The requel trend: where could it go next?

Scream VI
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When Blumhouse obtained the rights to make Halloween (2018), it couldn’t have envisioned that it would set off the resurgence of the requel – but where might the trend lead?


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It began in 2016. Studio head Jason Blum conspired with franchise heir Malek Akkad to make a new Halloween to reinvigorate the aged series after a procession of nine sequels and remakes that had shown the occasional dull glimmer but had mostly been slate-grey boring. They convinced John Carpenter to take an executive producer role, giving him his first active credit on a Halloween sequel since 1982; an opening for his band to provide the musical score suggested he might even find the project fun.

But the required approach took a while to present itself. Talks with potential directors Adam Wingard and Mike Flanagan proved unproductive, but the more unlikely team of writer Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green, comedy collaborators behind Pineapple Express (2008), found approval with their notion to pick up after 1981’s Halloween II, ignore all the subsequent films, and bring Jamie Lee Curtis back to the star-making role of Laurie.

Perhaps because this exact path had already been taken by 1998’s Halloween H20 Twenty Years Later, a tweak to their pitch made the new film slightly more radical: a sequel only to the original 1978 Halloween that would pretend not one of the others was ever made.

But how to title the movie? They couldn’t call it Halloween II – there were already two films called that, and one of them (Rob Zombie’s 2009 sequel to his own remake) was the immediately preceding film in the franchise. Additionally, they needed a title that, Cameron-style, might attract a large audience by encouraging them to think of the new film as standalone: but they could hardly call it Halloweens or The Halloween.

Of course, the technique they eventually settled on would be beautifully simple. The new film would be the first of the franchise to be made in the streaming age, when most audience members would have production information permanently at their fingertips via Google and need never again be confused about what they were watching. It was surely this factor that ultimately made the producers realise that the only word they needed in their title was Halloween.

In some ways, the 2018 Halloween is misleadingly titled: it isn’t actually about the festival of All Hallows’ Eve or the special, creepy atmosphere conjured by the occasion, in the way that the 1978 film is. Michael Myers would actually have been a more apt title for a film so prosaically focused on the violent actions of its killer.

On the other hand, it’s appropriate that the film doesn’t sound like a sequel, because it isn’t really one, despite the presence of Curtis and Carpenter and the numerous slavish recreations of moments from the earlier picture (super-nerd note – it’s the first Halloween film since 1978 to correctly replicate the original title font). It introduces all the characters afresh and plays as a straightforward violent thriller without picking up on the supernatural threads left dangling in 1978. It probably works best if you haven’t seen the Carpenter film.

Blumhouse’s approach paid off spectacularly. On release in October 2018, Halloween’s global takings were around 25 times its production budget. Its worth now proven, the requel trend began in earnest. Almost immediately, it was taken to its absurd yet logical conclusion by the appearance of another Shaft.

Again produced by John Davis, Shaft (2019) starred Jessie T Usher as ‘JJ’ Shaft, the son of Samuel L Jackson’s version, with the film featuring appearances by Jackson and (the still barelyaged) Richard Roundtree as Great Uncle Shaft; they really would’ve been justified in calling the film Shafts.

Three films – 1971, 2000, 2019 – one continuity, same repeated title. It seems likely that this situation will be replicated when Blumhouse releases its forthcoming John Carpenter-approved revival of The Thing. Shaft ’19 was released directly to Netflix – their first venture into the realm of the requel, but not their last.

Shortly afterwards came the Covid-19 pandemic, which redrew the landscape of cinematic exhibition, entwining it even more closely with the streaming services. One of the many films whose release was delayed significantly as a result of this was a new Candyman, intended for 2020 but eventually coming out in August 2021.

Directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Jordan Peele from a script the two co-wrote with Win Rosenfield, Candyman ‘21 closely follows the Halloween 18 template: inspired by Bernard Rose’s 1992 original rather than its sequels, it starts afresh with new characters but keeps the events of the earlier film within continuity, with Vanessa Williams, Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd reprising their original roles.

yahya abdul-mateen II in candyman

Though a thoughtful and creative film, there’s a nagging feeling that it might have been more satisfying had it stuck to telling its own story rather than getting bogged down in links to that of 1992. Ironic that a film centred on the re-telling of urban legends (and itself based on oft-reinterpreted material) resists the opportunity to craft a completely fresh take on the unique concept of a supernatural being whose power derives from the stories people tell about it.

Despite critical misgivings the film was a sizeable hit, proving that going the requel route was now the respectable way to continue a horror franchise. In February 2022, the phenomenon was officially ratified via a postmodern cinematic ribbing from a new Scream film (at least it wasn’t a new Scary Movie). The partially pandemic-delayed blossoming of the requel trend allowed the franchise to seem quicker to the party than it had when satirising the mid-noughties remake vogue in 2011’s Scre4m.

Scream (2022) could easily have been called Scream 5 (perhaps styled as ScreamS). Though the film introduces the requisite soft-reboot cast of fresh faces, the returning trio of Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox get almost equal focus and the reappearance of supporting players from three of the four preceding films show that the continuity of the entire series is being closely followed.

That said, a plot which links back in particular detail to the 1996 original while revolving around killers motivated by the toxic-fandom desire to return a franchise to its glory days by overwriting wayward instalments justifies the requel commentary and makes the final title entirely appropriate.

Given the knowing, stylish, self-regarding tone of the Scream franchise as a whole, it seemed rather fitting that such an inward-looking series would begin and end with identically-titled films. Such finality didn’t last long, however. Once again, the requel would prove a sizeable hit: a further sequel was announced within weeks. Neve Campbell demurred to be involved with the follow-up, however, so her character – previously central to the entire series – was written out, meaning the 2022 film will remain a finale in some sense.

