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Rank and File finds us sorting through an exhaustive, comprehensive body of work or collection of pop-culture artifacts. This time, we sift through the slush pile of horror sequels and separate the terrible from the terrifying.
There’s perhaps nothing more pure than a stand-alone horror movie. Well, a good one. You know, something like They Live or The Craft. But, as is often the case in Hollywood and elsewhere, if it gets that cash, it’s gonna get a sequel. We’re all so enamored with The Babadook and It Follows these days, but where would we stand on the original films after four or six more entries in either franchise? Would we like the originals better? Worse? Would it be a Nightmare on Elm Street situation, the kind where we’d think of how revered that original film would be had they never made a sequel? We’ll never know.
But horror sequels sure are tempting, eh? Not just for studios, but audiences, too. No matter how blasphemous or unnecessary it might seem, we horrorhounds dutifully file into the theater to see if lightning can strike twice or, in one of those rare, rare instances, the sequel can actually surpass its predecessor. After all, there’s nothing that says Saw V has to be bad. It’s just that usually it is. But we keep going back, and as long as they keep making ‘em, we’ll keep going back. There’s something comforting about that.
In celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, we decided to revisit not just our favorite horror sequels, but also our least favorite. That meant watching every horror sequel. And that, of course, meant ranking every horror sequel. Our major criteria was that the film had to have had, at least in some form, an American theatrical release. We also shaved off some years by ignoring the Universal Monsters/Hammer Films and focusing solely on every horror sequel (not prequel) that followed 1976’s The Omen. Again, they must have had an American theatrical release.
Did we forget any? Let us know and we’ll write a sequel to this article. Don’t act like you wouldn’t read it.
150. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Yes, they brought back Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal. Yes, they reconstructed the original Myers house. Yes, they returned to Haddonfield, Illinois after the California detour in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. But, they also totally dismissed the ballsy finale of its predecessor by working in an asinine Texas switch that not only turns Michael Myers into Mission: Impossible‘s Ethan Hunt but dresses down the entire character of Laurie Strode.
Everything Jamie Lee Curtis’ iconic heroine accomplished in H20 — conquering her fears, dominating evil, becoming one of the strongest female protagonists in horror — is all for nothing thanks to her perfunctory death in Resurrection. Her pathetic send-off is on the level of a cheap ’90s soap opera, and once the brother and sister embrace, you start to realize how far a sequel can go in this industry before it’s just absolutely unrecognizable.
Today, fans still want Resurrection officially wiped off the canon by the Akkads as they aren’t quick to forget this slimy move. Or, you know, the fact that they turned John Carpenter’s little-indie-horror-that-could into a reality television parody, complete with a lame subplot involving a Blade Runner fan, underwritten idiots, and a kung-fu loving Busta Rhymes who delivers the trailer-ready, achingly 2002 line: “Trick or treat, motherfucker.” Oy. –Michael Roffman
149. Basket Case 2 (1990)
Frank Henelotter’s sequel to his 1982 cult-classic, Basket Case, dialed back on the horror and turned up the silliness. The film finds Duane Bradley and Siamese brother Belial living in a community for other deformed individuals that comes under attack by the real monsters of the world: tabloid reporters. Basket Case features some wonderfully gooey and gory special effects, and it’s always great when the original creator comes back for a sequel, but the film lacks much of the New York sleaze of its predecessor. –Mike Vanderbilt
148. Carnosaur 2 (1995)
“Weird Al” Yankovic once sang, “Jurassic Park is scary in the dark.” Maybe Al, but this one sure ain’t. There was zero reason for anyone to even think about a follow-up to 1993’s instantly forgettable Carnosaur; it wasn’t a box office hit, it was released four weeks before Spielberg’s epic, and the critics loathed the damn thing. John Savage, what the hell were you thinking signing up for this? –Michael Roffman
147. The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (2015)
The first Human Centipede got by on novelty, the second on shock. There’s nowhere else for director Tom Six to go for the final entry in his sick trilogy. It’s not even enjoyable from an exploitation perspective. It’s just a bad film. –Randall Colburn
146. Leprechaun 2 (1994)
Long after Jennifer Aniston first ran away from Warwick Davis, the Leprechaun series would find its proper footing by becoming a collection of fish-out-of-water parables. See: Leprechaun’s Vegas Vacation (aka Leprechaun 3); Leprechaun 4: In Space; Leprechaun: In the Hood; and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Skip: This one. –Michael Roffman
145. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)
Here’s a partial list of people who might get the first sequel to 1997’s critically tolerated Anaconda terrifying: fans of animation and special effects (the CGI is … something), people who know anything about wildlife in Borneo (it’ not exactly like what’s shown here), and people who have tried and failed to get their own films made while this sailed into production. And here’s a complete list of people who won’t be: people who like to be scared by horror films. —Sarah Kurchak
144. The Human Centipede 2 – Full Sequence (2011)
The metafictional device is a nice touch (the portly killer here is inspired by the original Human Centipede), but this sequel strips away all the arthouse buzz of the first film to reveal what this series really is: an ass-to-mouth-to-ass schoolyard joke that creator Tom Six can’t stop laughing at. It still stands slightly above Human Centipede (Final Sequence), if only for its grimy black-and-white cinematography and the fact that it actually manages to be shocking instead of just lazy. –Dan Caffrey
143. Hatchet II (2010)
Back in 2006, Adam Green’s throwback slasher film, Hatchet, won over a number of critics and effectively garnered a minor cult fanbase. It helped that veterans Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Tony Todd hopped along for the ride. Unfortunately, the wood proved too tough for Green’s second swing, and not even the addition of Halloween scream queen Danielle Harris (in lieu of Tamara Feldman) makes this dull slice of horror a cut above the… oh fuck it, you get it. –Michael Roffman
142. The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death (2015)
No Radcliffe? No dice. –Randall Colburn
141. The Gate II: Trespassers (1990)
Tibor Takács’ original supernatural horror film, The Gate, was a neighborhood nightmare. Stephen Dorff played a precocious little boy who battled creepy crawlers from beneath the ground with a mythos that could have been drawn up on construction paper and with crayons. It’s dumb fun now, but as a kid, it was terrifying — almost a cautionary tale for why we need our ‘rents around. Takács returned three years later to helm the Dorff-less sequel, only he lost the story’s dark magic in transition. –Michael Roffman
140. Piranha II: The Spawning (1980)
James Cameron’s “directorial debut” (he started on set as the special effects director and was promoted when the original director walked, but he doesn’t feel like the final cut represents him in any way) is not a classic. It’s a less scary, less-sensical, and less self-aware follow-up to the 1978 horror satire Piranha that stars flying fish. And those fish are played by glorified wind-up toys. But it’s still arguably better than Titanic. (Editor’s Note: Take that back, Sarah! I’ll never let that go. I’ll never let that go…) —Sarah Kurchak
139. Piranha 3DD (2012)
Alexandre Aja’s loose 2010 remake of 1978’sPiranha proved to be a spirited, tongue-in-cheek parody that was less concerned with poking fun at old tropes than just straight up beating them to the ground like a rotting horse corpse. It helped that the film was chock full of familiar faces, namely Adam Scott, Elizabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, and Richard “Damn you” Dreyfuss. John Gulager’s exhaustive, excessive sequel, however, bites off way more than it can feed to the titular shitheads. Hasselhoff playing himself is a nice touch, though. –Michael Roffman
138. Pet Sematary Two (1992)
Pet Sematary Two never gets as scary as the original. (Nobody likes seeing animals dying on-screen, and let’s all admit that the spinal meningitis-afflicted Zelda is the most disturbing thing ever). Two delivers more re-animated corpses and canines, and while less depressing (and perhaps more charismatic than the original), it just doesn’t pack the same visceral punch. Though, it’s always cool to see Clancy Brown as a villain. –Mike Vanderbilt
137. An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
Love Tom Everett Scott. Love Julie Delpy. Love the Bush remix of “Mouth”. Can’t say the same about this paint-by-numbers remake of the original film. Woof. –Michael Roffman
136. Scanners II: The New Order (1991)
Making a sequel to one of David Cronenberg’s horror masterpieces might be blasphemous, but the impulse is, in its own twisted way, understandable. The mad scientist of the art film world consistently creates such uniquely fascinating settings in his work that you can’t help but want to play in those bizarre sandboxes a little while longer. But when you try to take on a Cronenberg idea without any of the artist’s nuance or intelligence, you get Scanners II. —Sarah Kurchak
135. Slumber Party Massacre Part III (1990)
Three times the charm? Not exactly. The third go-around with the driller killer doubles down on the gore and scales back on the humor, losing what made Deborah Brock’s ludicrous second entry so much fun. Then again, by 1990, the whole slasher parody schtick was old hat, which is probably why Slumber 3 feels like a joke that’s been passed around for years. It’s also telling that this is the only entry in the trilogy not directed and written by a woman. While Sally Mattison helmed the picture, it was Bruce Carson behind the typewriter. Dammit, Bruce. –Michael Roffman
134. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)
What a wet fart this one was. After five engaging movies that peaked and dipped but never plateaued, the Paranormal Activity franchise limped toward its finish line with this dull, forgettable entry. Watch the first one, then watch this, and just try to piece together how one led to the other. The original Paranormal Activity worked because its limited budget necessitated a reliance on atmosphere over effects. The Ghost Dimension is all CGI, none of it redeemed by even a single engaging character or clever justification for the film’s found footage conceit. A wasted opportunity. –Randall Colburn
133. The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)
The original Carrie (and the novel that inspired it) wasn’t just horrific for its creepy crucifixes, dead teenagers, and buckets of pig’s blood. The story also has genuine pathos, unearthing the crippling pain of what it’s like to get bullied both in high school and at home. But the sequel disregards all of this by turning Carrie White’s half sister into a stereotypically brooding loner. She’s not an expansion of the archetypal teenage outcast — she’s a cardboard cutout of one. “Dude, it’s her! It’s her doing it!” Turning Carrie into an afterschool special; that’s what. –Dan Caffrey
132. House II: The Second Story (1987)
Remember how good the artwork was for these movies? Anyway, while the original was a pretty fun example of a horror comedy, this one gets rid of the terror altogether. Think comedy/fantasy/western. It only worked on Brisco County. This House has bad special effects, a pleasant old timey zombie, time travel, and a lot of Arye Gross. Oh, and that is most definitely Bill Maher at a dinner party light years before his ABC show. New rules: No more acting! –Justin Gerber
131. Rings (2017)
Rings finally answers those mythology questions left dangling after The Ring 2. Or maybe it’s as pointless as any sequel we received in 2017. In this installment, we discover a new wrinkle surrounding that dastardly tape, but unfortunately we’re following a couple of leads who are hawt as HELL but could care less about. Naomi Watts isn’t the only thing missing from this movie. With so few scares the once-haunting presence of Samara may as well stay down that well forever. –Justin Gerber
130. Underworld: Awakening (2012)
Awakening is a significant improvement over the 2009 prequel Rise of the Lycans which is one of the nicer things you can say about the latest installment in the Underworld franchise. Selene (and Kate Beckinsale’s considerable charisma and catsuit-wearing skills) are back, and now she has a vampire/lycan/human hybrid child named Eve. Michael (Scott Speedman) appears only in archival footage. Vampires and lycans continue to fail at diplomacy. And apparently we’ll get more of the same soon! —Sarah Kurchak
129. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
The first two Insidious movies are so tremendously boring. I honestly can’t fathom how these films were both financially successful and critically acclaimed. I am sitting here at my desk getting angry thinking about Insidious: Chapter 2, which I know is one of the most pathetic sentences ever written. Here’s what I wrote in my review of Insidious: Chapter 3: “the Insidious movies are more Halloween costume than horror movie, relying on anachronistic aesthetics — candlelit hallways, vintage dresses, dollface makeup, marionettes, the list goes on — to tap into a universally accepted idea of horror, rather than anything truly uncanny.” That sums it up. –Randall Colburn
128. Saw V (2008)
The worst of the series, undone by the franchise’s bizarre belief that we give a single fuck about the histories of its bland supporting cast. Saw V mostly concerns the backstory of Costas Mandylor’s Detective Mark Hoffman, a main antagonist/Jigsaw apprentice who is so boring and Jesus Christ why would anyone ever want to watch this. Completely inessential, even for fans of the franchise. –Randall Colburn
127. Blair Witch (2016)
When it was revealed that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s The Woods was actually a sequel to Blair Witch, the announcement was met with quite a bit of excitement for a sequel that arrived 16 years too late. The film ended up disappointing audiences, but who knows that they were expecting from a reboot of a franchise that appears wasn’t meant to be. The film’s third act delivers plenty of claustrophobic scares and some inventive takes on the genre (the drone in particular), but in the end Blair Witch is nothing more than a found footage potboiler. Maybe this was Wingard attempting to make sure there was never another Blair Witch like Gus Van Sant did with Psycho. –Mike Vanderbilt
