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The world of horror sequels is a crazy mixed bag. There are unquestionably some legitimate classics out there, and a good number that can be labeled "underrated," but there are far more that can be called downright bad. Because of this track record, it's sometimes hard to get excited for certain follow-ups, but that's exactly the time you need to remember the sequels that actually managed to be good after following lame predecessors.
This weekend will see the release of Rings, and while the jury is still out on its level of quality, many are taking this week to remember just how bad The Rings Two really was. To help and try to lighten perspectives, we've highlighted six different horror movie sequels that were better than expected by redeeming the franchises of which they were a part. Read on for our picks, and tell us your own choices in the comments section below!
Final Destination 5
In 2009, it looked like the Final Destination franchise was coming to a conclusive end... but boy, was their attempt at a last chapter terrible. The Final Destination lacked anything and everything that made its predecessors fun, thrilling rides -- including an interesting and epic opening sequence and creative deaths. Considering how good the first two installments of the series are, it was a serious bummer. Thankfully director Steven Quale made The Final Destination 5 and actually managed to right the ship.
Admittedly Final Destination 5 doesn't have the best opening in the series -- that trophy belongs to Final Destination 2 -- but it's perhaps the most consistently awesome in the franchise when it comes to memorable death. The gymnastics sequence is brilliantly full of false leads, and I will probably never get Lasik eye surgery ever because of what happens to Jacqueline MacInnes Wood's Olivia Castle. It also happens to have one of the best modern horror twists, which firmly solidified its placement on this list.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a legitimate classic, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was a nice rebound after a shaky second installment -- but the years between 1987 and 1994 were not kind to Freddy Krueger. In that time, the series pumped out three more titles, and they're all surprisingly bland features that do little to take advantage of what made the original concept so compelling. Even worse, Robert Englund's iconic character was reduced to being a joke-maker instead of a scream-inducer.
Thankfully, Wes Craven had the sense to step back into the driver's seat, and gave us one of the greatest horror sequels of all time with New Nightmare. Rather than just being another normal chapter in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, the 1994 film is a creatively meta take that follows actress Heather Langenkamp (playing herself) as she suffers from Freddy's attempts to break into our world, and it's far scarier than the three previous movie's combined. Obviously it's not terribly surprising that Craven's return to the series marked a major uptick for the brand, but it still qualifies as being better than expected because of its predecessors.
Paranormal Activity 3
The worst remakes are those that are exact copies of their predecessors -- just slightly morphing certain details because they're confident audiences just want more of the same. Paranormal Activity 2 is a perfect example of this, as it really did nothing to advance the interesting style established by the original breakout hit. Thankfully, that was not a mistake repeated with the third chapter in the series, which legitimately changed things up and was a better movie for it.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Paranormal Activity 3 not only has the benefit of being a period-set story - changing the game for the found-footage approach -- but also added some welcomed innovation to the game as well. It seems stupid and silly, but it's amazing what the film is able to do just by strapping a camera to an oscillating fan. We wished that the three movies that followed the third chapter would be equally good, but that didn't turn out so well... so we'll just live with what we've got and call Paranormal Activity 3 a surprising win.
For 24 years, Predator wasn't so much a good franchise as it was a good movie. The 1987 original is a horror-action classic, but it's only direct sequel (Predator 2) and two spin-offs (Alien vs. Predator; Alien vs. Predator: Requiem) aren't anywhere even close to the same level. Truth be told, Nimrod Antal's Predators doesn't exactly stand on the same pedestal either, but at the same time it is far better than any previous follow-up story in the franchise suggested it would be.
The best step that the movie takes is just bringing the film back to its roots, having a bunch of trained killers squaring off against the titular Predators in a jungle environment. It makes enough interesting moves to be different, being set on the Predator home world and obviously featuring more than one alien, and sports a great ensemble (oddly enough led by Adrien Brody). It was only a matter of time before a filmmaker finally figured out how to make a solid new movie about the tech-heavy extraterrestrial hunter, and we have high hopes that writer/director Shane Black will deliver something even better.
Given Wes Craven's talent level, you might find it strange that his work is appearing on his list twice, but what can we say? The guy truly and unexpectedly helped rescue two horror franchises during his excellent career. In the case of Scream, he couldn't really blame anyone but himself, as he was still behind the wheel when the unfortunate Scream 3 was made and released in 2000, but fortunately he was able to surprisingly redeem the series with Scream 4 11 years later.
It's true that Scream 4 still isn't as good as the original (that's a high bar to reach), but for a decade-plus-later sequel it has a fair amount to say and puts together a fun and thrilling narrative. You do walk away from it wishing that it was a touch more consequential in the grand spectrum of the series (particularly by actually killing off one of the central original characters), but we can still applaud it for getting the Scream spirit and providing some legitimate frights.
The Curse of Chucky
It's odd how public perception managed to warp and change Don Mancini's Chucky movies. Both Child's Play and Child's Play 2 are surprisingly effective horror flicks -- but it eventually got to a point where people would just laugh at the killer doll. It's this that led to the more comedy-heavy Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky, and really took the series off track. Fortunately, 2013's The Curse of Chucky really brought the franchise back to its roots, and it's shockingly good.
A semi-reboot that doesn't actually disrupt the larger continuity in the slightest, the movie is a small-scaled murder mystery taking place almost exclusively within the walls of a mansion, and it's a thrilling and atmospheric feature. It still has a sense of humor, but The Curse of Chucky is far more interested in freaking the audience out, and it's surprisingly effective in doing so. It's weirdly why we're so excited that another movie, The Cult of Chucky, is on the way.