MAKING A SEQUEL TO A CLASSIC: BE VERY AFRAID

Covering the film industry means you often have a front row seat to odd decisions made within it. Look at the puzzling business surrounding the film The Chronicles of Riddick, a sequel nobody asked for to a film few people originally watched. The production budget of “Riddick” burst the $100 million barrier, meaning the studio spent 250% more than the first film, Pitch Black, generated in 2000. The marketing costs alone nearly eclipsed the box office take of the original. Little surprise that even including the global box office means this Vin Diesel vehicle will lose over $60 million for Universal Studios.

Staring at a very similar fate may be Morgan Creek Studios as they have to contend with the troubled prospects of their latest release Exorcist: The Beginning. From conception this had to be considered a true challenge; forging interest in a franchise that first began 30 years ago and has been followed with largely forgettable sequels. One other burden might also be the scariest: it is directed by the Nordic outlet of bloated action-bombs, Renny Harlin. Harlin describes his film as, “A prequel to the most famous horror film of all time, as well as a remake of a movie that was made but wasn’t released.” This curious assessment barely explains the long and tortuous road “Exorcist IV” had in arriving to theaters.

Given the supernatural subject matter in the “Exorcist” series it may seem natural to allude to any problems the production encounteres as being the result of “a curse”. (It could also give a slight boost to pre-release media coverage.) However, looking over the course of this film’s creation it appears like a convenient means of explaining away numerous missteps – missteps that have been taking place since the country’s bicentennial, which was when the first sequel began production. “Exorcist 2-The Heretic” was a much-anticipated, star-choked follow up that failed in numerous ways and paved the way for generations of cynicism towards sequels in general. One recognized pitfall was the inclusion of the demonic name Pazuzu, which did appear on page in the original novel, but once spoken repeatedly on camera took on all the nefarious properties of a trendy nightclub, or an a-la-carte sushi roll.

“The Exorcist 3” was a better, but altogether different film, for the simple reason it was not intended as a follow up in the series. William Blatty — author of the original novel and producer on the first film — directed this time, adapting his own novel titled Legion into its own haunting movie of a serial killer with demonic properties. But then the studio suits stepped in and decided it could be retitled as a second sequel for marketing purposes. One small detail — Legion contained no exorcism, thus a new scene had to be shot and then shoehorned into the production. Blatty’s film has been favorably looked at over the years, but its modest reception had to be the result of the comparison to the original film as well as contending with the residue of the first sequel.

The story continues in part two of MAKING A SEQUEL TO A CLASSIC: BE VERY AFRAID>>>




Posted on August 30, 2004 in Features by
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