126. The Grudge 2 (2006)
Many horror sequels try to significantly up the gore and body count in an effort to give viewers something more and a little different from what they liked in the original. This sequel to the 2004 Japanese-American remake of the 2002 Japanese film, Ju-On: The Grudge, does something a little different. While only slightly darker and deadlier than The Grudge, it really doubles down on its predecessor’s unfocused plot to offer something maddeningly incomprehensible. –Sarah Kurchak
125. Underworld: Evolution (2006)
Director Len Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride’s world-building skills start to show signs of strain in the second offering from their Underworld series about vampires, werewolves (known as lycans), and Kate Beckinsale’s considerable charisma and catsuit-wearing skills. But Beckinsale’s considerable charisma and catsuit-wearing skills are at least able to smooth out some of the weak story’s rougher edges as her character, the vampire Selene, and her vampire/lycan pal, Michael (Scott Speedman), face off against the original vampire. –Sarah Kurchak
124. The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)
Noticing a trend here? This is the second subpar sequel of a Alexandre Aja remake (see: Piranha 3DD above). Once again, the follow-up can’t live up to Aja’s twisted vision, even though Martin Weisz comes a hell of a lot closer than John Gulager. After opening with one of the more twisted visuals in torture porn horror — a captive woman forced to breed mutant children — the story collapses from redundancy and a lack of sustainable characters. Which is strange since Wes Craven, who wrote and directed the original films, penned this remake sequel with his son, Jonathan. Bummer. –Michael Roffman
123. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
An offering from the Resident Evil film franchise is like a fast food meal: You know it’s not “good” for you, but it reliably and predictably satisfies a certain craving and it’s not really fair to judge it too harshly when it never sets out to be anything other than what it is. In Retribution, Alice (consistently bad ass Milla Jovovich) escapes from an Umbrella base, faces clones of old foes, and finds herself responsible for the fate of what’s left of the human race. –Sarah Kurchak
122. Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993)
The first time I saw the trailer for Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, I was convinced the bad guy was played by the same cool actor who played Rudy in The Monster Squad. It wasn’t him. The Final Sacrifice is not directly based on Stephen King material as the original was, but does feature more teens killing in the name of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. While it isn’t “The Final” entry of the series, it’s the final one to see theatrical release. For good reason. –Justin Gerber
121. Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)
Despite the odd moment that borders on bordering on inspired (you can’t go too wrong with a creepy amusement park), Revelation might be one of the most ironically named films of all time. The second film based on the Silent Hill video game series almost entirely fails to capitalize on its source material, its stereoscopic technology, and its surprisingly starish—studded cast and mostly makes you wish that you were watching them be Jon Snow, Boromir, Trinity, and Alex DeLarge, instead. –Sarah Kurchak
120. Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is not as nasty as its predecessor, barely takes place on Christmas, and a good chunk of the film’s 88-minute runtime is comprised of scenes from the original, but it gave the Internet “Garbage Day.” Thanks, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2! Film star Eric Freeman wants to make a direct sequel to the film, ignoring Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 and creating an alternate timeline in the Silent Night, Deadly Night cinematic universe. Okay. –Mike Vanderbilt
119. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
An offering from the Resident Evil film franchise is like a fast food meal: You know it’s not “good” for you, but it reliably and predictably satisfies a certain craving and it’s not really fair to judge it too harshly when it never sets out to be anything other than what it is. In Extinction, Alice (consistently bad ass Milla Jovovich) wanders around a T-virus ravaged America looking for survivors, spends some time in Vegas, and eventually amasses a clone army to take on Umbrella. –Sarah Kurchak
118. Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)
The original Urban Legends worked in a sort of bargain basement Scream way, playing on the mid- to late ‘90s penchant for snarky, self-aware commentary on horror clichés and also giving us some Pacey and Jordan Catalano. By the time this sequel came out in 2000, though, the subversion of horror tropes was becoming a trope in of itself, and this somewhat lackluster retread failed to bring anything new to either the Urban Legends franchise or the meta-horror subgenre as a whole. –Sarah Kurchak
117. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
An offering from the Resident Evil film franchise is like a fast food meal: You know it’s not “good” for you, but it reliably and predictably satisfies a certain craving and it’s not really fair to judge it too harshly when it never sets out to be anything other than what it is. In Afterlife, Alice (consistently bad ass Milla Jovovich) takes on the Umbrella headquarters in Tokyo with her clones, goes to Alaska in search of the promised land, and tries to build a safe haven on a tanker. –Sarah Kurchak
116. Slumber Party Massacre Part II (1990)
The Slumber Party Massacre films have the distinction of being the rare slashers that are written and directed by women. The film features Crystal Bernard (Wings) as one of the survivors of the original film who is working through the disturbing events of five years prior. She’s now playing guitar in a pretty good pop-rock band who get away for a weekend to practice. Some guys show up to get in on the fun and it isn’t long before what appears to be “the Bowser” in a Sha-Na-Na tribute band shows up with a gloriously phallic guitar drill to off the boys and girls one by one. It takes 50 minutes to get there, but the musical numbers are a sight to behold. –Mike Vanderbilt
115. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
The idiosyncrasies of Halloween 5 director Dominique Othenin-Girard shouldn’t be written off as pure nonsense. Michael Myers’ reawakening pays tribute to James Whale’s Frankenstein, his revamped house is straight out of Dracula, and the clownish policeman are an homage to Keystone Cops. But a feature-length hat-tip to classic Hollywood means little if there’s not a cohesive movie around it, and despite a handful of chilling moments (the laundry chute and the stalking of Rachel are two of the scariest sequences in the franchise), H5 doesn’t make a lick of goddamn sense. Blame it on the unfinished script, blame it on the aggressively annoying teenage characters, blame it on the moon-cheese consistency of Myers’ mask, but all of it seems determined to shit on the solid entry that came before it. –Dan Caffrey
114. Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
The original Exorcist stands the test of time as one of the scariest films ever made, even for atheists, thanks to its horrific make-up effects and matter of fact treatment of supernatural events. Unfortunately for Exorcist II: The Heretic, the two most interesting characters of its predecessor died in the film’s final moments. Richard Burton stumbles through futurist-style sets and swats away locusts for most of the film’s runtime, and while a satisfactory call back to the original film, the exciting climax is too little too late.–Mike Vanderbilt
113. Species II (1998)
Come for the H.R. Giger creatures, stay for the… Wait, what? He didn’t return for the sequel? You wouldn’t know it, as Species II builds upon the first film’s biomechanical sexuality with more strobe lights, more tentacles, and an alien design that’s both alluring and nightmarish. Unfortunately, that’s about all the movie has going for it, and you don’t even see most of the gooey effects until the end. Before that, the central conflict of an infected astronaut fucking his way to world domination is more Skinemax than bona-fide science fiction. –Dan Caffrey
112. Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
It’s sorta fun to watch Hollywood flail around with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, a series it legit has no idea what to do with anymore. In this one, the bae Alexandra Daddario stars and Leatherface is used as both slasher and antihero. There might be no more cringeworthy phrase in modern horror than, “Get ‘em, cuz.” –Randall Colburn
111. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
An offering from the Resident Evil film franchise is like a fast food meal: You know it’s not “good” for you, but it reliably and predictably satisfies a certain craving and it’s not really fair to judge it too harshly when it never sets out to be anything other than what it is. In Apocalypse, Alice (consistently bad ass Milla Jovovich) kicks a bunch of ass and narrowly escapes Raccoon City when the T-virus breaks out of The Hive and reaches the surface. –Sarah Kurchak
110. Saw III (2006)
Saw III is one of the more stomach-churning entries in the franchise, with one especially long, agonizing sequence where each of a dude’s limbs get slowly twisted back until they snap. There’s also the dude drowning in pig guts. Some memorable kills, sure, but the story itself is fairly laborious, with actor Angus Macfadyen having to indulge pathos a bit too much as a character whose son died in a hit-and-run. It’s one of the crueler entries, honestly, which is surprising considering it’s also one of the highest-grossing. Pain sells, I guess. –Randall Colburn
109. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
Whatever you may think about the original, the jump scare at the end was pretty cool. Unfortunately, this movie’s mere existence reminds us how that moment was just a dream, and by the end of this movie you too will be wishing it never happened. Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) returns with some new friends and they win a trip to an island and you know where this is going and the bad guy from the original and his son are in on it and boring. Oh, and Jack Black makes an appearance as a stoner dude. –Justin Gerber
108. Saw 3D (2010)
As the Saw series became the Friday The 13th series for a younger generation (both cheaply produced and cranked out year after year), it was only fitting that the torture porn franchise got a “Final Chapter” and a “3D” entry. Saw 3D, aka Saw VII, continues the ambitiously serialized franchise with one more low-budget entry. Per usual, the traps are inventive enough (and probably pay off more in 3D), the gore is plenty gross, the cast is basic cable attractive, and the production value is somewhere between an Asylum film and a SyFy channel original series. Cary Elwes returns for the final entry in the saga and the film continues its long tradition of retconning what audiences thought they already knew in the third act. –Mike Vanderbilt
107. The Ring Two (2005)
The Ring 2 is so stupid and pointless that it’s goddamned shocking to realize it was directed by Hideo Nakata, who helmed the original Japanese Ringu. Remember the CGI deer? Probably not, actually. Nobody remembers this movie. It is so completely, hilariously inessential to what was, by and large, both a seminal American horror movie and one of the rare remakes to surpass its original. It’s nice that Naomi Watts came back, though. –Randall Colburn
106. Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)
Unintentionally hilarious, Howling 2 features-
Oh. Sorry. Ahem…
Unintentionally hilarious, Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf features an opening straight out of Dune with Christopher Lee narrating the legend of the lycanthrope in the stars. We’re a long way from the local news station in the original. Long story short, movie’s garbage with the most bizarre end credits sequence you’ll ever see (let’s just say it involves nudity), but does have the greatest title track in the history of cinema. –Justin Gerber
105. Bride of Re-Animator (1991)
If you’re into the whole B-movie thing, either ironically or unironically, you could probably do worse than Brian Yuzna’s low rent Frankishstein frolic, Bride of Re-Animator, but you could also do much better. For example, you could just watch Stuart Gordon’s original Re-Animator because that 1985 offering, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, has a similar sloppy charm with the added bonus of a plot that is slightly less maddening to follow. —Sarah Kurchak
104. The Last Exorcism Part II (2013)
First, let’s try and get past that name. I know, it’s hard. It’s also annoying, because The Last Exorcism is an affecting and egregiously underrated entry in the found footage genre, both for Patrick Fabian’s bravura performance and crackerjack premise, which finds a huckster exorcist making a documentary he wants to use to expose both himself and the phony practice of exorcism. The Last Exorcism Part II gives talented young actress Ashley Bell some space to shine, but it’s a pointless exercise in forgettable studio horror that was more than likely cobbled together from some dusty spec script. –Randall Colburn
103. Jeepers Creepers II (2003)
Convicted child molester Victor Salva returns with an entry that does what most sequels do: make up for a lack of likeable leads with an onslaught of bland, new characters. Despite a strong cornfield-set opening, the movie doesn’t get close to the original. Its failure stalled the franchise longer than what happened to Salva’s career after he was convicted of molesting children. Perhaps the rumored return of Trish (Gina Philips) in Jeepers Creepers 3 will bring life back to the franchise. –Justin Gerber
102. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
If Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday were released today, it would be marketed as a reboot. The Final Friday has no continuity with the rest of the series (the previous entries were explained away by the filmmakers as films based on the real-life exploits of Jason Voorhees) and kicks a body swapping plot-device from 1987’s The Hidden — ahem, Jason’s “spirit” moves from victim to victim. On one hand, the film is so bonkers, it’s hard not to enjoy it, but it’s hardly a sequel. –Mike Vanderbilt
101. Jaws IV: The Revenge (1987)
“I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” –Michael Caine on Jaws: The Revenge
