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The Playlist's Guide To Horror Sequels Worth Screaming About

by The Playlist Staff
April 15, 2011 7:32 AM
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scream 4
If it’s one thing that horror movies are good at, particularly in the past decade with our annual “Saw” installments, it’s churning out sequels – like this weekend’s not-very-good “Scream 4.” (To quote “Scream 2” -- “Sequels suck, they are, by definition, inferior product.”) While most of these movies are blatant cash-grabs by studios that know the relative inexpensiveness of the films can boost their bottom line, there are a few that exceed our admittedly low expectations. But a feature called “Horror Sequels That Exceed Our Admittedly Low Expectations” would have kind of been a mouthful, so we went with the above instead. And given those set of rules, we decided to forgo grading the films, instead letting the writing speak for itself.

The good thing, of course, about horror sequels, which almost always have lower budgets than their predecessors, is that they are occasionally riskier – with such little cash up front they can afford to take chances creatively. Not that horror sequels are known for their artfulness, but we think we’ve wrangled up a bunch that, if not worthy of placement in canonical film lore, try things differently and don’t completely shame the original. Some are even, dare we say it, bloody good?

“Aliens" (1986)
To call this film a masterpiece is to simply restate what’s already been said. James Cameron's sequel to Ridley Scott's classic is commonly agreed upon as one of the best sequels ever made, right up there with “The Godfather Part II” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” and a textbook example of how to continue a story. Not simply a rehash of what came before, this sequel enriches the world of the characters (introducing the Queen Alien) and assembles a terrific ensemble cast (including Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton and Lance Henricksen, among others). And like those aforementioned films, this is the installment where the lead, Sigourney Weaver, in an Oscar nominated performance, becomes a total badass. Though not a straight-ahead horror film like the original, Cameron still manages to include some real scares among the action. The opening act of the film is an exercise in restraint; besides a dream sequence the alien doesn’t make an appearance until almost an hour in (truly remarkable, especially for a sequel). This gives the film a chance to establish all the new characters, so that the tension is nearly unbearable when all hell finally breaks loose. One of the best action films of all time is a sequel to one of the best horror films of all time -- only Cameron could pull something like this off.

“Blade II” (2002)
The first "Blade," with its innumerable stylistic embellishments (many of them both resembling and predating similar moments in "The Matrix") and comic book origins, was more of a superhero action movie that happened to feature a whole bunch of vampires. With the sequel, newly installed director Guillermo del Toro wanted instead to put some scariness in there along with all the automatic weapons and karate chops to the forehead. Along those lines he equipped the sequel with an even nastier villain – the Reapers, a strain of super-vampire led by Luke Goss, who have mouths that open up, with a flourish of vaginal imagery, to reveal a razor-lined maw. Del Toro also gives Blade (Wesley Snipes, again) a "Dirty Dozen"-ish band of vampires to interact with (among them: Ron Perlman and Donnie Yen). The resulting film is richer in character and detail, with del Toro's fantastical tableaus popping like particularly beautiful panels off a comic book page. Oh, and it was scary too.

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More: Films, Feature, Scream 4

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  • Matt | April 20, 2011 6:46 AMReply

    The thing about Aliens that people forget is that you don't even see an alien for the first hour.

    It's only later on that it becomes the "bug hunt" that Bill Paxton moaned about.

  • Hate You Fuckers | April 20, 2011 6:36 AMReply

    You fucking liberal, commie cunt.

    Every fucking time I read any article about movies on the internet, some pretentious liberal asshole who thinks he's so trendy and rebellious always has to include some fucking obnoxious cheap shot at Conservatives, Republicans or Christians. As is the case with your review of TCM 2.

    I bet to you every fucking film is a commentary on those Right-Wing Boogeymen. You fucking asshole. Stick to reviewing shit without alienating people, you pretentious cock sucking commie.

  • ok | December 24, 2011 1:33 PM

    Calm down. When the filmmakers' intention was to take aim at the conservative ideology, you cannot get mad when a feature writer brings it up.

  • Irving 143 | April 20, 2011 1:54 AMReply

    Glad to see "Psycho II" and "A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors" getting long overdue recognition as sequels worthy of their existence. While it's hard to think someone as hopelessly deranged as Norman Bates would ever be released from the asylum, "Psycho II" is a clever and enjoyable what-if riff on what might happen if that unlikely event actually took place. "The Dream Warriors" satisfies in that Freddy finally doesn't have it all his own way—he has to confront prospective victims who have figured out how to do him some real hurt, thus altering the course of the entire franchise.

