If you know me, then the fact that I’m somewhat of a (huge) fan of Italian horror sub-genres shouldn’t surprise you. If you don’t know me… Hi, I’m Giallo Julian, and I really like Italian horror. There, now we’re all on the same page.
There’s many types of flicks the Italians made back in the day (70’s – ‘90s), ranging from Spaghetti Westerns (another genre favorite of mine), Giallo (don’t worry, I’ll get to that someday), Zombie/Cannibal features (oh, the cannibal romps), and films titled as sequels to unrelated movies in an attempt to cash in on their success. We’re going to focus on that last one, in case you weren’t aware.
Italian film distributers had this wild notion that they could turn a profit by taking a film, slapping a popular title on it with a 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5…), and releasing it onto the unsuspecting public… and thanks to the copyright laws of the country, they could do so without any major repercussions taken against them. Funny, isn’t it? I don’t know the specifics on how it all works, but this has to be the case given how many times they’ve gotten away with it. So, I thought I would talk about a few of those “unofficial” sequels, and let you know if they’re worthy of having such popular titles branded on them. I know I’m not the first person to talk about these films… but I haven’t done it yet, so here we go.
1. Alien 2: On Earth (aka Alien Terror; Directed by Ciro Ippolito, Biagio Proietti; Starring Belinda Mayne, Mark Bodin, Roberto Barrese; 1980)
“A spaceship lands back on Earth after a failed mission, but the astronauts have been replaced by hideous creatures that can penetrate people’s bodies and make them explode. A group of cave explorers are attacked by the monsters inside an underground cave, but the survivors are in for a surprise when they finally manage to escape the trap…” (via IMDB)
Fun fact: 20th Century Fox tried to sue Ciro Ippolito for making this flick, but it turned out there was a 1930’s novel called Alien, and I guess Ippolito claimed that his movie was an “adaptation” of it or something because nothing became of all this.
Funner fact: Ippolito tried to sue the producers of The Descent because of the “plot similarities” between the two films… you know, both being horror and taking place in caves, I suppose. There was no real point to these tidbits, just wanted to share.
Anyway, other than the title, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. I know, I was shocked to learn that too, but it’s true. If anything, I’d argue it has more similarities in line with John Carpenter’s The Thing (body horror alien-gore-flesh monsters), but if I did that, I’d have to acknowledge this came out two years before The Thing and that there’s a (very, very slight) possibility Carpenter took some inspiration from this “film”…and I don’t want to do that.
A bunch of spelunkers are in a cave when “flesh aliens” crash onto Earth via space shuttle and start killing them off one by one. At least, that’s what I’m assuming happens because the aliens are barely shown. Almost like this is a cheap cash-in or something.
Is it good, though? Eh, it’s alright. Not terrible or anything. It has a groovy soundtrack, and (as the title suggests) it does take place on Earth, so I guess they beat Alien vs. Predator to the punch on that one. When the aliens do show up and mutilate people, the gore effects are decent. Decapitations, face bursting, a man exploding into a long-flesh tentacle; all solid. Accumulating in a climax taking place in a bowling alley… guess it was cheaper just to rent it out instead of building an actual set. That being said, I thought the set design of the caves was pretty good. Very atmospheric and creepy.
It’s not a complete waste of time, but it’s nowhere near as good as the original film or James Cameron’s Aliens (shocker). Definitely on par with Alien: Covenant, though… actually, it’s a few points ahead.
If you want to check it out, you can do so right HERE.
2. Terminator 2 (aka Shocking Dark; Directed by Bruno Mattei; Starring Christopher Ahrens, Haven Tyler, Geretta Geretta; 1989)
“In a polluted future Venice researchers work to improve the situation. One day, unknown forces start killing them. A team of soldiers and a couple of civilians is sent to investigate. Soon, they encounter strange murderous creatures.” (via IMDB)
I pose to you a question, my dear reader. What does one do when they want to make a sequel to a property they don’t own, but have no idea what the story should be about? Simple! You just take the plot from another unrelated movie and shoot that!
Bruno Mattei (who deserves a whole article dedicated to him) must have thought this was a fantastic idea, because his Terminator 2 was just a cheaper scene-by-scene remake of Aliens. Hey, at least he chose two films from the same director (James Cameron).