He’s right. It is terrible. But come for the roaring sharks, flashbacks from people who weren’t there to begin with, Mario Van Peebles’ Jamaican accent, fake looking sharks, and have some good chuckles! Makes Jaws 3D look like Jaws 2. Compliments! –Justin Gerber
100. Saw IV (2007)
Ah yes, Saw IV, the moment the franchise had to get creative in how they were going to keep Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw a part of the proceedings. It was here, too, that the series plotting started to become so goddamned nutty, an aspect of the franchise that’s both an appeal and a detriment. Never let it be said that Saw isn’t concerned with continuity. For hardcore fans only. –Randall Colburn
99. Blade: Trinity (2004)
The third and final offering in the Blade film trilogy pits Wesley Snipes’s human/vampire hybrid against the “father” of the entire vampire species, Dracula (aka Drake). The plot is promising and the cast that includes returning stars like Snipes and Kris Kristofferson, as well as new additions like Parker Posey, Jessica Biel, Marvel double-dipper Ryan Reynolds, Patton Oswalt, and wrestler Triple H, is strangely inspired, but the final product is merely passable. –Sarah Kurchak
98. The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985)
A year after unleashing the game-changing A Nightmare On Elm Street on the world, horror master Wes Craven released this follow-up to his 1977 film, The Hills Have Eyes. It was no Nightmare and shows about as much regard for coherence and plot as it does for humanity in general. But there is one great thing you can say about the film: at least it’s not the 2007 sequel to the 2006 Hills Have Eyes remake. –Sarah Kurchak
97. The Final Destination (2009)
The Final Destination arrived at the tail-end of summer 2009, only a few months before James Cameron would be King of the World again thanks to his 3D spectacle, Avatar. That’s not just a superfluous fun fact, but one of the primary reasons why the fourth Final Destination sequel remains the highest grossing entry in the franchise. At the time, people were loving some goggle action, and they came to the theaters screaming, “Give me some death!” Director David R. Ellis delivered on that front, but forgot to include the rest of the essentials — you know, like characters and a tangible plot. But hey, the pool pump scene is hilarious, and proves screenwriter Eric Bress read Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted. –Michael Roffman
96. Seed of Chucky (2004)
After Bride Of Chucky successfully rebooted the Child’s Play franchise, Universal decided to throwback to their Son Of Frankenstein days by having Chucky and lady friend Tiffany raise a kid. Much like the previous entry, the film mostly works from Jennifer Tilly and Brad Dourif reprising their roles as the evil little dolls and a silly plot that takes the series in more of a meta-comedy direction. Unfortunately, Chucky And Tiffany Meet Seth Rogen and James Franco was never put into development. –Mike Vanderbilt
95. Jaws 3D (1983)
Jaws 3-D had its origins as a National Lampoon-style spoof called Jaws 3, People 0, a concept that sounds a lot more promising than what eventually chomped its way into theaters. With an outlandish SeaWorld setting (complete with spunky dolphin sidekicks!) that clashes with the grim urgency of the characters, it’s as if a comedic residue still clings to the celluloid, only without everyone being in on the joke. At least the campy special effects, short runtime, and outdated 3D make it the kind of meh-but-whatever movie that’s seemingly built for curing a hangover. Just grab an extra-big bucket of popcorn … or chum. –Dan Caffrey
94. Final Destination 2 (2003)
Nobody enjoys an off-screen death, especially when avoiding such a fate was the point all along. Unfortunately for Devon Sawa fans worldwide — and they do exist (hello!) — the ever elusive Alex Browning perished with a single line by his crush, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter). That’s pretty lame, but screenwriters J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress attempt to save face with another close-call disaster, swapping an exploding plane for a terrible highway pileup. Sure, it’s nice to have another grounded set piece, something missing from the sequels, but Gruber and Bress are no match for The X-Files writers Glen Morgan and James Wong, so the rest of the action is miserably campy and far too sensational. It doesn’t help that Larter’s Rivers is the only capable protagonist … and yeah, Death isn’t kind to her, either. To hell with it! –Michael Roffman
93. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason Takes Manhattan found the Friday The 13th series limping out of the ‘80s. Due to budget cuts, Jason spends the majority of the film’s 100-minute runtime knocking off recent high school graduates on The Love Boat before finally making his way to New York City. To his credit, writer/director Rob Hedden originally had much bigger plans, including a Madison Square Garden set piece and appearances on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. Instead, the film features another cast of mean-spirited, unlikeable fodder for Jason to knock off, the highlights being two quality kills, one utilizing a pink, flying-V guitar and Jason engaging in a boxing match. Watch your head! –Mike Vanderbilt
92. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)
Essential viewing if only (and I mean only) for the “Before They Were Stars” aspect. Yes, this third sequel in the Chainsaw franchise stars not one, but two Oscar winners in Renée Zellweger and a particularly unhinged Matthew McConaughey. Both give it their all, but what is there to give to? It’s hard to believe the writer of the original (Kim Henkel) came back to pen and direct this. Once again, we have a horror franchise giving out too much backstory when less was obviously more. –Justin Gerber
91. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
If you’ve never seen a horror movie in your life, have I got a movie for you! This sequel sees the return of since-proven phonies Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) traveling to London to aid a house full of Exorcist and Babadook knockoffs. There is an entire scene of Wilson playing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” on acoustic guitar with no payoff. You have been warned. –Justin Gerber
90. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
This absolutely-in-no-way-related follow-up to the Jamie Lee Curtis original owes more to the supernatural goings-on in Carrie. However you look at it, this production falls prey to every slasher cliche in the book despite the presence of the great Michael Ironside playing a grown-up version of a high school nerd. Ironside as anything less that the epitome of cool? Risky casting. To its credit, Hello Mary Lou has a title that rhymes, is without question set in Canada, showcases one great special effect during a climactic transformation, and the aforementioned Michael Ironside. “Let’s cruise…” –Justin Gerber
89. Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Anyone expecting Alien vs. Predator to be more than the sci-fi equivalent to a royal rumble was being delusional, but we all hoped it would at least be a gory royal rumble. Unfortunately, director Paul W.S. Anderson, who handled space guts with such artistry in Event Horizon, went the PG-13 route for the theatrical release, failing to satisfy on even the basest level. Pro tip: For a properly disgusting mashup, check out the underrated sequel or the late ’80s Dark Horse comics that first combined the two franchises. –Dan Caffrey
88. Insidious: The Last Key (2018)
Insidious: The Last Key isn’t one of the better horror prequel-sequels to emerge of late, but it benefits from the trend. Screenwriter Leigh Whannel has a bit more freedom to experiment not just with the story, but also with the atmosphere. Both Whannel and director Adam Robitel are still too bound to the franchise here to make something truly original, but The Last Key will at least make you grip your armrest, squint your eyes, and prepare for the worst. Sometimes, that’s enough. –Randall Colburn
87. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch II (2000)
Long before he was sucking down yogurt and slumming it with Ash in Miami, Jeffrey Donovan was … obsessed with the Blair Witch? Yep, that’s him. Following the blitzkrieg success of Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick’s 1999 found-footage blockbuster, The Blair Witch Project, a salivating Artisan Entertainment capitalized on the buzz by rushing out its very meta sequel a year later. Haxan Films, who created the original, balked at the idea and insisted on waiting until the dust settled, only to be left curbside.
What came to fruition was a clever idea — the original film was a hoax, yes, but the Blair Witch is real — poorly executed by director Joe Berlinger and his co-writer Dick Beebe. To be fair, there are a number of intimidating scares and Donovan’s great in it (clearly, someone in Hollywood kept an eye on him), but it’s pretty unforgivable how they took a groundbreaking chunk of horror and carved it into something so goddamn generic. The good news is that Artisan made millions and dozens of Blair Witch sequels followed. Nope. –Michael Roffman
86. 3 From Hell (2019)
Three movies deep, Sherri Moon Zombie and Bill Moseley know their characters all too well. There’s an effortless camaraderie between them that makes Baby and Otis feel like actual kin. And as a Rob Zombie regular, coming off of 2016’s 31, Brake slips into this family with ease, even if he’s not given much time to develop. In other words, this aims to be as much of a family reunion for the fans as it is for the Firefly siblings, which will be enough for many. Ultimately, that’s what 3 From Hell seems content to be: fan service. Despite a fascinating set up, Zombie takes an extravagant U-turn straight back to The Devil’s Rejects to try his hand at telling it all over again. In the end, what could have been something more instead falls back into comfortable, familiar territory that’s bloated by meandering filler. –Meagan Navarro
85. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Even by slasher standards, A New Beginning comes across as unnecessarily sleazy. Most fans chalk up the negative response to its Scooby-Doo-style ending, which revealed an imposter Jason, but really, the fifth chapter suffers from a dour tone. Gone are Tom Savini’s creative kills, the low-rent Hitchcock tension, and those pleasant enough counsellors. Instead, the filmmakers trot out unlikeable fodder (save for Demon, who looks like he plays in the best pop-rock-funk band this side of Cameo) for Roy the ambulance driver. The film also looks flat and has a very strange sense of humor, but there’s a mean spirit to the proceedings that’s admittedly jarring. Thankfully, the events of this film are largely ignored by the superior Jason Lives. –Mike Vanderbilt
84. Psycho III (1986)
Psycho III never reaches the heights of the original or even the slickly executed first sequel, but is not without its charms. Norman is still dealing with his extremely overbearing (and dead) mother who does not like that he’s got a thing for a suicidal ex-nun who is staying at the Bates Motel. Psycho III falls short of the original, but a sequence where a nervous Norman Bates watches Sheriff Hunt suck on bloody ice cubes from an ice machine where Bates has hid a dead body recalls that playful Hitchcock tension. –Mike Vanderbilt
83. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)
With films like It Follows and The Babadook now dominating the conversation, there’s a clear market for horror films with subtextual bite. Prey at Night is categorically not one of those films, sacrificing depth for economical slashery and a heavy ’80s paint job. Its goal is nothing more than to scare the pants off you and remind you of its inspirations, and it definitely succeeds in that respect. Just don’t expect something so paint-by-numbers to turn into a Picasso. –Clint Worthington
82. Demons 2 (1986)
Lamberto Bava’s follow-up to his own superior original entry (Demons, or Demoni as it’s known in Italy) takes us from a local cinema to a high-rise apartment complex. Isn’t as nasty and strange as the original, but that somehow works against it. Memorable for the child demon that adorns its poster and a birthday party gone horribly wrong. Keep an eye out for a young Asia Argento, whose father, Dario, co-wrote and produced the film. –Justin Gerber
81. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
The problem with the Paranormal Activity franchise is that it tried too hard to build a series-spanning narrative when it should’ve simply focused on upping the ante of whatever film came before it. Paranormal Activity 2 isn’t bad necessarily–there’s a smart justification for the found footage style and some fine performances from its unknown cast–but it strains just a little too hard to justify its own existence rather than give itself over to pure horror. –Randall Colburn
80. Saw II (2005)
While the original Saw could be perceived as an A-picture featuring big names Danny Glover and Cary Elwes, Saw II represents the series’ slide into B-movie territory. Starring “the other Wahlberg,” Saw II features everything audiences wanted out of a Saw movie, and that’s lots and lots of Rube Goldberg-style torture devices. This time out, Jigsaw’s past is revealed and the final twist actually pays off in a big way. –Mike Vanderbilt
79. Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)
David J. Schow’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 was an attempt by New Line Cinema to turn Leatherface into the new Freddy Krueger. Unfortunately, with a very limited vocabulary, the Lone Star State’s most popular cannibal never took off like the Springwood slasher. Chainsaw III finds Leatherface shacked up with a new family of hillbillies and terrorizing a young couple (including a young Viggo Morensen). Leatherface recaptures some of that greasy, gritty, tone of Tobe Hooper’s original, but — arguably as a result of MPAA tampering — is never quite as clever as the film’s terrific teaser trailer. –Mike Vanderbilt
78. Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare (1991)
Fact: The “What If” file for Freddy’s Dead is quite thick. Early in pre-production, the sequel was going to be a direct follow-up to The Dream Child, focusing on a 15-year-old Jacob avenging his mother’s death with a band of ex-Dream Warriors. That would have been cool, right? So would have Peter Jackson’s idea of turning the tides on Freddy Krueger, pitting him against a sea of pill-popping bullies.
Instead, New Line Cinema signed off on Michael DeLuca’s bland “finale,” which was built around the unnecessary twist that Krueger always had a long, lost daughter. Even better, the studio inflated the idea of their blockbuster brand coming to an end by roping in some flashy cameos: returning hunk Johnny Depp, Roseanne Barr, Tom Arnold, and Alice Cooper. You almost feel bad for them, like, “Why would you agree to this?”
