Perhaps the greatest legacy of the television series Happy Days (aside from launching the career of the irrepressible Henry Winkler) is providing us with a term for an artistic boondoggle so severe that it damages the quality of an intellectual property beyond repair: jumping the shark.
The term originates from Happy Days’ fifth season premiere when the lovable rapscallion Fonzie (Winkler) answers a challenge to his manhood by jumping over a shark tank on water skis while wearing his iconic leather jacket. This insulting display of egregiously stupid scriptwriting became the death knell for Happy Days’ golden era. However, on that fateful day, a new idiom was born; one that gave the world a means of pinpointing the moment when an artistic enterprise loses its credibility and needs to be tossed aside like a soiled hanky that has long outlived its usefulness.
The cinematic world is rife with franchises that decided to milk the proverbial artistic teat until it ran bone dry. So it is helpful to have a guide to warn innocent moviegoers away from the franchise ruiners, the misbegotten sequels so awful that they forever tarnished the legacy of their franchise. I present to you my list of nine films that jumped the shark.
9. Exorcist II: The Heretic
1973′s The Exorcist is a horror masterpiece that won the academy award for best adapted screenplay and grossed a colossal 441 million at the worldwide box-office. The film created a cottage industry for cheesy Exorcist films perpetrated by Italian filmmakers. The exorcism bug had bitten moviegoers and they clamored for more. Zeus himself couldn’t prevent a sequel from being made.
Audiences were treated to a very different kind of horror when John Boorman unleashed his unholy followup, Excorist II: The Heretic — the horror of unintentional comedy. The sins of this film are legion and the stupidity astounding. Perhaps the most egregious choice is to have the plot centre around a “synchronizer”, a biofeedback device that synchronizes two peoples brainwaves (?!). It doesn’t help that the device in question is just a strobe-light with a couple of headbands attached to it. Also, James Earl Jones shows up in a giant locust costume.
Exorcist II failed so severely the franchise was put on hiatus until 1990′s Exorcist III. Although Exorcist III is a decent followup, the damaged had been done and the shark had irrevocably been jumped.
This article was first posted on September 16, 2012