Poison Ivy Sequels

(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, things get dirty with inappropriately seductive women, idiotically horndog men, and venomous plants in name only.)

I didn’t intentionally make the title of this week’s column sound like a math problem, but if it’s any consolation the films we’re looking at today require very little in the way of heavy thinking. This is purely fluff cinema designed for film fans drawn to naughty women, worse men, and flora taxonomy.

Poison Ivy didn’t exactly set the world ablaze back in the early 90s — it cost $3 million and earned even less — but it found a home on VHS and pay cable meaning it remained in the public consciousness long after its theatrical run would have suggested it be forgotten. That awareness was enough of a reason to justify not one, not two, but three direct to DVD sequels of wildly varying quality. (The last film premiered on TV but was immediately followed by a DVD release featuring five minutes of extra footage in the form of T&A.) All four films, the entire quadrilogy if you will and I know you will, are now available in a box set from Scream Factory, so it seemed like the perfect time to dive right in and see what these sequels had to offer.

Turns out the answer is skin, morally bankrupt men, and a very specific manner of death.

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The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen from Black Directors

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we give a nod towards Black History Month with a look at some of the best, little-seen films from black filmmakers.)

Great films and filmmakers are worth celebrating all year round, but we live in a world that likes to categorize and quantify, meaning February has been designated as Black History Month (and Women in Horror month too for those of you keeping track). The films in this column are recommended viewing any time, but I’m willing to play along with the convention if it gets more eyeballs on the smart, engaging, and entertaining cinema these directors have to offer.

Black filmmakers are continuing to increase in number and prominence alongside Asian, Latino, and female directors, and cinema is richer for it. More voices mean more stories, and that can only be a good thing. Films like Do the Right Thing (1989) and Eve’s Bayou (1997) broke barriers and demand to be sought out, while the new documentary Horror Noire (2019) explores the world of black horror films in ways that fascinate, enlighten, and entertain. The six films below haven’t reached the same level of awareness, but they most definitely deserve more than they’ve received.

Keep reading for a look at some of the best films you’ve probably never seen from black directors.

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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, we get sporty with a sequel to an underdog baseball flick that even underdogs would disown.)

Comedy is subjective, so while I may worry about people who find 2006’s The Benchwarmers to be funny I don’t really wonder why. Instead, having watched it for the first time recently, I only have two real questions about the film. First, how in the hell did it cost $33 million to produce? And second, how in the hell did it make $64 million at the box-office? Both questions boggle me. I am boggled.

A theatrical sequel wouldn’t necessarily have surprised me, though, as it made money and all three lead stars would clearly have said yes to it in a heartbeat, but thirteen years later we’ve gotten a direct-to-video one instead. The three “name” actors have been replaced by one, but don’t worry, he’s every bit as unfunny as they were. The cast isn’t returning so the question becomes — should the audience? Spoiler, they should not, but keep reading for a more detailed answer.

Keep reading for a look at the latest tax write-off from Universal’s home video division, Benchwarmers 2: Breaking Balls.

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(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we tour some exclusive boys schools that won’t leave you cringing at the prospect of cruel cretins crawling out into the world.)

Private schools for boys, usually exclusive and typically religious in some way, have been getting a bad rap in recent months for the miserable behaviors exhibited by their students and graduates. The truth is these schools are usually no better or worse than their public counterparts, but it’s always the terrible examples we hear about the loudest. In an effort to counter that I’d like to highlight some of the less criminal elements walking the halls of the nation’s boys schools. Of course, this being a movie site means I’ll be looking exclusively at exclusive schools in movies.

Some of the best-known include Class (1983), Dead Poet’s Society (1989) and School Ties (1992), and while one of those is clearly the better film all three are memorable and worth watching (again). There are others, though, that while worth your time are far less known for one reason or another despite showing boys and young men we can be proud of. So what do you say I share a few with you?

Keep reading for a look at six good to great boys school-set movies that you probably haven’t seen.

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(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series where two strangely similar films released around the same time are put head-to-head. This time, we take a timely look at two movies that turn volcanic activity into action/adventure romps for the big screen.)

Volcanic eruptions don’t typically get the kind of attention in the US that hurricanes, tornadoes, and sinkholes do as they’re understandably infrequent here in the states. We had Mount St. Helens back in 1980 and then… nothing. The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s big island started spewing lava from newly created fissures in the earth last year, though, destroying homes and roads and causing thousands of people to be evacuated. Thankfully, no one lost their lives to the red-hot rumblings this time, but Hollywood likes their gassy earth tales a bit deadlier.

1997 saw two big studio movies open less than three months apart focused on volcanic tales with far deadlier outcomes. Dante’s Peak was first out of the gate on February 7 and actually focused on a Mount St. Helens-type scenario, while Volcano opened on April 25 and moved the action to the unlikely locale of downtown Los Angeles. Both are big-ish, effects-driven disaster pics with remarkably similar character dynamics, but for all their similarities, they’re wholly different beasts.

