You don’t have to make a wildly controversial remake in order to disrupt a movie franchise. Sometimes it’s possible to do it with a simple old fashioned sequel. While there are plenty of examples of sequels that are infuriating, there is a particular type of “what the hell was happening” kind that is fueled either by a renegade director or possibly just a shit ton of cocaine. Or, a renegade director doing a shit ton of cocaine. Here are some of the most “what the fuck” sequels ever made.
Short Circuit 2
Short Circuit was part of that 80’s robot movie craze that also included Batteries Not Included, Flight of the Navigator, and Flashdance It had a pretty simple plot, Mahoney from Police Academy builds robots for the military along with Fisher Stevens doing a really offensive Indian brownface performance. Lightning strikes one of the robots, Number 5, who comes to life, and befriends Ally Sheedy. The military pursues them, Mahoney falls in love with Ally Sheedy and escapes with her and Number 5, who changes his name to Johnny 5 in order to tie into the hit El DeBarge single “Who’s Johnny?”
It’s a fine bland ’80s movie that apparently warranted a sequel. Okay, so… y’all, Short Circuit 2 has Johnny 5 get shipped to New York City by Mahoney and Ally, in order to help brown-faced Fisher Stevens make toy versions of the robots for corporate toy scout Sandy, who Fisher is real thirsty for. Michael McKean is also in it as Fred, a con artist who borrows money from a loan shark to fund the toys. Johnny ends up exploring the city, where he unwittingly joins a street gang (“Los Locos kick your ass!”) and helps them boost car stereos, and also helps Fisher woo Sandy by controlling an electronic advertising sign using his antenna, Cyrano de Bergerac style. Eventually he gets tricked into helping Oscar, a seemingly nice guy who works at the bank, but is actually the leader of a team of thieves who are trying to steal a set of jewels from the safety deposit boxes. Oscar kidnaps Fisher and Fred and locks them in a Chinese restaurant freezer, and tricks Johnny into digging a tunnel into the bank vault. Meanwhile, Fisher and Fred splice a calculator into a phone line and send midi versions of oldies songs to Sandy’s answering machine so she can find them. Oscar and his henchman try to destroy Johnny with crowbars in a scene that’s actually extremely graphic for a kids’ movie. He gets makeshift repairs from Fred when they break into a Radio Shack, and then Johnny hunts down Oscar with a vengeance:
Honestly I don’t know what the hell happened to screenwriters Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson in between the two Short Circuit movies, but they never got more grounded afterwards, moving into the Tremors franchise, Ghost Dad, the Will Smith Wild Wild West remake and somehow.. Heart and Souls? I actually saw Short Circuit 2 first as a kid and loved it, and was even a bit disappointed when I finally saw the first one and found it to be a little more standard, blander film. But I will never hear “Holding Out For a Hero” without thinking of poor, dying Johnny 5 chasing down Oscar.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Gremlins is a classic ’80s horror movie with some comedic flair, that went on to inspire plenty of knock-offs like Critters, Troll, and Munchies (seriously, does anyone but me even remember Munchies?) but none of them are more batshit than what Joe Dante himself did with the sequel. Given complete creative control on the project, Dante decided to satirize the original movie and the very concept of sequels, as well as consumerism, and rather fortuitously, Donald Trump.
Look, I could dedicate several paragraphs to what is bonkers about Gremlins 2, but I think this sketch from Key and Peele sums it up perfectly:
Weekend at Bernie’s II
Okay, hold up. Show of hands, how many of you folks even knew there *was* a sequel to Weekend at Bernie’s? Yeah, yeah there was. And it wasn’t even some direct to video thing with Judge Reinhold coming in to replace someone. It actually still starred Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy. The original Weekend at Bernie’s plot is pretty basic, if tasteless; two buddies carry their dead boss around his beach house for the weekend. There’s some mob hitman and corporate embezzlement stuff in there too, but it’s mostly just an excuse for a single joke to get drawn out for 2 hours.
