Back in the day, when SyFy was called Sci-Fi, it was a tradition for my dad and I to watch that weekend’s original movie, no matter how bad it was. Sometimes they were unbearable, sometimes they were so hokey and ridiculous that they were actually fun. Those were the best, those we could watch and enjoy and laugh at just the right amount. Sometimes you could tell that the filmmakers were in on the joke and having fun with it.
But other movies were completely earnest. Everyone involved was clearly trying to create something good, and I appreciated that. My favorite movies, even the bad amongst them, are those that are trying to tell the best story they can.
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Looking back at their releases over the years, I think some people will actually be surprised as to which films technically count as Sci-Fi originals. Several sequels to several franchises have first aired on the network over the years, with mixed results. Many of them have turned out terrible, but some have actually been decent.
Granted, I haven’t seen a few of the entries on this list for years, but I remember them fondly. And those I’ve seen more recently still hold up when compared to their dozens upon dozens of counterparts.
Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud
While I think Blood Feud was originally supposed to air the same day as Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes—similarly to Return of the Living Dead 4 & 5—it wound up premiering several months later. While the low budget and the fact that it’s comprised mostly of Romanian actors trying their best at deep southern accents, I think it’s kind of an enjoyable, schlocky creature feature that respects the original mythology fairly well.
I remember really enjoying Clive Barker’s Saint Sinner when it originally aired when I was twelve or thirteen. I know that Barker and Co. have largely disowned it at this point, but there was an element of fun to it and you could see the author’s DNA in the project. It felt somewhat similar to Dagon in that regard. Like many Sci-Fi features, this was meant to kick off a TV series, but it ultimately went nowhere.
While it has virtually nothing to do with the source material, there’s something fun about Man-Thing. It has a vibe very similar to Craven’s Swamp Thing, which also wasn’t a terrific representation of its source material. It’s also fun to see Rachael Taylor’s first Marvel appearance before co-starring in Jessica Jones. My guess is she doesn’t list this one on her résumé. This one’s a pure B-Movie through and through, but it’s got an intriguingly shoehorned environmental message and a solid practical monster.
Firestarter 2: Rekindled
I remember thinking this was awesome when it premiered. I was a kid and I owned Firestarter on VHS, watched it pretty often and loved the idea of pyrokinesis. It’s always been one of the coolest superpowers. This miniseries turned into exactly the weird, X-Men by way of Stephen King story that I always hoped a sequel would be. Looking back as an adult, I actually think it helps Rekindled to realize that the first film wasn’t necessarily a classic. The only thing the sequel had to be to rival that was fun and I think it accomplished that much.
Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes
It might not be terrifically well made and never rises above its budget, but I can’t help it. I like Ashes to Ashes. For every cringe-worthy CGI moment, there’s a moment that respects the original mythology. I love that Lance Henriksen comes back, I love that it utilizes the witch from the original, and that it features Doug Bradley as well. The actual plot is pretty strong and really could have shined with a larger budget and longer schedule.
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It might not be anywhere near the quality of the first two, but Beyond Re-Animator still has Brian Yuzna, still has Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, and both of those aspects do a lot to save it. This follow up is much more in line with the second film than the first, which makes sense, given that Yuzna directed the second. Like most of the others on the list, the budget shows, but Combs still gives a great performance. The last shot is probably as fitting a sendoff to Herbert West as we’re ever going to get.
This has got to be the number one Sci-Fi Original that most people have gone back and rediscovered over time. More and more people have been listing Frankenfish among their favorite modern creature features. And I think there’s a good reason for that. It knows what it is and has fun with itself. There’s a refreshing tongue-in-cheek style, but it takes itself just seriously enough to work.
Yeah, this one’s sure to surprise a lot of people, but Dog Soldiers had its U.S. premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel. I remember watching it air for the first time, excited as hell because Sci-Fi was playing the hell out of Project: Metalbeast in those days, so I was constantly in the mood for werewolves. But from the opening, even as 14-year-old, I realized that there was something special about this one. I nearly forgot about it until it started to get noticed a few years later and finally began receiving the respect it deserves.