Keep reading for a head-to-head face-off between Dante’s Peak and Volcano.

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The Car Road to the Revenge

(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, we take a road trip with a stylized sequel to a cult favorite horror flick.)

Some sequels feel like no-brainers while others make no sense at all, and then you have something like The Car: Road to Revenge… which hits both of those extremes at ninety miles per hour.

On the one hand, 1977’s The Car is a fun little horror romp about a killer car mowing people down in a small western town. It’s not fancy or all that impressive necessarily, but it’s a good time at the movies. The film knows exactly what it is – a land-shark blend of both Duel and Jaws – and it embraces the horror and thrills of it all. It has become something of a cult favorite over the forty-two years since its release, and as it ends with the car prowling the streets of Los Angeles a sequel always felt like a possibility.

But no one could have expected this. Keep reading for a look at the self-proclaimed “stylized sequel” to The Car.

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The Best Fight-Heavy Action Movies You’ve Never Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we go toe to toe and foot to face with some of the best fight-filled action movies you’ve never seen.)

Action movies come in all shapes and sizes, but while big stunts can be truly thrilling when done right few sequences are more impressive than a beautifully choreographed, filmed, and edited fight scene. We’ve been gifted with truly stellar fight films in recent years from The Raid 2 to The Villainess to last year’s The Night Comes for Us, but for every one that breaks through to find an audience and some pop culture recognition, another disappears into the ether.

I’m here to correct some of those slights – six of them to be precise – and while most of them come from the expected countries of origin including South Korea, Thailand, and Japan, one of them is actually German. Yes, a German martial arts film, and like the rest of the movies here it kicks some serious butt.

Keep reading for a look at some of the best fight-oriented action movies you’ve probably never seen.

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Sequels Made Decades Later

There are hundreds if not thousands of sequels out there in the ether, and while they’re not inherently good or bad their existence typically makes sense. A movie is popular, and within a couple years it gets a sequel. It’s basic Hollywood math as studios and filmmakers understandably want to strike while they still have the public’s attention. Sometimes, though, for all manner of reasons, the wait for a sequel is far, far longer.

Mary Poppins Returns hit theaters a whopping 54 years after the original, and it’s still a bit too soon to say if the half-century gamble was a wise one. The critical reception has seen something of a stumble, but Disney’s coffers will most likely be filling up over the next few weeks. It helps that like most classic Disney films, Mary Poppins (1964) has remained in the public eye since its release making the character’s return to the big screen an easy sell. Most delayed sequels don’t have that same advantage.

There are just over forty sequels (by my count) that arrived more than ten years after the preceding film, and only a quarter of them managed to meet or exceed the earlier film’s critical reception. The results are better on the commercial front with just over half of the sequels earning big even if they don’t always overcome their predecessor’s take at the box-office. Is there a common thread between the success stories or the duds? Some shared factor explaining why some find an audience again while others are ignored? A conclusive revelation suggesting the necessary ingredients for a worthwhile sequel?

Let’s find out together.

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The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen About Lost Treasures

best lost treasure movies

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we go looking for gold and maybe a little iron pyrite in the search for some underseen gems about people looking for lost, hidden, or legendary treasures.)

There’s something endlessly appealing about a search for hidden treasure, and movies have captured the feeling time and time again. From the Indiana Jones trilogy to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, from The Rundown to Three Kings, there’s a thrill to the pursuit of something lost or legendary. Some films focus exclusively on the journey and the puzzles along the way while others frame it as a race against time and the enemy, but the goal remains the same: find “it.”

Despite the subgenre’s popularity, though, there are more than a few out there that never quite caught on or maybe just deserve all the eyeballs, and that’s where I come in. Rather than hand you a map filled with clues and challenges designed to ultimately point you towards some fun movies you probably haven’t seen yet, I’ve decided to eliminate the middle man and just name them. So keep reading for a look at six highly entertaining movies about people in pursuit of lost treasure you’ve probably never seen.

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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, we chug some leftover eggnog while unwrapping the sequel to the best and most quotable Christmas movie of all time!)

We’re in the back half of December, and I’m once again visiting DTV sequels to popular Christmas movie favorites. Last time I apparently committed multiple sacrileges by calling out Jingle All the Way‘s mediocrity, suggesting the Larry the Cable Guy-led sequel does a better job with the heart, and then slamming the loud and unfunny National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. (Opinions!) I’m hoping to be a bit less controversial this week by watching the follow-up to 1983’s beloved holiday masterpiece, Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story.

The film got an official sequel in 1994’s It Runs In the Family, and while it features an all-new cast both Clark and writer/creator Jean Shepherd returned. It’s not great, but hey, continuity! 2012’s A Christmas Story 2 doesn’t even have that going for it, though, as new faces fill every role both on and off camera. Is that a bad sign? Probably, but it’s never too late to wish for a Christmas miracle.

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