Abandoned Sequels: Nocturnal Fears, The Horror Themed Follow Up To E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Abandoned Sequels: Nocturnal Fears, The Horror Themed Follow Up To E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL

Zrek phone home!
In July 1982, just one month after E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial opened in U.S. cinemas, going on to become the then-biggest grossing film of all time, producer and director Steven Spielberg wrote a treatment for a follow-up, fleshed out by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison. This sequel to the blockbuster original would not follow quite the same tone as the first film, rather it would be darker. Much darker. An all round more horror-tinged affair than the family themed adventure one might expect for a proposed second installment.

The 9 page story treatment that Spielberg and Mathison put together to pitch the sequel, titled E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears, was leaked on to the internet several years back, and although it never went into production, or even got past the treatment stage, it's fascinating to read and ponder just where Spielberg's mind was at considering how wildly different in tone this is.

E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears' roots lie in Spielberg's original intended follow-up to to his 1977 blockbuster Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (as we explored here). He'd originally proposed a horror themed "equal" called Night Skies featuring a farming family terrorised by a group of inquisitive alien scientists, experimenting on their cattle, livestock and eventually the humans themselves. That film never went into production either as Spielberg dumped most of the story and converted other elements for E.T., Poltergeist and Gremlins. Some of the ideas developed for Night Skies came back into play, though, for the darker E.T. sequel

Nocturnal Fears would open with a familiar site; a mothership landing in a forest close to a suburban neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. They picked up a distress call from a stranded extraterrestrial and honed in on the coordinates. However, this isn't the same mothership or group of aliens who came to rescue E.T. when he "phoned home", rather, as Spielberg put it, "the aliens onboard are EVIL."

As an audience, we weren't to know that yet. The look of these aliens are similar to E.T. and his kind, but "are an albino fraction (mutatation) of the same civilization E.T. belongs to. The two separate groups have been at war for decades!" Only after their leader, Korel, commands his crew to disperse into the forest would their intentions and attitudes be revealed. Waddling through the trees in much the same way as E.T. did, they have been sent to acquire food. These aliens are carnivorous and emitting a hypnotic hum they have a paralysing effect on the surrounding wildlife, taking bites out of some and dragging others stunned-but-alive back to the ship for slaughter.

The sequel was to be set the Summer after E.T. had been rescued and would bring back the human cast from the original, with Elliott, Michael, and Gertie having finished school for the year. Although closer with his siblings than he'd ever been, Elliott is feeling especially lonely, facing up to his is the first of many summers without his little alien friend. Elliot's mother had started a relationship with Dr. Keys, which was, in many ways, just more of a reminder to Elliott of his and E.T.'s time together.

Amid news reports of cattle mutilation and missing livestock, Elliott takes solace on the roof of the family's house where E.T.'s communicator still remains. Elliott is surprised when it starts behaving erratically, and theorising that maybe E.T. is coming back, he gathers his siblings, and his D&D buddies Steve, Tyler and Greg, and they ride to the forest on their pushbikes to discover the mothership in a clearing. To their surprise, it's not E.T. who emerges but Korel who communicates with the children telekinetically, demanding to know where the alien called Zrek is.

Yes, Nocturnal Fears would reveal that E.T.'s name was Zrek.

It's here that the story really takes an unexpected turn as not content with the answer that "E.T. went home", Korel orders his alien soldiers to capture and interrogate Elliott and the other children. Brandishing dagger like weapons and attacking Elliott with their razor-sharp teeth, the children are bought aboard the mothership where they are questioned and tortured for hours. With Gertie crying for her mother, Elliott takes the brunt of the interrogation, eventually blacking out whilst screaming for help from his alien friend. A cry that is seemingly heard throughout the cosmos.

E.T., or Zrek as he's now forever known, does eventually come to the rescue. Using his glowing finger to resuscitate the physically and mentally drained Elliott, he reprograms the evil aliens mothership, sending it away from Earth to a remote corner of the galaxy. Reunited with his family, Elliott and co bid another tearful farewell to Zrek, as he too returns to space but will always be "right here" if Elliott ever needs him.

Nocturnal Fears really flips things upside down, with a group of aliens that are as dangerous as everyone initially thought E.T. was. Everyone apart from the innocent children that is. I suspect the treatment of Elliott and his friends by the aliens would not be dissimilar to the treatment E.T. would've received if he'd been in captivity by the authorities for any longer than he was, and that is likely what Spielberg was trying to express with this sequel. As a species we are capable of both good and bad, any alien race may well be the same. If we approach the unknown with the wonder and innocence of childhood it may be scary, we might possibly get hurt, but it might also ultimately be rewarding.

Obviously Nocturnal Fears never came to fruition as Spielberg quickly had a change of heart. In July 1982, when the treatment was written, E.T. hadn't opened in many territories outside of the U.S. and it was a long way from becoming the cultural phenomenon it eventually was. Perhaps if it wasn't quite so successful Spielberg might have continued with the development, but as for his reasons why the sequel didn't happen the filmmaker explained,
"Sequels can be very dangerous because they compromise your truth as an artist. I think a sequel to E.T. would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity."
And leave us calling the first film Zrek: The Extra-Terrestrial. And that sucks as a title!

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