Road To Halloween: Reece’s Top 5 Horror Sequels

Written by Reece Mawhinney October 31, 2015

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to hear that horror movie sequels have a pretty awful reputation. As a general rule, horror films are known to be pumped out every year with little to no creativity actually put into them. Sequels have a similar reputation for never living up to the ideas and strengths of the original. Put them together and you’re not looking at a very optimistic recipe. Look up the trailer for this year’s Paranormal Activity just to get an idea of what I’m talking about. But there’s always exceptions to the rules and we need to celebrate those films that have managed to break the mould and prove themselves on par or even better than their originals in a genre that usually succeeds on the novelty of its premise.

5. Evil Dead II (1987)

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In 1987 Sam Raimi, before he got himself a reputation of trying to bite off more than he could chew with the release of “Spider-Man 3”, released the sequel to his cult film “Evil Dead”. With a budget of ten times that of the original (although still a measly $3.5 million), the film looks a hell of a lot better than its predecessor while still holding on to the ingenious directing techniques that made it into a cult classic in the first place.

There is a question of whether or not “Evil Dead II” or “Army of Darkness” is the better sequel. Personally, “Army of Darkness” comes across as an admittedly funnier and more ridiculous film which works to the film franchise’s largest advantages of insane action scenes but it’s not a horror film and it’s clearly directed at a more universal audience which doesn’t make it a bad film by any means, I just can’t see it as a great horror movie sequel. “Evil Dead II” performs much better by making use of the more traditional horror movie elements and really going to town on the gore and badass action. The film is full of clichés and Raimi raises the point, what better way to honour them by running a chainsaw through them all in glorious over-the-top action scenes that really well-balance the film as both an action-comedy and a horror film. It’s just a great, fun watch and definitely superior to the original.

4. 28 Weeks Later (2007)

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“28 Days Later” was not the type of film that most people expected a sequel for. But then again, Danny Boyle’s modern classic Zombie film defied a lot of expectations. It’s not a perfect film by any means but it is a brilliant watch for its cleverness and needs to be commended for being the first to establish the “infected” as a concept as well as the widespread apocalypse story which now, admittedly, has been done to death and seems to have finally gone to heaven, even if “The Walking Dead” is still stumbling about. The sequel “28 Weeks Later” still holds close the values of the original with a sharp script that satires a bunch of societal issues within the concepts of family bonds, isolation and military intervention although admittedly, not as well as the first film. However, what the sequel lacks in that satirical punch, it more than makes up with its stronger emotional scenes and its use of explicitly stylish gore teamed up with that perfect rollercoaster of thrills that really makes a good horror film. Admittedly, the gore does go over-the-top and it’s not for the best when the film then wastes time on trying to make memorable scenes full of blood instead of full of heart. It might be a personal preference but a death scene will always hit me harder if I care about the character rather than if they have a truly gruesome death scene; thankfully this film does get the balance right every so often for some really damn powerful scenes. It’s a great film and does a lot to surpass the original.

3. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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As soon as you get past the silly improbability of the setting that a bunch of kids all from the same neighbourhood have somehow never met each other and all come together at the same psychiatric ward, “Dream Warriors” proves to easily be the most creative and unique film of the beloved franchise. Freddy has evolved from his persona in the first two films which saw him as a sneaky, slow force which seemed to get off on the fear that his omnipotence gave off but Freddy’s got bored of the slow and impersonal style of killing now. Why have access to people’s dreams if you’re not going to make use of their personal nightmares. Freddy is now no longer a person but a force which can take the shape and form of anything he desires to kill his victims in the way that perfectly captures their fears and turns their dreams and desires against them. It’s sick and psychologically frightening and it is so good to watch. Honestly, you end up rooting for Freddy much more than you do for his victims although that might be down to their honestly poor performances.

A lot more credit needs to be given to Bruce Wagner who was the director of photography on this film than to Chuck Russell who was the overall director. While the dream sequences are perfectly disturbing and surreal, it’s clear that Russell wasn’t particularly skilled at bringing out his actors’ talent because Robert Englund is easily the star of this film as Freddy and no one really ends up holding a candle to his witty and sadistic performance. Freddy is a great villain and this film is great in the way that it explores so much more on what he is capable of doing to people, but I do wish there had been more endearing victims so I could feel a little bit worse when they died.