Considering the Nightmare franchise stands tall as one of the more coherent horror series through and through, it’s disappointing the last standalone Krueger film ends on such a whimper. Thankfully, New Line’s Bob Shaye and Craven himself would right these wrongs in 1994, when the two reminded audiences why the child killer was something to fear and not to love. More to come… –Michael Roffman
77. Final Destination 3 (2006)
The Final Destination franchise was solely created for YouTube compilations of their death scenes. Harmless and outrageous offings don’t really necessitate the need for throughlines. Either way, this third entry opens with a roller coaster ride gone grotesquely wrong…until it turns out to be a premonition as per usual. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is probably the strongest lead in the franchise, but it doesn’t matter much with the limp material. X-Files vets Glen Morgan and James Wong returned once more to the series they created, but how in on the joke are they? Fortunately, the sequels don’t peak here. –Justin Gerber
76. Sinister 2 (2015)
The best part about Blumhouse Production’s Ethan Hawke-starring Sinister was its early going, when Hawke, knee-deep in a trove of old film reels, begins glimpsing some kind of murky monster through the fuzz. Of course, by the end, that monster fully reveals itself (not a good thing) and by the second film, that monster has been full-on mythologized (also not a good thing). However, there are some creative kills (though to consider the logistics is a fool’s errand) and it’s nice to see The Wire and Tangerine star James Ransone in a big-budget leading role. –Randall Colburn
75. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
By (mostly) abandoning the series’ lame overarching mythology in favor of a new setting — a low-income Mexican neighborhood — The Marked Ones stands out as one of the stronger Paranormal Activity entries. There’s a specificity in both race and lifestyle in this movie that gives the film more flavor and adds a dash of unpredictability to its scares. And though it never quite adds up to much, more franchises could benefit from trying out spin-offs like this. –Randall Colburn
74. Alien vs. Predator – Requiem (2007)
As if to make up for the dulled mandibles and defanged pharyngeal jaws of its predecessor, the second Alien vs. Predator film doubles down on the violence by bringing the battle to the sleepy town of Gunnison, Colorado. Once a Predalien and a whole swarm of facehuggers get released in some nearby woods, the human characters are more or less there for a series of increasingly disgusting deaths.
In the darkest scene of either franchise, the Predalien invades a maternity ward and forces embryos down the throats of several pregnant women, their bellies soon erupting into nests of little xenomorphs that have no doubt already eaten their own children. That’s some sick body horror right there, and although any Alien or Predator movie should be held to a high standard, Requiem‘s acidic heart, gross-out practical effects, and unapologetic nastiness are things to be (begrudgingly) admired. –Dan Caffrey
73. Child’s Play 3 (1991)
After the cruel yet delightful Child’s Play 2, filmmakers decided to move the action from the suburbs and a toy factory to a sterile, military school. Dumb, dumb, dumb. We now get a teenage Andy (Justin Whalin) trying to stop Chucky from invading the body of a new kid. Brad Dourif’s vocal talents are a treat as always, but we’re still left with a movie suffering from an identity crisis — a franchise spinning its wheels only three entries in. The series would recover, but it would take seven long years and the addition of another doll. –Justin Gerber
72. Blade II (2002)
The second installment in the Blade film franchise, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, sees Wesley Snipes’s vampire/human hybrid reluctantly teaming up with a group of vampires to take on an even scarier breed of mutated vampire called Reapers. Master art horror director Guillermo del Toro’s style is uniquely suited to the aesthetics of the film, but the multiple-crossing plot is a bit unwieldy. —Sarah Kurchak
71. Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
The second Return Of The Living Dead film, despite the appearance of Thom Matthews and James Karen, is less a sequel and more of a live-action cartoon. Dead II plays like a Mad Magazine parody of zombie films with plenty of sight gags, meta humor, and slapstick laughs as Matthews and Karen do a Laurel and Hardy-style routine. The film is largely told from the point of view of pre-pubescent Jesse Wilson (Michael Kenworthy), and with a lack of sex and relatively bloodless kills, Dead II would be a perfect sleepover movie for kids whose parents have lax boundaries. It’s worth noting that the hard rock soundtrack comes as a result of music supervisor Dave Chackler (Dream Warriors, Fright Night), an unsung hero of ‘80s horror. –Mike Vanderbilt
70. Return of the Living Dead Part III (1993)
By 1993, the Return of the Living Dead franchise could have stayed six feet under, especially in light of better splattergore films like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, but the producers kept things fresh by scraping off the comedy and opting for a little dark romance. The end result is Part III, a very time-displaced sequel that feels like it belongs in the ’80s, only there’s this distinctive alternative edge that screams of a ’90s rental. Case in point: A young Melinda Clarke (Days of Our Lives, The O.C.) plays grunge-lover-turned-zombie-masochist, whose only way to stave off the hunger of flesh is to puncture her own skin. It’s all very sexual and at times feel like sultry softcore porn, which made it quite the discovery for this writer at the tender age of 10 (thank you cable TV!). Threequels this daring are rare. –Michael Roffman
69. [REC] 3: Génesis (2012)
Paco Plaza, who co-helmed the first two [REC] films with Jaume Balagueró, flew solo for the third installment in this Spanish horror series. Three significant changes were made from the first two entries: comedy is emphasized, the cast is all fresh faces, and the found footage format is abandoned about 10 minutes in. Nobody was particularly happy with any of those decisions, but [REC] 3 remains a thoroughly entertaining watch with plenty of gross-out scares and over-the-top action. It’s best, honestly, to view it independent of the [REC] franchise. –Randall Colburn
68. Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
Once the fourth entry in the Paranormal Activity series crept up, the decades-long plot was starting to wear thin. But in a feat opposite of a sequel like Halloween 5, Paranormal 4 succeeds in spite of the fuzzy logic and stretched limits of the found-footage formula (the cliched “Why are they still holding the camera???” argument is more apt than ever here). Simply put, the franchise knows how to build upon the same things over and over again, at least from a visual standpoint. You thought the coven-centric finale of three was creepy? Wait until you see this one. Sometimes a mere elaboration can work, as long as you go bigger and badder. –Dan Caffrey
67. Alien: Covenant (2017)
After a long, storied career of engaging, thought-provoking films, Ridley Scott has succumbed to the gutless predictability that Pauline Kael initially envisioned, and Alien: Covenant is precisely the carnival fare she saw in the 1979 original. Sure, there are a few juicy eggs dropped every so often — and yes, the ending’s somewhat gutsy (even if it’s subdued by some piss-poor lines) — but there’s nothing here to suggest that it’s anything more than a boisterous con job. The real irony, however, is that it’s about a bunch of colonists who consider themselves pioneers trekking upon new land. Ha! –Michael Roffman
66. Poltergeist III (1988)
On the surface, the third chapter in the Poltergeist franchise is nothing but class: Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Chicago’s iconic John Hancock Center. But inside … well, inside, the film’s marred by the tragic death of young Heather O’Rourke, who, of course, played Carol Ann. Prior to filming, the 11-year-old actress was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an illness that would take her life following production. Filmmaker Gary Sherman was reluctant to complete the film, but came to a sluggish finish at the insistence of the studio. Naturally, the film’s a broken mess, but to his credit, the surreal optical effects and abyssal nature of the Hancock are the stuff of nightmares. –Michael Roffman
65. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Annabelle Comes Home feels like a neighborhood haunted house burdened with a few too many gags, and featuring about as much story. It’s a shallow exercise in gimmicky scares, but that might be its greatest virtue: it’s a horror film of modest aspirations, avoiding the convoluted mythology of the rest of the series by planting a bunch of scary stuff in a room and setting it off. It all amounts to empty calories, but it satisfies in the moment. –Clint Worthington
64. Halloween II (2009)
Although Rob Zombie’s sequel to his 2007 remake of the 1978 John Carpenter classic received, at best, mixed reviews upon its release, most critics agreed that he deserved an A for effort. Only the most vicious Zombie detractors would argue that he wasn’t trying to do something new and interesting with the psychology and motives of Michael Myers with this film. Whether or not he actually achieved that, though, is a matter of more debate. –Sarah Kurchak
63. Jason X (2002)
In the early ’80s, if you told audiences that the Friday the 13th franchise — you know, those films about an unstoppable, machete-wielding murderer wreaking havoc across a camp in Upstate New York — would someday take its talents to outer space … well, you’d probably get a lot of cheers. This is why longtime producer Sean S. Cunningham had little problem teleporting the human condom Jason Voorhees into spaceships and outer space. Rest assured, Jason X is dumb, bullshit horror that’s only a degree above a cheap SyFy production, but writer Todd Farmer goes H.A.M. with the ludicrous premise and its hypnotizing to watch. –Michael Roffman
62. Day of the Dead (1985)
George A. Romero was never going to successfully follow-up 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. (More on that masterpiece later.) Which is why it’s somewhat unfair to really hate upon 1985’s oft-forgotten Day of the Dead, but only to a point: Whereas both Night and Dawn employed effective characters to believe in, the only hero of Day is a Stephen King-loving zombie named Bub. Intended to be “the Gone with the Wind of zombie films,” Day registers more as the Heaven’s Gate of the genre, a beautifully shot film with timeless gore that’s lost on a hollow plot and the most illogical protagonists of ’80s horror — and that’s saying something. –Michael Roffman
61. The Omen III: The Final Conflict (1980)
Sam Neill put in what might be the best work of his career in 1981, not in The Omen III: The Final Conflict, but in Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession, a perfect goddamned nightmare of a film that’s as viscerally striking as it is emotionally exhausting. What Neill’s working with in The Final Conflict isn’t as meaty as what he got in Possession, but he still resonates as the film’s most gripping aspect. Neill nibbles on the scenery as Damien with a deft combination of grace and menace, giving us an Antichrist we’d love to sip whiskey with. As for the movie itself, it’s overlong and convoluted, but ballsy in how it actually has an extended sequence where Damien’s cronies kill a shitload of babies. Also, Jesus shows up at the end and it all starts to feel very, very Christian. –Randall Colburn
60. Halloween (2018)
Halloween deserves credit for its efforts to balance old and new, for taking us back to Haddonfield in a way that isn’t purely for cheap nostalgia, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s something more that it could have been achieved. It’s an interesting experiment, and possibly a positive step toward marrying long-term franchises and pop culture touchstones with new creative visions. But, just like fan fiction, it’s nothing that anyone who isn’t already invested in the stories that inspired it is going to be able to appreciate. –Sarah Kurchak
59. Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996)
In the late ’80s, John Carpenter claimed that he would return to the Halloween franchise if producers would let him send Michael Myers into space. That was a no-go, but that didn’t stop New Line Cinema and Dimension from sending Jason and Pinhead to galaxies far, far away respectively. Hellraiser: Bloodline could possibly be “Alan Smithee’s” best film, attempting to delve into the history of the family who created the Lament Configuration and their battle with Pinhead and his posse of Centobites across time. The film largely strays away from some of the psychosexual elements of the first two films and carries over the same tone of Hellraiser III. Troubled production aside, Bloodline‘s story is quite engaging (and easier to follow than Hellraiser II) and seeing Pinhead loose on a space station has its own unique charm. –Mike Vanderbilt
58. Scream 3 (2000)
When Kevin Williamson initially sold the screenplay for Scream, with it came a five-page outline for the two sequels. The first was 1997’s Scream 2, which you’ll hear about later, and the next … unfortunately, we’ll never know as hired gun Ehren Krueger climbed aboard and scrapped his ideas. Dick move, but also dick sequel! Garish, wink-wink comedy rides shotgun as the stabby action heads to Hollywood, baby, where there’s glitz and glamour and lots of bars. Hey, it’s Jay and Silent Bob!
For a franchise that capitalized on subverting tropes and poking fun at clichés, Scream 3 loves itself way too much, and what’s worse, doesn’t have the spine to go for the jugular with its twists and turns. Rather, it keeps tossing out insufferable characters by the handful — see: Emily Mortimer, Scott Foley — and expects you to give a damn when they’re finally taken off screen. Having said that, it’s still fun to see the gang back together (even Randy) and Parker Posey tries her darnedest to keep this fresh. –Michael Roffman
57. Predator 2 (1990)
The sequel to Predator takes full advantage of its urban L.A. environment, which ends up being both a boon and a hindrance to the film. On one hand, it helps Predator 2 visually stand apart from its predecessor’s jungle atmosphere. Indeed, there’s something frightening about seeing the extraterrestrial hunter stealthily lurking through a more populated setting. On the other hand, it means that a drug war between Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels becomes a huge plot point for the first half of the film. The crime stuff is fine and all, but also feels like a hindrance to the main course: a back half where Danny Glover locks into “I’m too old for this shit” mode and faces the alien beast of the title, and all the jaw-dropping (or mandible-expanding) special effects that come with it. –Dan Caffrey
56. Saw VI (2009)
Anybody with class had probably given up on the Saw franchise by this point, but for those unfortunate souls (like myself) who stuck it out, there was some return on our investment with Saw VI. Sure, there’s more of the same “torture porn” (that is the franchise’s brand, after all), but there’s also a timely plot that follows William, a crooked insurance executive who must confront his financial mistreatment of the ill as he’s tested by Jigsaw’s surviving followers.
