Last weekend, The Conjuring 2 came out and it is, by most accounts, that rarest of creatures: a horror sequel that is actually good. On the whole, horror sequels tend to get dismissed sight unseen.
Yes there are plenty of cheap, cynical cash-ins that exist for no other reason than to separate people from their money, but there are others that are creepy, crafty and use the expectations set up by their predecessors to do all sorts of interesting things.
Here are The 13 Most Underrated Horror Sequels.
Scre4m is kind of the ultimate overlooked horror sequel. It was received, not even with derision, but a sort of shrug. Originally planned as the kickoff to a new trilogy, Scre4m ended up being the last outing for Sydney Prescott and Wes Craven.
Yet Scre4m is unfairly overlooked. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s a solid meat and potatoes horror film (which makes it a far sight better than the bulk of what Craven directed). More of an old school slasher than even the original Scream, Scre4m wisely jettisons the ever mounting mythology and backstory that made the first two Scream sequels so unbearable.
Instead, it focuses on the things that have always been the series strengths, likable characters, both newcomers and the old ones who had fifteen years worth of audience affection to play on, and solid scare sequences. Scre4m may not be a hidden masterpiece but it’s exactly the kind of solid programmer that horror fans crave.
12. Candyman: Farewell To Flesh
Most of the time, Candyman: Farewell To Flesh is too often discussed as a summary of what it’s not. So let’s get that out of the way. It’s not as creative, unconventional or as frightening as its predecessor. It doesn’t have a location as indelible as Cabrini Green, or a lead as talented as Virginia Madsen, or a score as eerie as Phillip Glass.
But let’s talk about what it does have for a change. It has, thanks to director Bill Condon, a style of rare elegance and assurance. It has a central part for the great Tony Todd, a criminally underused actor. It’s set in New Orleans during a Mardi Gras festival, which is the perfect stage for gothic horror. In short, it’s a movie with plenty to like. The fact that it’s a conventional film that has the misfortune to follow one of the most unconventional horror films of its era shouldn’t be held against it when it runs through those conventions so awfully well.
11. Dracula’s Daughter
Arguably the most underrated of the classic Universal monster movies, Dracula’s Daughter isn’t merely a great horror sequel but simply a great film. It might not be the stone cold classic that Bride Of Frankenstein is, but it’s sneakier and takes even less expected turns.
Picking up just moments after 1931’s Bela Lugosi-starring Dracula (there’s a reason the Universal monster films are considered the first “shared cinematic universe”) Dracula’s Daughter finds the titular character following her father to London, hoping for redemption while slowly giving in to her dark nature. It’s one of the darkest, most tragic and scariest of the Universal films, set apart by a remarkably frank feminist and queer subtexts, a beautiful shadow-drenched style, and great performances by Gloria Holden and Edward Von Sloane, who returns as the delightfully old world Van Helsing. This one is begging for rediscovery.
10. Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning
Now just hear us out… We know that Friday The 13th Part V is often considered the worst of the series. We know that it’s the Friday The 13th sequel that doesn’t actually have Jason in it. We know that putting it on this list is like walking around the woods during hunting season sans orange vest with antlers glued to our forehead…But we don’t care.
Friday The 13th Part V may not have Jason in it, but what it does have is sleaze. Yes, that’s actually a good thing. From the beginning, the Friday The 13th movies had a nasty exploitation film edge. Starting with Part VI, the franchise would move away from that, getting more and more cartoonish until Jason ended up in space or dueling with Freddy Krueger. For those who miss that earlier rough feel, Part V becomes something of a last hurrah. Directed by once and future pornographer Danny Steinnman, Friday The 13th Part V is a relentless goods delivery system, it’s the basest, most disreputable form of one of the basest most disreputable genres of all time. It becomes in its own way weirdly admirable, a film composed of nothing but kills, nude scenes and cornpone humor without the only the barest, most utilitarian interest in anything else.
Watching Friday The 13th Part V is like eating an entire jar of cake frosting by yourself in one sitting. It’s bad for you and should leave you feeling ashamed of yourself, but there’s no denying that on some pure lizard brain level it scratches an itch.
9. The Brides Of Dracula
There’s probably no better way to get a film overlooked than to make a Hammer Dracula movie and then not put Christopher Lee in it. Yet The Brides Of Dracula, in which Dracula does not appear, despite the title, is arguably the best vampire film Hammer ever made.
Following Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing as he ferrets out another nest of Vampires, The Brides Of Dracula is creepy and kind of gorgeous. Though the vaunted sexuality and violence that made the Hammer brand notorious in its time looks tame today, these films still carry a gothic kick that makes them fun to watch, and The Brides Of Dracula is one of the best places to start.
8. Psycho 2
Making a sequel to one of the most iconic, important and influential movies of all time may seem like a bad idea. Making a sequel to one of the most iconic, important and influential movies of all time without the original filmmaker may simply be a bad idea. And yet, against the odds, Psycho 2 is a good movie.
One of the stranger results of the slasher boom, Psycho 2 was a film greenlit on the upswell of movies about dudes killing folks with knives. Yet despite such cynical origins, Psycho 2 is a movie made with genuine care, Australian director Richard Franklin revered Hitchcock and took the opportunity to be part of his legacy seriously. Securing the help of original cast members Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles helped as well. Psycho 2 finds Norman Bates released from the asylum he was committed to and doing his best to live a harmless existence as a short order cook, who takes a young runaway under his protection. Almost inevitably, a series of murders starts cropping up in his vicinity and Norman comes under suspicion. Is someone trying to frame him? Or has poor Norman started to slip again?
