10/12/2017 – DTV Sequels: American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002)
Directed by Morgan J. Freeman
Before we get started, no, that is not the Morgan Freeman we all know and love. This is Morgan J. Freeman of the mediocre film Hurricane Streets as well as producing a bunch of MTV reality shows fame.
I’ve hinted enough towards this day for a while but here we are. DTV (or direct-to-video) films are generally of ill regard and rarely even considered. These are films that skipped theatrical entirely (or maybe got a token theater for a week type of release) or even TV release to go straight to a video release. Of course films don’t get video releases anymore (except out of novelty) so instead that means straight to a DVD/Blu-ray release. While in Japan they have a slightly higher regard, in the US they are regarded so little because they are generally cheaply and quickly made, seeing a release only because they have a big name actor or two in the cast (often well past their last relevant role) or because they are a sequel to a theatrically released film.
1985’s Blood Cult is the first film released straight to video and one of the earliest films shot on video (as anyone who remembers owning a video camera from the pre-digital age, it is not a high-quality medium and looks like crap) as well. Like many horror films that were released in this manner, it was a low budget, low quality slasher film. Since then the form has taken on a number of typical genres. Starting with 1994 there was the The Land Before Time sequels and Disney’s cheaply done sequels starting with The Return of Jafar representing animation, there was the cheap action sequels for films such as Universal Soldier, the National Lampoon films of the 00s for comedy, etc. Some films intended for DTV releases have been made so well that they have gotten proper releases such as Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and El Mariachi or been pretty enjoyable despite their release such as the Bad Ass and Undisputed sequels but it’s rare that a filmmaker plans for that model of distribution, instead it’s a purely business driven decision.
To get back to horror where I feel most comfortable and you know what this feature is about, many of these films are unknown to viewers. It might surprise to know that the surprisingly pretty good Puppetmaster went straight to video, it would probably surprise a bit more that there have been 12 (soon to be 13) of them. Children of the Corn has eight soon to be nine (seven of which are DTV) sequels, Hellraiser has eight (five DTV), The Howling has seven, Wrong Turn has five, Tremors has five, Leprechaun has five (four DTV) and of course Witchcraft has 16(!) all DTV. here have been 11 DTV films based on Amityville thus far and I’m sure that won’t end anytime soon. Most of these started in the 90s or maybe late 80s back when the industry was thriving and there was a market thanks to the downturn in theatrical horror but even in the 00s, new wannabe series have consistently popped up (see I Spit On Your Grave or better yet don’t).
But those big series are far from the only as it seems like every horror movie has gotten at least one of these suckers often after the original or one of the sequels failed to make enough for a profit or at the very least a theatrical sequel. I’ve seen all three Wishmaster sequels and both Sleepaway Camp ones and while I like the originals of each, the only one that should exist of those sequels is Sleepaway Camp 2 which leaned into the comedy. Phantasm released its third and fourth (of five) DTV while Pumpkinhead got three and Scanners got two DTV sequels. The original doesn’t even have to be all that good (such as Species which got three of which two are DTV) to get a series. Ghoulies and Critters both got three (two DTV) while Sometimes They Come Back (which was originally a TV movie) and Pulse got two. Prom Night inexplicably released three sequels but I’m impressed only one went DTV.
Netflix has thrown the genre a bit for a loop by producing (or in many cases attempting to) quality films for their service which technically makes them a DTV producer. And they have succeeded somewhat with the great Hush and Curse of Chucky but really they blur the line between TV movie and DTV. The Asylum also was producing films for this market before they were all Syfy original movies but I’m done talking about that garbage. There is also good original work like the initial Ju-On shorts and Jack Frost (okay enjoyable maybe not good) in DTV, and some of those sequels like Wrong Turn 2 (which actually better than the original) and Tremors II: Aftershocks are good, but for the most part they aren’t worth your time and exist as idle curiosities.