The series was always too reliant on its bland recurring cast so it’s nice to see a fresh face in William, who, by virtue of being untouched by the Saw universe, is allowed to have his own redemption arc that isn’t otherwise tainted by the franchise’s labyrinthian plotting. It’s also nice to see such sordid fare tackle such a weighty issue in a way that naturally lends itself to the series’ innate structure. By having to defy his own faulty probability formula in order to save his family, William’s character is forced to acknowledge the systemic imbalance at the heart of American healthcare. What other horror movie can say it did that? –Randall Colburn
55. Final Destination 5 (2011)
The Final Destination movies don’t have to be so bad. Truly, they have one of the most effective gimmicks in mainstream horror. Since the audience knows to expect creative, roundabout machinations that lead to some kind of grisly end, there’s an innate sense of anticipation that glues audiences to the edge of their seats. Much of the franchise, unfortunately, was undone by tremendously bad CGI and characters without the faintest wisp of individuality or relatability.
Final Destination 5 doesn’t do much better than its predecessors in terms of character, but it certainly looks better than the previous films. One particular sequence involving laser eye surgery is the series at its best, both in terms of effects, anticipation, and exploitation. It’s also nice to see them sync up with the franchise’s overarching mythology thanks to both the re-appearance of Tony Todd’s Bludworth and a twist ending that’s uniquely satisfying. I never thought I’d say this, but here’s hoping for a sixth. –Randall Colburn
54. Hostel: Part II (2007)
Eli Roth’s pair of Hostel films are unfairly derided as “torture porn,” a term that’s something of a disservice to his bold approach to splatter and top-notch effects work. Sure, his bro leanings and shoddy storytelling are a detriment, but both Hostel films remain essential chronicles of American mid-aughts horror. Especially the sequel, which shifts the film’s focus from the victims of a pay-to-kill organization to the perpetrators. This shift in perspective bears some lush fruit, asking intriguing questions about talk vs. action in the modern male’s capacity for violence. And, believe it or not, a feminist strain courses throughout the movie, a rarity both for this filmmaker and that time period. –Randall Colburn
53. The Exorcist III (1990)
There’s a director’s cut of this movie hidden away in the vaults at Morgan Creek, and I hope it’s recovered one day. Only then will we get the true version based on William Peter Blatty’s novel, Legion (this movie’s original title). Until that day, we’re left with a movie that still plays well thanks to its strong leads (George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders) and in spite of its totally unnecessary tacked-on “exorcist” ending.
Dismissing the events of The Heretic, Kinderman (Scott) returns to the story and investigates the case of the Gemini Killer, leading him to a friend and priest he thought long dead: Father Karras himself (Miller)! The scenes between Scott and Miller are ace, the exploration of faith restored to the series, and there are a couple of classic scares. No hyperbole. The late-at-night hospital sequence is an all-timer. –Justin Gerber
52. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
On paper, the fourth offering from the Alien franchise actually sounds pretty amazing. Resurrecting Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley through cloning is a clever way to revisit the character while remaining relatively true to the universe’s internal logic, and giving said clone Alien DNA sets up a fascinating internal conflict: the monster that she spent three films fighting – and ultimately sacrificing herself to stop – is now a part of her. It’s one hell of a spin on the classic woman vs herself conflict.
Unfortunately, very little of that potential ends up on screen in the serviceable if sluggishly routine final product, despite another ass-kicking performance by Weaver. Roger Ebert put it best – and most damningly – when he wrote that “there is not a single shot in the movie to fill one with wonder.” –Sarah Kurchak
51. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
The fourth sequel to John Carpenter’s Halloween (and third appearance of Michael Myers) has its heart in the right place, but just falls short, simply because it’s next to impossible to follow up Carpenter’s original masterpiece. Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers begins with some terrific shots, driving home a sense of dread and desolation surrounding the small (presumably) southern Illinois town of Haddonfield, Illinois.
For one reason or another, mass murder Myers has been kept on life support since the events of Halloween II and makes his escape to terrorize a few members of his extended family. There are plenty of callbacks to the original film — Myers’ niece Jamie’s clown costume, a re-recorded version of Carpenter’s score — but despite a genuinely shocking conclusion (that was partly ignored by Part 5), the lame new mask and dull plotting make the fourth chapter feel like somewhat a letdown. –Mike Vanderbilt
50. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Freddy vs. Jason, aka the Wrestlemania of modern horror, had been kicked around by New Line Cinema and Paramount for over a decade and some change. (For more information, Brian Collins of Birth Movies Death recently published a spectacular rundown on its long-storied journey through development hell.) Things peaked, however, when Freddy’s glove snatched Jason’s mask at his grave right before the credits rolled on 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell. So, the hype was at an all-time, feverish high when the two icons finally faced off in the late summer of 2003.
Writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift wisely opted to make the match-up more of a Nightmare film, which lent the story a wider scope to expand on the mythology of Krueger. Sadly, past heroes like Alice Johnson or Tommy Jarvis are missing, but Robert Englund gives it his all in what would be his swan song as Freddy. For his part, Bride of Chucky director Ronny Yu delivers on the action, capturing the multiple battles with stellar choreography, but goes a little too far with the metallic sheen and cerulean blues. It still sucks he passed on Kane Hodder. –Michael Roffman
49. The Fly 2 (1989)
I know what you’re thinking. Wow, this is pretty high up on the list! Hey, any movie with Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga making out is okay in my book, but there’s more to The Fly II than that. Is it better than the original? Absolutely not. Is it necessary? No. Does it further along the plot laid down in the Cronenberg original/remake? Eh … kind of. Does it have an ending with a creepy, mutated part-Brundlefly, part-man? Yes!
As sequels go, the movie panders to audiences who want a happy ending for their protagonists. However, the outcome for Bartok (the late Lee Richardson) is so deserved and disgusting that the sound effects will have you rushing for the nearest toilet if the SFX don’t. I can still hear it trying to eat the food in its bowl. Is it still alive today? Goodnight, Linda! –Justin Gerber
48. V/H/S/2 (2013)
The original V/H/S laid the groundwork for something that could’ve been great: a found footage horror anthology series that offered young genre filmmakers the opportunity to make any kind of movie they wanted. And then, with V/H/S 2, it became about haunted VHS tapes or something. The wraparound segments in all the V/H/S are bad and the way the one in this sequel attempts to build a mythology around the franchise is head-slappingly stupid. That said, three of the four shorts in this anthology are fairly strong.
Aside from Adam Wingard’s “Phase I Clinical Trials” (a rare misfire for the talented filmmaker), the others do things with the found footage style that wouldn’t be able to sustain a full-length film. “A Ride in the Park,” for example, puts a GoPro on a zombie’s head for an amusing POV view of his flesh feasts. Gareth Evans’ “Safe Haven” is a structural mess, but surprises with its manic lunacy and striking visuals. My personal favorite is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” which infuses a Spielbergian milieu with a dose of mean spiritedness; there’s seriously nothing scarier to me than brief glimpses of gangly, black-eyed aliens. –Randall Colburn
47. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
The first two Hellraiser entries were prime examples of ‘80s British Gothic horror, despite its American setting. Around the time of the third chapter’s release, MTV was all the rage and appropriately enough it reflected upon Hell on Earth. This movie plays best back in 1995 on the USA network at around 11 a.m. on a Saturday. Specific enough for you?
Goodbye to Pinhead being a sideman. Goodbye to him just “doing his job.” Pinhead is more than a pawn here — he’s hellbent on becoming the destroyer of worlds and creating, you guessed it, Hell on Earth! This gives the movie its own style, but it can’t come close to the original. The first two took place in a suburban household hell while this climaxes in a nightclub. Not sure which is worse, so the question remains, what is your pleasure? –Justin Gerber
46. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
This one’s better than you remember. For one, it marks the first appearance of Kane Hodder, the tall, limber monster who pretty much anyone would cite as their favorite Jason Voorhees. It also shakes up the usual Friday the 13th formula by incorporating a character with telekinesis, which allows for a deeper supernatural bent and a fresh perspective. Oh, tons of people get killed in pretty cool ways.
Highlights? Who could forget Jason zipping that girl in a sleeping bag and slamming it against a tree like he was cleaning a bath mat? Or that circular saw on the pole thing he uses to chop up the malevolent Dr. Crews (also the eponymous corpse of Weekend at Bernie’s!). As for as Friday the 13th movies go, you could do a lot worse. –Randall Colburn
45. Troll 2 (1990)
This is a tough one. Is Troll 2 good? No. There’s a [documentary](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1144539/) about how bad it is (that this writer is in, FYI). Troll 2 is a garbage film, filled with inane dialogue, horrible acting, impenetrable logic, and not a single valid scare. But, by being immensely entertaining from top to bottom, Troll 2 succeeds where almost every other horror sequel fails. Every misfire loops back around again to hit its target, just from a different angle. Troll 2 is like someone unloading a pistol on you at point blank and missing every shot. They missed, but you’re fascinated by the hows and whys of how they could have missed. Of any of the movies on this list, Troll 2 is the one leaving you with the most questions. And that’s gotta count for something. –Randall Colburn
44. Creepshow II (1987)
Meat Loaf once sang “Two out of three ain’t bad,” and that’s the best Tweet you can give about this follow-up to the EC Comics-inspired original. The comic book tone is mostly gone, save for the transitional shots (with new Creeper portrayed by makeup artist extraordinaire Tom Savini). In its place are short films shot on the cheap with the scares and gore to match. Having said that, it’s worth the watch.
Skip the cigar store Indian opener and watch the Seinfeld episode instead. Come back for “The Raft”, based on the Stephen King short story of the same name. The humor in this entry is as black as the slick that’s attacking the stranded kids. If you enjoy that, it wraps up with “The Hitchhiker”, about a driver involved in a deadly hit-and-run who can’t shake the victim. Creepshow II is miles better than the “sequel” that followed in 2007, but not as inventive as the Romero-helmed original. –Justin Gerber
43. The Predator (2018)
The Predator is the most Shane Black movie that Shane Black has ever made. The only thing missing are the Christmas lights, which he’s swapped out for Jack-o-Lanterns, perhaps as an olive branch for Dekker, who tends to love the ghouls and goblins. Longtime subscribers of his tongue-in-cheek machismo, his bubblegum dialogue, and his freewheelin’ freeway action will easily eat this shit up. Of course, they’ll also have to take a few tabs of antacid by the end of it, too. Because like Mommy always says, too much of anything is never good for anyone, and by the time Daddy Predator goes toe to toe with Daddy Boyd Holbrook, it’s not that we’re not too old for this shit, it’s just that the shit starts to get too old. –Michael Roffman
42. Phantasm II (1988)
In the original Phantasm, Reggie (Reggie Bannister) was the friendly neighborhood ice cream man. After the cult success of Evil Dead 2, writer/director Don Coscarelli made the brilliant move of transforming him into a more Ash-like character, right down to the shotgun and long-sleeved blue dress shirt. Having him take center stage for much of the action is what sets this sequel apart from so many horror movies of the ‘80s: we have a bad-ass protagonist.
Sure, the timeline makes no sense and Mike has aged about 10 years overnight, but it’s an oversight I’m willing to look past considering The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) is back, and more importantly, the ball is back. While not as eerie as its predecessor, Phantasm II is certainly more fun. If you’re on the fence, then that “shock” ending will leave you siding with me. –Justin Gerber
41. Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Nobody was expecting a prequel to a movie about an evil doll that was spun off from a much better movie to be any good, especially when it was directed by the schmuck behind the shrill, obnoxious Lights Out, but Annabelle: Creation is a cracking good time. Director David F. Sandberg has expanded his toolkit here, actually earning his dissonant jump scares by building tension through a deft command of light and shadow. Annabelle: Creation won’t win any points for originality; it hits the beats you’d expect, and the scares, despite being very well-executed, aren’t anything you haven’t seen before. In terms of modern mainstream horror in the late ‘10s, however, you could stand to do a lot worse. –Randall Colburn
40. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Because Freddy Krueger deals in dreams, he’s not confined to the same rules as other cinematic killers. He can be in two places at once, he can change shape, and yes, he can resurrect himself via the nightmares of someone’s unborn child. If an audience member can give in to such a lofty concept, they’re in for the most phantasmagoric entry in the Nightmare On Elm Street series — a film that gradually darkens the screen with gothic architecture, M.C. Escher dreamscapes, and morbidly imaginative deaths that combine the best (worst?) parts of David Cronenberg and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. God knows realism has its place in horror, but that doesn’t apply here: The Dream Child is a nasty, little slice of surrealism. –Dan Caffrey
39. It: Chapter Two (2019)
It: Chapter Two doubles down on the exhausting jump scares and CGI that plagued the 2017 original. Yet for all its faults—and there are many—it’s still an enthralling and emotionally affecting piece of blockbuster filmmaking. King’s novel has always been a coming-of-age story wearing a Halloween costume, and Muschietti nails that. You’ll tear up, you’ll feel your heart stir, you’ll hate to say goodbye to the Losers. For that alone, this near-three hour tome is worth its hefty minutes. Having said that, one can’t help but wish this was more than a Ferris wheel surrounded by predictable carnival fare. –Michael Roffman
38. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, fresh off the success of their documentary Catfish, took over the reigns of the Paranormal Activity franchise for its third entry. It turned out to be a good match, with the duo bringing some fresh set pieces to the found footage genre, such as a camera mounted to an oscillating fan and a “Bloody Mary” sequence that should scare anyone who ever played the game as a child.
