When it comes to sequels, superhero blockbusters have nothing on horror movies. At the time of this writing, there are six Child’s Play films, seven Saws, nine Hellraisers, ten Halloweens and twelve Friday the 13ths. The law of diminishing returns cruelly manifests itself on most of these series by making each new sequel bloodier and more convoluted, right up until the franchise becomes a parody of itself.
But there are exceptions to every rule, and some of the horror sequels are nearly as good as the original films, and sometimes even better. We already talked about some of these classic horror sequels in our lists of the best zombie movies and the best sci-fi sequels.
However, there’s more than enough of them for their own list of the 14 Best Horror Sequels Of All Time.
14. The Exorcist III (1990)
The first and the best horror film about demonic possession, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, was a huge success: filmed in 1973 for mere $12 million, it earned more than $400 million at the box office. Based on a best-selling novel by William Peter Blatty, it follows the Catholic priest Lankester Merrin (Max von Sydow) as he tries to exorcise the demon possessing a 12-year old girl (Linda Blair). Exorcist II: The Heretic soon followed, but was such a failure that it killed the franchise for over a decade.
In 1990, Blatty himself directed the second sequel. Based on his horror novel Legion, The Exorcist III follows Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott), a minor character from the first movie, as he investigates a series of blasphemy-themed murders similar to those committed by a long-dead serial killer. All in all, two sequels and one prequel to The Exorcist were filmed (although Paul Schrader’s Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist is an unofficial prequel as well). Despite its uneven tone and flawed execution, The Exorcist III remains by far the best in the series.
13. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
In 1987 Hellraiser introduced its audience to a whole new realm of the sadomasochistic pleasure. Written and directed by Clive Barker, the movie was based upon his horror story The Hellbound Heart. Hellraiser tells a tale about an ancient puzzle box that opens a portal into a hell-like dimension where entities known as Cenobites experiment on humans with pain and pleasure. Cenobites, particularly Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley) proved popular enough to become the basis for a whole series of films.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II was released a year later. It follows Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), a lone survivor from the previous movie, as she tries to recuperate in a psychiatric hospital. Although Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) seemingly doesn’t believe her, he has his own plans for the puzzle box and the Cenobites. While Hellbound: Hellraiser II isn’t as atmospheric as the first Hellraiser, it compensates with its visceral – and we do mean visceral – thrills.
12. Bride of Chucky (1998)
Child’s Play is one of the more peculiar 1980s slasher horrors, with its titular villain being a homicidal doll. Directed by Tom Holland (Fright Night) in 1988, Child’s Play tells a story about a mass murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Douriff ) who, before dying, manages to transfer his soul into a child’s doll. Voiced by Douriff, Chucky went on to appear in five sequels, all of them written by Don Mancini.
Released in 1998, Bride of Chucky is by far the most entertaining of these. Influenced by the success of the Scream franchise, the movie is more of a self-referential parody than a straightforward horror film. In it, we follow Chucky’s girlfriend and an accomplice Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) who tries to re-stitch her destroyed lover. The revived Chucky promptly kills Tiffany and brings her back to life as a doll to join him on a killing spree. The movie was directed by the Hong Kong filmmaker Ronny Yu, director of such movies as Freddy vs. Jason, The 51st State and The Bride with White Hair.
11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1982)
If John Carpenter’s Halloween invented the slasher formula, Friday the 13th helped to develop it. In it, a group of teenagers prepares to reopen an old camp on Crystal Lake. The camp is reportedly cursed ever since a boy named Jason Voorhees drowned in the lake decades earlier. Throughout the film, teenagers get killed by the mysterious killer who turns out to be Jason’s mother, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer).
It is only in the sequel Friday the 13th Part 2 that Jason Voorhees (played by Warrington Gillette) becomes the main antagonist. As yet another group of not-too-bright teenagers arrives to Crystal Lake, movie crystallizes the slasher formula, with its murderous maniac stalking and slaughtering sexy starlets in morbidly creative fashion. This proved to be immensely popular with the audience, leading to one of the longest-running slasher franchises. In the last thirty years, twelve Friday the 13th movies were made.
