There’s no shortage of horror sequels.
In fact, it’s probably the only genre in which the sheer amount of endless sequels outweigh originals.
But while many horror sequels often deserve thier reputations of being poor cash-ins which rehash and recycle the same scares of previous entries, there’s also many out there which have had an unfair reputation over the years. Despite being pretty decent films in their own right, they’re forever shadowed by the legacy of the first film or tainted by fan expectations.
Here’s my personal pick of 10 oft-dismissed horror films which are actually rather good.
Psycho II (1983)
Few sequels have attracted as much scorn as Psycho II, which had the nerve to follow up Hitchcock’s iconic classic. But while the mere idea of following up Psycho is fraught with danger, Psycho II is actually an enjoyable and effective thriller which manages to compliment the first film – rather than even attempt to outdo it – by further developing the character of Norman Bates.
Set 22 years after the first film, Psycho II sees Norman released from a correctional facility and back into society – although giving him the keys to the Bates Motel perhaps wasn’t the greatest idea. While it takes a few liberties with the back-story, the way in which Norman is depicted as a victim of his own torment makes him a surprisingly sympathetic killer – especially thanks to Anthony Perkins’ excellent reprisal of the role.
Psycho II is an admirable follow up and one of the best slasher films of the ‘80s. It’s also the only one that to my knowledge includes an OAP being smacked around the head with a shovel.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1983)
With Michael Myers burned to a crisp during the climax of Halloween II, the future of the profitable franchise was up in the air. The solution was to turn the series into a yearly horror franchise which would offer a different ghoulish storyline with each entry. The result of which was Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.
Fans were outraged that Michael Myers wasn‘t anywhere in sight- having forgotten that it’s hard to recover from being incinerated to a crisp. Unable to accept this change in direction, the film confused many horror fans and left critics cold with its sinister plot which involved the mass murder of children on Halloween night.
There’s plenty about Season of the Witch that’s enjoyable, leading to it becoming something of a cult favourite. Tom Atkins is joyously sleazy as Dr.Challis, the plot is magnificently barmy and the whole affair has the great ominous feeling of John Carpenter’s early work – right down to a creepy synthesized score by the man himself.
Alien 3 (1992)
It’s up for debate as to whether or not this can be strictly classed as horror, but as a return to the darker tone of Ridley Scott’s original after James Cameron’s gung-ho Aliens, it’s a fair assumption.
It would also be an understatement to say that David Fincher had a tough job on his hands when he took on Alien 3 as his feature film debut. Not only was he following in the footsteps of two established and well respected directors but he was under constant pressure from executives at Fox, as well as endless script re-writes and budgeting cuts.
The result is a patchy and uneven film, but certainly not a bad one by any measure. Its biggest problem is the hastily rewritten script and difficulty in setting itself apart from the previous entries, but it certainly has its share of classic moments – most notably the shower scene as pictured above.
Nonetheless, with Fincher himself dismissive of the final result, as well as a subdued critical response, Alien 3 has a reputation of disappointment which it struggles to shake. Yet underneath the expectations is an interesting film which is perhaps the most distictive and unique of the entire series.
The Exorcist III (1990)
The Exorcist II: The Heretic might be a confusing mess of a film, but it’s not quite as bad as some have made out, at least they tried to do something different. More sucessful however is The Exorcist III, directed by author of the original novel William Peter Blatty, and based on his follow-up book Legion. It’s not quite perfect, and the exorcism of the title was thrown in just to give the film a tenuous link to the original. Still, The Exorcist III is a creepy movie with some genuine scares and an engaging serial killer storyline.
One moment in particular has become well known for its ability to make horror fans jump out of thier seats, into the next room and out of the window. By golly is it scary, and if you don’t want it spoiled than don’t click here, but otherwise, check it out with the volume on loud and the lights turned off.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Wes Craven returned to the Nightmare On Elm Street series in 1994 with a post-modern take on the horror film which allowed for Craven to kill his own creation in a distinctly unique way. Yet while the film is arguably one of the best films in the series and critically acclaimed, it’s also one which splits fans of the series.
