Franchises are a major part of the film industry - and the most popular, profitable ones seem to never die. One genre with a particular affinity for endless streams of sequels is horror. Whether they repeatedly resurrect a seemingly slain killer, string together loosely-related stories, or contort themselves into a convoluted back-and-forth web of sequels, prequels, and midquels, a horror series that make money have enough mileage to make a hybrid car blush.
But every once in a while something happens that endangers a franchise - legal troubles, production problems, or just a flat-out awful film. Sometimes this is enough to finally kill the series, but sometimes, if there still seems like there's money to be made, the brave producers will stumble on and do their best to just pretend their missteps never happened at all. When this happens, we end up with sequels that suddenly no longer "count" - they're taken out of continuity and ignored by any further entries. This can be frustrating for fans who enjoyed them or a godsend for fans who hated them, but above all, an interesting development. Here are three popular horror franchises that decided to save themselves by retroactively deciding one or more of their entries just never happened - and why the decisions were made.
The Original: Ring (1998) The Lost Sequel: Spiral (1998) Invalidated By: Ring 2 (1999)
Japanese author Koji Suzuki's novel Ring is one of the most-adapted modern horror stories. The tale of a cursed videotape that kills anyone who watches it in seven days is recognizable to audiences all around the world, due primarily to the massive success of the theatrical film adaptation Ring from 1998 and its 2002 U.S. remake, Gore Verbinski's The Ring. The book was also adapted into multiple manga editions, a 1995 TV movie in Japan, a Japanese TV miniseries, and a 1999 South Korean film. But many details of the plot are very different from the story most audiences are familiar with, thanks to the many changes made by director Hideo Nakata and screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi for the 1998 film version.
The biggest difference of all, though, is the way the story continues - and that's a change that wasn't originally intended. In fact, Nakata's Ring film was produced simultaneously with its sequel Spiral and released on the same day. The hope was that audiences fresh out of the first film would be immediately interested in seeing the sequel, and the studio could reap the benefits of fresh audience demand not dulled by a year-long wait for the follow-up.
Spiral, written and directed by Jji Iida, was a reasonably faithful adaptation of Suzuki's second novel in the series. This was a huge problem. Suzuki's original Ring was lighter on supernatural elements like ESP and hauntings than the movie and heavier on sci-fi elements, not the least of which was the fact that the curse was actually a mutated virus that infected people who watched the tape. Nakata and Takahashi had removed these elements from their adaptation and turned it into a more straightforward vengeful ghost tale, but the medical aspect was integral to Spiral's storyline. In fact, much of that book - and the resulting film - was more of a sci-fi medical thriller than a horror story. This was taken even furhter in Loop, Suzuki's third book in the trilogy.
Movie audiences loved Ring but hated the new direction the story went in Spiral, wanting more of the same instead of such a radical shift in plot and tone. The Spiral movie was such a massive critical and commercial flop that the production company immediately decided to pretend it had never happened. They called in Nakata and Takahashi to make their own entirely original official sequel with no connection to Suzuki's works. The result, Ring 2, was released almost exactly a year after the first film and Spiral to much improved reception - although many felt the plot Nakata and Takahashi had invented was a mess, the movie was very close to their previous film in terms of style and scares.
Two additional Japanese films, Ring 0: Birthday and Sadako, have also been based on Suzuki's works - though far more loosely than Spiral was, ignoring most of the pseudoscience aspects. The American sequel The Ring Two, also directed by Nakata, is another original story that has nothing to do with Spiral or the Japanese Ring 2. Loop has never been adapted for the screen.