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Sequels to horror movies often get a bad rap. Sure, there are tons of dashed off, less-than-stellar follow ups out there, as well as franchises that drag on well past their expiration date. That said, there are also quite a few gems that are actually completely awesome in their own right. In a few cases, some are even better than the originals.
Sinister 2 is on the horizon, opening this weekend, and though we don’t have any idea if this movie is any good or not—it’s not screening ahead of time in many areas, which is rarely a good sign, but we have hope. So with a sequel on the way, we decided that it’s a good time to look at ten of our favorite follow-ups to slashers, zombie movies, ghost stories, and more.
10. Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2Tobe Hooper’s 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the greatest slasher films ever, and had a huge cultural impact—even if you don’t know the movie, you know Leatherface. The 1986 follow up, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, is a different animal entirely. While the first film used a minimal, verite style, the late-on-the-scene sequel went for straight up gore and borderline absurdist black comedy. Following a radio host and a former Texas Ranger (Dennis Hopper, because of course Dennis Hopper is in this movie) trying to solve a string of murders, Part 2 gets in deep with Leatherface and his family. The film is more wingnut spectacle that horror, and is like watching a bizarre circus sideshow. But even as strange as it is, you can’t help but gawk, and it’s hard to take your eyes off of the demented mayhem.
9. Phantasm 2Don Coscarelli’s 1988 Phantasm 2 does something that often gives horror fans pause, it takes a more ethereal, puppet master style villain, in this case Angus Scrimm’s the Tall Man, and brings him out of the shadows and to the forefront. The sequel to the 1979 classic follows a recast Mike Pearson (James LeGros instead of A. Michael Baldwin), recently released from a mental institution, as he tries to stop the Tall Man’s nefarious deeds. This time around, the antagonist is more grounded in reality, more of an actual human, and while that move could easily have backfired, he is instead that much more terrifying for the change. Sometimes seeing more of a horror movie villain makes them less frightening, but that is certainly not the case in Phantasm 2.
8. Scream 2With 1996’s Scream, Wes Craven brought a self-aware, meta approach to the slasher genre he helped define in the 1980s, and for a follow up, he took a similar approach to horror movie sequels with 1997’s Scream 2. Like its predecessor, this film features characters who have seen horror movies and are well aware of the genre’s tropes and clichés, specifically this time around using sequel beats to both commit and solve murders. At the same time that it imitates and sends up the formulaic nature of horror sequels, it still actually functions well as a horror sequel. Funny, scary, and gory, Scream 2 is nearly as clever and fun as the original. Who thought a horror movie sequel about horror movie sequels, which features characters expounding on the nature and rules of horror movie sequels, would be this good, but it is.
7. 28 Weeks LaterDanny Boyle’s 28 Days Later helped usher in a new era for the walking dead, adding fast zombies to the horror filmmaker’s repertoire. With a cast that includes Idris Elba, Jeremy Renner, Rose Byrne, and many more familiar names, 28 Weeks Later picks up six months after the viral outbreak from the first film, and follows a group trying to carve out a place in the world and start over again. That, of course, does not go quite as planned. Like the first film, Weeks is a horror story that banks hard on the action elements, and the result is a fast-paced, brutal, exhausting ride through the post-fast-zombie landscape, one that is terrifying, as any good genre movie should be, smart, and more than lives up to its predecessor.
6. Friday The 13th Part 2When you think of Friday the 13th as a series, the first things that likely come to mind are a hockey mask and a machete. You tend to forget that the franchise began with a murderous mother driven to mad feats of revenge by the death of her son. The icon, Jason Voorhees, doesn’t show up until the very last shot of the first movie, and it’s 1981’s Friday the 13th Part 2 that really introduces us to him in a meaningful way. Hell, he doesn’t even have the hockey mast until Part 3, here he just wears a burlap sack over his deformed face as he hacks and slashes his way through a new generation of ill-fated camp counselors. The film sets up Jason as the antagonist of the franchise moving forward, and it remains an important moment in the 1980s slasher subgenre, and is one scary ass movie to boot.
5. InfernoDario Argento’s 1980 Inferno may not be, strictly speaking, a true sequel, but it is intended as a thematic follow up to his 1977 classic Suspiria, and forms the middle chapter of his "Three Mothers" trilogy, along with 2007’s The Mother of Tears. Initially received poorly, Inferno has grown in esteem over the years, and the supernatural horror about a brother and sister, in Rome and New York, respectively, investigating murders and covens of witches, has come to be viewed as a notable horror outing in its own right. With optical effects by Argento’s mentor, the legendary Mario Bava, a pounding score by prog rocker Keith Emerson, and a surreal, hypnotic style, Inferno is gorgeous, terrifying, and a gem of an Italian genre film.
4. Bride Of FrankensteinThe first sequel to Universal and James Whale’s 1931 hit adaptation of Frankenstein, 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein picks up immediately after the events of the first film, following a subplot from Mary Shelly’s novel. Dr. Frankenstein abandons his obsession with creating life, only to be tempted once again by his old mentor, an even madder mad scientist, to build his creature a wife. Originally battling with the censorship boards, Bride garnered praise for Whale, the camera work, the score, and Boris Karloff reprising perhaps his most famous role. Full of allegorical religious imagery, homosexual subtext, and a cast and crew doing great work, the film has stood tall over the years, and is still heralded as one of the great horror films of all time.
3. Evil Dead 2: Dead By DawnWhile 1981’s The Evil Dead was, more or less, a straight up, cabin-in-the-woods supernatural horror (a great one to be sure), in the 1987 sequel, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and their co-conspirators fully embraced the campiness and insanity of the first film, elevating it to gleeful new levels. Part sequel, part remake, picking up where the first left off, Dead by Dawn throws Campbell’s protagonist, the brash, cocky stock boy, Ash, into another full on nightmare full of people and trees both possessed by evil demons. Over the top gory, visually hyperactive, and way funnier than your average horror movie, Evil Dead 2 has become a stylish, midnight movie staple, and is one of the greatest horror sequels ever made.
2. AliensThere’s been an ongoing debate since it first appeared in 1979 as to whether Ridley Scott’s Alien is really a horror movie with sci-fi elements or a sci-fi movie with horror threads. Whatever side you’re on, it doesn’t matter, because it is great either way, and one of the scariest movies you’ll ever see. James Cameron’s 1986 follow up is more of an action flick—would you expect anything else from Cameron?—but it’s still scary as all hell. To this day I can’t even look at ductwork and not imagine a crew of Xenomorphs scuttling around above my head looking to eviscerate me. Intense, artfully crafted, and featuring Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), one of the greatest badasses in all of cinema, Aliens still stands as an incredible, explosive hybrid of action, sci-fi, and horror.
1. Dawn Of The DeadGeorge Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead changed horror forever and kicked off the age of the modern zombie. It took him a decade to follow that up with Dawn of the Dead in 1978, but it was well worth every minute we waited. Dawn took the subversive underlying political themes of its predecessor—like race, the Cold War, the disillusionment with societal homogeneity, and more—and gave them a sharp, satirical makeover. Following a group of zombie apocalypse survivors trapped inside a shopping mall, the film takes jab after jab at modern consumer culture, herd mentality, and groupthink. And with strong performances across the board, and plenty of gory practical special effects from the great Tom Savini to go around, it’s also one hell of a horror film.