The blockbuster sequels of the ’70s and ’80s were all about the numbers. The likes of The Godfather: Part II and Jaws 2 used basic arithmetic to differentiate themselves from their predecessors. Then, the rise of the colon initiated an era of lengthy sub-clauses, in which mouthfuls such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life became commonplace.
Now, Hollywood has redefined the notion of going back to basics with its latest hot tactic for follow-ups: simply recycling the name of an earlier movie. While it’s acceptable for a remake, repeating yourself verbatim is not just embarrassingly unimaginative, it’s confusing too: “Are you talking about Scream, as in Wes Craven’s self-referential 1996 slasher? Or do you mean the fifth entry in the series, which reignited interest in the Ghostface saga earlier this year??”
Scream isn’t the only recent offender. The 2018 Halloween sequel/reboot that pretends the earlier Michael Myers follow-ups never happened is simply called Halloween; 2011’s kinda-prequel to The Thing is also The Thing; and – perhaps most confusingly of all – 2019’s Shaft is the third one to bear exactly that same one-word title. With several cast overlaps – all three feature Richard Roundtree as the original John Shaft – there’s no elegant way of differentiating the films in conversation. It’s also a pain when you’re doing a search on IMDb.
And apologies to The Predator and The Suicide Squad, but adding a meagre definite article does not constitute a significant title change. At least when Aliens attached a lone ‘S’ to the title of Ridley Scott’s classic space horror, it was a reminder that the xenomorphs had gone plural in a big way.
Thanks to the long-running horror franchises of the ’80s, ever-increasing numerals still carry a certain stigma when attached to a title, but the later Fast & Furious movies wear their eights and nines as a badge of honour. And surely the English language is rich enough that clever subtitles or even the slightly lame wordplay of Die Hard with a Vengeance are preferable to lazily regurgitating the name of an earlier entry. Or is it just me?