Most horror movie sequels, and let’s be honest — suck. Essentially a rehash of what made the originals so successful, the average sequel will throw in a few extra kills, gallons of blood, and maybe try to create an unnecessary mythology that explains all the spooky, mysterious stuff that happened the first time. But sometimes (just sometimes), filmmakers manage to get it right, and craft a film that feels like a legitimate continuation of the story. They may not always be perfect, but still worthwhile. As we slide into the Halloween weekend, here’s a list of five sequels worthy of any scary movie marathon. If you plan on hitting up Netflix or your local video store (remember those?), you must check these out!
5. Halloween II (1981)
I know what you’re thinking—isn’t Halloween II (the original Halloween II, not the Rob Zombie abomination), with its extra kills, extra blood, extra nudity, and expanded mythology, exactly how I described a bad horror sequel above? Well, yes, it has each of those elements in abundance… and yet it somehow manages to wholly not suck! Beginning literally seconds after the first Halloween ended, Halloween II features wounded, yet unstoppable, psychopath Michael Myers as he terrorizes the hospital where Laurie Strode (the only survivor from the first film) is now recuperating.
Along the way there are the prerequisite slasher sequel tropes (more boobs, blood and backstory) but what saves the movie from bad sequel-dom is the fact that it features much better acting and pacing than your average guy-with-a-knife sequels (or originals, for that matter), and it features some genuinely unsettling moments, such as when Myers’ troubled psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis wanders into the local high school with a police officer, and finds that the always-silent Myers has already been there, and has written the word “Samhain” in blood on a chalkboard. “What does it mean?” the cop asks. “It’s a Celtic word,” Loomis replies, in resignation, aware of the darkness that lies ahead. “It means Lord of the Dead.”
4. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
The original A Nightmare on Elm Street—a film about a child killer so evil that when the parents of his victims discovered his crimes and burned him to death, he came back as a demon to murder the remaining children in their dreams—is a horror classic. A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts 2 through 6, though? Those sucked—each film featured Freddy Krueger somehow resurrecting himself, only to be put down again and again at the end of each film, and with each successive sequel, filmmakers made him less and less the horrifying child killer of the first film, and more a wisecracking pop cultural icon who mildly resembled a pepperoni pizza. That all changed, though, when Wes Craven, writer/ director of the first film and creator of Fred Krueger, decided to save his creation from sequel hell and craft something truly unique, and far, far darker than the other sequels.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes place in the “real world,” and is about the lives of the actors and actresses who starred in the first film. Turns out, evil demons do exist, but they are captured and held prisoner by the stories we tell to frighten each other, including horror films—and, since the final Nightmare sequel was entitled Freddy’s Dead and meant to end the series, the demon that was held prisoner by the story of Krueger is now loose, in Freddy’s form and in our world, the real world, and he has his sights set on killing everyone involved in the film franchise, starting with Wes Craven and Heather Lagenkamp (star of the first film), to keep them from making anymore Nightmare films to capture him. It’s a wild, genre-busting meta-movie that now seems like an obvious warm up to Craven’s other meta-horror commentary, Scream. It also allowed Freddy Krueger to be a dark and scary badass again. Praise be.
3. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
A masterpiece of classic horror, The Bride of Frankenstein may be the first sequel, of any genre, that is actually better than the original film. A truly, truly horrifying tale, The Bride of Frankenstein finds the Monster surviving the events of the first film, and demanding a mate with whom he can live with and love. Yet another mad scientist promises to animate a corpse lover for him, and, wouldn’t you know it, all hell breaks loose again. However, this isn’t more of the same—The Bride of Frankenstein is about internal terror, not outward shocks, and concerns the horrors of loneliness, and the realization of how alone one person can truly be. Disturbing, disturbing stuff.
2. Evil Dead II (1987)
A sequel which features the forever-cool B-movie star Bruce Campbell chopping of his girlfriend’s head as an act of love, fighting the walking dead once again by replacing his right hand with a chainsaw, and climaxing with Campbell and his ’73 Oldsmobile time-travelling to 1300 A.D.? Oh, you had me at hello, Evil Dead II, you had me at hello.
1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
How do you top one of the greatest horror films/ zombie movies/social satires (Night of the Living Dead) of all time? You take the sequel and drop it in a shopping mall, that’s how. This sequel (and not the horrid Zach Snyder remake) takes place shortly after the events of the original film, and finds humanity crumbling in the face of a plague in which the dead rise up to kill the living. A small band of four people group together and hide out inside a shopping mall—where the sight of dead bodies walking around to Muzak within various shopping centers is a not too subtle jam at American consumerism)—until the zombies finally overrun their sanctuary.
A chilling, existential look at a world in which death, not survival, is inevitable, Dawn of the Dead somehow managed to not only match the horrors of the first film, but to expand them in an original and entertaining way. Oh, and it’s spooky as all hell. Plus, when a movie’s tagline is “When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth,” you know you’re in for a serious horror film ride.
What are your favorite horror sequels?