When it comes to sequels, it's safe to say that the majority of them are not very good. It's a hard thing to tackle, to take a fresh take on a story that was pretty stellar with it's original inception, though it does happen from time to time with amazing results. Aliens, Superman II, Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back, The Road Warrior, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spider-Man 2 (2004), Terminator 2, and so on. Horror sequels are even harder. The majority of original horror films are pretty great, and most are hard to top. But there are some great horror sequels out there. Some top the original in almost every way, while others are just flat out great as a sequel on their own merit, not meaning or needing to top their predecessor. Here is a list of my favorite horror sequels that should be given some more consideration.
I remember seeing this in the theater as a teenager and being bored to tears. So much so that I blocked the entire experience from my memory, remembering nothing but a single frame of film that has always stuck with me. It's the scene of Kinderman (George C. Scott) being thrown up against a padded cell wall and staying there, suspended with the power of the possessed patient he's there to question.
I don't remember why exactly, but I decided to give this film another go recently, and the result was one of the best film experiences and surprises I can remember. Exorcist III plays out more like a really dark and terrifying detective thriller more than anything, but it's execution is flawless. Superior camera work from original Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty (who did writing and directing duties on this one), a taught and extremely well written script with some witty dialogue, and some moments of pure adrenaline filled suspense that make it easily one of the best, most underrated horror films in the last 30 years. The cast is fantastic, with Brad Dourif (who I forgot was even in this) giving one helluva intense performance. For a more in-depth review of this great film, you can read my review HERE. This has also recently been released on Blu ray for the first time by Warner Home Video for fairly cheap. I'd snag that baby up pronto if I were you.
Hitchcock's original Psycho is regarded as one of the best horror/thriller's ever made, and for good reason. His direction is razor sharp, and the performances are flawless. But rarely are any of the sequels ever mentioned. I'd heard good things about this one throughout the years, but never really gave it or any of the following sequels a whirl because the original was never one of my favorite films in the first place, or one of my favorite horror films in general.
Back in June I decided to change all that by finally attempting to watch Psycho II for the first time, and I have to say, I found it to be a smart, clever, engaging, fun and all around better film than the original. What did he just say? I know, I may be in the minority on this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it so much that I just fell in love with it. Overall, I feel that it captures a certain vibe that was missing from the first one, and the fact that it was made in the early 80's only adds to it's charm. Director Richard Franklin (Patrick, Road Games, Cloak & Dagger), a protege of Hitchcock, and writer Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child's Play) both offer up some stellar work in their respective departments. It's a solid film through and through and for my money, better than the first one in almost every way. Sure there's no "shocking" sequence that can top the shower sequence or the "big reveal" of the original, but it's out-of-left-field surprising twist ending even had me picking my jaw up off the floor. Scream Factory has released a pretty great Blu ray of this about a year ago that is arguably the best release to purchase. You can check out my review of this film HERE.
Few modern horror films have impressed me as much as this single film has. I'd only vaguely heard about the first film in the series, The Collector, but never really had an opportunity to come across it. I'd read that it was better than you'd expect it to be, and the cover art always intrigued me. But still, I never made any effort to seek it out. When the sequel The Collection hit Netflix streaming, I thought I'd give it shot regardless of the fact that I never actually saw the first film.
While I was somewhat lost for the first few minutes, my girlfriend filled in the blanks for me since she had actually seen the first one. I can honestly say without hesitation that The Collection is arguably one of the best modern horror films out today. Marcus Dunstan, who cut his teeth writing the Feast films, the Piranha remakes, as well as Saw 4, 5 & 6 made his directorial debut with the first Collector, a sort of home invasion/Saw hybrid where a guy wearing a killer mask invades a home, and systematically sets up some impressive traps for the people living inside of it - and it seems that he did some serious homework because he grew considerably as a director from that film to this one and the results are outstanding. The Collection stands as a stellar example of a slasher film, with Dunstan displaying some considerable talent behind the camera. The Collection is a vast improvement aesthetically and thematically over the first film, and one of the best examples of a modern slasher film in recent memory. Now comes word that their are plans in the work for a third installment (FINALLY!!) and I couldn't be more excited. You can check out my original review of this excellent slasher HERE.
