By Stephen Martin @theclurb
While it is a mathematical fact that most horror sequels, other genres included, will be a disappointment. However, that is not always the case. Here is my list of the 13 best horror sequels in order from the most pleasantly surprising to least pleasantly surprising. All of these would have been good movies even if they were the first films.
The trick to making a sequel that is just as good, or better, than the first film is to maintain the same tone of the first. If the first is super realistic, then the sequel needs to be super realistic. If the first is high budget, the sequel needs to match that budget, etc. The most important law of creating a good sequel is this; never EVER do anything that will change the way you feel about the first movie.
For example, if you think that the main character of the first movie died at the end, do not bring them back for the sequel because now the way you felt at the end of the first movie has been forever altered. Also, and this is for any genre, if a couple ends up together at the end of the first and they are madly in love, don’t have them hating each other by the sequel, because now when you watch the first movie you know they are going to break up soon anyway. JUST LET THEM BE HAPPY! But seriously though, never make a sequel at the expense of the original. Yeah I’m looking at you, The Descent: Part 2. Enjoy.
1. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
The director made perfect use of music and visuals to make a zombie movie that is near perfection. This is one of the few sequels that incorporates the military as the main plot device, and makes a film that not only isn’t lame, but is pretty awesome, with the exception of a CGI helicopter decapitation scene. 28 Days Later introduced the super fast zombie to the world, and this movie was able to take it to the next level. Where Days Later is more of a drama showing the emotional devastation of a zombie infected world, Weeks Later uses the same concept and rage-infected unmentionables to create a fast paced horror/action movie. The opening scene of this movie is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.
2. Hostel: Part II (2007)
Eli Roth had big shoes to fill by creating a sequel to his super popular (number one movie in America at its release) torture based horror film. Hostel is one of those movies that seems like it would have a super lame low budget sequel created by some newly graduated film school alums who have seen a few horror films, and think to themselves, “How hard could it be?” But, it wasn’t. Eli wrote and directed this continuation of the first, which delves deeper into both the minds of the killers and the organization that runs this brothel of murder. Some of the torture scenes feel like they try too hard, but not to the extent of the Saw movies. Most fans of Hostel are also a fans of Hostel: Part II. Too bad Hostel: Part III is mind-bending, almost impressively, terrible.
3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Hooper made this sequel to his innovative 'father of the modern horror' movie about 20 years after the first, and other than it feeling really '80s at times, the tone is almost identical to the original. I love this movie, because we get a closer look at Leatherface and his demented family without learning too much about them. Each of the actors play their roles so well that you think they are all literally insane. This movie is more violent than the first, and several scenes are darker than the first. The main character would need to go through decades of therapy to recover from the kind of traumatic things she gets put through. Just like the original, this movie continues to inspire horror movies, both old and new. The opening scene is a little ridiculous, but after that it is pure horror poetry.
4. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Movies about hell are always pretty terrifying, especially since many people believe in its existence. Some of the more horrific depictions of hell include 'Dante’s Inferno', Jacob’s Ladder, Event Horizon, and Hellraiser II. The first Hellraiser shows demons from hell, and some of the evil from hell, as it makes its way to Earth. Hellbound follows the leading lady from the first movie as she actually goes to hell to try and save her family. To me, this is the worst imagining of hell that I’ve seen, except for Event Horizon’s version, but that only shows quick images. Eerie stuff. Hellbound really accomplishes the sense of escapism that horror hounds long for.
5. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
This is actually the sequel to Night of the Living Dead. Unlike the first, this movie moves a bit faster, and is one of the first American depictions of zombies in color. I’m not going to say this is a great movie, the remake is much better in my eyes, but it is a good movie considering it was made in the'70s, and no one is going to argue the fact that it’s a classic.
6. Halloween II (1981)
Similar to Rocky 2, this sequel uses the same cast and begins in the same place the first one ends. The first movie is obviously more iconic because it introduced one of the most well known and recognizable movie killers of all time, but this movie is every bit as good as the first, if not better.
7. Cube II: Hypercube (2002)
This could easily have been the first Cube movie. The cube rooms are different enough to keep it interesting, and they also give more information about the creators of the cube, but not too much. However, Kari Matchett is what made the movie for me. She’s pretty much Bae.
8. Troll 2 (1990)
Truly the best worst horror movie ever made. Where as Troll is just the worst.
9. The Grudge 2 (2006)
I enjoyed The Grudge a lot, especially right when it came out, and while I’m not in love with this sequel, I was not disappointed with it. They could have done FAR worse.
10. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
This is essentially the same exact movie with different stars and a different setting, but it accomplishes exactly what it sets off to do, which is to show a family in a haunted house as they slowly get terrorized by an unknown spirit. I really enjoyed watching this in theaters, and it is every bit as scary and jump inducing as the first. However, also like the original, I was totally bored when I watched it the second time, because anticipation of the unknown is what works about these types of movies. The third film in the franchise is hands down the best.
11. Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981)
Although he does not wear the infamous hockey mask as yet, Part 2 introduces Jason as the main killer. As with the first, there is nothing inherently supernatural about the killer in Part 2, even though the later films make him out to be an un-killable soul which goes from body to body as he pleases. He also gets bigger and bigger which I think is lame, but Part 2 keeps it real, and follows his mother’s style of killing teens one at a time so he can rack up a respectable body count before the others realize anything is wrong. Genius.
12. Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back (2008)
This movie is somewhat of an anomaly because the first Rest Stop feels more like a crappy horror sequel, and this sequel feels like a decent first horror film. It is certainly another straight to DVD horror sequel, BUT Rest Stop 2 is a good, entertaining, nasty little flick that is better than the first one. It is basically a ghost story with a Hostel-esque feel to it. Totally ridiculous but this makes for a bloody good time that is worth a rent. Oh, and the Winnebago family creeps the crap out of me.
13. Evil Dead II (1987)
I love this movie, and it never ceases to entertain. That being said, the reason it is number 13 is because Evil Dead II is a horror/comedy where as the first Evil Dead is just a horror. Also, even though there was a bigger budget than the first, and better special effects, the first movie did so well with their low budget that it comes across as more realistic and grimier.
There have not really been any good horror sequels lately. 2015 was an especially disappointing year for sequels, but let me know if you know of any good ones that came out since 2010 I might have overlooked. Happy watching.