As an adjunct to our look at the Hollywood films of Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, we thought we’d take a look at a couple of the sequels to those. I suppose we could have looked at the sequels to the good films in that subset of Verhoeven’s work, though they do more or less entirely miss the point of the originals. Absent satire and commentary aside, RoboCop 2 reset the character, episodic-TV style, and introduced a twelve-year-old gangster, and RoboCop 3… well, in RoboCop 3, RoboCop flies and features some of the worst compositing you could ever hope to not have to see, so no.
Starship Troopers 2 is a retro-fitted horror, and Starship Troopers 3, while it is a clear continuation of the first film, is a bog-standard sci-fi action film, and there’s not much to say about it. Total Recall did receive a sequel, sort of, though you really have to squint, since the intended sequel for that ended up as an indie project by a little-known director called Steven Spielberg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger looks uncannily like Tom Cruise in it.
So, yes, we could have looked at those. But we, some geniuses, decided instead to look at sequels to the two worst films of Paul Verhoeven’s Hollywood period. So, please, join us as we talk about a follow-up to a SFX showcase that is exceedingly light on the SFX, and a 16-year-later sequel about a character so minor she was difficult to remember while looking directly at her, in a film so bad that it puts Neil Breen to shame. If you listen very, very carefully, you can hear the cracking of our sanity.
This first of today’s misbegotten, pointless sequels sees the government continuing on with Kevin Bacon’s work creating invisibility serums, creating a small force of invisible operatives of which Christian Slater’s Michael Griffin is one, who has now succumbed to much the same madness as Sebastian Caine and has gone rogue.
While the military and police are trying to capture him, their only lead is that he’s on the trail of Laura Regan’s Dr. Maggie Dalton, who’s supposed to have created a “buffer” that will counteract the radiation damage that these invisible folks will otherwise ultimately die of, and so begins a tepid game of cat and mouse through Seattle, with Maggie having to trust Peter Facinelli’s Detective Frank Turner, as seemingly the only person without an ulterior motive in all of this.
While it’s not an awful film, and frankly in terms of characterisation and motivation you could perhaps argue it hangs together more coherently as a film than the original did, there’s not a great deal of joy to extract from Hollow Man 2. In particular the greatly reduced budget makes for greatly reduced special effects, and seeing as that was perhaps the only redeeming feature of the original, this does render the sequel somewhat pointless.
Far from the worst film you’ll ever see, but it’s not particularly interesting and can be easily ignored, as indeed most of the world has done.
Now, to be clear from the outset, I wasn’t expecting Showgirls 2: Penny’s from Heaven to be good, but I just had to find out if it was somehow worse than the Verhoeven/Eszterhas perpetrated dumpster fire. It is. Very much so. So, curiosity satisfied, I suppose, but that’s the only satisfaction to be had here.
Do you remember Penny from Showgirls? Of course you don’t. But she was there, played by Rena Riffel, languishing somewhere towards the end of the credit roll, and here some sixteen years later she exhumes that character to tell her story, also directing, producing, writing and editing that story. So it has all the ingredients of a Best of the Worst contender, apart from any entertainment value.
Now, there’s a plot in here somewhere, meandering around the two and a half hours – two and a half hours! – that this stretches on for, but giving you any details will just make it sound like I’ve been gargling LSD, so on a high level it’s about Penny giving up her life as a stripper in the hope of rekindling her dance career, heading off to Vegas to do so.
On a broad level, she’s trying to get into the cast of a popular dance TV show, with very similar plot beats to the first film, which is a pretty questionable decision in and of itself, dancers betraying each other to get ahead, and being sucked into a world of vice, except this also heads off on weird tangents, like the nightclub hosted by a dude dolled up like the devil, the pointless visits to the pawn shop, the frequent application of Vaseline to teeth, or Penny’s maid who cleans in a soft porn outfit, or the attempt at erotic hot dog eating, or when the murder case Penny’s arrested for is solved by the soft porn maid who’s also a criminologist. It might be possible to make sense of this, but I don’t care to.
Rena Riffel claimed her Kickstarter trailer was shot on 35mm film with an Arriflex camera, and planned to do the rest of the film that way. However, $5,108 don’t buy a lot of film, and while I wasn’t on set, so can’t confirm one way or the other, I’m fairly sure this was filmed on a potato, with the audio captured by a slightly less capable potato, which rather hinders any attempt at comprehending this film. It’s just as amatuerly edited and shot, and also manages the remarkable feat of having less competent and less erotic dance numbers than the first film. The script is a mess, and the dialogue is awful. Sure, it’s supposed to be awful, but this overachieves on the awfulness to the point where there’s no joy to be extracted from it, just embarrassment.
Look, in a way I don’t begrudge this film’s existence. Riffel clearly saw the “so bad it’s good” revival of the first film and saw a vector to grab some of that sweet ironic hatewatch dollar, and perhaps with a bit of restraint, and ideally, an actual microphone or two, some of the least awful ideas and lines could have made for an eighty minute novelty that would satisfy those poor misguided appreciators of Showgirls.
However, the end result here is that most unloved of creations, an intentionally “bad” film that’s going for the irony, but is also so badly made that it is just a miserable watch for all concerned. We watched it so you don’t have to. So, really, don’t.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
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