Director James Wan heads to the world of horror once again with The Conjuring 2, bringing to life another true-life story from the paranormal case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren. And if reviews are any indication, the movie is going to be a major hit, one that might even surpass the original.
It's pretty common for horror sequels to be worse than the originals. After all, it becomes a lot more difficult to frighten audiences once they know a franchise's formula and are prepared for scares. But plenty of filmmakers have been able to dodge the trend, expanding their sequels past the templates set by the original.
To celebrate the release of The Conjuring 2, we've rounded up some horror sequels that actually elevate their franchises, proving once and for all that sequels don't have to be bad.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
Writer/director George A. Romero revolutionized the horror genre and introduced the masses to zombies with 1968's Night of the Living Dead, but truly cemented his apocalyptic zombie vision 10 years later with Dawn of the Dead. The sequel ramped up the original's zombie threat with more impressive effects and significantly more action, with SWAT teams attacking massive hordes and a group of lonely survivors fighting for their lives while barricaded inside a shopping mall. But most importantly, the film continued Romero's trend of using the horror genre for social commentary, proving that despite the guts and gore, horror movies are actually meaningful.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
Wes Craven gave birth to one of horror's best villains when he created Freddy Krueger. But after six installments, the franchise had grown stale, with Freddy's kills played for laughs just as much as for scares. For the seventh film, Craven completely reinvented the formula by setting the story in a world where the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise exists. Freddy Krueger invades the real world to hunt the cast and crew responsible for making his movies, resulting in a unique metanarrative that reflects on film's ability to affect the viewer as well as our fascination with horror. It would also lay the groundwork for Craven's future meta-masterpiece Scream.
Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
1980's Friday the 13th was a big hit with slasher-obsessed audiences, but the series wouldn't exist without Friday the 13th Part 2. The film marks the actual introduction of Jason Voorhees as the franchise's villain, providing fans a worthy slasher to follow through 10 more films (and one reboot). The movie is basically more of the same, but works thanks to some creative and downright artful kills — like the one seen above. As soon as you see two teens having sex, you know they're bound to get killed by Jason. But the scene builds tension by slowly tracking the lumbering killer, following his every move right up until he strikes.
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Audiences got their first cinematic taste of the cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann's 1986 thriller Manhunter (as Dr. Hannibal Lecktor), but the character was made famous in the 1991 follow-up The Silence of the Lambs. Director Jonathan Demme's horror-thriller proved the perfect vehicle for Anthony Hopkins' twisted take on Lecter, a villain eager to play mind games and toy with his victims before devouring their flesh. And while Lambs stays true to Manhunter's crime-thriller roots, the film adds a welcome dose of horror to the franchise through a greater focus on Lecter and the inclusion of his former patient Buffalo Bill. Future films in the series would delve even deeper into the horror genre with more gore, scares and psychological thrills — but we wouldn't have those movies without The Silence of the Lambs.
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987)
Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead proved a cult hit upon its 1981 release, and the sequel repeated that success by doubling down on the horror while amping up the dark comedy of the film. Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn has a manic energy throughout, upping the blood and gore to comically gruesome levels made even more entertaining by star Bruce Campbell's hammy yet engaging performance. Raimi's blend of horror and comedy created a template plenty have tried to imitate, but few have successfully replicated.
Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
Bride of Frankenstein is one of the earliest horror sequels, but it also ranks as one of the best thanks to the birth of the iconic Bride. Frankenstein's manmade wife ranks up there with the rest of the Universal Monsters as a horror legend, with her electro-shock hair and flowing gown serving as lasting symbols of monstrous beauty. The film also proved so successful that Universal kept its franchise going with the follow-up Son of Frankenstein, capping off Boris Karloff's tenure as the legendary creature.
The horror genre is built on franchises, and while its difficult to keep a franchise fresh, these sequels prove its not impossible. Smart horror filmmakers use sequels to expand the world of their first film, adding new elements or twisting the formula to provide ample opportunities for more scares. Thankfully, it sounds like that's exactly what James Wan has done for The Conjuring 2, perfectly setting the sequel up for success.
You can catch The Conjuring 2 in theaters now. What are your favorite horror sequels? Let us know in the comments.