I think we've all been there at one time or another. A sequel for one of your favorite horror movies gets announced. Finally gets made, and you finally get to see it. What happens? Utter disappointment is what happens. Now it could be because we put such high expectations on movie sequels or maybe we just want to see a great horror movie for crying out loud. A great film that just happens to involve boobs, blood, and mayhem. Hey it can be done. Granted sometimes the awfulness can be attributed to new directors, actors, and radically different scripts and direction. However, such changes can also lead to a different vision and a great movie in its own right.
Of course there have been many great movie sequels to non-horror genres such as Empire Strikes Back, Godfather II, and Rocky II. Unfortunately for horror enthusiasts, great movie sequels are far and few between. All this despite movie studios cranking out sequel after sequel, as well as remakes and reimagining's. I've talked about that dirty little topic before. But there are a few exceptions in that category as well, like the Dawn of the Dead remake and The Thing. Let us now focus on the few entries I could muster for my top five horror sequels that managed to live up to the original, if not surpass it.
Also we are talking about imeddiate horror movie sequels or else I would have had The Final Friday on this list. No part 5's, X's etc. Just Part Duex's. Well, mostly, but we'll get to that later.
**Some Spoilers Below**
Friday the 13th: Part II
Our first taste of the homicidal yet loveable Jason Voorhees, albeit with the potatoe sack mask and somewhat hillbilly look going on. However, some would say that this version of Jason is much scarier and menacing. I would sometimes concur with that observation, but not always. The hockey mask is iconic and however strange and goofy it seems to us now, it still gave me nightmares wondering what the heck was going on under that thing. Initially this second installment was going to just use the title Friday the 13th, but with a different story and setting altogether ala Halloween III. Especially seeing as how the ending of Part I was just supposed to a dream sequence with the young Jason. But, at the persistence from the producers for the first film, we now have a treasure trove of Jason kills to revile in.
I think the reason this sequel works is that one, we actually have a menacing killer here. As much as I loved deranged Pamela Voorhees in the first film, it's much scarier (at least to me) having a giant, angry, and mutated maniac after your blood, rather than a creepy old woman yelling "Kill her Mommy". Sorry ladies to sound misogynic. Two, we have a badass heroine in Ginny. She takes on Jason and gives him all he can handle and more. Does that make up for the earlier remark ladies? Third, we have Crazy Ralph, enough said. Also I tend to think the acting is better, the story is pretty well fleshed out, and there are some memorable kills to boot. I'm looking at you Mark. Poor guy. Not to mention we have a pretty shocking opening scene that was a little unexpected. Jason walking around a suburban neighborhood. Nobody notices this? Tisk tisk. So for me this one lives up to the original and introduces us to our favorite unstoppable cock blocker and sequel generator. I present Mr. Voorhees.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Just as the title suggests, you’re going to hell. Sorry. We have the return of Pinhead and his cenobites in this terrific sequel. We also finally get to see Clive Barker's insane vision of hell which is a real treat. Most of the action of the first film takes place in Kirsty’s house, so it's a nice change of pace. Tony Randal takes over as director and we have the very dark place he himself was in at the time to thank for this bloody fun ride that is Hellraiser II. Reprising their rolls are Kirsty, Julia, Uncle Frank, and brilliant newcomer Dr. Channard.
This sequel gives us more of what we wanted right after seeing Pinhead and his cenobites. More! And we get much, much more. We get to go actually go to hell and see some lovely things. Oh yes, we see some things. We see new and disturbing creatures. Hell, we even get to see Leviathan, the ruler of hell. Good stuff. We also get a new main protagonist shift to the evil Channard cenobite after Pinhead tries to protect Kirsty. I guess hell didn't like that? Oh yeah, there's going to be a battle here folks and it won't be pretty. The film takes a much darker and sinister tone than the original film thanks to a great script by Clive Barker and Peter Atkins, as well as the demented direction from Tony Randal's mind. The film has sort of an acid trip quality to it that makes it unique and memorable. Warning, one should probably not take acid and watch this. You'll be freaking out enough from an overdose of blood, darkness, and gore. So, for all of the above reasons, this sequel does justice to the original and expands on the cannon for us gore hounds.