7. Doctor Phibes Rises Again
Oddly enough, despite being one of the biggest horror stars of the 20th Century, Vincent Price never really had a franchise. On one hand this was for the best, allowing him to play a whole slew of monsters and madman, ranging from torturers to the tormented, while always remaining ineffably himself. On the other hand, it’s a bit of a shame that Price never had a monster to call his own, someone he could be identified with the way Karloff was with Frankenstein.
The exception to the rule was Doctor Phibes, who was played by Price on two occasions. Phibes was a brilliant surgeon, disfigured in an accident which killed his wife, who seeks revenge on the men he blames for her death. He proceeds to kill them off with ingeniously baroque death traps like a proto-Jigsaw. Doctor Phibes Rises Again isn’t as much fun as the original The Abominable Dr. Phibes (which saw Phibes drawing inspiration from the ten plagues of Egypt) but it’s clear that Price relishes playing the part, and as any fan will tell you, watching Price have fun is always a good time.
6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Credit Tobe Hooper with this, he understood that you couldn’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a work of pure alchemy. A movie made as much by its conditions, and the scant means of its production as by the white hot streak of deranged creativity that drove it. It’s not something you can recreate, certainly not with a cast of pampered stars in air conditioned trailers taking a break from their shows on the WB.
When Hooper was given a bigger budget and the opportunity to run rampant with a sequel, he instead turned The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 into a kind of deranged comedy. A gory piece of splatstick with a mean punk rock edge, built around a smart script that showcases some of Tom Savini’s career best work, introduces the world to Bill Mosely and features Dennis Hopper in of his greatest performances, as a vengeance driven Texas Ranger who has gone completely around the bend in his hunt for the Sawyer family (“I’m bringing it down!”)
5. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
Clive Barker’s original Hellraiser is one of the most iconic horror films of the 80s. A captivating mix of twisted sexuality, Lovecraftian mythos and good ol’ fashioned gothic storytelling.
The sequel is like the most messed up movie Jim Henson never made. Committed to a mental hospital after the events of the first film, Hellbound finds its heroine slipping into the magical world of the Cenobites, a place that looks suspiciously like it might contain a leotard-clad David Bowie around any corner. It’s not very scary, and already the imagery that was so arresting in the first Hellraiser is starting to cheapen (“We have such sights to show you,” Pinhead crooned in the first film, but who would have guessed that said sight was a giant floating rock). But for what it is, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s certainly a far sight better than the rest of the godawful films in the franchise.
4. Land Of The Dead
One of the happiest accidents of the resurgence of zombie popularity is that it gave George Romero the opportunity to make a variety of new zombie films, and this one was actually pretty good. It was one of the most politically charged, horror films of its era, and a film that precious few seemed to notice was actually really, really good.
Working with the backing of a major studio for the first time in over a decade, using a script that he’d been fine tuning for at least as long, Romero used the opportunity to push the genre he created forward in a way that precious few have. Showing a world that had both stabilized and stagnated in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. Land Of The Dead bothers to ask how the events of such a world-shattering zombie apocalypse would affect us; it asks what parts of us would change and what parts would remain dismally the same.
And when the time comes for zombie mayhem, Romero shows he still has it, showcasing the fall of society with as much glee and creativity as he ever has. Romero was already responsible for three of the greatest zombie films ever made, and Land Of The Dead stands proudly with them.
3. Hostel: Part II
Unlike most of the films on this list, Hostel: Part II wasn’t merely ignored or overlooked, but was actively hated by more or less everyone who saw it. Loathed might be a better word.
Yet, not only would we argue that Hostel: Part II is a better film than the original, we’d say it’s one of the best horror films of its decade. A nasty, cynical broadside that marries an incisive take on entitlement, misogyny and privilege, with a surprisingly gorgeous palate, and an almost shockingly well thought out script. Hostel: Part II plays rough, it’s ending is dark for reasons that go beyond the usual shock twists of horror, its satire cuts and it plays its scare scenes like things you shouldn’t be able to shake off. You may not like it, but guess what, it probably doesn’t like you either.
2. Halloween II
Nobody much liked the first Rob Zombie Halloween remake either, and even most of those who did downright hated the sequel.
But there’s something to be said for it. While Halloween was a fairly straight forward remake, with typical Rob Zombie flourishes (wax museum cast, stylistic flourishes, extreme violence, and copious use of the “f” word), Halloween II is a different beast entirely. Messing mercilessly with the mythos, cherry picking and subverting the imagery of the franchise and creating something that combines silent movie surrealism with grand guignol gore and a psychobilly attitude. If you can find us an image in mainstream horror stranger or more surreal than the shrunken pumpkin head “banquet” that’s held midway through this film, send it to us please, we want to know about it.
1. The Exorcist III
Possibly the single most underrated movie on this list, and probably the greatest horror film of the 90s (which, granted, is kind of like being the smartest man in Turlock) The Exorcist III is a minor masterpiece.
The Exorcist III follows Lieutenant Kinderman, the cop poking around the edges in the first movie, as he investigates a series of murders related to the exorcism of Regan McNeil, all seemingly committed by a notorious long dead serial killer. The Exorcist III is a wonderful mongrel of a movie, part horror film, part theological debate, part existential detective movie, featuring a great performance by George C. Scott, a live wire supporting role for Brad Dourif, some genuinely unnerving imagery and one of the greatest jump scares ever put on film.
How can you not love a horror film that finds the time to quote John Donne? How can you not love an exorcism movie whose lead is an agnostic Jew who is only half convinced by what he encounters? How can you not love a movie whose depiction of heaven is more unnerving than most films’ depictions of hell?
Can you think of any other horror sequels that should have made the list? Let us know in the comments!