April 13, 2011

MRQE Rewind: The Best Part IV's

This Friday, Scream 4 hits theaters, set ten years after the events of Scream 3. Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is now a successful writer, arriving in Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. And the Ghost-faced killer returns. It has been eleven years since the third installment all but finalized this iconic horror franchise. What are we to expect this time around? Who will be the new masked killer? How will they keep the story sustainable and entertaining? Of course, my skepticism aside, these are the kinds of questions that tempt me to see the film.

Taking a stab at a sequel, and another . . . and another, is pretty standard practice in Hollywood, especially in the horror/sci-fi/fantasy genre. So here at MRQE, we decided to make this week's list a compilation of the greatest fourth installments in movie franchise history! What goes into this sort of list, you ask? Well, let's say that a fourth installment exists for one reason: TO BLOW YOUR MIND! For consideration, Part IV has to be greater in scope than any of its predecessors; that can mean more blood, more special effects or more characters; and the stakes have to be higher. You are either stupefied or oddly impressed by the lengths to which the studios have gone to make this movie as outrageous as possible. So stop in, leave your critical self at the door, and enjoy.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) - MRQE Metric: 64

This "Final Chapter" is actually only the fourth of ten--that's right--ten installments in the Friday the 13th series. Yet at the time, this was the grand finale: a young boy named Tommy Jarvis provides the fatal blow to Jason Voorhees in the movie's climax. So, the hockey-masked killer, dead? Not for long. With the film's success at the box office, Paramount pushed on with the series. After Part V's "New Beginning" turned out to be a dud, the studio revived Jason in Part VI: Jason Lives. Confusing as it is, it makes this fourth installment's conclusion more or less null and void. But, watch for performances by Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover! And, check out a classic voice-over from the great Don Lafontaine in the trailer below:

Critters 4 (1992) - MRQE Metric: n/a

Part IV was my first exposure to the Critters series; and, I'll admit I was pretty scared as a child. There was a nightmare or two involving these freakish little creatures. I won't go into great detail (I'll leave that to the unbelievably elaborate Wikipedia entry), but basically this film series follows a race of extraterrestrial, hedgehog-like critters that roll into balls and attack their victims with their sharp teeth and claws. Angela Bassett and Brad Dourif star in this fourth installment that takes the Critters into outer space! Fun and clever special effects make the film worthwhile. Credit the green light on this franchise to the great, always crowd-pleasing, New Line Cinema. I'm just waiting for the reboot.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) - MRQE Metric: 49

Another crowning achievement for New Line Cinema was the Nightmare on Elm Street series. In fact, "The House that Freddie Built," was an oft-quoted nickname for the independent studio. Despite this installment's shortcomings in story and character, The Dream Master remains entertaining for its ambitious death scenes and its awesomely gory special effects. Plus, it was actually the highest grossing independent film at the time. Who knew?! Director Renny Harlin went on to greater fame with Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, and greater infamy with *gasp* Cutthroat Island.

Alien: Resurrection (1997) - MRQE Metric: 57

Another important consideration for sequels is the person in the director's chair. Past film franchises have provided great opportunities for emerging filmmakers. Jean Pierre Jeunet had already helmed Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, but had not directed a film stateside before Alien: Resurrection. The French filmmaker brings his unique style to this very alien sequel. The movie has a toxic color scheme, as if you can sense the venom seeping into its characters from the start. It's no surprise (SPOILERS) that Ripley's clone reveals herself to be an alien. And the final scene--where she cradles her own creature baby--is as bizarre as any science-fiction ever put to celluloid. Sigourney Weaver kicks ass, as usual. And Jeunet's cast, including Ron Perlman and French actor Dominic Peron, make this an odd but thoroughly entertaining sequel.

The Final Destination (2009) - MRQE Metric: 41

Roman numerals are bad enough. So I, for one, don't think an added/subtracted article should decide the movie title for a sequel. Fast and Furious vs. The Fast and the Furious? Final Destination vs. The Final Destination? Come on now! Nevertheless, The Final Destination was the last act for this movie series (or so I thought. Final Destination 5 is coming soon!). The series typically follows a group of teenagers that escapes death, only to have their grim fates pre-destined in grisly, elaborate acts involving everyday home appliances. Part IV picks up on that premise, leaving out anything resembling a coherent story in favor of gory death scenes. Here's the trailer, which caused me to literally laugh out loud when I saw it in theaters. Like it or not, The Final Destination was one of the first in this new wave of 3D releases we currently find ourselves in.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) - MRQE Metric: 27

The Man of Steel makes an appearance on my list, as a relief from all of the axe murderers and aliens. For my full insight and analysis into the absurdity of this sequel, head over to my blog. As if Superman III wasn't bad enough! And, to think this installment could have been far worse. Nonetheless, this sequel gets a nod for its ambition. I only wish I were at the table during the discussions for the Nuclear Man fight on the moon. The special effects in The Quest for Peace have not exactly stood the test of time; and that is putting it lightly. But, it is the last time Christopher Reeve donned the cape; and he is by far the best Superman to date. This film could not have been made without him. We can only wait and see what director Zack Snyder has up his sleeves for his reboot next year.

Terminator Salvation (2009) - MRQE Metric: 54

This fourth Terminator installment had a lot going for it: a great actor in the lead with Christian Bale, a cool, contemporary director behind the camera in McG, and a futuristic apocalypse setting that was only hinted at in the first three films. But the best thing to come out of this sequel ended up being . . . The Freakout:

Salvation was a disappointment, overblown and not very interesting. But it solidifies its position on my list for a ridiculous fight scene involving a full-fledged CGI Arnold Schwarzenegger! Over-the-top and silly . . . but nonetheless enjoyable.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) - MRQE Metric: 91

A New Hope is a sci-fi masterpiece that truly erases any hint of irony in my list thus far. And just to be clear, A New Hope is Star Wars. When it came out, people referred to it as Star Wars. Only now, after the release of three underwhelming prequels, does the series take on the appearance of a six-part narrative. Thus, technically making this epic adventure a Part IV. If Star Wars teaches us anything, it's that great movies can be like great chapters in an epic novel. One or two chapters can pass before the story hits a successful stride.

And so, this movie fan believes a Part IV can be a new hope after all! I'm checking out Scream 4 this weekend. After all, I may be surprised. And, most certainly entertained.

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