10. Halloween II (1981)
John Carpenter’s 1978 seminal horror movie Halloween ushered in the decade of slasher horror. The movie follows mass murderer Michael Myers (Nick Castle) as he prowls the seemingly idyllic suburb on a Halloween night, slaughtering promiscuous teenagers and hunting the babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in her cinematic debut). Meanwhile, psychiatrist Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) hunts Myers, believing him to be evil incarnate.
Although Carpenter originally opposed the idea, him and his long-time collaborator Debra Hill provided the screenplay for the inevitable sequel. Helmed by the veteran TV director Rick Rosenthal, Halloween II was released in 1981. It continues the story right after the first movie ends, as the seemingly unstoppable Myers (now played by Dick Warlock) continues pursuing Laurie after she is rushed to the hospital. Eight other Halloween movies followed, but Halloween II still remains one of the best.
9. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
By the time the sixth movie rolled out in 1991, the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise had been losing steam for years. More and more, the kills in the movies were played for laughs as Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) became an anti-hero who killed his victims in ever more gruesome and ridiculous ways.
Then, in 1994, came New Nightmare and turned the whole story into a metafilm. In it, we follow actress Heather Langenkamp playing herself – the actress who played Nancy Thompson in two of the previous Nightmare on Elm Street movies – as she and her family get haunted by nightmares about Freddy Krueger. As Freddy begins to target the cast and crew from the movies, Robert Englund gets to play both the famous horror villain and himself. Even Wes Craven makes an appearance as himself! By taking this unusual, self-referential turn, New Nightmare not only broke away from the previous installments of the Nightmare franchise but also paved the way for the hip meta-horror film Scream (also directed by Wes Craven) that came out a year later.
8. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Despite the enormous popularity of the Blair Witch Project in 1999, it took almost a decade for another found footage horror film to reach a similar level of success. Paranormal Activity came out in 2007 and used the format to tell a horror story combining possession with a haunted house movie. And while Paranormal Activity 2 featured more of the same, it was really the second sequel that tried to expand the story.
Paranormal Activity 3 is actually a prequel, taking place during the childhood of Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) – who appear as haunted grownup protagonists of the first two movies. Set in the late 1980s, Paranormal Activity 3 consists of the footage made by the girls’ parents who begin to suspect that something is haunting their house. As the girls make friends with a mysterious entity they nickname Toby, it begins to harass the entire household.
7. The Devil Rejects (2005)
Born Robert Bartleh Cummings, Rob Zombie began his career in mid-1980s as a musician in the band White Zombie. In 2003 Zombie wrote and directed his first feature film, House of 1000 Corpses. Heavily inspired by exploitation horror movies from 1970s, the movie follows a group of teenagers who end up imprisoned and tortured by the mad and monstrous members of the Firefly family.
While House of 1000 Corpses was widely panned by the critics, its sequel The Devil’s Rejects received mixed reviews and became a modest box office success as the audience adjusted their expectations. Released in 2005, The Devil’s Rejects follows surviving members of Firefly family – Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) and Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley) – on their final run from a posse of State Troopers.
6. The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
The Purge presented a world like something out of an early John Carpenter film: in a dystopian near-future, the US government has designated one day a year when the citizens are allowed to murder anyone without repercussion. Unfortunately, James DeMonaco’s 2013 film mostly wastes the premise on a rather boring home invasion horror story.
However, DeMonaco more than redeems himself in The Purge: Anarchy which goes a step further and explores the dystopian world implied by its story. The film follows several groups of civilians as they navigate the unnamed city. While street gangs cruise the streets killing everybody, paramilitary units target poor neighborhoods and the rich hold auctions for an opportunity to hunt their prey on a private hunting ground. The world of The Purge: Anarchy is as frightening as it is implausible. But then again, all good nightmares are.
