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.