The steady flow of requels looked like it might be turning into a torrent when, only a month after the release of the new Scream, Netflix got back into the game with a straight-to-streaming film that closely followed the Halloween (2018) format while adding a dash of ‘Reverse Definitive Article’: David Blue Garcia’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (no ‘The’).

Had there been no previous Chainsaw sequels and remakes, Chainsaw ‘22 would’ve really put the ‘belated’ into ‘belated sequel’, positing a 49-years-later rematch between Leatherface and original sole survivor Sally Hardesty (the engagingly grizzled Olwen Fouere, standing in for the late Burns). As with the 2018 Myers, the killer’s customary mask (here the fleshy kind) admits no sign of age or infirmity as Leatherface, who must by now be in at least his late 60s, is more spectacularly violent than ever.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022, still of Leatherface standing in a doorway.

There are some pleasing details: John Larroquette fans (count me in) get their due as the veteran comic actor does his fourth unlikely tour of narration duty for a Chainsaw movie (after the 1974, 2003 and 2006 films). But, as with many requels, the update misses the point of its original: too mired in a silly plot about hipster entrepreneurs attempting to buy Leatherface’s adoptive home town to even hint at the oppressive mundanity of Hooper’s matter-of-fact horrors.

After this, the requel flow seemed to gutter out. A new Hellraiser materialised direct to streaming in November 2022, but although it has requel trappings (reusing the title and musical themes from the 1987 film, plus some input from originator Clive Barker) it’s neither remake nor sequel but a new standalone story with a fresh set of characters encountering Barker’s (somewhat reimagined) Cenobites.

Meanwhile, the promised new Scream is now on release as Scream VI, signalling a return to traditional sequel titling. After all, reusing the title of the first film in your franchise (whether adding or subtracting ‘The’) to signal a fresh start for new audiences is a tactic that can only work once – or at least, only every once in a while. After a new audience has been gathered, immediate follow-ups must demonstrate that they’re following the new story, not starting over again. Most likely, that means a return to the beloved ‘coloned subtitle’ (‘Candyman: Spirit of Cabrini Green’) although Halloween Kills (2021) and Halloween Ends (2022) have suggested a new approach (‘nonsensical extra word’).

However, there are hints of requels to come.

Blumhouse already has a new Exorcist in the can, directed by David Gordon Green and intended to coincide with the 50th anniversary of William Friedkin’s 1973 original. The title originally mooted was The Exorcist II; the film is pitched as a direct follow-up to Friedkin’s, ignoring the previous sequels (naturally) and for the first time bringing back Ellen Burstyn.

Despite this, the film is currently ‘as yet untitled’ – but what’s the betting that when it comes out it will be plain old The Exorcist (2023)? And, as studios scour their archives for suitable properties, what other rough revivals may be slouching towards Hollywood to be born?

Perhaps a new Gremlins (a new animated version has been announced, after all). Or a new Tremors, with a returning Kevin Bacon (RIP Fred Ward). A 50th anniversary Jaws for 2025, bringing back Richard Dreyfuss? Why not a new Rosemary’s Baby?

More seriously, those real horror franchise workhorses, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th (subject to legal woes), will undoubtedly be looking for a pathway back to prominence. Perhaps Elm Street’s original Nancy, Heather Langenkamp, can expect an imminent boost to her acting profile.

It’s tempting to suggest that the requel has already played out its most fruitful possibilities. But one especially promising avenue as yet untouched is The Omen. If the narrative of the various sequels was to be ignored, then Damien Thorn, the son of Satan, would now be alive and well (at the age of either 46 or 51, depending on how you read the 1976 film’s timeline).

Perhaps Damien would now be running for US President, meaning the film could finally achieve the vision compromised in 1981’s The Final Conflict, whose poster featured Sam Neill’s Damien standing before the Presidential Seal despite in the film itself getting no farther than Ambassador to the Court of St James. (And of course, a horror film in which a malign individual in thrall to devilish forces gains the highest office in the land would be piquant given recent political history, if not uncomfortably close to home).

Crucially, however, the storyline would have to be much more imaginative than that found in the average requel. Unlike most, and many a ‘soft reboot’ (2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate, for instance), this film wouldn’t have the option of simply replaying its progenitor’s plot with the original young heroes shifted to the older supporting roles. The legacy character, Damien, is actually the villain and, as an adult, would require a very different plot constructed around him than as a child (as long as said plot retained the series’ patented spectacular death scenes).

As a big-budget mix of political thriller and horror with links to an existing legacy, such a movie would have real potential to be interesting, as well as to strike a profitable chord with audiences. What it wouldn’t have much of, though, would be nostalgic appeal.

That’s the line that requels have had to ride, and of which they have arguably too often fallen on the wrong side: that between satisfying the audience’s nostalgia and simply exploiting it. The struggle for that balance, though, has not been without excitement.

Inherently, requels and soft reboots offer the chance to start afresh with iconic storylines, in the process summoning beloved actors back to legendary roles. It’s surely hard not to be occasionally seduced by that prospect.

And there’s something distinctive to the whole concept, in that Hollywood’s slowness to catch on to this approach means most of the actors (females especially) being recalled into service are getting to play heroic when well past the traditional age limits for that type of role.

If the films themselves have often been somewhat disappointing, the hope remains that the requel might have one or two last surprises up its sleeve – maybe even something that capitalises on the peculiarities of this sub-sub-genre in a truly original waybefore the fad inevitably fades, giving way to the next one.


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