Right out of the gate, you’re probably asking yourself, “Aren’t ‘unnecessary’ and ‘direct-to-video’ a bit redundant?” We’ll give you that one. However, that doesn’t keep some of Hollywood’s most influential A-listers from having such films on their resumes. The following list may be a bit surprising considering the massively successful careers these actors have today, but we doubt you’ll hold it against them.
Mila Kunis’ film career didn’t really kick into gear until she was cast in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” but that’s not to say she hadn’t been in films prior to that. It’s just that the ones she had starred in all ranged around the same quality as “American Psycho 2,” a half-assed sequel that she has since expressed deep regret for making. Truly deserving of the word “unnecessary,” the film was originally conceived as a stand-alone project titled “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die,” only to be edited into a sequel after it was shot. Kunis claims she had no knowledge of this until after the fact.
The old expression “you have to start somewhere” is just about as good of an explanation as you are going to get when it comes to Leonardo DiCaprio’s role as young Josh in not the sequel, but threequel, to the 1986 horror comedy “Critters.” This was, in fact, DiCaprio’s first feature film credit, as he’d not yet made a splash as Johnny Depp’s developmentally disabled younger brother Arnie in his breakout role in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”
Fun side fact: The role of Josh in “Critters 3” was originally passed on by fellow veteran actor Cary Elwes.
If you’ve ever seen this film and wondered why it was so bad, considering it was written and directed by the same guy who made the original, look no further than its origins. Much like “American Psycho 2,” “Cruel Intentions 2” wasn’t initially conceived as a sequel (or in this case, prequel). Instead, director Roger Kumble had sold a spin-off series to the FOX network called “Manchester Prep,” only to have it cancelled before airing the two episodes already shot due to controversy over its sexual nature. Rather than cutting their losses and moving on, the two episodes were edited with new footage including more nudity and it turned into the train wreck seen here. Amy Adams was simply caught in the crossfire of it all.
You can’t blame a sequel for a previous sequel’s shortcomings, but that is exactly why Kirsten Dunst shows up on our list (and perhaps why so many franchises are rebooted these days). After the poor critical reception received by “The Crow: City of Angels,” Miramax decided they would only put “The Crow: Salvation” in a single theater in Spokane, Washington, to gauge whether or not it warranted a wide release. The film ultimately scored better reviews than its predecessor and had “Crow” fans nationwide pleading with the entertainment company to reconsider a theatrical run, but sadly no such luck was afforded to this little sequel that could(n’t).
Long before McConaughey went on his recent tear that culminated in an Oscar win for the 45-year-old actor, his movies were being nominated for Stinkers Bad Movie Awards for “The Sequel Nobody Was Clamoring For.” In a case very similar to Leonardo DiCaprio’s, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” was simply one of McConaughey’s first films. While it was technically released in theaters, much like “The Crow: Salvation,” it was a very limited release with a history far more complicated than any other film on this list. Essentially, McConaughey’s career started to take off shortly after his role in what many dub as the worst in the “Texas Chainsaw” franchise, so his agents did a fine job of making it go away as quietly as possible.
Simply put, beyond “Tank Girl,” which gained somewhat of a cult following in the years following its release, Naomi Watts wasn’t much of a household name prior to her career-changing role in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” in 2001. Considering “Children of the Corn: The Gathering” was the first film in the franchise to be released straight to video, we have to figure at the time she took the role, Watts assumed there was a good chance it would be a wide release. Even if that wasn’t the case, for a young actress who had mostly been relegated to TV movie roles, direct-to-video is a step up, and one that proved to pay off in the long run considering the career she has today.
Fun side fact #2: Eva Mendes played one of the leads in the direct-to-video sequel immediately following this one, “Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror.”
Didn’t you read the previous entry, Paul Rudd? We said TV movies are a step DOWN from direct-to-video, not up. We’re honestly at a loss for words trying to explain this one, as not only was “Gen-X Cops 2: Metal Mayhem” (sometimes referred to as “Jackie Chan Presents: Gen-Y Cops” as a way of getting Americans more interested in this sequel that in no way involved Jackie Chan) well below the pay grade of the already well-established actor, but it was also an Americanized version of a Hong Kong film sequel that was released as a Sci Fi Channel original movie before making its way to video. Chalk this one up to perhaps an easy paycheck and move on, because trust us, even Rudd can’t make this one worth your while.
Having just starred in her first feature film, “The Next Karate Kid,” two years prior, you’d think a made-for-TV sequel to a made-for-TV adaptation of a Stephen King novel would be a step in the absolute wrong direction. No arguments there. But considering Hilary Swank went on to make “New Year’s Eve” after winning two Academy Awards in a five year time period, maybe she’s just not that great at picking her projects. At least “Sometimes They Come Back … Again” is a bit more justifiable considering her career was just getting off the ground.
Speaking of Academy Award-winners, while we’re sure most established actors look back on one or two of their past projects with regret, we’d also be willing to bet that very few of them get sick and vomit from the experience. Such was the case after Angelina Jolie saw “Cyborg 2” for the first time. To be fair, she was 17 and it was her first starring role in a feature film, so it’s not like she could afford to be choosy. Besides, if you made a movie that Entertainment Weekly deemed the worst you’d ever done, you might want to throw up all over yourself, too.
Finally, we come to the film that made not one, not two, but three well-established actors who they are today … that is, if it had ever been released. Due to the Hungarian production of the sequel to 1976’s “Jaws” in the woods welshing on payments for their equipment, “Grizzly II: The Concert” (aka “Grizzly II: The Predator”) was never released to the public, and never even entirely finished. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t built up a cult following over the years. We can’t really call this a direct-to-video sequel per se, but it’s hard to consider it anything else. Even if it is never released in any format beyond a YouTube video, it will forever be quietly remembered as the movie that opens with George Clooney, Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen as the stereotypical first victims in a horror movie, and that’s something no amount of accolades can erase from their records.