween very cautiously knowing only that it disregarded everything except the original (good!), and was the brainchild of the fellas responsible for 2011’s Your Highness (less good).
Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by it. Exploring how Laurie’s life turned out, keeping Michael’s motives a mystery and having the occasional nod to the original without going mad felt like the smartest move.
So I came to Halloween Kills with higher expectations, despite hearing a couple of negative reviews. I dug the idea of it picking up right after the first, but in keeping Laurie in her hospital bed throughout and trying to widen the scope of the story, it felt like it lost focus.
Yes, in a way they honoured the original, but by the end I found myself less gripped and more confused by what exactly everything meant (I’m keeping this spoiler-light, but if you’ve seen it and want to discuss, get in touch!). The gore stakes were upped enormously and there were some very inventive and unpleasant kills, but for me that wasn’t enough to satisfy.
Every now and then there were some cool or clever moments – the flashbacks to 1978 were interesting (if inessential), and the idea of a town being swept up in a bloodthirsty frenzy was a new take – but it felt like the point David Gordon Green and Danny McBride were trying to make about mob mentality was too blunt and clumsily handled.
I dunno, maybe it’s just me, and I’ll probably watch Halloween Ends just to see how the series wraps up (for now). My expectations will be a lot lower going in this time though.
What Do You Think?
Perhaps you despise all sequels, maybe you like it best when filmmakers take an unmade script and crowbar John McClane to it for a new Die Hard film, or maybe you think Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach is the best of the bunch?
Whatever your preference, there’s no judgement here, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a sequel work, especially if it’s one that comes a long time after the original.