Critics often cite such moments as why Paranormal Activity 3 is the best of the franchise, but the film’s strengths also extend to its storytelling. Mythology and backstory were what ultimately derailed the franchise, and though this entry — a prequel following the female leads of the first two films as children — was made to fill in story gaps, it does so in a way that unfolds naturally. There’s no exposition, no piecing together of clues, just a strong, organic narrative that lays the groundwork for the subsequent films as it fleshes out the established characters and scores some good scares. –Randall Colburn
37. Halloween H20 (1998)
It’s a damn shame Dimension Films or Moustapha Akkad refused to pony up the cash to hire John Carpenter. The veteran filmmaker wanted $10 million to direct the seventh installment, which seems like chump change in hindsight considering the film raked in over $55 million. Instead, director Steve Miner, whose past history with the rival Friday the 13th franchise made his involvement somewhat ironic, would be hired to bring back Laurie Strode from the alleged grave.
Despite its stupid title and glut of edits, likely due to the studio’s insistence to make the film feel more like Scream, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later stands out as one of the more tolerable chapters in the meandering, confusing, and genre-bending series. Much of this has to do with Jamie Lee Curtis, who triumphantly returned to the franchise, headlining a stellar cast that included a very young Josh Harnett, Michelle Williams, and Joseph Gordon Levitt.
In a further clever move, screenwriter Robert Zappia ignored the myriad threads of the franchise’s predecessors by focusing solely on Strode and her sordid past. She’s no longer the quiet bookworm who strolled through the streets of Haddonfield unnoticed, but a strung out teacher and mother, whose struggles with alcoholism stem from an awful case of PTSD. It’s how she conquers these demons that makes H2O, in spite of its stylistic issues, such a joy.
And while Carpenter never got his fat paycheck, he did bring us Vampires …
36. The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
While the idea of purging in the original entry was interesting (murder and, well, every other crime is legal for 12 hours), the decision to keep the action indoors and away from where the real action was came off as a curious decision. The second Purge course corrects, and adds Frank Grillo for good measure, the latest muscular twist in genre cinema. In addition to hitting the streets for 12 hours of murder and mayhem, writer/director James DeMonaco delivers a number of storylines instead of just one, but the most intriguing of them all is Grillo’s unnamed police sergeant who takes revenge on the murder of his son. Grillo is cool and collect in all black as he takes his revenge, inevitably displaying a heart of gold behind the rugged exterior. Based on the success of Election Year, we could be looking at the makings of a strong franchise going forward. –Justin Gerber
35. Scream 4 (2011)
Some might argue Scream didn’t need a fourth installment, others might contend the third chapter wasn’t a proper conclusion. We’re of the latter. Narratively speaking, Sidney Prescott’s bloody saga most certainly came to a close — literally, in fact, as she shut her ranch home door only to watch it pop open (an admittedly great final shot) — but as a bookend it couldn’t match the urgency and terror of the original.
Craven gave it another shot in 2011 with Scream 4, which benefit from having Williamson around, even if that damn Krueger returned for rewrites. Their mix isn’t ideal — and again, I’d love to sit down with the original draft someday — but the two managed to pull the safety nets away for a story that feels dangerous again. How it becomes one big fuck you to remakes is an added bonus. –Michael Roffman
34. [REC] 2 (2009)
Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s 2007 Spanish horror flick [REC] is probably the scariest found footage movie ever made, a real-time, nerve-shredding journey through a quarantined apartment building filled with monsters that exist somewhere on the spectrum between zombie and demon. [REC 2] begins just moments after the first one ends (they should really be watched in one sitting), with cameras chronicling the quarantine situation outside before eventually bringing us back into the apartment building for more shaky, terrifying shots of blood-mouthed ghouls crashing through narrow hallways.
What hurts [REC 2] is what hurts most sequels: needless mythology-building. The demonic aspect of the story is doubled down upon here, with a gravel-voiced demon possession coming across as both a touch too cheesy and far too redolent of The Exorcist. Like the original [REC], however, the final 10 minutes are intensely claustrophobic and genuinely terrifying. –Randall Colburn
33. Fright Night II (1988)
Missing the sharp bite (pun absolutely intended) of the original, but nonetheless a good follow-up to the 1985 hit. This go’ round finds Charley Brewster in college and convinced the horrors he experienced in Fright Night were hallucinations. When things start to go bite in the night (a stretch of a pun?), he begins to question himself. Roddy McDowell’s presence alone makes this a worthy sequel. Fun fact: The failure of this film at the box office and lack of sequels was down to Jose Menendez and his sons. Look them up if you need a refresher. –Justin Gerber
32. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
Hellbound:Hellraiser II has the distinction of finally giving the Doug Bradley’s “Lead Centobite” the moniker of Pinhead. The second film in the Hellraiser franchise (there are 10 of them!) finds hell’s best accountant attempting to reconcile the deficit of flesh or something along those lines. The plot of Hellbound is relatively incoherent, but features enough surreal imagery (the Hell here resembles an M.C. Escher print) and plenty of pseudo-BDSM to draw certain fans of the series. Pinhead is also portrayed much differently here than in later entries; this time around, he’s more of a office drone simply doing his job rather than the the filmmakers trying to turn him into the next Freddy Krueger, spouting countless one-liners about God and hell. –Mike Vanderbilt
31. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
As all but one of the various sequels and remakes have so unfortunately proven over the past four decades, it’s almost impossible to surpass, expand upon, or even live up to the original 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre . So it was an absolute stroke of genius on Tobe Hooper’s part to not even try.
With The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the veteran director turned his all-time classic horror film on its head by embellishing Leatherface’s dysfunctional family and ramping up the original’s bizarre conceit to such an absurd extent that the whole thing was transformed into a comedy.
But it’s a strange, surprisingly clever, and hilarious comedy. The only reason that it’s not higher on this particular list is that its wonky brilliance lies in its humor far more than its horror. —Sarah Kurchak
30. Predators (2010)
No one talks about 2010’s Predators. Perhaps it has less to do with disrespect than it does with the fact that it wasn’t a disaster. Most of the credit for that goes to superfan Robert Rodriguez. The veteran Desperado director led the charge for years, and while he didn’t end up directing this particular entry, his producing fingerprints are all over it.
Predators takes the action back from the streets of a semi-futuristic L.A. and brings it back where it belongs: the jungle. The cast is the strongest of the series, with Oscar winners/nominees (Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne), a TV God (Walt Goggins), Rodriguez’s No. 1 (Danny Trejo), and … Topher Grace? It pays off. Oh, and having more than one predator was something fans had been clamoring for since the original.
Looking back, 20th Century Fox took huge missteps with their misguided AVP entries. Fortunately, they righted the ship with Predators. –Justin Gerber
29. Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
Unfriended: Dark Web (formerly known as Unfriended 2: Game Night, which is the better title, honestly) is a sequel to Unfriended only in name and presentation. Unlike its predecessor, Dark Web deals with worldly forces rather than supernatural ones and, as such, the horror takes on a greater urgency that pairs well with screenwriter Stephen Susco’s breathless pace. There’s an irresistible momentum to Dark Web that thrives on the terrifying knowledge that unplugging will not save you; the garbled, pixelated figures that soon start appearing on webcams are symbols of the web’s horrors made manifest. –Randall Colburn
28. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
For years, there was a rumored Producer’s Cut of the sixth Halloween film, a version that supposedly filled in some of the missing pieces from the theatrical release. And those initial omissions were glaring, indeed. Why was the Druid mythology so hastily explained? What exactly happened to Dr. Loomis at the end? What was all that green gunk leaking out of Michael Myers’ mask?
In 2014, the Producer’s Cut, which places a great value on classicism and exposition, finally got released on Blu-Ray, and while the edit has its own issues, it proved that between the two versions there’s a fantastic horror film to be viewed. Does it completely make sense of the Mark of Thorn and The Man In Black? Not quite. But considering both story points popped up in Halloween 5 without anyone deciding why, it’s admirable that screenwriter Daniel Farrands was able to come up with any explanation of Myers’ origins at all.
More importantly, both versions manage to transcend the convoluted mythology with how flat-out scary they are. Donald Pleasance’s final performance exudes twilight-year dread, and young leads Paul (Stephen) Rudd and Marianne Hagan play their own fear appropriately straight. And Salt Lake City be damned, this Haddonfield once again feels like the Midwest, thanks to lots of fake leaves, cheap Halloween decorations billowing in the wind, and other production touches that give Curse a decidedly small-town feel. As any Halloween fan knows, that’s imperative to the terror of a film — the idea of a monstrous force lurking somewhere where it seemingly doesn’t belong. –Dan Caffrey
27. Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
A much darker sequel lacking the Spielberg touch, Poltergeist II: The Other Side works fairly well until its goofy climax. Fortunately, before then we are introduced to a character who haunted the childhood dreams of this here author for years. No, I’m not talking about the kindly shaman Taylor. I’m talking about Father Kane, played by Julian Beck. Research shows that Beck lived a wild life, but who cares? This character scared the shit out of me growing up.
His introduction on the Freeling family front steps remains disturbing. Despite the sunny day without a cloud in the sky, Kane makes for a terrifying presence through the screen door. With his demands of “Let me in!” and “You’re all gonna die!”, lil’ Justin Gerber wasn’t having any of it. I’m only talking about the TV trailer. It took me years to sit down and watch the whole movie!
The effects are impressive, with the best example being the tequila worm-turned-Kane-monster that Steven (Craig T. Nelson) vomits up. Kudos to the production team for figuring out a way to make Kane even more terrifying. Beck passed away before this movie’s release, and while Kane appears in III, it just isn’t the same. –Justin Gerber
26. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
Friday The 13th, Part III is the moment the series truly became Friday The 13th. Despite what modern studios think, this sequel is as close to an origin story as we ever needed for the camp counselor killer, Jason Voorhees. In other words, everyone’s favorite momma’s boy finally found his iconic goalie mask for the first time. All thanks to the industrial coutoure and makeup work by Allan Apone, who based the look around Tom Savini’s original design.
As for the film itself, Part III is notable as it’s the only Friday The 13th movie shot in scope and director Steve Miner utilizes it to deliver scares and build tension, particularly in a sequence when bo-hunk Rick gets his eyeball squeezed clean out of his skull. The film was also part of the new 3-D fad that was taking over cinemas in the early ‘80s, and although there are plenty of shots that seem unnecessary (i.e. the juggling, the yo-yo), there are just as many that are still effective. –Mike Vanderbilt
25. The Purge: Election Year (2016)
While The Purge series might not be reinventing the wheel, it’s still heartening to see a horror franchise actually grow more ambitious as it continues on. The Purge: Election Year trades the exploitation thrills of Anarchy for a more pensive and unsettlingly sleazy take on modern politics, as seen through a funhouse mirror version of the NRA (or, you know, just a version of the NRA, really) attempting to assassinate an anti-Purge presidential candidate.
Look. None of The Purge entries are subtle, but like some of the best horror filmmaking, it’s made a noble (if ethically problematic) attempt to return some of the larger social meanings to the genre at the studio level. With Election Year, the series drops all pretense about its intentions: We have to be better than our baser impulses, no matter how tempting they might be. And given what the 2016 election cycle has brought on, it’s an unusually optimistic message for a movie this relentlessly violent. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
24. Happy Death Day 2 U (2019)
It’s a pleasure to report that Happy Death Day‘s unexpected delights were in no way a fluke, and Happy Death Day 2U builds on its off-the-wall concept to even greater effect. Landon and his cast juggle a host of seemingly-impossible tones, effortlessly whipping from horror to comedy to drama at the plunge of a knife. The dramatic beats work well, and the leftover slasher setpieces are effective enough, but the film’s greatest triumph is that it’s just plain fun.