5. Final Destination 2 (2003)
Directed and co-written by James Wong, horror film Final Destination features the biggest villain of them all: death itself! After a group of teenagers avoid dying in a plane crash by not getting on the plane, the Grim Reaper starts to pick them off one by one through a series of increasingly convoluted accidents. Although Final Destination did stretch viewers’ suspension of disbelief to the limit, it just managed not to break it. It was obvious though, that the sequel will have to go in a different direction.
David R. Ellis’ Final Destination 2 balances the horror premise of the first film with darkly humorous tones. As the film progresses, the accidents killing the protagonists become more and more grotesque: from a decapitation by an elevator door to getting killed by an exploding barbecue grill. Three more sequels of Final Destination were made, but Final Destination 2 arguably remains the best of them.
4. Saw II (2005)
In 2004, filmmaker James Wan made his directorial debut with Saw – a psychological horror film about two captives (played by Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell – who also wrote the screenplay) of the serial killer Jigsaw. Jigsaw forces them to solve traps and commit atrocities in order to save themselves. Filmed for $1.2 million, Saw earned more than $100 million at the box office. The sequel was green-lit almost immediately.
Saw II came out a year later. In it, police detectives Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer) apprehend Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), only to be shown another group of victims filmed on camera as they’re forced to participate in Jigsaw’s sick games. As the police try to discover the place where the captives are held, Eric tries stalling Jigsaw for time. Directed and co-written by Darren Lynn Bousman, Saw II was even more successful than the first film, earning almost $150 million.
3. Scream 2 (1997)
Wes Craven reinvigorated the horror genre three times in three decades. In 1972 he introduced the audience to exploitation horror films with The Last House on the Left. Throughout the 1980s, he helmed the highly successful Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. And in 1996, he directed the self-referential meta-horror film Scream, based on a screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Scream was such an immense worldwide success that Scream 2 followed only a year later. If anything, the sequel manages to up the ante by presenting Stab, a film-within-a-film that chronicles the events of Scream. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), a heroine of the first film, struggles to live a normal student life. But soon enough she finds herself targeted by the copycat killer inspired by the killer from the first film. Her only assistance comes in the form of retired sheriff’s deputy Dewey (David Arquette), ambitious news reporter Gale (Courtney Cox) and the movie geek Randy (Jamie Kennedy).
2. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later successfully revived slowly decomposing zombie horror subgenre by using fast zombies and providing a surprising amount of melancholy in a story about a small group of survivors navigating eerily empty London devastated by the Rage virus.
In 28 Weeks Later, Garland and Boyle served only as producers, but Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo proved himself to be up to the task. Set months after the events of the first film, 28 Weeks Later follows Don (Robert Carlyle) as he tries to find his wife during the NATO-led effort to repopulate Britain. However, as the Rage begins to spread again, events soon spiral out of control and Don’s family finds itself accompanied by Sergeant Doyle (Jeremy Renner) and Major Levy (Rose Byrne). The action is messier and more frenetic, making 28 Weeks Later an action film as much as it is a zombie horror film.
1. Evil Dead II (1987)
It took two years for Sam Raimi to beg and borrow just enough money to film his first movie. But when The Evil Dead finally got released in 1981, it was met with positive reviews, gained a devoted fan base and became an inspiration to other young film makers.
Six years later, Raimi had more experience as a director. With a much larger budget at his disposal, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to take another go at the story and try to do it better. For that reason, Evil Dead II is as much of a remake as it is a sequel. Once again, we follow a group of people huddled in an isolated forest cabin besieged by the demonic entities from the dreaded Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is also here, a lone survivor of the first film, ready to face another batch of demonic-fueled insanity. And this time, he has a chainsaw.
What are your favorite horror movie sequels? Share them with us in the comments!