I’m not quite sure why New Nightmare isn’t as well respected within the series as it should be. Perhaps it’s because Wes Craven went on to expand the concepts in the more popular Scream, or because it changed Freddy’s look dramatically – complete with leather trousers and shades of Nosferatu – or maybe because it savagely deconstructs the series itself.
Along with the equally awesome Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors, New Nightmare is a highlight of the franchise and a rare horror sequel which almost surpasses the original.
Army Of Darkness (1992)
In many ways Army of Darkness is the definitive Bruce Campbell movie – showcasing his unique B-movie style with awesome lines (“Hail to the king baby”) and ridiculous action sequences. Sadly, it’s still often seen as a disappointing entry to the Evil Dead series, probably due to its lack of the trademark gore and the campy, goofy humour coming to the forefront rather than the horror.
Part of why I’ve always loved the Evil Dead series is that even as a trilogy of closely linked films each one has its own distinctive style. Evil Dead is pure horror movie, Evil Dead II is a comedy horror and Army of Darkness is arguably all-out comic parody. Rather than making two sequels which boringly retread the same formula, Sam Raimi gave us three awesome films which are all unique.
The Fly II (1989)
Compared to David Cronenberg’s superb body-horror original, The Fly II is a simplistic and silly follow up. So while it’s not in the same league, if taken on its own terms as a schlocky monster movie – filled with gratuitous gore and fun effects – it’s really not that bad.
Directed by effects man Chris Walas – who gave us Brundlefly as well as Gizmo – the sequel focuses on the Seth Bundle’s son, Martin (Eric Stoltz) as he grows up with the mutated genes of his father and under constant watch by the sinister Bartok Industries.
Rather than replicate the tragic love story of the original, the sequel leans more towards gruesome effects and gross-out fly vomit sequences. While this led to it being poorly recieved, the decision to do something a little different is hardly a bad thing for a sequel.
It’s also liable to make you cry, with a heartbreaking scene involving a mutated pet dog.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
The second Hellraiser has never been quite as well respected as the first, being the last film before the series shied away from the twisted deviancy of Clive Barkers film in an attempt to turn Pinhead into a quipping imitation of Freddy Krueger.
If you thought the first one was fairly bizarre, you’ve seen nothing yet – Hellraiser II is about as crazy a horror film as you could imagine. It’s also confusing, odd and deeply unpleasant – one scene in particular, involving a bloody mattress and an inmate with a razor blade is almost unwatchable.
So while it’s a patchy film, you don’t see horror films like this anymore. The dark atmosphere and its surrealistic depiction of hell as a labyrinthine maze of terror, as well as the gruesome and inventive special effects make Hellbound worth watching.
Land Of The Dead (2005)
Compared to George A.Romero’s original zombie trilogy of Night, Dawn and Day, Land of the Dead is a disappointment – even becoming the genre equivelent of The Phantom Menace for many horror fans. I myself left the cinema outraged, feeling like I had just witnessed a car crash. Yet as the years go on, Land Of The Dead is a film which seems to be improving with age.
It’s not perfect, it’ll never be – but compared to many of the recent films that have passed through the zombie genre, it’s far more intelligent, scarier and exciting. The depiction of an apocalyptic world which is divided between rich and poor – complete with a faux glitzy complex for the rich which resembles a shopping mall – is incredibly good fun.
You also gotta love Tom Savini turning up to reprise his role from 27 years earlier as Blades in Dawn of the Dead – that’s how you do a cameo.
Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
The Friday The 13th sequels tread such similar ground that it’s easy to get confused about what happens in which movie. Still, some of the sequels stand out among the rest as fan favorites, such as the brutal and well directed, if misleadingly titled, The Final Chapter.
For me though Jason Lives is the sequel highpoint – injecting the tired proceedings with a welcome sense of humour and some truly inventive death sequences. Jason is also given some pretty iconic moments in this one – such as a Frankenstein style resurrection which leads into a spoof of the James Bond gun barrel credits. No other Friday The 13th includes a shot as awesome as that of Jason climbing out of a flaming camper van and standing proudly atop in admiration of his splendid handywork.
Which much maligned horror sequels do you actually enjoy ?