Now that the series has released itself from genre to become an outright comic farce about causality that happily switches styles through each film, it’s exciting to contemplate where the series might go next. Costumed period piece? Happy Death Day in Space? Wherever they go next, let’s hope it remains inventive and enjoyable as it is here. –Clint Worthington
23. Damien: The Omen II (1978)
The antagonist in 1976’s The Omen was a small child, which left endless possibilities for sequels. Enter Damien: Omen II two years later. The next chapter finds our Damien at a military school: smart, independent, but most importantly unaware of who he is and what destiny awaits him. This is the strength of this horror sequel.
The film adheres to the horror sequel requirement of “more blood, plz,” but the decision to have Damien reject the notion of who he’s destined to become is what drives the movie. It would have been easy for Damien to become another Bad Seed or precursor to Children of the Corn, but treating Damien’s struggles much like a teenager going through puberty was the right way to go.
This being a horror feature, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the scene where Damien’s best friend is killed in the woods. There is a scream that sticks with me. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. If not, do yourself a favor and check out Damien: Omen II. Or do you have a birthmark with familiar numbers on the back of your head? –Justin Gerber
22. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
The idea of Jason emerging from the lake at the end of the original Friday The 13th was little more than a knockoff of Carrie’s final scare. There was no intention of a sequel, much less one that featured Jason Voorhees avenging his mother’s death, but that’s exactly what happened with Friday the 13th Part 2. The sequel largely follows the same formula as the original with Jason — not fully realized just yet, donning a burlap sack and overalls — hacking and slashing a new crew of counsellors.
The sequel features an especially brutal kill when wheelchair-bound Mark takes a machete to the face and then rolls down the steepest flight of stairs this side of the MacNeil backyard. Friday The 13th Part 2 also marks the first time that a character’s vices actually saves their life when after a night of drinking, Stu Charno’s Ted opts not to return to camp in search of an after hours joint. –Mike Vanderbilt
21. Bride of Chucky (1998)
Seven years after Charles Lee Ray, aka Chucky, dropped out of military school, he returned for an alternative love story wrapped in plastic … and blood … and laughs. It was 1998 and director Ronny Yu alongside series creator Don Mancini cast a wicked voodoo spell on the dying Child’s Play franchise, dropping the brand name and going straight with the jugular by calling it: Bride of Chucky.
At the time, the sequel was a breath of fresh air for horror, one of the genre’s few films that wasn’t interested in aping the Scream franchise. (In fact, that might explain its tongue-in-cheek poster, which directly parodies Scream 2‘s from the previous year.) Instead, Yu reveled in the dark, cynical, and unforgiving pastiches of early ’90s horror, which is where Child’s Play 3 should have gone.
Everyone outside vanilla “heroes” Katherine Heigl and Nick Stabile are total fucking assholes that deserve everything that’s coming to them (see: a devilishly evil performance by the late John Ritter). Such cruelty only makes it easier to root for Brad Dourif and his former fling, Tiffany, voiced with ease by Jennifer Tilly. The two are delectable together and it’s their chemistry that sells this harebrained premise.
B-b-b-bonus: Keep your eyes open in the beginning for some classic horror cameos. It’s a cool little Easter egg that pre-dates today’s obsession with cinematic universes by about, oh, 10 years. –Michael Roffman
20. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
After the success of Dream Warriors, Freddy Krueger officially became a rock star with his gruesome visage becoming as synonymous with the decade as Springsteen, Madonna, Prince, and Michael Jackson. Freddy went full MTV (even hosting rock blocks on the network), stepping out of the shadows, and spouting more t-shirt-ready one-liners than Schwarzenegger. In hindsight, The Dream Master shouldn’t work as well as it does — especially considering there was no script when filming started — and yet despite having Freddy resurrected by flaming dog piss, the fourth chapter became the highest grossing film in the series.
With SFX by Screaming Mad George funneled through the strong visual eye of Renny Harlin , The Dream Master expands on the imaginative set pieces of Dream Warriors and feels like a big, scary, music video. Taking a cue from the inclusion of Dokken on the previous entry, the soundtrack features pop-rock acts such as Dramarama, Go West, and Sinead O’Connor driving home the “MTV stye.” The film also introduces a new hero in Alice Johnson, who absorbs the powers of the fallen Dream Warriors, which is driven home in a terrific training-style montage. All in all, strong stuff for a movie with no script. –Mike Vanderbilt
19. Psycho II (1983)
Psycho II isn’t Psycho . Because nothing is Psycho . Not even a shot-for-shot remake, as Gus Van Sant so regrettably demonstrated in 1998.
It’s not entirely clear that everyone involved in the making of this sequel realized that. Psycho II‘s origin story isn’t without its awkward attempts to reproduce the original, including an initial desire to hire iconic shower scene victim Janet Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, so that the actress could follow in her mother’s famously murdered footsteps.
But, whether by design or accident, there’s mercifully little in the way of homage evident in the final product. And it mostly works much better that way. A more earnest treatment or emulation of the original Psycho would have been both sad and boring. Whether you agree with the darkly comic turn that the sequel takes, you can’t argue that it doesn’t forge its own path.
As an added bonus, the film’s romp through a recently released Norman Bates’ attempts to stay sane while an absurd number of newcomers try to throw him over the edge again also work pretty well as a meta-commentary on the whole business of sequels and audience expectations. –Sarah Kurchak
18. Child’s Play 2 (1990)
It was clever filmmaking (and a bit of dumb luck) that allowed the original Child’s Play to resonate as something at least slightly more than that “killer doll movie.” There was no way lightning like that would strike twice, however, so it’s smart that writer Don Mancini and director John Lafia opted for a more manic, comedic tone for the sequel. Chucky’s even meaner here, and voice actor Brad Dourif has a goddamned blast spitting out some of the doll’s filthier lines.
Everyone’s having fun here, which is part of what makes Child’s Play 2 such an enjoyable watch. Each kill is more fun than the last and the climax, which takes place in a toy factory producing the Chucky Good Guy dolls, is masterful in how it balances both the film’s goofy tone with a genuine sense of suspense and some stomach-churning special effects. This one deserves a resurgence on the midnight movie circuit. –Randall Colburn
17. Jaws 2 (1978)
The sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark horror classic might not bring anything innovative – or anything remotely new or unique – to the table, but it does offer a good, workmanlike continuation of the original’s marine-related panic, action, and triumph. Much in the way that diet sodas do a fairly accurate job of recreating the flavor or their original formula, Jaws 2 brings us back to Amity Beach for another round of men vs shark.
A waterskier and a killer whale have been viciously attacked and Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider, returning to the franchise under duress) suspects that another shark is responsible for the carnage. He’s right; the new fish menaces even more residents. But those in danger refuse to believe the hero and vote him out as police chief. Naturally, the shark goes after some teenagers, and Brody eventually saves both his reputation and the day.
It’s all very predictable, but acceptable. Even Scheider’s contractually obligated appearance in the film ends up working out, because it adds the perfect amount of weariness to a character who, understandably, isn’t that excited about going after another killer shark intent on ravaging his pastoral beach town. –Sarah Kurchak
16. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
The plotline in Freddy’s Revenge doesn’t jive well compared to the rest of the series. Some say bringing Freddy into reality takes away his unpredictable, limitless powers in the dream world. We’re not of that mindset. This is a nasty horror movie that features Freddy Krueger as a scary figure for the final time and throws in a lot of gay subtext during a time that the lifestyle was considered by many as obscene as the horror movies plaguing the cinemas.
According to screenwriter David Chaskin in the outstanding Never Sleep Again documentary, the undertones were deliberate. Jessie’s truest relationship is not with Lisa, but with Grady. There are minor set designs that suggest a lot (“Probe” board game, “No Chicks Allowed” on bedroom door). Jessie begins to transform just before getting it on with Lisa. Oh, and there’s the S&M student/teacher relationship. As a psychological film, it’s highly underrated.
It’s also frightening. The opening sequence that finds a school bus on a trip to the beyond is crazy effective (as well as a call-back in the finale). The poolside massacre that culminates in “You are all my children now”? Excellent. A not-so-obvious piece of horror in an oft-generic genre. –Justin Gerber
15. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
This Halloween sequel confused the hell out of audiences. Where was Michael Myers, and who is this mustached hero? John Carpenter intended for the franchise to deliver a new Halloween story every year, but the demand for The Shape was too high. Too bad. Season of the Witch has aged well, with no less than three great moments.
Who can forget the reporter getting her face blasted off after messing around with one of the Silver Shamrock masks? Or the unsuspecting kid buried alive in a sea of insects and reptiles in his own mask? Or how about Tom Atkins shouting, “Shut it off!” as we cut to black? Chilling stuff. Top it off with one earworm of a jingle and a strong Carpenter score and Hallowen III becomes a lament of “What could have been” as opposed to the early ‘80s take of “What were they thinking?”. –Justin Gerber
14. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
When audiences reacted negatively to the “imposter Jason” of A New Beginning, writer/director Tom McLoughlin was tasked with breathing new life (via lightning bolt) into Jason Voorhees and the franchise itself. So, he injected some Gothic pastiches, inspired by the classic Universal Monsters, into the East Coast slasher and, more importantly, a healthy dose of meta humor, pre-dating Wes Craven’s Scream by 10 years. After the mean-spirited and sleazy New Beginning, Jason Lives was a welcome change of pace for the series, incorporating a sense of fun but never undercutting the terror of Jason (which according to McLoughlin was one of the stipulations from producer Frank Mancusco, Jr.).
The third part of “the Jarvis trilogy” features a likable cast of camp counselors and, for the first time in the series, actual kids at Camp Forest Green, adding a new element of danger to the proceedings. Also, Jason is equipped with a James Bond-style utility belt, doubling-down on the “gun-barrel”-style opening sequence. A tremendous fan of rock ‘n’ roll himself, McLoughlin also incorporated several tunes from Alice Cooper, including the ballad of Jason Voorhees, “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)”, which has made it to every Halloween mix worth a damn since 1986. –Mike Vanderbilt
13. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Watching The Devil’s Rejects after watching House of 1000 Corpses isn’t just watching a sequel that’s significantly better than the original, it’s also getting to watch a fledgling filmmaker transform into a significantly better and more focused talent.
When Rob Zombie released his debut feature in 2003, he managed to prove his fondness for the horror genre, but did little to demonstrate that he understood any of its nuances. Or that he could execute much in the way of character, pacing, or anything that wasn’t throwing a bunch of psychedelically-presented gore on screen.
Once Zombie revisited three members of House’s family with his second effort, though, it was clear that he was a pretty fast learner. His characters – and his directorial and storytelling talents – all become more well-defined with this Southern rock-fueled celebration of nihilism and brutality.
Audiences and critics appeared to appreciate the evolution. Where all but the most depraved and the most pro-Zombie largely panned House of 1000 Corpses , viewers offered a far more polarized response to The Devil’s Rejects . And, let’s face it, polarization is an even better critical response than universal praise when it comes to a movie this dark and bloody. –Sarah Kurchak
12. Alien 3 (1992)
They killed Newt and Hicks. Cardinal sin. Yes. Obviously. An act so egregious there are plans to probably pretend like the last 30 years of Alien movies never happened. But let’s look at the positives, shall we? Alien 3 eschews the brawny action of its predecessor by ridding itself of weaponry, good guys, hair, and boiling it down to basics: one alien. But there’s still Ripley. Here we go.
The CGI is crazy dated, but the aesthetic of the film is an early indicator of where David Fincher (who’s disowned the finished product) was heading as a director. This feels like a true-blue prison planet that is rundown, dusty, and muddy. The prisoners, led by Charles S. Dutton, are likeable but only at arm’s length. As for Ripley, the sole Aliens survivor? It’s a performance from Weaver that matches the bar set in earlier entries.
Alien 3 is a return to the dark corridors that made the original such a haunted-house-in-space experience. With dedicated performances and a bold, dark ending that would never happen today, Fincher’s first may have been taken away from him in post, but he did a pretty good job with what he was given to work with. –Justin Gerber
11. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Before reboots became the go-to solution for resurrecting a bygone franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street mastermind Wes Craven tried a different approach. For New Nightmare, Craven re-teamed with Heather Langenkamp of the original Elm Street and Dream Warriors for a meta approach that played on the idea of how the franchise’s success and memeification birthed a malevolent spirit not far removed from Craven’s original, more menacing idea of the character.
