Last night on Netflix I decided to watch American Psycho 2 (DVD, video on demand), ostensibly the sequel to one of my favorite movies (and a decent book as well, although Ellis has written better IMO).
It turns out that American Psycho 2 is Election, but not as good and with lots of murder. Still, the biggest surprise for me was that the movie wasn’t unwatchably terrible. In truth, though, I really had no idea what to expect from the movie. American Psycho (book, Kindle, DVD, Blu-ray, video on demand, soundtrack) seemed like one of those movies which was, if I may coin a term, unsequelable. (I spent a concerning amount of time deciding if that word should have an -ible or -able suffix. The reader may judge if I made the correct choice.) Kind of like American Beauty, Fight Club, and Donnie Darko* — standalone, self-contained stories which don’t present any obvious opportunity to continue the story. I generally will see sequels to any movie which I really like, even thought I go in realizing that the sequel will almost never live up to the original, and in most cases will be awful. Maybe it’s the same sort of morbid curiosity that makes most people slow down to gawk at traffic accidents, or that drives me to watch awful low-budget horror movies. The most you can usually hope for from a sequel is that it does a good job of mimicking the original movie, so that if you really liked the original, you’ll probably derive some enjoyment from the sequel. Every once in a while you’ll find a sequel which not only carries the torch of the first movie, but also stands up to scrutiny as its own movie. The Godfather Part 2 comes to mind, although that one is kind of cheating, since if I remember correctly, the plot of the first two Godfather movies largely came from Mario Puzo’s book “The Godfather”. It makes sense then that both movies were so good — they were two halves of the same story. Aliens is probably a better example. Obviously a sequel to Alien, but also not a mindless copy.
* Although like American Psycho, Donnie Darko (DVD, Blu-ray, video on demand, CD score, mp3 score) did end up having a sequel — S. Darko (DVD, Blu-ray, video on demand). It is about Samantha Darko when she is a bit older. When I watched it, I was surprised to see Richard Kelly (the creator of the original movie) as one of the writers. Just now I learned that he only got that credit for creating the Donnie Darko characters, and that he didn’t actually write the sequel. Thank goodness. I will say that S. Darko wasn’t all bad. Maybe there is a trend here. Sequels to unsequelable movies are better than sequels to other movies, perhaps because the former case requires more originality and creativity. With a movie like Lethal Weapon or Rambo or whatever, you can just take the main character(s) from the previous movie and put them in a similar situation to the first movie, use the same sort of jokes/action sequences/whatever as the first movie, etc. You can’t easily do that with the unsequable movies, so if nothing else you end up with a better standalone movie than most sequels. Anyway, back to my original topic…
You can imagine my delight when I found out that American Psycho 2 starred William Shatner! Not as the titular psycho, sadly, but still. It did not give me hope for the movie to be a sequel in the same spirit as the original, however, and indeed this turned out to be the case. They attempt to tie the second movie into the first by positing that Patrick Bateman imprisons a woman and the girl she is babysitting. Bateman kills the woman, and then the girl manages to kill him. This girl, as a young adult, is the killer in the sequel. Unlike Bateman, however, she does not kill for pleasure. Like the main character in Election, she is determined to succeed in life — specifically, in the plots of both movies, at school. And if she has to murder people to accomplish this, well, that’s not a problem. Because of this, she is a much less interesting character than Patrick Bateman. But hey, at least there’s William Shatner!
I don’t have any deep thoughts to share about American Psycho 2. It isn’t thought provoking, like I found the original movie to be. There are no scary parts. It is less polished. But for all of that, it’s not a horrible movie. It would have been better off if it hadn’t linked itself to the American Psycho name, I think. Whatever it gained in publicity, it lost by disappointing fans of the first movie looking for a movie in the same spirit. If American Psycho 2 had been released under a different title, and with all of the Patrick Bateman references removed, I suspect it would be considered a mediocre entry in the dark comedy genre — which is better than how I’ve read most people review it.