Reel Sex: The Unsexy Sequel

Once again we enter the Summer of Sequels. It can be argued the sequel may have originally been meant as a companion piece to an original fan-favorite, but now studios pump them out in hopes to continue making more money off a familiar formula. This is no surprise to anyone who ventures out of their hole and into the shiny lights of the world. Or at least watches TV.

Summer movie releases are almost always exclusively geared towards big audiences and the dollar bills they bring with them. And those audiences like to know what they are getting themselves into. This is in no way a bad thing, as I personally cannot wait for more awkward nakedness in the final Harry Potter film (I mean, what was that?) or the potential for shirtless Michael Fassbender time in X-Men: The Last Stand.

But as reassuring that watching a hyped sequel can be, they aren’t all The Dark Knight. More often than not the sequel is a disappointment and audiences spend half the movie racking their brains to see if they know anyone with the quantum physics knowledge to build a time machine or a connection at the Ministry of Magic to garner a Time Turner. (I just cannot wait for Harry Potter, I’m sorry!)

And in the world of sexy movies, the sequel can be the road block keeping the original from greatness. Basic Instinct excited our minds and tingled our tenders, but when the 2006 follow-up hit screens fans could not run away fast enough. France’s 1974 Emmanuelle pushed onscreen sexual boundaries, while the many successors just seemed to go through the motions. Luckily for both these films, people remember the original fondly and many lovingly choose to forget the sequels ever happened.

Diminishing Returns

What if the terrible sequel actually dulls the luster of the original? In 1995 Natasha Henstridge (Sil/Eve) slithered her way to sex symbol status when she debuted in Species. This gem had everything sci-fi nerds and mainstream audiences loved – hot naked ladies, steamy alien-hybrid sex, and an underlining message that sensuality will be man’s undoing. Sil’s man-eating nature made her both enticing and terrifying. She was the ultimate predator, literally fueling herself on the sexual energy of the men around her. She consumes and discards her victims, and in the aftermath Sil remains one of the most sensually disturbing femme fatales in modern science fiction.

The same cannot be said for the 1998 sequel Species II. This time around, Henstridge comes back as “good” guy Eve, a new generated alien hybrid. She is expected to work with the government to stop infected astronaut Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard) from impregnating beautiful women with his evil Mars seed. Eve is psychically connected and sexually drawn to Patrick, fighting her lab captors for her freedom to find him. Unfortunately when Eve willingly chooses to mate with Patrick after she escapes, she is punished with a violent death like all his other victims. Director Peter Medak seemed to think if he amped up the simulated sex he could repeat the success of the original, but what he forgot to look at was the cheesiness of the plot. The original balanced out the fear of sexual infection and technology with a healthy dose of boobs. The fucked-to-death scenes in Species were arousing and terrifying, while the accelerated alien pregnancies and resulting violent naked deaths in Species II were just laughable.

Like Species II, the 2000 follow-up to Cruel Intentions suffered from too much sex and not enough plot, without ever making it to the big screen. The direct-to-video Cruel Intentions 2 aimed to explain how Kathryn (Amy Adams) and Sebastian (Robin Dunne) became so intrigued by sexual power plays and erotic destruction of the naive. Unlike Species II, Cruel Intentions 2 was more sexually suggestive than gratuitous, as some of the footage was from an un-aired pilot, but it did show two sisters seducing the still-innocent Sebastian and an outdoor masturbation scene featuring horse enthusiast Cherie (Keri Lynn Pratt). If this wasn’t warning enough, both the Species and Cruel Intentions franchises have gone on to make a handful of other spicy, yet mind-numbing, sequels.

More Plot Isn’t Always Good

I think the saddest thing is when a mediocre and mildly successful film known for its exploitation of young actors gets a sequel. And I’m not talking the kind that comes out 20 years later disguised as a reboot, I mean the kind that strikes while the memory of the original still resides in the combined consciousness of movie-goers. In 1991 William Graham released his directorial contribution to the skin-flick coming-of-age genre, Return to the Blue Lagoon. Although the original Blue Lagoon starring teen sexpot Brooke Shields attacked serious issues, like periods and cousin sex, it wasn’t a box-office success by anyone’s standards, and is arguably considered an artsty-fartsy way to watch youngin’s do it on cable.

The sequel was even more of a disaster. Graham followed the format of the original, but just forgot to put in the sex. Milla Jovavich (Lilli) and Brian Krause (Richard) are shipwrecked on the same island from the original, but their mother figure Sarah (Lisa Pelikan) stays with them until they both reach puberty. Unlike the previous pair, these kids are given more time to age before they are left alone on the island. They know how to survive, and when they finally get down to business, Graham fills the audience in through montages rather than intimate bedroom scenes. Leaving us with a stale plot and none of the good stuff. He could have pushed the limits with his background in skin-flicks and the scantily clad Jovovich and Krause, but instead chose to make a sex film almost sexless.

Sex on screen doesn’t always need to bring the characters together or further the storyline, but it sure as hell needs to move something.

Always go for the original, and read more Reel Sex

While Gwen Reyes has only briefly been a film critic and columnist, she's long been telling people what movies they should drop dollars on, regardless if they are listening to her or not. Based out of Dallas, she wants to live the dream by watching movies all day and drinking vodka gimlets all night. She graduated from Sweet Briar College with a surprisingly handy degree in Philosophy and Film Studies--it explains why she spends so much time analyzing the murderers in sexual thrillers (yes, dear reader, that's her excuse!)--and she loves anything to do with gnomes, pot-bellied pigs, and beards. But most importantly, Gwen likes movies about sad people, funny people, naked people, and bearded people.

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