Sequels are an inevitability in the horror genre. If something is even moderately successful, and sometimes even if it’s not, a sequel is pretty much guaranteed. This was especially true in the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, when everything launched a franchise regardless of how good it was. Sure, you had the heavy hitters like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, but you also had series like Sleepaway Camp, Night of the Demons, Silent Night, Deadly Night and so many more.
During the early days of the video market, there was a safety blanket for the horror genre. If something wasn’t successful in theaters, that didn’t mean it wouldn’t continue on, it only meant that its sequel would be straight-to-video. Sometimes, though, the need to make a continuation of everything got a little bit ahead of itself.
For as many sequels that carried on the original story, there were almost as many that had nothing to do with the original whatsoever. They were sequels in name only. That doesn’t necessarily stop them from being good on their own, but also doesn’t change the fact that they could probably have been named something else and no one would have batted an eye.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
There’s no more famous unrelated sequel than Halloween III. It’s the one that pops into everyone’s head immediately. It’s the entry that has nothing to do with Michael Myers, when the rest of the franchise does. I don’t actually mind its place as a Halloween movie, though, truth be told. It’s rooted in the mythology of the holiday and even though the story is completely different, many of the people who made the first Halloween work were involved with this one as well, including John Carpenter and Dean Cundey.
While the first two were creatively handled by Stephen King and George Romero (although Romero passed directing duties to Michael Gornick for the second, he still wrote the script) and were based on King’s stories, the third had nothing to do with either one of them. It’s just an unrelated anthology movie with a much lower budget and a total lack of charm. This is especially disappointing considering that both Romero and King had wanted to do a third at some point.
While Troll may be a campy cheese-fest, it looks like Citizen Kane when compared to its sequel, frequently dubbed the worst movie of all time. At least Troll has an honest title considering the monster is in fact a troll, while the second lends its focus to vegetarian goblins instead.
The first Ghoulies is rightfully criticized for its lack of its own titular characters. They appear in the film for less than five minutes and have no bearing on the plot, which revolves around a man finding his destiny as heir to a Satanist cult. The sequel—which is honestly the much better movie—does give the spotlight to the ghoulies, but does so by completely ignoring the events of the first.
Prom Night II does away with the generic slasher plot of the first movie, instead giving us a ghostly revenge story. More importantly, it presents a female villain in the form of Mary Lou Maloney, a sort of sweet sixteen Freddy Krueger who would return throughout the franchise. Which would technically make the original feature the odd man out.
While the first three Silent Night, Deadly Night features stick pretty close to the concept of an ax-wielding Santa Claus, Brian Yuzna decided to take things in a totally different direction with his entry, Initiation. Instead, it’s about a Los Angeles reporter looking to take down a coven of witches on Christmas Eve. The movie has almost nothing to do with the holiday, outside of a few references.
Howling II, apparently, has at least something to do with the first as there’s a glimpse of an afterthought funeral for the first’s protagonist, Karen White. The rest of the film couldn’t be further from anything that made the original work. Howling III, though, takes things in an even more bizarre direction and has nothing whatsoever to do with either of the previous entries. It’s instead about a secret cult of marsupial werewolves living deep in the Australian outback, one of whom escapes to make it as an actress. This started the trend of the Howling sequels being completely unrelated movies connected only by the fact that they feature werewolves.
The Leprechaun series is basically the flagship franchise for a list like this. It’s still an anomaly, especially when the title character is somewhat of a horror icon. While Warwick Davis did play the leprechaun in all but the most recent film, none of the entries have anything to do with one another. This obviously kicked off when Leprechaun 2 decided to completely ignore the original. I’d say it came down to directors not bothering to see the other features if it weren’t for the fact that some of the different sequels had the same director. Some things are so different from movie to movie that even Davis has supported the theory that he might just be playing a different leprechaun each time.