8 Great Sequels You Can Watch Without Seeing the Original

8 Great Sequels You Can Watch Without Seeing the Original

Mar 11, 2016

If you're looking for a direct sequel to 2008's Cloverfield this weekend, you're out of luck. The new movie 10 Cloverfield Lane is barely even a sequel in name. It's not "Cloverfield 2." But the use of the word "cloverfield" in the title and the fact that it's also produced by J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot shingle suggests that it's more related than it is. Instead, 10 Cloverfield Lane is the second installment in an anthology series, ala an episode of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. And it's a really great one at that.

There's no real connection between Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane in terms of narrative continuity or characters, and while that is rare it's not unheard of. It just used to be more common with bad horror movies looking to capitalize on a branded association. Meanwhile, now we're seeing a lot of shared-universe spinoffs and side-quels that aren't quite the same thing.

Below we spotlight eight instances of an official sequel in name only being actually worth watching.


Road to Zanzibar (1941)

It's up for debate which of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's Road to... movies is the best, but this was the first and it's definitely one of the favorites among the seven installments. Paramount hadn't intended on making sequels to 1940's Road to Singapore, nor had they intended on making this film's African jungle adventure story as a comedy. But it wound up being one of those occasional moments where forcing an otherwise separate work into the confines of a franchise is a genius idea.

Unlike later examples of that being the case (Die Hard 2 for one), Road to Zanzibar is still as much of an independent entity as, say, the various Marx Brothers vehicles. It's merely another movie starring the same comedic trio as Road to Singapore -- yes trio, because Dorothy Lamour has to be acknowledged as a major ingredient of the entire series. This sequel also carried over some gags from Singapore that would recur through the next five installments, as well. So it at least feels appropriate to be labeled a sequel. 


Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Given that it's not titled Night of the Living Dead 2, there's not any reason to consider Dawn of the Dead a sequel except that it was conceived and sold as such, as have other ...of the Dead installments made by George Romero. Now that there are a bazilliion zombie movies, most of them influenced by and following Romero's take on the creatures, it could very well be a truly isolated effort. Not that the movies share any characters or narrative thread, but maybe they're not even set in the same universe.

Like many more-direct sequels, though, Dawn of the Dead does build upon the original. The threat is greater, the location is bigger and, well, it's also in color. The metaphor is also more clear here, in part because it's funnier. With the zombie attack now centered on a shopping mall, the sequel becomes a satire of consumerism. To drive home the idea that it does stand alone with little attachment to its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead was remade without need of a remake of Night of the LIving Dead coming first.


Grease 2 (1982)

A number of actors from the original Grease appear in this sequel to the hit 1978 musical, most of them (Didi Conn and Sid Caesar among them) even playing the same supporting characters, but otherwise it's barely connected. Paramount might as well have titled it "Grease, Too." There's an all new gang of T-Birds at Rydell High, now led by a guy named Johnny (Adrian Zmed), and a new pack of Pink Ladies, headed up by Johnny's ex-girlfriend, Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer). And now they're into motorcycles more than cars.

Grease 2 was heavily panned by critics and it flopped at the box office, too. But now it's being recognized as a cult classic by many who grew up on its heavy play on HBO in the early 1980s. Sure, it's nowhere near as good as the original, which did wonders with its source material originating on the stage. But Grease 2 is more faithful to its crude roots, particularly with the beloved sex-ed-set number "Reproduction." It's a very cheesy movie, to be sure, but in the best, most laughably catchy way possible. 


Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Everyone knows about this notorious standalone sequel. You're probably even hearing the Silver Shamrock jingle in your head right now, like it or not. After two Halloween installments involving the superhuman serial killer Michael Myers, producers made a third that went in a totally different direction, partly at the request of the original's creator, John Carpenter, and his partner Debra Hill. Season of the Witch even eschews the slasher subgenre altogether and offers something pretty darn original.

Clever and creepy and surprising for its gruesome killing of young children rather than the teenage victims that had become the norm for horror, the sequel is hardly realistic, but with its supernaturally deadly masks plays more into the presumed dangers as well as the increased commercialization of Halloween at the time. It's a shame Season of the Witch wasn't better received then, as it should have led to more anthology type installments rather than the disastrous resurrection of the Myers character.   


The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)

Not a lot of documentaries spawn sequels, but when they do it's often to continue following the same real subjects or issue as the original (see the Up series, Paradise Lost 2: RevelationsGasland 2, etc.). Possibly the greatest, however, is this music doc focused on the growing heavy metal scene, concentrated in Los Angeles. It's numbered, so you know it's an official sequel, too, and it was followed by another, that one without a subtitle attached after the roman numeral.

Penelope Spheeris, who would go on to direct Hollywood comedies like Wayne's World and Black Sheep, had initially broken out with her debut feature, the first Decline of Western Civilization, which is about L.A. punk bands. Part II showcases a very different kind of music culture, one involving more excess than rebellion. The documentary was surely an influence on MTV programming, as it presents an early appearance from future VJ Riki Rachtman and scenes of what look like pilot material for The Osbournes


Troll 2 (1990)

Perhaps stretching the word "great" here, this infamous sequel that's not even quite an official follow-up is just so awful it's awesome. This is something confirmed with and understood by most people thanks to the documentary Best Worst Movie, which focuses on the cult popularity of the cheap horror film. The 2010 doc has done so much for the appreciation of Troll 2, in fact, that we wish someone would make films about Grease 2 and Halloween III, as well.

The original Troll, which is memorable in part for starring a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus and featuring a character named Harry Potter (actually, two of them), is more of a fantasy film, about a troll who was once a wizard who takes over the body of a little girl and turns an apartment building into a place of enchantment. Troll 2 is not about trolls at all. It's about goblins -- who are we kidding, they're just burlap sack-covered dwarves with goofy Halloween masks for faces -- who want to turn people into plants in order to eat them. 


Three Colors: White (1994)

A lot of auteurs have their own thematic trilogies. Edgar Wright with his "Cornetto" films and Sergio Leone with his "Dollars Trilogy" and Baz Luhrman's "Red Curtain Trilogy," being among them. However, none were so defined as such as Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors series. It's kind of right there in the titles, although the "Three Colors" part isn't afixed to Blue, White and Red on posters or all home video releases. The Criterion Collection labels them as if they're sequels, though, so that's that.

White is considered to be the least great of the three, maybe because it's the lightest (appropriate given the title), though that's not bad since it's still an exceptional film. As with the Road to... series we're just picking the first follow-up and should just note that Three Colors: Red is also essential viewing. The trio is loosely connected in a way that shows they're in the same narrative universe, but they share little else besides a theme based on a color of the French flag. This one having a standalone story involving equality. 


The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Since the release of this third once-standalone effort, the Fast and Furious franchise has become famous for its non-linear succession and changes in direction. It even looped this sequel in, at least somewhat, to the greater narrative of the series. But when Tokyo Drift came out it was easilly dismissed as just some street racing movie featuring the franchise branding to sell it to a wide audience. The fact that Vin Diesel, who had skipped out on 2 Fast 2 Furious, showed up at the end was just a forced cameo.  

Even with its being retroactively linked up and officially situated as part six in the chronological layout of the series (not counting its two shorts), Tokyo Drift is still a standalone movie, focused on a protagonist and his coming-of-age story. Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is an American teen who moves to his dad's place in Japan after some trouble back in the States, which makes this movie sound more like a standalone Karate Kid sequel than something fitting in with the ensemble action franchise it's actually a part of.




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