More often than not sequels get a bad rap. It’s understandable; it’s not so often than one comes close to touching what made the original so special. With this year’s release of Cult of Chucky came a reminder, though, that sometimes sequels often allow a franchise to take bold new directions. After sixth films in the series, Cult of Chucky finally took the opportunity to explore a long-time goal of Chucky’s, and it opened up an insane world of possibilities. The year also brought a sequel to Annabelle, well, more accurately a prequel. Even still, the margin by which is surpassed its predecessor was pretty large. It’s not the first time, either, that a sequel managed to be superior to the original. Take Amityville II: The Possession, an also sort of prequel/sequel celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. In celebration of worthy horror sequels, let’s visit 10 horror sequels that managed to be better than the original:
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Ok, this one is pretty much a given, considering the 2014 film was pretty abysmal. So it wouldn’t take much for a sequel to succeed in improving upon its predecessor in this scenario. But with such a poorly received film, how do you turn that around? You hire Mike Flanagan for one, and then you further distance the film from the original by setting it in a time period decades removed from the previous setting. Flanagan snuck in sly nods to the time period, like adding cue marks to the frame, as well as Easter eggs from Oculus. The cast was also much more likeable this go ‘round, especially scene-stealing Lulu Wilson as creepy kid Doris. The script wisely only bothers to visually tie the prequel into the original with one small scene at the end featuring the always welcome Lin Shaye.
The Purge: Anarchy
James DeMonaco created a home invasion film in 2013 set around an interesting concept; for twelve hours each year, all crime is legal and all emergency services are unavailable. For the Sandin family, in their affluent Los Angeles house, it means a night of unwitting terror when intruders invade. Meaning, the very interesting concept presented remains relegated to plot justification than anything else. There’s a world of chaos happening outside of the Sandin family household and audiences saw none of it. Thankfully, DeMonaco gave us precisely what we wanted with follow up The Purge: Anarchy. He took it a step further by giving us something we didn’t know we wanted- Frank Grillo as anti-hero action badass The Sergeant. Thank you, DeMonaco, for a sequel far more entertaining that the first film.
Paranormal Activity 3
There’s a common theme in horror, or movies in general, where, once the current plot thread reaches a sort of dead end or conclusion, you jump to a time before the events of the first film so you still have wiggle room to continue what made the original so successful. See Ouija, Annabelle, and even Insidious 3 for examples. So it’s easy to see why, once Katie and Kristi’s stories closed out the previous two films, writer Christopher B. Landon opted to explore the mysterious nature behind the sisters’ childhood and their relationship with the demon that plagues them. Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman, of Catfish fame, take the ‘80s setting to clever directions. The oscillating fan rigged camera sets up some of the more ingenious scares, and the story expands in a way that’s feels fresh for the series, including a more thrilling conlusion.
Hostel: Part II
There’s a lot to like about Eli Roth’s Hostel. The visuals, the brutality, and the social critique embedded in the narrative makes for a worthwhile horror film on paper, but if you’re like me, you probably couldn’t stand any of the main characters. And Roth made you spend quite a while with them before dispatching them in gruesome ways. Which is why Hostel: Part II is so much better. Bigger budget, a tightened-up script with better execution, and buckets more blood. Most importantly, these characters were empathetic. Lauren German’s Paxton was far more interesting than Jay Hernandez’ Paxton as a lead protagonist, too.
This sequel to 2009’s Offspring is so ridiculously strong, that most forget it’s a sequel in the first place. Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role as The Woman, a feral woman from a clan of inbred cannibals inhabiting the Northeastern coast. A country lawyer stumbles upon her in the woods, and decides to capture her and keep her captive in his cellar in attempt to civilize her. Of course, the line gets uncomfortably blurred as to who the real monster of the film is, with The Woman subjected to a number of horrific acts in her “rehabilitation.” As both are based on Jack Ketchum’s novels, both films are extremely mean and brutal. Yet it’s Lucky McKee’s screenplay and direction that makes this so aggressively powerful. It’s the type of horror film with such an epic finale that it leaves you questioning your own morals. Also, can we please give McIntosh more work?
Return of the Living Dead 3
Growing up, I enjoyed the punk rock humor of Return of the Living Dead; I still do. But I love Return of the Living Dead 3 way more. It’s a sequel that drops most of the humor this series is known for and takes a more serious, gorier approach. Which isn’t surprising considering it’s helmed by Brian Yuzna (Society, Bride of Re-Animator). For anyone wondering why a director is so important, take this sequel as an example. There’s some campy dialogue and cheese here, but Yuzna elevates the material. As for plot, it centers on a romance, only one half of the star crossed lovers is slowly devolving into the brain eating undead. She just happens to self-mutilate to stave off hunger. Melinda Clarke owns this role, and the special effects team delivers some amazing work. The effects really are the best in the series.
Maniac Cop 2
Here’s the crazy thing; most horror sequels that easily surpass the original can easily manage when the first film isn’t so great. That’s not the case here. Maniac Cop is good (don’t tell me otherwise). Director William Lustig and writer/producer Larry Cohen team up again and actually manage to improve upon an already great film. That’s not an easy feat. Cohen and Lustig offer a rarity in sequels; continuity. The loose ends and characters from the previous entry receive follow ups, and some shocking deaths. Combine this with bigger, better action sequences and a Maniac Cop team up with stripper strangler Steven Turkell (Leo Rossi), and you’ve got everything that made Maniac Cop so entertaining plus more.
The Devil’s Rejects
Arguably Rob Zombie’s best film to date, this sequel feels less like a follow up and more like a complementary companion piece to House of 1000 Corpses. The first one was inspired by a haunted house attraction Zombie had designed, and was much more vivid in color and tone, painting the Firefly family in a sort of cartoonish light. The Devil’s Rejects, though, takes the grit of ‘70s grindhouse films against western road films like Bonnie and Clyde and manages to turn the Firefly clan into anti-heroes the audience actually empathizes with. There are a number of horror vets that make welcome additions to the supporting cast, like Michael Berryman and Ken Foree, but it’s the bond between Otis, Baby, and Captain Spaulding that makes this so memorable. The film also makes the best use of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird ever.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
I’ll just say it; Prom Night was boring. And that’s probably why Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II didn’t do as well as it should have, though it did eventually find success on home video. Originally titled The Haunting of Hamilton High, this wasn’t meant to be a sequel, but a stand-alone. It was later retitled to capitalize on the success of Prom Night, so it technically counts. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II had so much more life and personality than its predecessor, making it infinitely more enjoyable. The references to other notable horror directors and mainstays is overwhelming; all of the characters are named after horror masters like Carpenter, Romero, Craven, King, Henenlotter, and more. Mary Lou Maloney is one of the best horror villains of ever, and I’m not sure anything parallels the rocking horse scene. Seriously. It’s wacky.
Friday the 13th Part II
Likely to be the most controversial on this list, but Friday the 13th Part 2 surpasses the original. While the first film is a definitive classic, there’s just a lot more that works for the sequel that makes it a more entertaining watch. The pacing, for one. More importantly, though, is that it sets up the rest of the franchise with its introduction to Jason Voorhees. Let’s face it, Jason is a far more intimidating foe than Mrs. Voorhees, even if this sequel lacks the shocking twist reveal. Nothing against Alice Hardy, either, but she pales in comparison to Part II’s final girl Ginny Field. The first to pick up on Jason’s mommy issues, and the first to use his own machete against him, Ginny has more spunk and wit than most final girls.