Believe it or not, I only ever saw this film literally just this past year for the first time. Gasp! I have no excuses. It's just one of those films that always slipped through the cracks for me. Released 3 years after the mega success of John Carpenter's original, Carpenter and writing/producing partner Debra Hill returned for this sequel, only this time as the films writers and producers, leaving the directing duties to Rick Rosenthal. While Rosenthal's use of the steadicam is in no way near as effective or creative as Carpenter's, he does a pretty bang up job following in Carpenter's footsteps, doing his best to duplicate both the look and feel of that seminal film. It doesn't always work, but even when it doesn't, it's oozing a solid structure, style and sense of constant dread that makes it easily one of the best sequels out there, even outside of the horror genre. Not to mention it's time period (early 80's), which adds that extra bit of flavor.
The slasher genre has always been one of my favorites, but the Halloween franchise has never been a favorite of mine. Let's face it, the first three are the only good ones. Anything after Season of the Witch has been either uninspired, rushed, lame, or just flat-out awful. Most of the Halloween films suck, and that's kind of embarrassing. But what we have here is essential viewing for any slasher fanatic, because though it's been over 30 years since this entry, it's stood the test of time.
Rob Zombie really doesn't get the credit he deserves for reviving a dead in the water franchise and giving the slasher genre some life. Really. I'll admit, it took me 5 years after it's initial release to finally bring myself to watch this because up until this point, I hadn't been much of a fan of his particular style of filmmaking. But all that changed when I gave this a whirl and proceeded to have my mind blown. Rob Zombie's unrated version of H2 is undoubtedly one of the most brutal slasher films ever made. This thing is just downright savage, ruthless and unrelenting. It was also the first time I noticed that Zombie could possess a keen visual eye for directing. This was of course before I saw his Kubrikian opus Lords of Salem. But here, his visuals are far more attractive than most of what he accomplished with his first Halloween remake. I've since learned he had a method for what he did with his previous Halloween film, but that didn't make it any more enjoyable for me. But here it's pretty solid from beginning to end, without changing up styles like he did with the first one, and for that, I just automatically like it much more. But while he tried to implore a reason and a backstory with the first one, here he just goes all out in slasher mode and I have to tell you, it's fucking fantastic. Brutality at it's best.
It's quite surprising to hear that this film was Zombie's worst experience making a film. As is often the case, studio meddling made it pretty much a nightmare for him this time out, but you'd never know it. H2 is one of the best and most brutal slasher sequels ever made, and the second best film in Zombie's career, after The Devils Rejects. You can check out my original review HERE.
I've never given the Wrong Turn films a second thought. After the first film starred actors the likes of Eliza Dushku, I immediately dismissed it. I know every sequel since has gone straight to video, which gave me all the more reason to not bother with them. That is until I came upon an article a few months back. I don't remember what the specific list that the article was about, but I remember this being mentioned in the highest regards and knowing Henry Rollins was the star made it all the more appealing. One night for movie night, we threw this on with some friends and holy shit did we have our socks blown off.
There's nothing new or special about this Direct-to-Video sequel that makes it any different than the endless ones that flood the DTV market. However, what WR2 displays is a knack for knowing what makes a horror film so memorable, and in that department, WR2 delivers the goods. It's the same story that's been told countless times; a group of people are in the woods - in this case, filming a reality survival show led by drill instructor Henry Rollins (a total badass) - and end up getting hunted one by one by a hungry incestuous cannibal family. It's really as simple as that, yet the use of outstanding practical effects work, kinetic, yet inventive camera work by Joe Lynch, and a solid cast make this one far better and enjoyable than it has any right being. It's old school horror done right, by people that have an insane passion for it. Don't let it's low-budget aura fool you, for a straight up slasher film with some over-the-top kills, WR2 has most of these other knockoffs beat. If you've never given these films a shot, I implore you to at least try this one. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
If there was ever a horror sequel that's been severely overlooked, it's this one. Though almost everyone outright dismisses the terrible Next Generation, most also seem to never even mention this one when discussing Chainsaw films, which is a shame because it's a pretty solid slasher and one of the better Chainsaw films in my opinion.
