The horror franchise; the laziest, and most exploitative of Hollywood tricks. For three solid decades, theaters were assaulted with endless Jason, Critters, Hellraiser, and Leprechaun installments, each more grisly and cringe-worthy than the last. It should also be noted that every one of those franchises listed eventually went to outer space. Leprechauns. In space! There are exceptions, to be sure. Alien managed to squeak out two and a half good flicks before things went south. The Underworld series had been surprisingly stable until number 4. But mostly, you get dreck like Paranormal Activity, a never-ending spiral into mediocrity. But then again, more rare than the great horror franchise, is the franchise that quickly goes off the rails, only to miraculously right itself with one solid entry. These horror sequels stand alone as the one installment that fans will forever shower with praise like, “well it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last one.”
So, get ready for Halloween, and check out this countdown of Shockingly Good Horror Sequels!
5. [REC]2 (Jaume Balaguero/Paco Plaza, 2009)
This one almost didn’t make the cut. Not because [REC]2 isn’t great, no, but because its predecessor, [REC], is also pretty damn good. Now, this list is meant to highlight great horror sequels in otherwise terrible franchises, but honestly, a Spanish found-footage occult-zombie film set in a dilapidated three-story walk-up, and it’s GOOD? That’s lightning in a bottle, and they managed to do it twice. This flick builds on the first one, upping the gore and the scares without seeming like a rehash. Sadly, as is tradition, the series went straight downhill from here.
4. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (Wes Craven, 1994)
Oh, Freddy’s had a tough go of it. A Nightmare on Elm Street is a genuinely great horror movie. Clever premise, iconic villain, cool soundtrack, 80s Johnny Depp. It’s all good. But it’s now seen as a joke due to a slew of shitty cash-in sequels. Granted, Dream Warriors was solid, and a had an absolutely banging theme song, but 2, 4, 5, and 6 are basically cinematic assault. 6 of course was The Final Nightmare, which tells you what? That it’s certainly not the last one. Enter New Nightmare, a meta retread of the entire series, complete with a returning cast, a terrifyingly reimagined Freddy, and some genuinely good storytelling now set in “the real world.” Wes Craven managed to reinvent the entire series, while also giving a thoughtfully reflective look at horror films in general, and he did it all with style. How many horror sequels can say the same?
3. The Purge: Anarchy (James DeMonaco, 2014)
One night a year, for twelve hours, all crime is legal. welcome to The Purge. Doesn’t that just grab you? Well, it grabbed me. A movie about decent people trying to survive in a chaotic city while murder and worse is going on around them? Sign me up. But that’s not what we got. Instead, The Purge was a half-assed siege film, about a rich family trying to keep crazy people out of their house. It was a letdown to say the least. Anarchy almost makes up for it, not by being a straight up horror sequel, but by being the film the original should have been. It’s not exactly high cinema, but it gets the job done, as we watch a group of scared citizens try to find last the night on the streets of L.A., surrounded by crazies and other sinister forces. And there’s even some weird political shit shoehorned in. It’s fun for the whole family.
2. Blade II (Guillermo del Toro, 2002)
Here’s another one that does not necessarily follow a terrible film. Blade is a perfectly solid action horror flick. Sure, the CGI is awful, and the soundtrack will make your ears bleed, but it has a lot of qualities, and basically was the first film to prove that comic movies could be lucrative. That said, Blade II is on another level. It landed an amazing director in Guilllermo del Toro (back when he actually made movies, rather than just announcing them and then going into hiding), had a stacked cast, fantastic effects (again, del Toro), and actually made you feel for a murderous vampire junkie. Wesley Snipes continues to own the role he was born for, and he has a swordfight with Ron Perlman at one point. It’s a classic. Fun fact: del Toro’s vamp designs for this film would later influence his Strigoi design from The Strain books and TV show, which is… okay.
1. Halloween: H20 (Steve Miner, 1998)
There really is no substitute for Halloween. Jason can have Crystal Lake, and Freddy can run Elm Street, but the scariest holiday of the year belongs to Michael Myers. John Carpenter’s classic slasher gave rise to the concept of the “scream queen,” as well as a conga line of terrible sequels. Michael Myers went from a persistent maniac to an undying ghost, and lastly, a cursed innocent under the command of an ancient cult. Luckily, H2O comes along, obliterating the continuity of the three previous films, and bringing things back to basics. Jamie Lee Curtis is back, Michael is his own man again, and all is well. This is a horror sequel that would make Carpenter proud! H2O has pretty much all the qualities of the original, with just a bit more polish. It also gave us the badass showdown between Michael and his sister that we’ve always wanted, and that awesome shot of him lowering himself from the ceiling. It is the ultimate in horror sequels, and we only had to suffer FOUR god awful entries to get to it.
We’re getting ever closer to Halloween, friends. Are you ready for what comes knocking in the night?