2. Scream 4 (2011)

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When dealing with the Scream franchise, there is a massive question on what is the better sequel; “Scream 2” or “Scream 4”. If you have to ask, what about “Scream 3”? Well, you obviously haven’t seen “Scream 3”.  “Scream 2” is the direct sequel of the brilliant first entry. Out of any of the films, it aims to parody the concept of the sequel the most directly. It plays with the very realistic paranoia that Sidney Prescott would have following her experiences in the first film, whilst also continuing several of the plotlines left unfinished by the first film. It does a great job on characterisation for Sidney as well as Dewey Riley and Gale Weathers in particular. These three would become the main focus on the franchise and it’s here where their chemistry really starts to shine.

And yet, “Scream 4” works better not only as a horror film in of itself with seizing a much more intense feeling of anxiety, while there is a lot less gore than previous films, the film makes up for it by adding a much more realistic brutality to the mix. There aren’t any elaborate deaths with garage doors here but what we do have is a love letter to the slasher genre that reminds us that a guy with a knife is still one of the scariest things out there. Even though the film’s primary objective is to parody the horror reboot, it is with no doubt, a sequel. It continues and finally ends the story of our three main leads and how the series has affected them for better and worse. The character moments are touching and real and even though this film strays away from the main cast more than any other film, they are still the main focus and none of the other characters we’re introduced to are bad. They represent the next generation and are the subjects of the onslaught of meta humour and satire about the new generation of horror fans and where the genre has gone since the first film’s release 20 years ago. It delivers on all the elements that the first one did and in some ways, even delivers on them in a better and more creative way than the first film. With a perfect blend of scares, laughs and a brain teasing murder mystery; “Scream 4” is a great film although it can only really be considered great due to its status as a sequel and also as the end of a film franchise. With the awareness that this film could have been the start of a reboot, it suddenly means the characters who we’ve come to expect to be almost killed every film might actually bite the bullet in this one and the film plays with that knowledge expertly. It is not scared for a moment to pull out all the stops and that’s what makes it a really great film to watch and that’s what more sequels, especially ones for horror films, need to not be afraid of doing. Unless all your stops includes a secret evil half-brother. If that’s the case, just play it safe and boring. Trust me.

1. Aliens (1986)

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Oh boy, here we go with the controversy. There’s a pretty heated on-going debate which always pops its head on the internet around this time of year; should James Cameron’s “Aliens” even be considered a horror film? Yes, it is the direct sequel of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” which is definitely a horror film but “Aliens” is shot and paced like an action film. There’s no denying that. Cameron clearly thought to ramp up the levels of heart-pounding moments by filling this film with elaborate chase scenes, well-choreographed action and fight scenes and a much more hyped up score than the creeping, atmospheric first film that made you want to hold onto your breath rather than gasp for it.

On paper, especially at the time of release, Aliens doesn’t sound like much of a horror film but in the age today, where we have games like “Bioshock” and “The Evil Within” considered as part being a part of the survival horror genre and also considered the best of their genre, there isn’t really a case for not considering Aliens to be a type of horror film. In a large way, Cameron invented a new sub-species for the genre and that’s nothing to resent because it has inspired lots of other great works imitating that action-packed style. The preference for which is better really comes down to personal taste and I think Cameron was very aware of that and purposelessly tried to create that great distinction between his film and Scott’s. For one, it gave fans something different than what the original gave; “Aliens” is a very contrasting film to its predecessor and that contrast actually highlights how the good the both are on their own rights because we can see how wrong things could have gone in the first film and we have a much better appreciation for the level of terror the characters are feeling in the sequel because we watched the first film. That is how you do a sequel right. The second reason is that I think Cameron really didn’t want his work to be considered on the same plain as Scott’s. He didn’t want to challenge Scott by creating the same film and seeing if people liked his or Scott’s better because that would have created stupid arguments and tension between the film’s fans. At least the tension that exists today comes from a more respectable issue of genre differences although, using the word ‘respectable’ in relation to an argument on the internet does leave a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, “Aliens” is a great sequel because it is not afraid to try new things and bring more depth to the world and characters we came to know in the first film and accomplishing this feat with a style and grace that really makes the film work both on its own and in relation to its predecessor.

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