E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has just turned 34 years old. Although the character is technically over 10 million years old, Steven Spielberg's iconic film cycled off to the moon on June 11, 1982. Possibly the ultimate family sci-fi film, the star character, E.T., was was the telephone-using, Reese's Pieces-eating alien, who we all wanted to take home. As early as July that year, there were plans for a sequel, but if it had been made, would E.T. II have been Temple of Doom or Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?
Earning $600 million on its first theatrical run, Spielberg would have been stupid not to at least consider a sequel to E.T., taking Elliot and Gertie along for the ride too; and so E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears was born. The film's original writer, Melissa Mathison — who sadly passed away in November, 2015 — teamed up with Spielberg and whipped up a treatment for Universal, developing a plan for a film so shockingly bad it is concerning that it nearly got made. Along with the rumored E.T./Atari graveyard, E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears has long since been buried in the memories of studio execs and even Spielberg himself. This is how it could have gone down!
Old Places, New Faces
As in first film, we open with a UFO descending to Earth; cue more little brown cutie-pies, right? WRONG! Nocturnal Fears would have taken a radical, Independence Day- style turn, where the visitors in the sequel would have had hostile intentions. We meet a cannibal race of albino, mutated E.T.s, led by an alien named Korel. They are responding to a distress call from their missing comrade, Zrek — which we assume is E.T.'s real name. Not sure that British Telecom would still have E.T. as their mascot — Zrek doesn't quite have that B.T./E.T. rhyme thing going.
The two races have been at war for years, so cue racial undertones that would go over the heads of viewing children, but not by today's savvy viewer. We pick up the story as Elliot's father has returned from New Mexico, filing for divorce from Elliot's mother. Since the events of the last film, Elliot's mother has started dating Dr. Keys (Peter Coyote reprising his role), and the family still fondly talks about their brush with the cosmos.
What, What Film Am I Watching?
Elliot clearly misses E.T. and fires up his old Speak-N-Spell to see if he can reach his red-fingered friend, but accidentally picks up the communication of the albino E.T.s. Here things got super creepy, as Elliot, Gertie, and Elliot's friends head off into the woods and are all kidnapped, The children are interrogated and subjected to torture, with HEAVILY IMPLIED probing.
If you are wondering why a film named E.T. II hasn't got the appearance of the titular character yet, so are we! It is only in the final chapter that our friendly forest-dweller finally returns. Retaining their psychic connection, a beaten Elliot summons E.T., who rescues the children from the ship. E.T. then reprograms the ship to the farthest point of the galaxy and we never see the albinos again. Dr. Keys and Elliot's mother arrive just in time for a big family reunion and some long armed hugs from E.T. A blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo, before E.T. leaves again; presumably he would return for E.T. III: The Dissection Dilemma though. The film ends with a slightly more upbeat tone than the rest of the story, but even this isn't enough to save it:
There is HOPE in everyone's eyes as they all, again, behold the picturesque departure of their favorite alien. Dreams can come true.
Whatever Spielberg and Mathison were on in 1982, we don't want to know. Maybe they themselves were subject to alien abduction and an albino race planted the idea for Nocturnal Fears into their minds. You may have noticed the darker themes of the planned sequel; at one point Spielberg even wanted Tobe "Texas Chainsaw" Hooper to direct, but the project never got off the ground. It is strange that Spielberg was willing to go down such a contrasting route to his original film — seeing as it had such an emotional connection to Spielberg's youth — but ultimately the original E.T. was a hybrid film anyway. E.T. was born from the unproduced 1970s film Night Skies. The ideas of Night Skies eventually became E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Poltergeist, taking the horror elements for one, and the idea of a benevolent alien life-form for the other. Here's hoping that the plans for Nocturnal Fears NEVER gets used for another film!
There are some sequels that we wish had never been made *cough* Daddy Daycare 2 *cough*, and if the E.T. sequel had turned out anything like its proposal, then it certainly would have made that list. For those of you who want to check out the nine page proposal, Google is more than happy to help you. For the rest of you, dig out your anniversary copy of the original film and try to sleep easy, knowing that Nocturnal Fears never was!