Robert Englund reprises his role as Freddy, but here there’s no wisecracks or overly precious kills; rather, the murders are vicious and violent, much more indebted to the original film than the ridiculous sequels that followed. By combining that approach with the film’s self-awareness of the franchise’s direction and the assured performances of Langenkamp, Englund, and even Craven (all playing semi-fictionalized versions of themselves), the film manages to transcend its own cleverness and serve as a fitting cap for the Nightmare series (so long as you ignore the unnecessary 2010 reboot). –Randall Colburn
10. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
There are a couple of reasons why this follow-up to 2002’s 28 Days Later works so well:
01. The universe that director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland created in the original film was so vast and so entirely different from most zombie-related works up until that point, that it could easily accommodate more stories without risking much in the way of tired retreads
02. It’s a film that’s genuinely rooted in the idea of what comes Later, which, with a few notable exceptions like In The Flesh, is a surprisingly under-exploited concept in the zombie genre.
Twenty-eight weeks removed from the initial rage virus outbreak, this sequel explores a world that’s still under the original threat that hooked fans with the original, but one that’s attempting to rebuild. It’s a setup that has all sorts of potential for drama and terror.
For the most part, 28 Weeks Later delivers on both — especially the terror. There is, after all, very little that’s scarier than the combination of highly infectious humans with a rage virus and a potentially ill-advised burgeoning bureaucracy. –Sarah Kurchak
09. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Touted as “the one you’ve been screaming for” upon its April 1984 release, The Final Chapter was intended to be the final Friday The 13th by an embarrassed yet filthy rich Paramount. The Prowler director Joseph Zito teamed with the creator of the original Jason, Tom Savini, to off a cast of relative newcomers during what was allegedly “Jason’s unlucky day.” Much like serialized television, the film opens with a recap of the previous three films giving way to a crane shot that suggests a much bigger adventure for Jason this time around.
Instead, The Final Chapter settles into the franchise’s usual tropes, but they’re elevated by Savini’s gruesome effects, Rob the “Jason Hunter,” and Corey Feldman’s Tommy Jarvis, who would go on to battle Jason and one particularly intense fanboy for two more films. By the end, Jason meets his doom in a grisly fashion and it’s inferred that Jarvis may one day take up his mantle. At the time, Siskel & Ebert certainly didn’t believe that this would be Jason’s final go-around, and filming began on the fifth entry a mere sixth months after the film was released. –Mike Vanderbilt
08. Scream 2 (1997)
By December 1997, Scream 2 was the most highly anticipated horror sequel ever. Hard to believe only a year went by between the original and its first follow-up, but it seemed like a lifetime to me and my fellow Gen-X’ers. Is it as good as its predecessor? No, but it’s a sequel that warrants its existence before the title manages to slash its way across the screen. Whereas Scream broke down the slasher subgenre, Scream 2 takes on the topic of this feature: horror sequels.
It helps that the survivors of Scream all returned, alongside director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson. What’s more, the opening is nearly as memorable as Drew’s household terror. There’s a commentary on fandom in this sequence that is handled with grotesque precision (and a convincing death by Jada Pinkett-Smith) that makes it hard to whoop and holler from a horror fan perspective. Doesn’t make it any less effective.
Questionable decisions aside (Randy! Mrs. Loomis?), Scream 2 remains one of the better horror sequels out there. Why? Because unlike other slasher franchises, we’re not so much rooting for the killer as we are for the cast to survive. What a novel idea. –Justin Gerber
07. Halloween II (1981)
Even though Halloween II installs one of the biggest mistakes to the franchise’s larger arc — the revelation that Laurie Strode is actually Michael Myers’ sister — it also never loses sight of the fact that Myers is a force of nature. That’s why the first two films are so effective, despite them hinging on the bloodline plot that would come to dominate the later entries. Myers is empty. He’s inhuman. He’s an allegory for fate that, upon bursting from the gates of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, picks up a rubber mask and kitchen knife. With those tools, he’s mechanized and unstoppable. In short, he’s The Shape.
And as The Shape, he gains near-supernatural powers in Halloween II, which picks up directly where its predecessor left off. Viewers often complain about how no one ever seems to spot Myers, about his resistance to bullets, about how the hospital where he stalks Laurie is unnaturally dark and empty, even before he cuts the power. But perhaps that’s all a byproduct of the killer’s very nature. As he stalks the corridors of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, pools of shadow pour from his coveralls, casting everything in a deeper blackness with every slow step he takes.
No, people don’t notice him, and why would they? He’s evil, pure and simple — a force that’s always there; a force you never notice until it’s too late. Sure, the movie has enough trashy gore and nudity to keep up with early-’80s competition like Friday the 13th, but at the same time, it takes its bogeyman very, very seriously. In that way, director Rick Rosenthal (and an uncredited John Carpenter) craft an atmosphere that’s almost literary in its weight. Remember when Laurie’s English teacher warned her class about the relentless nature of fate? Here, that lesson comes full circle. If only her students (and the rest of Haddonfield) had listened… –Dan Caffrey
06. Army of Darkness (1992)
By 1992, Sam Raimi along with co-dependent abusee Bruce Campbell had graduated to the big leagues, bringing Ash, the inept hero of the previous Evil Dead films, to a major studio for a major release. Army Of Darkness doubles down on the slapstick of the previous entry and focuses more on fantasy, creating a kind of Michigan Doofus In King Arthur’s Court mixed with Jason & The Argonauts. With a brisk 80 minute runtime, there’s never enough time to be bored as Army barrels along with humor, action, and imaginative SFX, showcasing Ash as a swashbuckling, instantly quotable hero.
Army Of Darkness should have been a breakthrough for Raimi and Campbell, but the film was held back as a bargaining chip in a legal battle between Universal and producer Dino DeLaurentis over the character of Hannibal Lecter. As such, Army Of Darkness missed its original August release date and was instead left to left to fend for itself in the February dumping ground with an undeserved R rating. Seriously, watch it again … this should have been PG-13. –Mike Vanderbilt
05. A Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors (1987)
In 1987, Wes Craven returned to the Elm Street franchise after feeling Freddy’s Revenge was a misstep. The writer turned in a much darker script than what ended up on screen, which was later punched up by Frank Darabont and director Chuck Russell. The core elements remained — the return of Nancy Thompson and the last of the Elm Street children teaming up like a dreamy X-Men — but Darabont and Russell lightened the tone considerably and cut most of the passing references to Freddy’s implied child molesting past. They, instead, turned him into “the Henny Youngman of horror” with an emphasis on one-liners and a dark sense of humor.
Dream Warriors showcases Russell’s visual flair and Darabont’s sharp writing while also featuring some of horror’s most memorable SFX, including a Freddy snake (that, let’s be real, resembles a hungry penis), Bill Maher-lookalike Craig Wasson battling a Harryhausen-esque Freddy skeleton, and our first look at Freddy’s chest of souls. Although he had been around for three years and two films, Dream Warriors introduced audiences to the Freddy Krueger who would haunt t-shirts and pajamas for the rest of the ‘80s. –Mike Vanderbilt
04. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Evil Dead 2 is that rare sequel that both transcends its predecessor and allows its director — Sam Raimi, who helmed all three of the original Evil Dead movies — to hone his vision without being bound to any set tone. Where the first Evil Dead was straight-faced, the sequel is all hysterical cackles. Part of this came from Raimi’s co-writer, comedy scribe Scott Spiegel, but it’s also likely that Raimi was blowing off a certain amount of steam. His previous film, Crimewave, failed to make any traction, and the production of Evil Dead 2 was fraught with financial issues and multiple script rewrites.
There’s also the fact that Raimi wasn’t allowed to use any footage from his own Evil Dead, thus necessitating the young filmmaker to essentially retcon the first film by telling a condensed version of it in the first 1- minutes of the sequel. And nearly everything in Evil Dead 2 has that same level of frantic urgency: the pacing is manic, the gore is hysterical, and the madcap tone is more Looney Tunes than Leatherface. And yet, despite the film’s unrestraint, there’s a slick confidence to the directing, performances, and makeup effects. It’s no surprise that Raimi rose to the top of Hollywood, lead Bruce Campbell became a genre fixture, and effects artist Greg Nicotero went on to revolutionize TV horror with his work on The Walking Dead. Horror wouldn’t be the same without Evil Dead 2. –Randall Colburn
03. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Too often horror sequels relax and rely on pre-existing premises. The New Batch takes what came before and blows it up with gleeful disdain for the tone of a standard “horror” film. Considered a disappointment upon release, the sequel has stayed in the collective consciousness over the past 25 years, best represented in a genius sketch courtesy of Key and Peele.
Returning director Joe Dante breaks every rule here. From Leonard Maltin bashing the original film to the film-reel incident complete with Hulk Hogan, this sequel is as crazy as mainstream cinema can get. That’s not to mention the Donald Trump takedown in the guise of Daniel Clamp, with a welcomed over-the-top performance by John Glover. Supporting roles by veterans Robert Prosky and Christopher Lee also pump new blood into The New Batch.
As for the Gremlins themselves? There are Bat Gremlins, Spider Gremlins, Electric Gremlins, etc. It’s as nuts as that Key and Peele sketch suggests. However, all of this works because not only is Dante 100% committed to the material, but so is the returning cast of Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Dick Miller. They play it straight despite the goofy chaos surrounding them. Succeeds from start-to-finish. –Justin Gerber
02. Aliens (1986)
The thing that makes Aliens such a great sequel isn’t that it surpasses its source material – although it arguably does just that – it’s that it capitalizes on what came before it in a way few sequels in any genre have done before or since.
When Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) agrees to participate in an expedition to a threatened colony on LV-426, the exomoon where she and her original crew first discovered the ominous eggs in Alien , she’s not just confronting the Alien(s) again. She’s also facing off against all of the personal conflict, suspicions, and trauma she possesses as a result of that initial encounter. In a masterful twist of psychological horror, the haunting specter of the events of the first film become an antagonist almost as terrifying as the multi-mouthed monsters themselves the second time around.
A knowledge of Alien isn’t necessary to enjoy Aliens . It’s certainly well-written enough – and with just the right amount of exposition – to stand on its own. But it becomes even more thrilling and terrifying for the viewer who lived through all of it right along with Ripley – and who may have had a stray Alien-populated nightmare or two along the way. —Sarah Kurchak
01. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Thank god for small talk: In the early ’70s, director George A. Romero was invited by a close friend to visit the Monroeville Mall outside of Pittsburgh, where he stalked the behind-the-scenes corridors and observed the customers’ utter bliss as they monotonously shopped from one store to another. His buddy joked — no doubt keeping in mind Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead — that someone could easily survive in a mall should an emergency situation ever arise. And thus, the lightbulb in Romero’s head lit up and he carved out what would become his epic zombie follow-up, Dawn of the Dead.
Perhaps there’s no sequel more ambitious and more epic than Romero’s 1978 blockbuster. Starring a bunch of no-names and localized entirely at the same Monroeville Mall, where they have just about everything (including a gun shop and an ice skating rink), the sprawling 127-minute film is a testament to the filmmaker’s divine penchant for supremely original storytelling, namely his ability to churn out characters that live in your head forever: Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews (David Emge), Peter Washington (Ken Foree), Roger “Trooper” DeMarco (Scott Reiniger), and Francine Parker (Gaylen Ross). They’re all exceptional.
Because of this, everything that happens — from the great helicopter escape to the early morning truck run to the post-apocalyptic commercialization to the bloody wild goose chase of a finale — is drenched in stakes. You’re not only rooting for these characters, you’re praying for their survival, and that’s something so few horror films, especially sequels, are ever able to pull off convincingly. The subtleties that Romero drills into each character — for instance, Stephen and Fran’s strained relationship — feel so palpable and organic. It’s impossible not to feel for this cast as they witness the end of the world as they know it.
And really, is there a better tagline than this: “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.” Chilling stuff that Romero supports with a disparaging sense of dread that’s made even more tangible as it’s funneled through some brilliant commentary about America’s gluttonous consumption and its ensuing corruption of core values and principles. Watching the four evolve within the increasingly claustrophobic confines of the mall, as products turn to artifacts around them, is downright unnerving and it’s one way Romero gets away with his lengthy runtime. You hardly even notice the minutes inch past.
While not as scary as Night of the Living Dead, which arrived during this country’s most violent year and unapologetically captured the era’s racial and societal tensions with scathing gore, Dawn of the Dead is far more impressionable. There’s a patient horror to the proceedings that haunts the daydreams; a type of existential terror that goes beyond the walking dead. Speaking of which, the whole crux of Robert Kirkman’s ever-popular zombie comic and cable series hinges on the timeless conceit of Dawn, that we’ve all been zombies for years, living side by side in an endless charade of commodities.
Dummies! Dummies! Dummies!