13 Horror Sequels That Are Actually Better Than The Original Movies
Movie sequels are rarely better than the original films, and this is especially true of the horror genre. Horror thrives on sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes--it's not unusual for a popular franchise to reach double figures, with the basic formula endlessly recycled for maximum profit--but with increasingly unimpressive results.
However, there are a handful of horror movies that actually improve on the first films. The most recent example of this--depending who you ask--is the new Halloween, which by all accounts so far is a phenomenal send-up of the original. It fully embraces why people love the franchise, while acknowledging its own tropes and missteps. And most importantly, it delivers a fantastic Halloween movie.
Some of these examples of other sequels were made by the same filmmakers, who used increased budgets to perfect their vision. Others were handed to new directors, who brought fresh, inventive visions to popular formulas. And then there were the accidents--cash-in, knock-off sequels that by some movie magic actually emerged as superior films.
So here are the 13 of the best horror sequels, movies that managed to improve on (for the most part) already impressive films to emerge as all-time classics.
13. Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
The first Maniac Cop was an engagingly grimy mix of slasher movie and cop thriller about psychotic undead police officer Matt Cordell causing all sorts of murderous mayhem on the streets on New York. The second movie saw director William Lustig return with a bigger budget, which he made the most of in this slam-bang sequel that far surpasses the original. It's as much an action movie as a horror flick, showcasing a series of increasingly wild stunts as Cordell continues his reign of terror. There's a particularly hair-raising car chase through the streets of NYC, in which an unfortunate woman is handcuffed to the outside of an out-of-control vehicle, plus an amazing final sequence where Cordell fights his way through a prison while on fire. It's also got a great cast of genre faces, including Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell, and a typically sharp script from horror veteran Larry Cohen (It's Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent).
12. Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Based on the best-selling novel, The Amityville Horror was one of the most successful horror movies of the late 1970s. But unlike many classics of the era, it really hasn't held up very well--it's dated, slow, and distinctly low on scares. The follow-up is another matter however. Like pretty much every Amityville sequel that has followed (and there have been a lot), it has very little to do with the first movie, instead just using the title and haunted house concept. It's written by John Carpenter collaborator Tommy Lee Wallace and directed by Italian filmmaker Damiano Damiani, with Rocky's Burt Young starring as an abusive father whose family becomes the target of evil possession. Amityville II is a genuinely weird and disturbing film, with a variety of intense, gory, and taboo-breaking scenes that had to be cut for its original release and still pack a punch today.
11. V/H/S 2 (2013)
The V/H/S films are a series of found-footage anthology movies that use the concept of VHS tapes to tell a series of dark, scary tales from some of the genre's hottest young filmmakers. The first one was a mixed bag, and while V/H/S 2 still has its weaker sections, the quality is generally higher. The absolute standout is Safe Haven, directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Evans, who also helmed the acclaimed action movie The Raid and its sequel. This 20-minute masterclass in terror is about a documentary team who infiltrate an Indonesian cult; it starts sinister and goes absolutely insane, with some jaw-dropping, shocking imagery that lingers in the mind long after the end. The other segments are pretty good, but that part alone makes V/H/S 2 a must-see.
10. The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Rob Zombie was already a popular musician when he made his debut movie, 2003's House of a 1000 Corpses. The film was a big hit and there was no looking back for Zombie, who has gone on to make some of the darkest, most brutal films over the last 15 years. The Devil's Rejects was the sequel to 1000 Corpses, and it remains his best film. While that first movie was a ultra-stylised gorefest heavily influenced by Zombie's music videos, The Devil's Rejects has a '70s grindhouse aesthetic, taking influence from such classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. This tale of a trio of depraved killers causing mayhem on the backroads of Texas expertly blends dark humour and intense horror, and expectations are high for the third part of the series--titled 3 From Hell--which is due later this year.
9. REC 2 (2009)
The endless wave of found footage horror movies that followed in the decade after The Blair Witch Project produced many cheap, terrible films. But there were some highlights, and 2007's Spanish zombie thriller REC was one of the best. Two years later, directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza returned with an even better follow-up. It starts immediately after the end of the first movie and mostly focuses on a heavily armed special forces team who attempt to take control of a zombie-infected tenement building. It's a blisteringly exciting experience heavily influenced by video games, as we are thrown straight into the mayhem via the cameras worn by the soldiers. Two more movies followed, but neither matched the sheer verve and intensity of this one.
8. Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
Mike Flanagan has emerged as one of the most talented young horror filmmakers of recent years, with movies such as Oculus and the recent Stephen King adaptation Gerald's Game to his name. In 2016, he was given the task of writing and directing a follow-up to the extremely average, but commercially successful, supernatural possession chiller Ouija. Not only was Ouija: Origin of Evil a better film, it's a genuinely great horror movie. It's a prequel set in the late '60s that works as both a family drama and a scary movie; the influences are obvious--The Changeling, The Exorcist--but Flanagan delivers the scary goods.
7. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)
While the original Friday the 13th set the formula for the slasher franchise, it was the fourth movie that perfected it. It was originally intended to be the last movie in the series (hence the subtitle), and director Jospeh Zito brings a level of craft not really seen elsewhere in the series. The plot is standard stuff--Jason vs teens by a lake--but the suspense, characterisation, acting, and gory effects are of a surprisingly high level. Zito wisely keeps Jason off-screen for much of the film, and the movie is notable for early roles from Back to the Future's Crispin Glover and The Lost Boys' Corey Feldman.
6. Bride of Chucky (1998)
The 1988 killer doll hit Child's Play spawned two very average sequels, before seemingly grinding to a halt in the early '90s. When the series returned in 1998, it followed the huge success of self-referential horrors such as Scream, and this was the approach that Bride of Chucky took. The result was a hilarious, over-the-top horror comedy, in which foul-mouthed possessed killer doll Chucky and his bride Tiffany (wonderfully voiced by Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly) leave a trail of murder and mayhem as they travel in the possession of a pair of unsuspecting newlyweds. Hong Kong director Ronnie Yu and writer/creator Don Mancini completely revitalised the franchise with this delicious slice of horror lunacy.
5. Blade II (2002)
Guillermo Del Toro wasn't even the first choice to direct the sequel to 1998 superhero vampire hit Blade, but when original director Stephen Norrington turned Blade II down, producers sought out the rising Mexican filmmaker. Del Toro proved to be a perfect choice, his love of the genre and skill at creating a dark, fantastical imagery resulting in a film that exceeded the original, and took the this dark superhero tale into undeniable horror territory. Wesley Snipes proves again that the half-vampire Blade was the role he was born to play, and Del Toro directs a consistently inventive movie, filled with amazing action and a dazzling visual style.
4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The original 1931 film Frankenstein is one of the most important horror films ever made, and its influence on the genre can't be overstated. However, the sequel, made four years later, is even better. By introducing the concept of the monster's mate, director James Whale added an extra level of drama and emotion to this classic story, with Elsa Lanchester and Boris Karloff making one of the screen's strangest, most iconic couples. Bride of Frankenstein proved that the genre was more than just monsters and scares and is rightfully remembered as one of the all-time great sequels.
3. The Purge: Election Year (2016)
The Purge movies have a great concept--on one night a year, all crime is legal, enabling the citizens of the United States to get all their destructive, murderous urges out in one crazed, bloody evening. But while the first two films in the hugely successful series were fun, they didn't fully exploit the potential of the the concept. The Purge: Election Year really does though, mixing horror, action, and social satire in a hugely satisfying way. The fourth movie--The First Purge--is out in July, so let's hope they continue to get even better.
2. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
How you do follow one of the greatest and most influential horror movies of all time? Easy: you make another one. George Romero created the modern zombie movie with his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, and a decade later directed this masterpiece of modern horror. Dawn of the Dead is both a biting satire of modern consumerism and a gloriously entertaining mix of action and horror, with buckets of inventive gore courtesy of make-up effects genius Tom Savini. It's thrilling, scary, hilarious, and super-smart, and it remains one of the most-loved horror movies of all time.
1. Evil Dead II (1987)
The 1982 classic The Evil Dead was such a wild, intense, scary, funny ride that it was hard to see how director Sam Raimi could possibly top it with the sequel. Raimi wisely took a complete left-turn with Evil Dead II, essentially remaking the first movie as an insane comedy, keeping the basic plot, but lowering the scare level and ramping up the energy, laughs, and gore. Bruce Campbell's brilliant performance as the hapless Ash made him the beloved genre star he remains today, and Raimi's wild, inventive directing style paved the way for his huge Hollywood success a decade later with the Spider-Man movies. Evil Dead II is pretty much the most fun you could ever have watching a horror movie.