You’re innocently cruising the internet whilst bored at work when a link catches your eye. What is this? A sequel to that movie? You hadn’t heard about this. And then it dawns on you… somehow, somewhere, some low-rent production company scored the original movie’s property rights, attached it to a no-name director, cast actors you’ve never heard of, shot it and packaged it as a sequel. You know direct-to-DVD sequels are notorious for having little to nothing to do with the original, or for being so poorly made that they may as well not even have tried. Your heart sinks, and yet, you are strangely intrigued. Like wanting to know the details of a grisly accident, you press on, because you need to. You have to know. How did they ruin it? And even though you won’t admit it to yourself, you are hopeful. Hopeful that this one time, things will be different; that this particular direct-to-DVD sequel will be good. “Hey, you tell yourself, “Slumdog Millionaire was almost direct-to-DVD, right?” Then, despite all common sense, you watch it. This list is dedicated to what happens next. Warning: spoilers for terrible movies ahead.
5) Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation
Complete with footage lifted out of the original Starship Troopers to create sequel context (along with text that brings us up to speed on the “story”) the first five minutes of Starship Troopers 2 are largely spent shooting at bugs that we’re rarely allowed to see because the special effects cost too much. Of course once we see said special effects in action we realize that they’ve taken a bit of a hit in the quality department since the original Starship Troopers; ST2‘s effects could easily be confused with a cut scene in a PS1 game, and that’s meant as a compliment to PlayStation. Of course, the filmmakers had the unenviable task of trying to recreate large-scale sci-fi combat between alien bugs and humans on a shoestring budget, which, needless to say, isn’t easy. Something that would have been easier? Not making this movie. But that didn’t stop these heroic filmmakers of the federation. The rest of the movie sees our heroes (lead by an actor who bares a striking resemblance to Billy Joel) spending their time wandering through dimly lit rooms, arguing/conversing in tight over the shoulder shots, and coming on to each other, all while rarely fighting any alien bugs. Think Dawson’s Creek in helmets and carrying rifles and you’ll get the idea. Followed by: Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.
4) White Noise 2: The Light
The original White Noise was far from a masterpiece (8% on Rotten Tomatoes), but it starred Michael Keaton, so it had Batman going for it. The sequel stars equally geek-friendly actor Nathan Fillion, which is the sole reason it has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes right now. To be fair, the cinematography and direction is surprisingly good for a direct-to-DVD release but that alone does not a good movie make.
In White Noise 2: The Light, Nathan Fillion plays a happily married family man when one day, while eating breakfast in a diner, a guy walks in and caps both his wife and child in broad daylight right in front of him for no apparent reason. “I am so sorry” the gunman says in his refined accent before pointing the gun on himself and pulling the trigger. At this point we’re not really sure if he’s apologizing for what he just did or for the movie we’re watching, but as the film progresses, we realize that it must have been the latter. Abe (Fillion) proceeds to torture himself by watching home movies of his family, and then attempts suicide by drinking whiskey and popping enough pills to down a whole zoo. After doctors save his life, Fillion learns that due to his Near Death Experience he gained the amazing power to see a white aura around people who are about to die! The best of these moments is when Abe spots a hobo who gets stuck pushing his grocery cart across the railroad tracks while an oncoming (clearly visible) train choo choo’s in the distance. Nothing to worry about, but oh snap! Is that the white light aura of death? Fillion heroically jumps into action but it’s too late, as the train has its way with the bum, leaving only scattered cans, a trashed cart and a pair of empty shoes behind.
Although generally terrible, the movie is redeemed by two wonderful scenes: in the first, a Zach Braff look-alike is serenading a blonde chick on a bridge and ends his Rico Suave session with “I’ll be right there to put the easy into listening.” He is immediately and well deservedly pummeled by a group of men that could only have been the asshole police. In the second, a piano gets flipped over a balcony at a restaurant. After watching the piano and a few minor characters fall in slow motion for a couple of stories, the piano lands on a dining party, killing everyone who just moments ago was presumably enjoying a quiet steak dinner. It’s epic. But in the end, the film all comes undone (or stays undone) with a not-so-awesome plot twist involving the devil and characters muttering gibberish. Bravo.
3) The Butterfly Effect 2
Two years after The Butterfly Effect did nothing to challenge the perception of what an Ashton Kutcher movie could be, an unsuspecting video renting public with time on their hands was graced with The Butterfly Effect 2, which, like the other entries on this list, has little-to-nothing to do with its predecessor. While the original entry in this “series” wasn’t necessarily anything to write home about, The Butterfly Effect 2 makes Ashton Kutcher’s Donnie Darko wanna-be look like a joint venture between Orson Wells and Charlie Kaufman.