Weekend at Bernie’s II, however, attempts to do the sequel move of upgrading the locale, moving the action from New York state to St. Thomas. It also adds, and I swear to god this really is a thing in this movie, a voodoo priestess named Mobu, who sends servants to New York to reanimate Bernie’s corpse so that it can lead them to his hidden embezzled money, but since they screw up the ritual, he can only move when he hears music playing. Unaware of this, Silverman (no relation, by the way) and McCarthy go to St. Thomas looking for Bernie’s money, STUFFING the corpse of Bernie into their suitcase and then into their mini-fridge (the movie actually attempting to explain why the body isn’t rotting.) I haven’t seen this movie in a while, but it occurs to me now that I have no idea why they do this, since they don’t know at this point that his body will walk towards the treasure, and everyone already knows Bernie is dead. Antics in this sequel include a treasure map, having the reanimated corpse of Bernie zombie-dance underwater with headphones or while pulling a cart the boys ride on, and an additional subplot where Jonathan Silverman’s character gets voodoo poisoned by Mobu and has to be saved with Andrew McCarthy’s virgin blood. All of this zaniness is still revolving around desecrating a dead body. Also: This movie actually made a profit. Not a big profit, but a profit.
Jaws: The Revenge
If there was ever a fear that a Jaws remake would ruin the franchise, I present to you Jaws: The Revenge. There’s some debate whether this movie is “Jaws 4” or “Jaws 3”. There was a Jaws 3-D, but it was entirely disconnected from the other films except for the main characters being named after the Brody sons. Universal actually promoted Jaws: The Revenge as the conclusion to the Jaws trilogy.
Look, none of that matters, what matters is that the plot of this movie is that Martin Brody is dead from a heart attack brought on by fear of shark attacks, and his son Sean is killed by a shark who is seeking revenge on the Brody family. I’m gonna repeat that. A shark who is seeking revenge. Let’s be clear, there’s no Deep Blue Sea, Saffron Burrows “As a soide ahffect the shahks got smahtah” explanation here. This is just a shark that has researched the Brody family tree and understands the specifically human concept of vengeance. Ellen Brody then flees Amity Island to go to the Bahamas to visit surviving son Michael Brody and his family. (Like Jaws 3-D, it still seems like both Brody boys are way too old.) The shark follows her. The SHARK FOLLOWS HER. Oh, and Ellen has psychic premonitions when the shark is near or attacking someone. Oh, but hey, Michael Caine is in it.
Highlander 2: The Quickening
Every installment of the Highlander series retcons everything that came before it. They almost have to since the end of Highlander had Connor MacLeod winning the Game and earning the Prize, which kinda sort of maybe just a bit meant he was supposed to be the last immortal, and thus became mortal again. To even make a sequel, which you know, guys, you totally didn’t have to do, you had to do some tweaking. But, what they did was.. well, this. They turned Connor into a scientist who creates an artificial ozone layer that has a side effect of making the world stuck in an endless night, and under the control of a corrupt organization who maintained the false ozone. Oh, and the Immortals are aliens now. Yeah, they came from the Planet Zeist. No, really though. Then more immortals come from Zeist, which means Connor is an immortal again too, because that reactivates The Game and he also brings Sean Connery’s character Ramirez back, but then he dies again.
There’s another version of the movie that was re-cut as the “Renegade” version where the alien element is removed and replaced with the concept of the Immortals having come from a distant past, which makes it better somehow?
There are two more Highlander films, The Sorcerer/The Final Dimension and Endgame, the latter of which is more a conclusion to the tv series, and none of them seem to even acknowledge that The Quickening ever existed.
Highlander is actually one of the few franchises that would likely benefit immensely from a complete remake. Like I said, all of these movies and the TV series have altered the continuity in paradoxical ways, and a completely fresh take could draw from all of the stuff that worked, and leave out the stuff that didn’t, like literally anything from Highlander II: The Quickening.