10 Big Budget Sequels to Low Budget Movies

Clerk III is here, and Kevin Smith fans are curious to see what he has in store for us in this third installment of the famous series. What’s even more interesting is that this franchise started with a micro budget and was made for less than $30,000, but has now ballooned into a multi-million dollar property.


There is a rich tradition to this, of course. After all, Halloween ends is a massive production while the original Halloween was made for less than half a million dollars. These are some other big budget sequels to low budget movies, ranked according to the budget gap between the two installments.

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Night of the Living Dead (1969): $114,000 / Dawn of the Dead (1978): $1,500,000

George Romero launched the zombie-apocalypse genre with night of the living dead, one of the first independent horror films. made for only $114,000, night of the living dead was so successful that Romero returned to make a sequel, dawn of the dead, with a budget increased by $1,500,000.

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While that might not seem like a huge budget, Romero and his team made the most of it and delivered a sequel that was packed with production value. Located in a shopping mall, dawn of the dead features more gore, action, and stunts than the original could have dreamed of.

Mad Max (1979): $200,000 / Mad Max 2: Road Warrior (1981): $2,000,000

It’s amazing that one of the biggest and most spectacular action franchises started with a low-budget movie, but the original madmax was only filmed for about $200,000. When director George Miller received enough funding to make the sequel, he didn’t miss the opportunity.

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Miller realized The road warrior for $2,000,000, and he made the best possible use of that budget. With high-octane chase scenes, wonderfully creative production design, and decorated vehicles that make the Batmobile look like a go-kart, The road warrior eclipses its stripped-down predecessor in almost every way.

Halloween (1978): $325,000 / Halloween 2 (1981): $2,500,000

Before the seemingly endless series of sequels and remakes, John Carpenter Halloween had its very first sequel in Halloween 2, which had been produced by Universal Studios. Whereas Halloween was notoriously a low-budget affair, Halloween II had a significantly increased budget of $2,500,000which allowed the filmmakers to indulge in more special effects for the murders.

Whereas Halloween 2 has amassed a strong fanbase, other fans of the original feel that it was the original’s low-budget filmmaking that forced Carpenter and company to be so creative. Halloween 2on the other hand, blends in with other slasher films of its time.

Phantasm (1979): $300,000 / Phantasm 2 (1988): 3,000,000

In a case similar to Halloweenthe original Fantasy was a small budget cult classic that Universal decided to make a franchise of. While the original Fantasy was only made for $300,000, the sequel was made for at least $3,000,000.

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Contrary to Halloween, many fans actually believe that the increased budget worked to the sequel’s advantage and gave the filmmakers more freedom to fully realize the sci-fi elements of the original. It also gave the sequel more mainstream appeal unlike the original film, which was more quirky and niche.

Paranormal Activity (2009): $450,000 / Paranormal Activity 2 (2010): $3,000,000

One of the most genre-defining sleeper hits of the new millennium, the original Paranormal Activity took the world by storm with only one $450,000 budget thanks to its found footage aesthetic. It spawned a series of sequels, all of which had exponentially higher budgets.

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The first of the suites, paranormal activity 2had a budget of $3,000,000. Still, it only grossed about as much as the original, meaning it was less profitable overall. With a string of critical sequels to follow, it seems the higher budgets have only led to diminishing returns for the paranormal activity franchise.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): $140,000 / Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1985): $4,700,000

A decade after creating a genre classic with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper worked with Cannon Productions to finally make a sequel. While the original was made for approx. $140,000this sequel had a boosted budget of $4,700,000.

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The budget hike shows, as Tobe Hooper builds a number of elaborate if not cartoonish sets, and also puts his production design team to good work. While the low budget gave the original a realistic and disconcerting aesthetic, this sequel is a sight to shock and delight.

Clerk (1994): $27,000 / Clerk 2 (2006): $5,000,000

Before Clerk IIIKevin Smith made his first official sequel to his cult debut with Clerk IIwhich reinforced the initial budget of $27,000 at $5,000,000. Smith had worked on this level of scale before with films like Mallrats and Dogmaso he was ready to take Clerks to the next level.

Whereas Clerk II isn’t the revered cult hit that the first is, it’s a fondly remembered sequel with a number of memorable sequences. More importantly, the boosted budget didn’t dilute Smith’s unique personality as a filmmaker. Even with a huge Hollywood production, Clerk II is undeniably Smith’s project.

Evil Dead (1981): $300,000 / Evil Dead II (1987): $3,500,000

Often considered one of the greatest horror sequels ever made, evil death 2 was both a sequel and a soft reboot of Sam Raimi’s micro-budget masterpiece, diabolical death. After it became a smash hit, Raimi returned to the franchise to do a sequel that both increased the gore and special effects.

As opposed to the $300,000 budget of the first film, Raimi now had $3,500,000 play with. He used the budget to do everything he couldn’t with the original and transform evil Dead in a splatterfest action-comedy that exuded style. While an increased budget can dilute a franchise, Raimi used his budget to spruce up the evil Dead franchise and make it a truly iconic series.

El Mariachi (1993): $7,000 / Desperado (1995): $7,000,000

the original El Mariachi is one of the most famous micro-budget films ever made, uniquely made to $7,000. Director Robert Rodriguez made the most of his low budget and delivered a smart action movie that showed off his directorial skills. His efforts paid off so well that the studio paid for a sequel, Desperadowith a budget increased by $7,000,000.

With that money, Rodriguez not only upped the ante in terms of action and gunplay, but also secured stars like Antonio Banderas and Steve Buscemi for the cast. The success of Desperado proved that Rodriguez was no one-hit wonder and cemented his status as an action movie auteur.

The Blair Witch Project (1999): $600,000 / Blair Witch 2: The Book of Shadows (2000)

The first one Blair Witch Project The film wasn’t just a cultural phenomenon, it was one of the highest-grossing films ever made. This is largely thanks to the fact that it was produced for a tiny budget of around $600,000. A sequel was inevitable, but instead of sticking with the microbudget aesthetic of the original, the producers opted to make a sequel on a budget of $15,000,000.

Instead of that increased budget enhancing this sequel, many fans felt it totally ruined what made the Blair Witch Project resonate with the audience. Gone is the gritty, raw believability of the original. In place, Blair Witch 2 is a skillfully shot but ultimately incoherent mess that only has a name.

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