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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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“Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990)
Whatever people were expecting the follow-up to Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg’s cuddly/scary “Gremlins” would be, it most certainly was not the franchise-derailing, batshit gonzo “Gremlins 2: The New Batch.” Armed with a complete creative free reign that Warner Bros. would soon regret, Dante went hog wild, crafting a living, breathing WB-like cartoon while at the same time lampooning the vices and obsessions of the early '90s (cable television, frozen yogurt, Donald Trump). The result is, as the director himself has said, “one of the most unconventional studio pictures ever,” and it also pretty much killed off what could have been a successful franchise because it was so so damn meta and bizarro for its time (to some extent it was the beginning of the end of Dante's up-til-then highly successful career). Just think about how there’s an animated segment that starts the film, an extended cameo by critic Leonard Maltin talking about how much he hated the first “Gremlins,” a moment where the “film” burns out and Hulk Hogan derides the theater management, and reflexive dialogue about how the “rules” of the first film make no sense. And this is all stuff that doesn’t involve the slimy gremlins, which this time around include one that talks like Tony Randall and one that has a sex change! Of course the picture was a huge bomb (its budget was triple the original), not even making a third of what the first film grossed. Still, it's sublime, surrealist silliness and one of the strangest off-kilter sequels to a huge mainstream hit ever.

“Hellbound: Hellraiser II” (1988)
The deck is stacked immediately against “Hellraiser II,” which begins right after the events of the first film, a singular effort in the horror genre featuring a rogue’s gallery shrouded in distinct mystery. Once “Hellraiser II” deigns to be a film that expands the world of Hell into a tangible dimension one can visit, it’s hard not to be skeptical. But 'Hellbound' ends up upping the intensity and imagination of the first film, toning down the sickening eroticism and replacing them with the morbid murderous curiosities of how we perceive our personal hells. As Kristy recoils in a mental institution (there we go again...), she realizes the twisted cenobites have been called back into her periphery by a curious doctor who seeks the power of their enchanted puzzle box. 'Hellbound' seems fixated more on the limits of fantasy horror rather than the torture porn-y appeal of the first effort, but in developing this alternate angle, it becomes a completely separate effort from its predecessor, less grotesquely kinky but more volatile and unpredictable than a horror sequel should be.

“A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors" (1987)
After the success of the first film, New Line Cinema plowed ahead without creator Wes Craven, rushing out the awful “A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” (completely oblivious that they had just made a film about repressed homosexuality). Craven was brought back along with a then-unknown Frank Darabont and director/co-writer Chuck Russell to co-write a third installment. Together they created the chapter that comes closest to the spirit of the first film, while doing the best job of expanding on those ideas. The story involves Freddy Krueger returning to terrorize a group of troubled teens in a psychiatric ward and delves a bit more into his mythology (“the bastard son of 1000 maniacs”). While the teens here are too thinly drawn for you to really care about them, this is the film where Krueger becomes a fully-fleshed out character with the sadistic wit that would make him the most memorable horror villain of the past two decades. When actor Robert Englund improvised the line “Welcome to prime time bitch!” Freddy’s fate was sealed as a monster you could cheer for and not the dark vision of terror Wes Craven had originally created. The film does contain the best Freddy one-liners, some inventive and truly surreal dream sequences and a dreamy Angelo Badalamenti score. While not as good as the original, it’s the only worthwhile sequel in the series (until 'New Nightmare') and the only one with Craven’s involvement.

“Phantasm II” (1988)
Taking off where the first “Phantasm” left off, this gonzo horror fantasy expands hugely on the no-budget original, telling a story that retains the eerie dream-like storytelling of the first film while also widening the galactic canvas of the mythology. In this installment, young Mike has grown up and, now released from a mental institution, is determined to stop the ghastly Tall Man from stealing corpses and using the bodies to fuel his intergalactic expansion. This, naturally, requires some firepower, so while the low-key first film focused on Mike being stalked, he is now the aggressor, taking on the open-road with balding would-be ice cream-slinging badass Reggie and actively hunting for this supernatural slimer who probably sees it coming. “Phantasm II” is filled with several inventive setups and action sequences, with a debt to the visual kineticism of Sam Raimi’s work, suggesting series creator Don Coscarelli has also spent his time between 'Phantasm' films (nine years) grabbing inspiration from many contemporaries.

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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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