I’m serious! There’s scenes in this movie that are nearly shot-for-shot, word-for-word copies of those in Aliens… just on a budget of about $12 and some change. Despite that, I don’t think any less of this movie. It’s Bruno Mattei; it’s what he does. There’s an art to it, and he’s a master of the craft.
It’s shot pretty well, all things considering. There’s soldiers in ridiculous outfits (dubbed “Mega Force”, of all things), stuntmen in monster costumes that aren’t half bad, and the kind of acting you would except from something like this. Mattei also didn’t dub the dialogue (which was popular with Italian filmmaking at the time), and it’s actually kind of jarring if you’re used to the whole dub situation associated with these flicks.
It’s not great by any means (I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a Mattei fan), but I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time or incompetently made (for what it is) either. Definitely not as good as Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I can say that with confidence.
Oh, and yes, there’s a “Terminator” in it. You just have to make it to the last 20 minutes before he shows up to do his thing. Time travel’s in the last 5 minutes, by the way. Mattei had to hit all the marks.
Want to check it out? You can do so right HERE.
3. La Casa 3 (aka Ghosthouse; Directed by Umberto Lenzi; Starring Lara Wendel, Greg Rhodes, Mary Sellers; 1988)
“Visions of a deceased girl and her doll bring doom to the visitors of a deserted house.” (via IMDB)
For context, The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 were re-titled as La Casa and La Casa 2 in Italy. This was because they both took place in “houses” (this becomes important later). Just wanted to catch you up on all that.
This movie was already at a disadvantage when it comes to my personal preferences. I’m not much a “ghost movie” person, so I already expected not to think too much of it. But after sitting down and watching La Casa 3… I can say that my expectations were met. It’s a ghost movie, so it does all the spooky ghost shit that’s common with these flicks. However, it’s also Italian, so there’s some competent gore effects thrown in there.
Now, the reason that this was marketed as a sequel to the Evil Dead movies (the first two) is a simple one: it took place in a house. That, and name recognition. That’s basically it. Any Italian horror film that took place in a house at this point was up for being in the La Casa franchise. There are at least 5 La Casa entries, so if you thought Army of Darkness and Ash vs. Evil Dead weren’t good continuations, maybe you’ll like this alternate route. I mean, who knows, right?
As far as what I think about this movie… it’s not bad. It’s shot well, shows some decent effects, and has some creepy moments. If I were into ghost movies, I might have enjoyed it more. But if you like them (and have a healthy appreciation for the Italian film-style), give it a watch!
You can check it out right HERE.
4. Zombi 2 (aka Zombie; Directed by Lucio Fulci; Starring Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson; 1979)
“Strangers searching for a young woman’s missing father arrive at a tropical island where a doctor desperately seeks the cause and cure of a recent epidemic of the undead.” (via IMDB)
So, this movie has the opposite problem La Casa 3 did. I have a HUGE bias for this gem, being that it’s one of my top 3 zombie flicks (the other two being Re-Animator and Return of the Living Dead, for the curious). I love this movie. I’ve seen it so many times, and it never gets old.
A little backstory. In Italy, Dario Argento re-cut George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and had it released as Zombi. Naturally, it was a huge hit, and the distributors wanted more of that “zombie money”. To do this, they took a zombie film that was already in production, slapped Zombi 2 on it, and played it off as a sequel to Romero’s classic. The director, Lucio Fulci (the almighty godfather of gore) was not too happy about this turn of events, and neither was George Romero.
Despite that, Zombi 2 managed to stand on its own as time passed and is now considered a classic of the genre. For good reason, too! The zombies look great (a majority of them keep their eyes closed at all times, which I always thought was creepy), the gore is fantastic, the atmosphere is nightmare-like and immersive, and the theme…oh boy, that theme…primo supremo, right there. Many people have talked about how awesome this flick is, and I’m just going to say they’re absolutely right.
Check out this hell of a zombie romp right HERE.
That’s just a few of the unofficial sequels the Italians have made. But it wasn’t just Italy that did this. They’re just the ones that got the most recognition for it! Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk about more of them later. Until then, ciao, my friends!