American Psycho has some horror elements but it is debatably horror (I wouldn’t complain about either designation). It is also very good if imperfect with Christian Bale’s performance being fantastic. It deservedly launched his adult career (though I imagine the AVC would make a case for that Laurel Canyon sound) and has long since entered and stayed in the public’s consciousness. Saying something like “Did you know there was an obscure sequel to American Psycho?” though would be the stuff of clickbait and about as much news as saying that The Land Before Time and Air Bud have a lot of sequels (13 each). American Psycho II: All American Girl and S. Darko have long been the most famous unnecessary DTV sequels. While I refuse to watch the near decade later sequel to one of my favorite comfort food films (and a film which already received too much extra content when the Director’s Cut was released), I don’t have near the attachment to American Psycho. Also, like Critters III (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (Charlize Theron) it features the early appearance of someone who would soon be an actual movie star in a DTV movie.
Unlike them, Mila Kunis had a number of roles pre-DTV horror including a couple of small TV and movie appearances, but by 2002 had also starred in a popular show (That ’70 Show) and for the second and third seasons had a voice role on a well-regarded but recently cancelled animated show that was thankfully stayed dead (Family Guy). Still, this was her chance to give a lead performance. She’s not the only star here to sell you on this movie, the second lead is William Shatner of being William Shatner fame. This being the pre-Boston Legal era, this was still William Shatner in the era where he was getting roles for merely playing the character of William Shatner, not so much for any acting ability.
Hey, remember that great (or insufferable cause it’s a thin line especially when fans get involved) ending to American Psycho SPOILERS where it is revealed that maybe he isn’t guilty after all or only of some of the murders or who knows what?. Well the sequel is here to say “yep he totally was a serial killer and also he later committed a rather dull murder that we never told you about and then was murdered” just so it can make the tenuous connection of our new lead having seen Bateman kill END OF SPOILERS and “yes we can call this completely unrelated in plot and tone film a sequel, shut up”. So now we get a slasher movie with Kunis at the killer killing all in her way at a college. The film, like plenty of other similar cases, started as an unrelated script, rewritten only slightly to let it be titled as such when production began.
The film quickly reveals that American Psycho isn’t the film who it was looking at with envious eyes, it was Scream or probably all the slasher films that popped up its wake. She narrates with a tone that is straining way too hard to be quippy but instead sounds like the writer was trying really hard to be Joss Whedon and is extremely over-enunciated. Shatner plays her professor who worked with the FBI until SPOILERS the Bateman case. END OF SPOILERS She is competing for a teaching assistant position to the lecherous Shatner despite being a freshman and is willing to kill for it. You know she’s a rebel cause she has dark hair, a leather jacket, steals smokes, and walks with a cool person walk.
She starts by going on a date with one of the dudes in the running who attempts to bribe her out of the competition and SPOILERS who she strangles to death. She kills her friend and fellow competitor by hanging and then her top competitor with a knife and the gore is basically nonexistent, the murders barely shown. It feels more like a comedy that failed completely at being funny. The kills break Shatner and he cancels the competition, but she tries to seduce him to get the position anyway, telling Shatner she was in the apartment with the murdered girl who he was sleeping with and who had tracked down Bateman before admitting to the murders. The shock of this terrible script that he walked into stuns Shatner so much that he hilariously staggers back and falls out the window to his death. Of course it turns out she stole the identity of the real girl at the center of her fake backstory, faking her death so she can steal another identity and get into Quantico. The movie half heartily tries a similar ending to the first with the final line but tries to have it both ways which she reveals to her current self to her psychiatrist. END OF SPOILERS
I went into the film expecting to hate it and turns out I was wrong. It exceeded my expectations. Turns out it is only a tedious and poor film, not anything worth hating, caring about, or frankly remembering about it. Minus the title and occasional lame attempts to tie it to the original, it’s just an inoffensive film amidst a wave of similar horror-comedies that fail at both. It’s almost a perfect encapsulation of this genre with its big name in the title and above it, a young and attractive woman for the cover who doubles as a known for TV actor, a tenuous connection to the original, and a tired, lifeless script. The worst part of it is that it’s not even fun to take a piss out of it since it seems to be doing a good enough job on its own.
Next up: The Quiet Family where I talk about I don’t know, I’ll think of something probably.