I’m not sure anyone imagined, looking at “The Fast and the Furious”In the summer of 2001, that a modest film about street racing car thieves in Southern California could one day lead to eight sequelae. It’s not until this material warrants a return trip that almost no material has returned so many times.
But what about those rare movie series that go this far? In honor of “F9”, I watched the ninth installments from other franchises. As you might expect, the quality varies wildly, from painfully derivative to surprisingly fresh.
‘Jason Goes to Hell: The Last Friday’ (1993)
Of course, the subtitle is misleading: “Jason Goes to Hell” was far from the final movie “Friday the 13th”; on the one hand, it was replaced in 2001 by “Jason X”, which took place in space. Part 9 begins with Jason Voorhees torn to pieces by a SWAT team, but naturally explode does not prevent it from continuing to wreak havoc on the people of Crystal Lake. Possessing another human body along with his evil spirit, he wildly stabs, crushes, and impales cute teenage victims in various states of undress. It’s a brutally violent and graphically gruesome slasher, though not particularly scary, that culminates in a baffling last second cameo by Freddy Krueger’s glove.
“Ernest in the Army” (1998)
Ernest P. Worrell, the cartoonish jester immortalized by Jim Varney, began his career in a long series of popular television commercials, promote Sprite and Chex cereals, among other products, with its signature slogan: “Do you know what I mean, Vern?” He went on to star in several blockbuster films, including “Ernest Goes to Camp” (1987) and “Ernest Scared Stupid” (1991), but by the end of the 90s the schtick had reached a point of diminishing returns, for say it softly. “Ernest in the Army,” Ernest’s ninth feature film, is a direct-to-video farce in which the eponymous hero enlists in the reserves and is dispatched to Karifistan, a fictional country in the Middle East that provides great part of the film absurdly racist humor. Varney died two years later, ending the franchise here.
“Son of the Pink Panther” (1993)
Blake Edwards, creator of the original “Pink Panther” (1964) and one of America’s greatest comedy directors of all time, was still making excellent comedies in the late 1980s, such as the tumultuous “Skin Deep” (1989). “Son of the Pink Panther”, his latest feature film, looks like the work of a totally different filmmaker. A soft and superfluous film arriving a decade after the lamentable “Curse of the Pink Panther” (1983), it starred Roberto Benigni as Inspector Clouseau’s illegitimate adult son, and was of course just as gay and clumsy. Benigni is funny; the hardware is not. The only positive point is the original score, the last of the great Henry Mancini.
‘Hellraiser: Revelations’ (2011)
Most of the “Hellraiser” sequels are bad. “Hellraiser: Revelations” doesn’t even try to be good. The ninth film in the macabre supernatural horror franchise was made strictly to fulfill a condition of the studio’s contract with series creator Clive Barker that a new installment should be released every few years, lest the studio does not waive its rights to the franchise. The script was written in a matter of days and the movie unfolded in a matter of weeks. Doug Bradley, who has played the villainous Pinhead in the previous eight iterations, declined to participate. “If they claim this is from the mind of Clive Barker, that’s a lie”, Barker tweeted during production.
‘American Pie Presents: Girls’ Rules’ (2020)
The original “American Pie” (1999) has three true sequels – “American Pie 2” (2001), “American Wedding” (2003) and “American Reunion” (2012) – following the same characters. But the franchise has also spawned a series of spinoffs made in a similar spirit of scorching jubilation, including “Band Camp” (2005) and “The Naked Mile” (2006). The ninth and final, “Girls’ Rules”, is a genre riff traded on the first film. It follows four young women who decide to find romantic satisfaction before their graduation night. Her charm is due to her charismatic roles – particularly Lizze Broadway as Stephanie Stifler, cousin of Seann William Scott’s memorable supporting character from the original series.
“The Adventures of Zatoichi” (1964)
Shintaro Katsu played the role of the blind masseur and swordsman of the Edo Zatoichi era in no less than 26 feature films between 1962 and 1989, sometimes making up to four in a single year. The quality of each episode is remarkably high, considering the number, and the ninth, “The Adventures of Zatoichi”, is no exception: the dramatic swordplay, political intrigue, and upbeat physical comedy that are the hallmarks. from the series are on big display, as Zatoichi dispatches the usual wicked samurai processions with gratifying flair. And if you can’t get enough of Zatoichi, Katsu later reprized the role for television – and directed over 100 episodes of “Zatoichi.”
‘Star Trek: Insurrection’ (1998)
The ninth image of “Star Trek” is also the third frame oriented around the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, whose small-screen trips to the Starship Enterprise are among the most beloved by “Trek” fans. Starring the inimitable Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, paragon of interstellar virtue and decency, and directed by Jonathan Frakes, who also plays the handsome ladies’ man William Riker, the film looks a bit like a feature film episode of the series. Following the hit action from the previous episode, “Star Trek: First Contact,” this TV movie quality is quite refreshing, and Stewart and the cast, as always, are a pleasure to watch. It also compares very favorably to the next film in the series, “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002), which the less said, the better.