Army of Darkness (aka Evil Dead Part III)
Alright, I know what you're all thinking. "Hey, what about Evil Dead II"! Not so fast my young padawans. First of all, we can have a debate all day long as to whether or not Evil Dead II was a sequel or a remake of the first film. But anyone that has seen both can reasonably agree that it is indeed a remake of the first film. You could also make the argument that this is not even in fact a horror film, but in my mind the film still retains its basic horror elements at its core. Secondly, the script for Army of Darkness was intended to be the second film according to Sam Raimi, but they just couldn't get the budget so that was scrapped until after the success of Evil Dead II. So there you have it. This 'second' installment takes place directly after the events of the first (second) film. We have our charismatic hero (Bruce Campbell) with boomstick in tow transported back to the dark ages to face off with some demons. What more could you ask for?
This sequel follows the same comedy / horror premise even more so than Evil Dead II. This is part of why it works so well and makes Army of Darkness so memorable. Sam Raimi dared to do something different with the genre and for that I applaud him. I remember seeing this film in the drive in with my brothers and my mom as a double feature with TMNT II. I laughed my ass off while still being generally scared in some scenes. Hey I was 11! The much bigger budget allowed for better special effects, along with some awesome Ray Harrhausen stop motion like effects in the end battle scenes. Of course this is one of Bruce Campbell's finest performances, so that doesn't hurt either in making this film a standout in horror movie sequels. "Give me some sugar baby".
"I shot him six times", exclaims Dr. Loomis after realizing the presumed dead Michael is gone from the scene and on the rampage again. What a way to open this second installment which takes place literally five minutes after the first one ends. After the wildly successful first installment you knew a second one was not far behind. Carpenter wrote the script again, but refused to direct. He chose Rick Rosenthal, although Carpenter did come in for some re-shoots in post production for more gore and scares.
The 'Shape' is back and he still wants to kill Laurie. Ok, so not much has changed. But does it need to? The first one was brilliant and this sequel is no exception. It pretty much follows the same formula, but with much more gore. Sprinkle in some boobs and a kid with a razorblade in his mouth at the local hospital and you got something here. Works for me. Basically Donald Pleasance and Jaime Lee Curtis carry most the film with their great performances. The direction was well done, although I'm not sure how much Carpenter had to do with that. See above. Michael was played this time by Dick Warlock very similarly to the first film, so you can't tell much of a difference. Halloween II scared the crap out of me as a child and I can still watch it over and over again today with much enjoyment and glee.
Here we have as the title suggests, plural Aliens as opposed to the singular alien in the first film. James Cameron again brings us the sci-fi horror goods here. This film is one of his best and really solidifies his master status in film making. Again, one could argue that this film is more action and sci-fi than horror, but I would disagree. I believe it's a mixture of all three in fact. A perfect mixture of guns, space, and guts. Aliens vs. Ripley and her Space Marines. I love it.
Not much needs to be said here does it? One of the best movies of all time, let alone horror sequels in my opinion, and I'm sure many others. Some would in fact say that this film even surpasses the original. This second film takes a decidedly more in your face and actiony approach, but it really does work. Now we have many different aspects that make Aliens great. I mean take a look at the characters alone. We have the badass Lance Henrikson as Bishop. He does a hell of a cool knife trick. We have the full of it Hudson. Get some! Vasquez and Drake's tough as nails and take no prisoners attitude. Weyland-Yutani's whiney bitch Burke. And of course our heroine Ripley is back for even more Alien killing and she's got some experience under her belt this time fella's. Last, but not least, we finally get introduced to the Alien Queen. Definitely one of the coolest looking aliens in all of sci-fi lore. All in all this sequel is a masterpiece as was the original Alien. Two pretty different films, but both great in their own right.
Dawn of The Dead: One of the best horror movies of all time, let alone zombie movies. If you do indeed consider this the sequel to Night of the Living Dead as I do, then this could be # 1 on my list. The fact is that it's too loosely related to the first one to be a true sequel, although still part of a proper trilogy. Tricky how that works isn't it.
Blade II: Best one of the series. Great action. New vampire species and Del Toro at the helm. All good stuff.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre II: Following in the same vein as Evil Dead II. Some memorable characters, some slapstick comedy, and Dennis Hopper going insane with a huge chainsaw. Now that's a horror movie.
Well there you have it. My top five picks for horror movie sequels that did not in fact suck. You may have some picks of your own so feel free to comment. I'll be back soon with some more reviews from The Devils Backbone and Pet Sematary.