“Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” (1986)
No one could have been prepared for the sudden right turn Tobe Hooper was intent on taking by revisiting the bloodthirsty Sawyers in the '80s. While the first film, Hooper’s rookie picture, emphasized the horror of a group of cannibals forgotten in the wilderness of the '70s counterculture movement, Hooper brings them into the limelight in the '80s, refashioning them as sickos enjoying the spoils of a crooked economy by packaging and selling the same corpses they defiled as food for the masses. Sounds like somebody voted for Reagan! Hooper allows his cast to camp it up and chew all the scenery, resulting in a film that is so loud and colorful it borders on the obnoxious, a tactic that surely influenced a young Rob Zombie. But it’s worth noting that both 'Chainsaw' films are distinctly products of their environment, the subtext of this picture about the symptoms in lieu of the disease as opposed to the sickening theatrics of the preceding picture. Also, Dennis Hopper wields two chainsaws.
“Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn" (1987)
In 1981, 22-year-old filmmaker Sam Raimi and his pals went off into the woods armed with a small budget (raised mostly from family friends) to make “the ultimate experience in grueling terror” and came back with a horror classic. But after the failure of Raimi’s next film (the Coen Brothers co-scripted screwball comedy “Crimewave”), it was back to square one. “Evil Dead 2” is essentially a bigger budget (though still a modest $3.6 million) remake of the original film where everything is pushed to 11. (The opening actually recaps the previous film in streamlined fashion.) Despite this previously covered ground, the sequel is a true original: a completely relentless film that’s part splatter horror and part “Three Stooges” short. It features a tour-de-force performance from Bruce Campbell, who spends about half the film by himself, and makes Ash into one of the most memorable characters in horror history. Coupled with the original, they’re really unlike any movies that had come before them and though several have tried (including Raimi himself with “Drag Me To Hell”), unlike any movie since. Though the original and third installment “Army of Darkness” both hold a special place in our hearts, this is the definitive film of the trilogy and arguably the best horror comedy of all time.
“The Exorcist III“ (1990)
Based off a non-'Exorcist' story from original author William Peter Blatty (originally titled “Legion”), this once-lambasted sequel certainly carries the stink of a film artificially grafted onto a pre-existing franchise. Which is why it’s such a surprise that the end product is fairly chilling, a supernatural story about a lieutenant investigating a serial killer imitating the murders of the Gemini Killer, a madman who's been dead for 15 years. It takes a major leap of faith to accept that Father Karras survived the events of the first film, but Jason Miller, reprising his role, is absolutely magnetic in a film that also showcases superb work from George C. Scott as the investigator and a typically possessed turn from the underestimated Brad Dourif. Blatty, who had previously directed “The Ninth Configuration,” sets most of the action inside a mental institution (something of a horror sequel staple), and maintains an icky, eerie curiosity about the many corners and ceilings of the hospital, resulting in a few spectacular scares, and the queasy suggestion that this is a place that could use more than a few exorcisms.
“Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning” (2004)
While the first "Ginger Snaps," a Canadian feminist werewolf movie that made instant fans out of anyone who watched it, was barely released or recognized in the U.S. (it went direct-to-video, complete with inglorious full-screen transfer), it made enough of a splash in its native land for two sequels to be commissioned. The first, "Ginger Snaps Unleashed," was a meditative affair that wondered "What if "Girl, Interrupted" had werewolves?" But the real juice was saved for the third film, "Ginger Snaps Back," which didn't even receive theatrical distribution in Canada. The third film was set in the 19th Century in a Canadian settlement that also, predictably, is plagued by werewolves. We loved the old-timey outpost setting (it reminded us of another underrated horror gem: Antonia Bird's "Ravenous"), but most of all the fact that the feminist subtext translated so well. No matter the period, the curse remained the same.