Dread Again! The Best Horror Sequels

Blair Witch, the sequel to 1999s independent smash The Blair Witch Project, will be released September 16th. Horror films like the recent Don’t Breathe, have a history of succeeding at the box-office due to their typically low budget and large fan base. Blair Witch may benefit from an established story, but sometimes sequels suffer from high expectations and little payoff. Here are horror sequels that lived up to their first entry.

Halloween H20

Halloween H20

The Halloween franchise had its highs and lows. The original 1978 film was terrifying thanks to John Carpenters haunting musical score. The poorly lit scenes also forced audiences to experience the uncertainty and horror of the events in the film. The film succeeded in introducing viewers to one of the most menacing villains in film history, Michael Myers. Twenty years later, Jamie Lee Curtis returned for the seventh entry. This time, she was no longer going by Laurie Strode as she had faked her own death to throw off her serial killer brother. She became a headmistress of a private school while raising a teenage son. All is well until Michael returns and terrorizes Laurie, her son (Josh Hartnett), his girlfriend (Michelle Williams) and friends.

Halloween H20 managed to realistically establish a story for Laurie while providing some fresh meat in the way of popular teen stars. To top it off, many scenes were legitimately frightening. Halloween H20 is reminiscent of not only its original but includes a jolt of 90s horror humor of 1996’s Scream.

Scream 2

When Scream was released in December of 1996, it was a bit of a sleeper that built an audience. Critics praised the film for not only being scary, but also self-aware, smart, and humorous. It was no surprise that Dimension films moved forward on a sequel for the following December. The Kevin Williamson-scripted and Wes Craven-directed sequel had a lot to live up to. Though there was a good chance that they would fail, Scream 2 satisfied audience’s and critic’s expectations.

The sequel follows Sidney Prescott to college, where she is once again terrorized by someone sporting a ghost face mask. Having defeated the two previous killers, there is a new mystery concerning who might loom behind the mask. With the return of film geek Randy, former deputy Dewey, and meddling reporter Gail Weathers, Sydney is allowed to do more than just run for her life. She eventually makes new friends and stands strong against her terrorizer, or terrorizers.

Scream 2 has plenty of humor, frightening scenes, and fine performances. While the original will always be something special, the sequel offers so much that it would be impossible to be disappointed.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

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Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was the self-aware, self-referential horror film before Scream. Released in 1994, New Nightmare is the ambitious story of the actors from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street series being stalked by Freddy Kruger. To make things even more complicated, rather than Robert Englund being the villain, it is a satanic entity that has embodied the character of Freddy. The film is a must see for fans of the franchise, as it deals with loosely-based reality of the actors behind the film. It also addresses the question of whether taking part in such a terrifying film would affect a person in their real life. Writer/Director Wes Craven appears as himself as does Heather Langenkamp.

Although Langenkamp did have a young child at the time and was married to a special effects artists. The actors are not her actual family nor are the events that happen based on fact. Which is obvious considering their interactions with the Christmas Sweater-wearing, knives’ for finger wielding child killer. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is ahead of its time when it comes to the ultra-meta plotline and 90s style scares.

Urban Legend: Final Cut

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Urban Legend : Final Cut was somewhat swept under the rug when it was released two years after the original. While the first Urban Legend was a box office success, it was unfortunately lumped in with many of the Scream rip-off films of the late ‘90s. Perhaps, because of the lack of overwhelming affection for the first film, the sequel was met with mild indifference. The actors in the sequel were less familiar than the first film. Sixteen years later, the cast which includes, Eva Mendes, Anthony Anderson, and Jennifer Morrison, have done well for themselves.

The sequel revolves around a group of film students who are being offed by someone wearing fencing gear. The costume varies from the original but the basic plot of bloodshed at a university remains. The only character who bridges the first film to the second is security guard Reese, who informs the new victims what went down at the university nearby.

Urban Legend: Final Cut may not be a classic horror film but it certainly entertains and deserves much more attention than it received as it is highly watchable and shows glimpses of future stars.

Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan

Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan

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The Friday the 13th series is not always the finest in quality, but its name alone ensures some cozy familiarity. After the first Jason-free film, audiences know to expect a few consistences. Such as an oversized machete-wielding killer, a lake, teens having sex when they should be paying attention to their surroundings, and unsettling background music. The 8th film takes the action away from Camp Crystal Lake. While some teens are partying on a boat, Jason takes it upon himself to become a stowaway and starts slicing and dicing.

The boat ends up docked in Manhattan and Jason continues his reign of terror on land. The film is just as ridiculous as the previous films but the filmmakers seem to understand this fact by referencing a Muppet movie in the title. There is plenty for viewers to roll their eyes over for this film, but all things considered, it is one of the better Jason installments.

Freddy Vs. Jason

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Since Freddy and Jason deserve another nod on this list, why not the film that features both? The reason why this over-the-top sequel deserves some form of praise is due to its unrelenting campiness and courage to be more hilarious, than terrifying. There are moments in the film that provide a few jolts but not enough for seasoned horror fans. Though they may not find the film scary, they have to at least appreciate the awesomeness of having two legendary slashers sharing the screen. The duo not only kill a bunch of teenagers, but also turn on each other in a grudge match from hell. The final showdown is worthy of cheering from the peanut gallery. The closing moment of the film seems to feature Jason as victorious but leaves the audience a knowing wink instead.

The Devil’s Rejects

The Devil's Rejects

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Rob Zombie’s 2005 follow-up to 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses is insane but in a good way. The film is about a family of psychopaths that wreak havoc on hostages after already murdering over 70 people. The film is a bit sadistic but Rob Zombie’s ode to films of the 1970s is so well done that it doesn’t feel like a rip-off or a sad attempt at being retro. It actually feels like a love letter. For those who appreciate or even prefer gritty films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or I Spit on your Grave, The Devil’s Rejects is required viewing.

Some have complained that Zombie always casts his inexperienced wife, Sherie Moon Zombie, but she seems like a good fit for this film. The sketchy acting throughout also seems to help the overall atmosphere of the film too. The Devil’s Rejects is a bit depraved but also deserves a certain respect as it is a sequel that is better than the original.

Now onto the honorable mentions...

Halloween III Season of the Witch

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Michael Myers does not appear for even a moment in Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. The film was given its name more for recognition than anything else. Audiences were floored by the terror and chilling masked killer from the first two films which caused the producers to slap on the title. However, Season of the Witch is actually about a murderous mask maker who sells masks that kill the wearers after a hypnotic commercial that airs on Halloween night. There may not be Michael, but the film itself is pretty creepy, entertaining, and original. It may have actually benefited more by allowing it to be released as a standalone film.

Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs Quad

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This one is cheating in many ways but only because Manhunter was not nearly as well known as the Academy Award winning 1991 sequel, The Silence of the Lambs. The role of Hannibal Lecter was recast as well, this time featuring the brilliant and unforgettable Anthony Hopkins. It almost seems wrong for anyone else to play the role. This is also a horror film that is much more psychological than gruesome. Though there is blood splatter for good measure. Not only do we get the cannibalistic serial killer, we also get Buffalo Bill. The skin wearing, crossdressing, lotion-promoting psycho is fantastic. So while The Silence of the Lambs barely fits on this list, it certainly cannot be ignored.

Dawn of the Dead

Night of the Living Dead was a revolutionary film that introduced audiences to Zombie master George Romero. The 1978 second film in the Dead series is phenomenal and may be better for its setting and humor. The film may not be considered a technical sequel because it does not contain any of the characters from the first film. Nor does it have the same plot. But at least there are Zombies. Any zombie film set in a mall that pokes fun at American consumerism deserves recognition.