The terrifying E.T. sequel that never was

et-the-extraterrestrialUniversal Pictures

With E.T. The Extraterrestrial turning 40 today, we’re looking back at the proposed sequel that was horrific for multiple reasons, and mercifully didn’t happen.

E.T. hit U.S. screens 40 years ago today. And while the story of the friendship that forms between a kid and an alien was expected to be a modest success – Steven Spielberg was directing after all – no one could’ve predicted just how big the movie would become.

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From a budget of just over $10 million, E.T. earned a whopping $793 million worldwide, surpassing Star Wars to be crowned the highest-grossing film of all time.

And while it was a simple, self-contained story, those numbers meant that talk inevitably turned to a sequel, tentatively titled E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears.

What happens in E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears

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An iconic image from the original E.T.

There isn’t a script for E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears, but Spielberg put together a 10-page treatment with original E.T. writer Melissa Matheson, which is dated July 17, 1982.

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The story kicks off at the start of the summer holidays, and Elliot, Michael and Gertie are missing E.T., though their time with the extra-terrestrial has brought them closer together as a family. Mum, meanwhile, is divorcing their Dad, and now happily dating Keys.

Early in proceedings, E.T. arrives back on earth, and we learn that he’s called Zrek. Then, a carnivorous faction of his race – commanded by the malevolent Korel – appears, looking for Zrek.

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Why is Nocturnal Fears so horrific?

The sequel quickly turns dark and nasty, with Korel and his tribe taking the kids prisoner on their ship, then examining, interrogating and torturing them. It’s a million miles away from the message of tolerance and acceptance that underpinned the original movie.

Then Zrek bursts in and saves the day, rescuing the kids, and banishing the bad E.T.s to a distant corner of the galaxy. In a way that seems quite unlike the E.T. we know and love from the original.

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The treatment ends with the family tearfully saying goodbye to Zrek, with a final line that could conclude the first film: “There is hope in everyone’s eyes as they all, again, behold the picturesque departure of their favourite alien. Dreams can come true.”

Why didn’t E.T. II happen?

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E.T. is happy he didn’t have to return.

E.T. II’s genre is sci-fi crossed with horror, and the treatment itself is pretty horrific, dropping the sense of magic and wonder from the first film, and replacing it with darkness and cynicism.

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There’s a positive message in there, about keeping your dreams alive, but it mostly gets lost in all the unpleasantness. So it’s a relief that sense prevailed, and E.T. II never happened.

Explaining this decision – as reported by – Spielberg told the American Film Institute, “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. People only remember the latest episode, while the pilot tarnishes.”

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If you live in the U.S., the original E.T. is being re-released in IMAX cinemas on August 12

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