  • captn johnny hollows | April 20, 2011 1:03 AMReply

    Don't know if anyone noticed or mentioned this cus I'm not going to read all the comments but the pic for exorist 3 is a screen shot from number 2 don't remember a flash back to it in the movie ill look again to be sure but just thought I'd throw it out there

  • Zak | April 19, 2011 12:34 PMReply

    I agree with Mike_M (solidarity, since nobody agrees with us).

    Also, wanted to bring up 28 Weeks Later. That was a great horror sequel. I know it rubbed some people the wrong way, but it made an unnecessary sequel quite good.

  • Jimmy | April 19, 2011 11:20 AMReply

    Nice to see Psycho II and Exorcist III get a mention. Don't know if I would count Aliens as horror but definitely a great movie.

    Less keen on the likes of Psycho IV or Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the former being insipid and unnecessary and the latter was mind-bogglingly dull and painful to watch.

  • Tiger | April 19, 2011 11:03 AMReply

    Great list.

    There should definitely be a place for Riget 2 on there though. More people need to know how awesome it is!

  • Bonerjams | April 19, 2011 11:03 AMReply

    Scream 4 was great, it has the most relevant satire since the first film, while part 2 was really great all round, it was a typical sequel that had the scares and the plot, it was missing some of the satire of the first - It wasnt as self-aware. Scream 3 was sort of ridiculous, it was hard to watch a slasher where all the victims were annoying adults - There didnt seem to be any decent commentary at all. Scream 4 had it all, it was a fun flick.

  • neil | April 19, 2011 10:56 AMReply

    got to say i feel that phantasm iv was the best of the sequals the use of the footage from the first film was wonderfull, two bothered me because of the casting change.

    and hellaiser inferno was good too

    preditor 2 good if dated a bit now

  • Greg | April 19, 2011 10:54 AMReply

    What about 'Bride of Re-Animator'? The first may be a classic but the second expanded the relationship between Dan and Herbert and included more gruesome experiments!

  • Geoff | April 19, 2011 9:27 AMReply

    What about the Saw sequels? Saw IV was ok, Saw V was good til its horrendous ending and Saw 3D/VII woudve been better if it wast the last one. However, Saw II, III and VI all keep the legacy strong, and included Tobin Bell in some classic scenes as Jigsaw. For example, his conversations with Donnie Wahlberg in Saw II were some great bits of acting.

  • Helen Stevens | April 19, 2011 9:26 AMReply

    While Scream 3 was truly terrible, I thought Scream 4 was actually a darn good sequel, propelling the franchise back to the top of the Post-modern comedy-horror chart.

  • Jen | April 19, 2011 8:51 AMReply

    Nice list. I agree with everything except the picture used along with the description for The Exorcist III, is a photo from the multi stinker Exorcist II: The Heretic. Just wanted to let somebody know.

  • J. Warner | April 19, 2011 8:32 AMReply

    I think "Scream 2" deserves to be included on a list such as this, but to each their own truth quite obviously.

  • Christopher Bell | April 19, 2011 6:49 AMReply

    I think if Cat People is deemed a horror film, Curse can be too.

    We were going to throw in a Friday the 13th but didn't due to time constraints. Honestly I think I might be most partial to the fifth one, where Tommy Jarvis takes the mask and decides to be Jason - kinda cool. Too bad they nixed the ending in the next one.

    Also kind of forgot about Freddy vs. Jason, which might've been the most fun I've ever had in a theater.

  • The Hitchhiking Ghost | April 19, 2011 6:00 AMReply

    I'm really surprised how thorough this list is. Well done. I could do without REJECTS, but hey, it's your list! Very pleased to see EXORCIST III on here. Probably the most unnerving movie I have ever seen. I actually saw it in the theater when I was in 5th grade and couldn't sleep for weeks. THE FLY II is a pretty nifty follow-up (the one with Stoltz), and I'm partial to just about every FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel. CRITTERS 2 is pretty rad as well. Great list!

