Cheap thrills – the Hollywood sequels that you probably didn’t know existed

From Legally Blondes to Home Alone 4, we take a look at the big-name franchises that ended up going straight-to-DVD

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Just when you thought it was safe to re-open the toy box, here comes Chucky the evil killer doll from the Child’s Play films in a brand-new sixth instalment of the series called Curse of Chucky.

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But unlike the previous Child’s Play movies, according to Collider this one won’t be released theatrically and is instead going straight to DVD, making Child’s Play the latest big-name Hollywood franchise to concede that its mainstream days are done.

Though in actual fact making direct to video sequels can be a rather fruitful way for movie-makers to capitalise on an older film’s cult following, thanks to the huge savings that can be made along the way.

After all, film-makers can afford to cut back on their movie’s budget thanks to the lower expectations audiences tend to have of straight to DVD films, and studios are spared the vast expense that comes from marketing and distributing something theatrically.

So in the case of something like Curse of Chucky/Child’s Play 6, where the original film was a box office hit and is still fondly remembered, its makers can be pretty confident that they’ll turn a profit from curious fans of the series buying or renting the new film based on its title alone.

“It is a reflection of how people consume media these days,” said Tom Siegrist, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s vice president for production. “If you approach it in a smart way – looking into your catalog of released films to see what you can build on – these things really sell.”

Indeed, it’s this sort of thinking that lies behind pretty much every mysterious sequel you might happen to chance upon in your local video emporium, especially if it’s been made in the past half decade or so. The mantra might as well be: Buy the rights, shoot something, put it out on DVD and ka-ching…

And so, to celebrate such cynicism at its most blatant, let’s have a look at some of the film industry’s least expected under-the-radar follow-ups to big-name movies:

American Psycho II: All American Girl

Allegedly beginning life as a shelved script that was dusted down and tweaked to give it some vague connection to the Christian Bale-fronted original, AP2 starred Mila Kunis of That 70s Show fame as an ambitious teenager who kills off her classmates at an FBI academy in order to get ahead. Featuring barely a nod to the first film, this was almost universally panned when it came out in 2002 and even earned condemnation from American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis who claimed that, had it made money, AP2’s makers “were thinking about doing American Psycho in LA, American Psycho in Las Vegas and making a whole franchise out of it.”

S. Darko: Donnie Darko 2

The original Donnie Darko was earmarked for a straight to video release back in the day, but was reprieved at the eleventh hour and went on to become a box office sensation. However, it was also an original and intelligent film, two charges which could scarcely be levelled at its sequel, which takes a few special effects, the rabbit mask and Daveigh Chase reprising her blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role from the original, and throws them all into an otherwise unremarkable teen film.

Legally Blondes

While the original film was a box office hit in 2001, and its sequel Legally Blonde 2 also made it to theatres in 2003, it was the success of the Legally Blonde stage show that caused dollar signs to appear in some MGM executive’s eyes in 2009 and convinced the company to put a cheapo third film into production. Starring a pair of identical twins as the cousins of Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Brooks from the original, the film is little more than a formulaic teen flick whose laughs come mainly from the unconvincing accents of its stars. Reece Witherspoon is credited as producer on the film, presumably to justify her name being splashed all over the poster.

Home Alone 4

Everyone thought that the charming family comedy franchise would’ve been brought to an end by Macaulay Culkin’s metamorphosis from a charming, blonde little boy into a troubled blue-haired adult. But no, sure enough, Home Alone 3 came along in 1997, starring a brand new cast of characters and re-hashing the original movie’s plot.  And proving the point that you just can’t keep a good franchise down, 2002 saw Home Alone 4 land on video shelves. Re-casting all the characters of the original, the film was a bungled attempt to breathe some last gasps of life into a series which many believed was long, long dead.

The Scorpion King 2&3

The original movie in this franchise was a spin-off of The Mummy, but it did well at the box office in 2002 and launched Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Hollywood career. Its title also lingered in the public’s memory long after the original film had faded from view, and so was clearly ripe material for a cash-in sequel. Enter some enterprising producers who saw the chance for a quick buck, and who got around the issue of the Rock’s absence by releasing a lacklustre prequel as a straight-to-DVD follow up in 2008. This too made money from curious punters – enough, it seems, to have tempted another wrestler, Dave Batista, into the fold for part 3, which came out in 2012.

And there are so, so many more. There are umpteen American Pie, Doctor Doolittle, Cruel Intentions and Return of the Living Dead movies that have barely anything to do with the films that spawned them, but which never-the-less exist.

I’ve said nothing here of Disney’s practice of producing sub-par sequels to every one of their animated classics, and the enterprising moguls who bought the rights to titles like War of the Worlds and Road House and turned them into unwitting franchises…the list is practically endless.

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So anyone hoping for, say, ET part II, Saving Private Ryan All Over Again or Play It, Sam: the Return of Casablanca, keep your fingers crossed and, who knows, they could be coming to the bottom shelf of a Blockbuster near you any day now. Happy viewing!