'Donnie Darko' turns 20: Ten classic films which had completely forgettable sequels

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Donnie Darko (Credit: Flower Films)
Donnie Darko (Credit: Flower Films)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series.

Released two decades ago in October 2001 in North America, Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko was a one-a-kind movie that launched the career of Jake Gyllenhaal into the stratosphere. Despite rave reviews, the teen sci-fi thriller initially tanked at the box office (the plane crash at the heart of the film rendered trailers unusable post 9/11), but it later became a cult hit on reissues and DVD.

Kelly released a director's cut in 2007 and has announced plans to revisit the film for a sequel soon, however it already had a misconceived sequel in 2009 that went straight to DVD.

We live in an era of sequels and reboots, but some follow-ups are so bad or misjudged, they soil the memory of the fantastic original.

We expose cinema’s most heinous efforts to plunder quick money by adding to a franchise.

S. Darko

<p>Some people credit Showgirls as the film that ended Elizabeth Berkley’s career, but she actually continued working long after – appearing in critically acclaimed movies such as <em>The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion</em> and <em>Rodger Dodger</em>, as well as taking a recurring role in CSI Miami.<br />No, what really ruined things was the unwanted <em>Donnie Darko</em> sequel, <em>S. Darko</em>, which followed the adventures of Donnie’s little sister Samantha, and is so bad it makes <em>Showgirls</em> look like <em>Cabaret</em>. Released in 2009, <em>Darko</em> was the last theatrical movie for Berkley – she’s only had brief appearances on telly ever since. </p>
Released in 2009, S. Darko was the last theatrical movie for Berkley (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Didn’t Donnie Darko just scream sequel? No, we didn’t think so either.

This 2009 follow-up to the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring 2001 cult hit focuses on Donnie’s younger sister Samantha (Daveigh Chase) and involves more portentous time travel stuff and meteorites.

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Unfortunately, where the first film was intriguingly opaque and original, this is just…nonsense. Not surprisingly, Richard Kelly, director of the first Donnie Darko didn’t even read the script.

Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective

This is so fundamentally wrong, it’s difficult to quantify. Yes it was made by the Cartoon Network, but Josh Flitter’s effort as Ace’s son demonstrates just how startling Jim Carrey’s performance is. To pull off a character of such extremes is a comedic feat which cannot be underestimated.

Flitter – and we feel bad slagging off a child here – looks more like a kid getting ready for Halloween, parroting his favourite movie in his bedroom.

What’s more, you’d get a youngster who acted like that tested, right?

Son of the Mask

'Son of the Mask'. (Credit: New Line Cinema)
'Son of the Mask'. (Credit: New Line Cinema)

Released 11 years after Jim Carrey’s frenetic comedy, the sequel features Bob Hoskins and Alan Cumming in one of their more ignominious jobs.

Jamie Kennedy plays a man who finds the original mask and conceives a baby while still wearing it (ewwww), thus bestowing the powers of Norse god Loki on his son.

There’s a bunch of baby-doing-crazy-stuff stuff and a very soppy ending. We prefer Loki when he looks like Tom Hiddleston.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

Poor Romola Garai. She’s a great, charismatic British actress trying to emulate what was essentially lightning in a bottle. Surprise surprise, neither she nor co-star Diego Luna pull it off despite their best efforts.

Released in 2004, 17 years after the original, the prequel was doomed from the start. A made-for-TV remake followed in 2017, and original star Jennifer Grey will return for another sequel soon.

Teen Wolf Too

Jason Bateman rides in a convertable in a scene from the film 'Teen Wolf Too', 1987. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)
Jason Bateman rides in a convertable in a scene from the film 'Teen Wolf Too', 1987. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

1985’s original is a cult classic, actually shot before Michael J. Fox rocketed to fame in Back to the Future, but released after he became a star.