Despite it's nearly complete lack of gore (Thanks MPAA assholes), I've always loved this film. It's a pleasant reminder of old school horror. It's bleak, dark, and full of dread. At the time, Jeff Burr was an up and coming director who had just given us a few cult classics like The Offspring and The Stepfather 2. He was brought in as a last minute replacement for this film and I personally think he did an outstanding job considering. Visually, I consider it one of the best looking Chainsaw films in the franchise. The MPAA butchered it to shreds, but even so, it's a darker take on the material and a breath of fresh air after Part 2 left a sour taste in my mouth. By no means a great or perfect film, it's charm lies heavily on it's ability to both look and feel like a true blue Texas Chainsaw film. The Unrated Version does offer a different ending, and a few scenes here and there that were originally cut down, but in no way would I call it an "Unrated" version. All the shit you hear about from director Jeff Bur and makeup artist Greg Nicotero is still missing and sadly, we may never see some of the crazy effects and gore that's become the stuff of legend. You can check out my original review for this classic HERE.
Never have I come across a film as divided as this in the horror community. Even today, as I discuss films regularly on different Facebook horror groups, Fright Night Part 2 is always a topic of contention. Why? I honestly don't know. My guess is that so many people hold the original dear to their hearts, for good reason. I mean, who doesn't love Fright Night, right? But Part 2 is so easily dismissed way too often and honestly, I think people are seriously missing out. Maybe they're not getting it? Or maybe they just don't want to like it? While it's a completely different type of film than the original, there is soooo much to love about this sequel, if you give it a chance.
Beginning with the cast, Roddy McDowell and William Ragsdale return in the leads, but it's the supporting cast that's a standout this time around with new additions Jon Gries, Tracy Lind and Brian Thompson adding a healthy bit of flavor to the mix. Personally I wasn't a fan of Julie Carmen as Regine Dandridge, the sister of the now deceased Jerry Dandridge. I don't see her as being sexy enough for the role, but that's just me. Halloween III: Season of the Witch director Tommy Lee Wallace helms this time around and the film is all the better for it. When Wallace is firing on all cylinders, he's able to infuse his films with enough of a Carpenter-esque vibe that it's clear he's a severely underrated director. That's not always the case, as we all know, but he has turned out some great work in the past. What I felt he contributed to this film in spades is style, a rich atmosphere and energy that's not easily found in horror sequels, and most importantly, substance. Fright Night Part 2 has a lot going for it that's easily overlooked for some odd reason.
Though this has only ever gotten a single bare bones full frame DVD release outside of VHS and Laserdisc (none of which are in widescreen), a new Blu ray is only imminent. Scream Factory, do you hear me? I'm talking to you. You can find it in widescreen online if you look hard enough. When Showtime aired it on their cable channel in widescreen, it's safe to assume that is where most got their widescreen transfer from, which has been sold all over the internet. If you're anal about that kind of stuff as I am, I urge you to watch it in widescreen. It's a better film in general for it. You can check out my original review HERE.
And this is where I take a bow. When I took some time and thought about "my" favorite underrated horror sequels, these were the first ones that came to mind. I know a lot of others won't agree with this list, but that's the fun part; discussion. I'm sure there are others that slipped my mind that I'm sure I'll think of after I've posted this, but for the time being, I'm happy with it. I could go on and on, but I need to put a cutoff point somewhere, so I figure 8 is as good a number as any to stop at.