  • Deborah Bosket | April 19, 2011 5:55 AMReply

    Thanks, we've corrected Lanchester's name.

  • Davey | April 19, 2011 5:14 AMReply

    1. "Aliens" is good, but not as good as "Alien."
    2. "Cat People" is a damned good movie and don't you forget it.
    3. "The Curse of the Cat People" is an equally damned good movie, but hardly a horror film.

  • Ceri | April 19, 2011 4:49 AMReply

    Blade 2 ? really ? even the director said has said since it was s**t

    Hellraiser 5 is a surprisingly good sequel too, although a lot of people including clive barker hated it, the one in space was terrible... as were 6 7 and 8... still good times !

    Anything by Rob Zombie is not the best of anything !! especially the halloween remakes which were god-awful abortions.

    Ginger snaps the beginning had the cool part at the end where whatsherface lead the werewolves in an attack on the fort apart from that meh

    Aliens always awesome !

  • MCW | April 19, 2011 4:27 AMReply

    It's about time someone recognized what an under-rated film "Exorcist III" is. There's no gore to speak of, and no real 'head-spinning', but creepiness and dread ooze from this thing. This film is quirky and yet oh, so much of a psychological head job. I thought that Blatty's direction was about as spot-on as you could get in the "let's make the viewer use and abuse their imaginations" arena. Good stuff!

  • Nick | April 19, 2011 4:12 AMReply

    Her name is Elsa Lanchester, not Lancaster

  • Brian | April 19, 2011 3:53 AMReply

    I think Halloween 4 deserves to be on this list. Not as good as the original (then again what is?), but it reinvents the Michael Myers story while keeping Dr. Loomis in the mix, and has a killer ending. Come some love! 4, followed by 2, are the best sequels in the series.

  • Taylor | April 19, 2011 3:20 AMReply

    Legion, the book that is Exorcist III based on, actually is a sequel to the original Exorcist story. The characters and events of the book do carry over from the original Exorcist book and film. It's been a long time since I read it, but I think the only main change (to make it fit the perceived identity of the film franchise) was the addition of the exorcism scene near the end.

  • parker | April 19, 2011 2:50 AMReply

    screw you, dude.
    scream 4 kicked ass.

  • Edward Davis | April 19, 2011 2:37 AMReply

    @Keith H
    Because you got bit by a zombie?

  • Keith H | April 19, 2011 2:35 AMReply

    "28 Days Later" changed my life.

  • Glennie | April 19, 2011 2:30 AMReply

    Also, Exorcist III never tries to assert that Karras is still alive, physically at least.

  • jaxh8 | April 19, 2011 2:22 AMReply

    I need to learn to spellcheck my posts

  • jaxh8 | April 19, 2011 2:20 AMReply

    People bear in mind, this is not a list of sequals that are better than the originals, but seguals that are quality films in a genre where most seguals are shit. I would agree that 28 weeks later belongs here as well as Paranormal Activity 2 which made the first movie better. Personally I never thought of either Gremlins movie as Horror.

  • derek | April 19, 2011 2:05 AMReply

    umm.... where is "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter"?

  • Wrath of Colin | April 19, 2011 1:23 AMReply

    I was bound not to agree with all of them but happy to see the underrated Psycho 2 in there. Not a fan of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (too irritating) or Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (too boring), but some interesting selections.

    I'd like to add Mad Max 2: Road Warrior.

  • Mr. Arkadin (a sucker for vincent) | April 18, 2011 8:18 AMReply

    "Aliens" is a great action film, but it's far away from the intelligent claustrophobic horror masterpiece "Alien" is.

    As far as campy horror sequels go, I always liked me some "Dr. Phibes Rises Again" or "Return of the Fly".

  • Connor | April 17, 2011 2:49 AMReply

    Scream 4 was actually very good.

  • LOUDROCKMUSIC | April 16, 2011 7:31 AMReply

    One of the best things about working in a video store is reading a list like this when you are working at said video store. Although I've seen most of these, I'm going home with the ones I haven't!

  • Mark | April 16, 2011 7:06 AMReply

    The Exorcist III (or Legion to give it it's proper title) is AWESOME.

    That is all.

  • Christopher Bell | April 16, 2011 5:13 AMReply

    Makie nooooooo!