The 92 minute run time of the boring beast known as The Butterfly Effect 2 involves long, drawn-out shots of people walking around and turning stuff off and on and a lot of career oriented blas? melodrama (in which we get to learn all about the statistical chances of success for start up companies during their first two years), complete with friendships and relationships befitting only the fourth season of The O.C. The story revolves around Nick Larson (as portrayed by actor Eric Lively), an up and coming businessman at a small tech firm who gets into a car accident in which he presumably kills his girlfriend and two best friends while vacationing, one of which being Trevor, played by a guy who fittingly looks and sounds exactly like Adam Brody. Then, like a Skinemax movie that never gets to the skin, we as the audience drift aimlessly from one lame alternate dimension scenario to the next, waiting for whatever payoff the film’s masterminds might have in store for us and for the movie to be over. In a way, the film is metafictional in nature, as it’s almost as if we’re watching the filmmakers realize in real time that they have 90 minutes of movie to fill with a 20 minute idea. Even more amazingly, this was followed by yet another sequel, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations.
2) The Cell 2
Love it or hate it, Tarsem Singh’s The Cell was easily one of the most visually stunning films of the last 20 years. The Cell 2‘s got none of that… unless you count the first five or so minutes, which cuts and pastes a bit of footage of J.Lo’s character Catherine Deane figuratively entering the
killer’s mind taken right out of the first movie in the first five or so minutes. Then you’re treated to the following voice over in an attempt to justify why this movie exists:
“As special investigative Agent Kessle, in charge of the FBI and Department of Justice’s joint task force on deranged and violent criminals in the most extreme, brutal, and violent cases traditional forensic investigation can be inadequate. In these instances, to hunt down these most vicious, and elusive killers and psychopaths we solicit the assistance of civilians with extraordinary gifts. Catherine Deane was one of them… (cut to: female lead protagonist in helicopter) now, there’s another.”
That’s right, you read that correctly. Not only does that not make a ton of sense on a simple cognitive level, but “Now, there’s another” is apparently all you need to base a sequel around these days. Then the actual movie starts: Imagine The Cell, minus all of the astonishing imagery, and that chilling traveling into the mind of a terrifying killer who was abused as a child stuff. Replace it with a character who can psychically transport herself to wherever a victim is located because she is touching something they own, throw in a dash of iMovie quality special effects, lighting that look like it belongs in a Sega Genesis commercial, a random subplot involving near death experiences and powers gained thereof (White Noise 2?), random boob shots and a Jigsaw wannabe (The Cusp!) as the villain, and you’ll have an approximation of just what kind of asinine abomination you’ll be dealing with should you dare slip this disc into your movie player of choice.
1) S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale
We all know and love writer-director Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. If you are one of the poor remaining souls who hasn’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor, watch it once or twice, then read this awesome analysis by Roger Ebert’s site editor Jim Emerson. As you’ll find, Donnie Darko is just one movie whose story you shouldn’t mess around with, especially considering that its plot is based around a tangent universe scenario dealing with the space time continuum while simultaneously using the mind of a teenage boy as a backdrop for Freudian discourse. Enter S. Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale. Similarly to other entries on this list, the film begins with scrolling text cluing us in on how this movie is supposed to tie in with the first film because the audience wouldn’t be able to figure it out just from watching. This time, Textbot 2000 reads:
“Middlesex, Virginia. 1988. Donnie Darko was killed when a jet engine fell from the sky and crushed him while he was sleeping. The government never located the plan from which the engine fell, nor did they ever admit the incident ever occurred. But that was just the beginning of the tragedy…and the mystery. Now, 7 years later, Donnie youngest sister, Samantha, seemingly alone and lost in the world has run away from a home shattered by the death of her brother. Drowning in sadness and unable to dream, she has drifted deeper and deeper into the darkness of her sleep. And when the darkness consumes the starlight, nightmares rule the night.”
Well done, filmmakers! You have just officially relieved yourself of any duty to make this thing share anything in common with the original aside from its name, now play jazz! The movie opens with Samantha and her friend Cory having some kind of girl power road trip when their car breaks down. Stranded in a hole-in-the-wall town, Samantha has a bunch of dreams/time travelish episodes/other excuses to get Donnie Darko‘s imagery transplanted into the film, including but not limited to a variation of DD‘s iconic Bunny suit. There’s also a scene where Samantha, while going through newspaper archives learns of other inanimate objects that have randomly fallen out of the sky and killed people like the airplane engine that got her big bro, a scene treated with the seriousness of Schindler’s List. I’d go into more detail, but it’s not really worth it — besides, I need to save my energy for the rumored Donnie Darko 3.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.