Here, a youthful Jason Bateman plays Fox’s cousin, who is also a lycanthrope. Cue essentially a play-by-play repeat of the first movie, only with boxing instead of basketball and a more rubbish actor playing his best mate Stiles.

Highlander II: The Quickening

"Highlander II: The Quickening" by Russell Mulcahy avec Sean Connery, 1991. (Photo by Etienne George/RDA/Getty Images)
"Highlander II: The Quickening" by Russell Mulcahy avec Sean Connery, 1991. (Photo by Etienne George/RDA/Getty Images)

The first Highlander is an absurd but fun sci-fi-action movie about an immortal Scotsman called Connor (played with a Gallic twang by Frenchman Christopher Lambert) who hooks up with a Spaniard – full name Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez – played by definitive Scot Sean Connery, to defeat a big bad.

This second movie is, frankly, gibberish. There’s a whole plot about the ozone layer (big news item in 1991) and turns out Connor and Ramirez were aliens all along. Or something. Even more impenetrable than Lambert’s accent.

American Psycho II: All American Girl

Finally – Mila Kunis and William Shatner, together on the big screen at last!

Directed by Morgan Freeman (a different one), this totally vomits on Bret Easton Ellis’s satirical original, instead focusing on a sociopathic female college student (Kunis) who is obsessed by Shatner’s professor (yuck) and kills anyone who gets in her way.

It clearly wasn’t intended to be connected to ‘American Psycho’ whatsoever, but was most likely a rote slasher script reworked to include a spurious related scene at the beginning. Not one of Kunis’s proudest moments.

Trail of the Pink Panther

Actors Peter Sellers and Julie Andrews in a scene from the film 'Trail of the Pink Panther', 1982. (Photo by Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)
Actors Peter Sellers and Julie Andrews in a scene from the film 'Trail of the Pink Panther', 1982. (Photo by Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)

Possibly the ultimate cash-in, in the sense that its star was actually dead throughout the entire production (and had been for 18 months before shooting even started).

This 1982 comedy used archive footage of Peter Sellers from previous Pink Panther deleted scenes, as well as utilising a double who was shot from behind. Bringing back David Niven from the first film, the filmmakers were instructed to pay $1million to Sellers’ widow for diminishing his reputation.

Which kind of tells you what sort of film it is.

Staying Alive

Actor, singer, dancer John Travolta as Tony Manero in 'Staying Alive' in 1983. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)
Actor, singer, dancer John Travolta as Tony Manero in 'Staying Alive' in 1983. (Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)

John Travolta is a magnificent dancer, of that there is no doubt.

But it’s still difficult to suppress a giggle when you see him boogie in this anodyne Saturday Night Fever sequel, written and directed by Sylvester Stallone and released in 1983.

Maybe it’s the bandanna, maybe it’s the 80s wardrobe and choreography. Either way, Tony Manero lost his mojo.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

A scene from 'Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2'. (Artisan Entertainment)
A scene from 'Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2'. (Artisan Entertainment)

The Blair Witch Project was an innovative horror film which became one of the most successful indies in history, revived the found footage genre and revolutionised online marketing techniques.

The second one did none of these things. In fact, it was a generic, mainstream movie hurriedly ushered into production even though the original creative team said they weren’t ready to do a sequel.

Read more: Joe Berlinger looks back at Blair Witch 2

"The film we wrapped is a film I was excited about and proud of," Berlinger told Yahoo in 2020. "It wasn’t until the twelfth hour that some new executive came in and decided they wanted a traditional horror movie - that’s when the nightmare started.”

"I did debate taking my name off the movie but my representatives discouraged me. They said if I did, I’d never make another movie again. Ironically, I didn’t want to make another movie again,” admits Berlinger of the torturous experience. “I’m glad I didn’t because it was a blip in my career and led to other great things.”

To be fair to the director Joe Berlinger, he’s since gone on to become an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker best known for the Paradise Lost series.

Watch: 5 things you didn’t know about Jake Gyllenhaal

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