  • jd | April 16, 2011 4:30 AMReply

    Okay, I'm issuing my congratulations to The Playlist for a). an awesome list that is right on, and b). actually managing to get the three people in the world who don't like Aliens together in one place. Now that we know who they are, we can avoid them.

  • Eli | April 16, 2011 3:58 AMReply

    I'm going to go against the comments and say I wholeheartedly agree with this list (Robert Wise is a hack now...? Fucking hell *eyeroll*) .

    Good job, guys.

  • Makie Messer | April 16, 2011 1:14 AMReply

    The Curse of the Cat People is terrible. Who could hate Jaques Tourneur completely moody masterpiece.

    The sequel is just cute kid shit at Christmas time directed by hack Robert Wise who is using the ashes of the Amberson's mansion (that he helped destroy to boost his career).

  • Brooke | April 15, 2011 12:43 PMReply

    I am thrilled to see Blade 2 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 here. TCM2 is the most ridiuclous film ever, made me laugh more than any comedey. The end dance thing is the nmost surreal moment in a horror film i've ever seen.

  • rotch | April 15, 2011 10:34 AMReply

    @The Playlist

    Come on, Gremlins 2 is pure, unadulterated Dante, how can you not love that?

    It's the closest we have to a live action Looney Tunes movie sans Looney Tunes. I only wish his own Looney Tunes Back In Action had more of a Gremlins 2 sensibility to it. It would've been a stone cold classic.

    I kind of agree with your "career suicide" theory, although he followed Gremlins 2 with Matinee, which is awesome.

  • Will D | April 15, 2011 10:34 AMReply

    I can understand leaving Halloween II but where's Friday the 13th Part 2?

  • fastdub | April 15, 2011 9:49 AMReply

    blade 2 is a terrible terrible film. like really awful. the script is mind blowingly awful and snipes is unchained and it shows. also del toro cannot film action sequences.

  • The Playlist | April 15, 2011 9:48 AMReply

    Gremlins 2 isn't actually a good film -- IMO -- but it IS fascinating how much of a gonzo trainwreck it is and how it badly it killed that would-be franchise.

    You watch it and think, what was WB THINKING when they let Dante do whatever the fuck he wanted (and he swings waaaaay past the fences, it's NUTS).

    It's also just.. you look at Gremlins the original, it's a classic '80s film. It's very Amblin, Spielberg-ian, comedy, heart, horror, etc. It's got everything.

    And then they waited 6 years for a sequel (far too long), a new decade had started and tastes and sensibilies had shifted significantly. One can argue no one would have cared regardless. The zeitgeist had compeltely moved on. And on top of that, it's as if an entirely different filmmaker made it (you gotta wonder if the guy was going through a divorce or some crisis or was just fucking flat-out bored).

    It's a interesting study in what not do when making a sequel (if you want the franchise to die) and one in career suicide (look at dante's career, pre and post Gremlins 2).

  • Rashad | April 15, 2011 9:39 AMReply

    Aliens is dogshit and ruined the franchise.

    Blade II sucked too.

    Props for Gremlins 2 though

  • billyloomis | April 15, 2011 8:23 AMReply

    The pic for Exorcist III is from Exorcist II.

  • Jacques DeMolay | April 15, 2011 8:23 AMReply

    Wow, Gremlins 2! That's definitely one of the best sequals ever, just because it was so "meta" and 4th-wall-breaking in so many hilarious ways.

    Hellraiser II: Hellbound is also one of the rare instances were the sequal was actually BETTER than the original. I appreciate Hellraiser 1 more now, but Hellbound has always been my absolute favorite of the series.

    good article, fun to read.

  • rotch | April 15, 2011 8:10 AMReply

    Great list! Will hunt down the Ginger Snaps and Candyman sequels I completely disregarded.

    Not much missing, but I have a personal sweet spot for Cabin Fever 2, which Ty West disowns for some reason.

  • Kevin Jagernauth | April 15, 2011 7:52 AMReply

    I'm with you Mike. I think "Aliens" is overblown, overlong and ineffective compared to Ridley Scott's more lean and mean "Alien." That's just me though.

  • Mike_M | April 15, 2011 7:49 AMReply

    Well said having The Devil’s Rejects and Blade 2 on this list... as for Aliens, that movie is nowhere near as good as Alien... I really do not like Aliens at all, I know I am in the minority there though.

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