Multi-movie horror franchises are big business in Hollywood, and the ‘Saw’ series serves up its eighth entry this weekend just in time for Halloween. Honestly, though, how many of these sequels are actually worthy follow-ups to their originals? We’ll look at a few in our new Roundtable.
M. Enois Duarte
Rather than immediately jump on any number of classic horror sequels, some love and attention should be given to the recent ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil‘. The prequel to the horrendous 2014 teen slasher genuinely surprised me and quickly became a favorite gem in my household. This is not an easy feat to accomplish, given the number of horror movies released each year, making an exceptional standout somewhat rare. This is even more true of the genre sequels. But Mike Flanagan’s film exceeded all expectations and did exactly what a good horror flick should do, which probably explains why audiences didn’t flock to theaters to see it or why others don’t consider it one of the best of the last couple years. The relatively new director has continuously demonstrated his talent for generating suspense, apprehension and an air of dread since his debut in ‘Absentia’, which he followed up with ‘Oculus’. In ‘Original of Evil’, the story of a struggling single mother in late-1960s Los Angeles quickly immerses viewers into a state of constant terror, and the movie is told in an homage-like style that feels reminiscent of classic ’50s and ’60s supernatural horror films. That’s another reason I love this shockingly good sequel.
Though I could easily point to ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ as one the most important and effective horror sequels, there’s something about ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II‘ that has it as my pick. With so much of the same cast and crew involved, this bigger and gorier sequel is almost an essential companion to first film. It has qualities that other ‘Hellraiser’ sequels can’t begin to approach, while at the same time calling back to nearly everything that worked well in the first film.
For me, ’28 Days Later’ is the perfect hybrid of art and horror. It would be impossible to capture that lightning in a bottle a second time (especially without Danny Boyle back in the director’s chair), so ‘28 Weeks Later‘ didn’t even bother attempting it. Instead, the sequel takes the story in a standard horror direction. In terms of quality, it doesn’t come close to matching ‘Days’, but I don’t think it’s trying to.
I love how the movie works entirely on its own, especially the set-pieces. When I think of ‘Weeks’, I see the kids driving a scooter through empty London streets. I think of the insane outbreak, a key element that wasn’t even portrayed in the first film. I think of the tension and nail-biting suspense in the darkened subway tunnel scene. While the first film was creative in its own sense, the sequel is creative in a completely different way. When it comes to horror movies, I’ve probably seen this sequel the most.
Director James Whale and star Boris Karloff created a cinema icon in 1931 with their big-screen adaptation of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’. Usually in these cases, sequels fail to live up – especially when the first movie is based on a famous novel with a seemingly finite ending. Somehow, amazingly, the pair’s return for 1935’s ‘The Bride of Frankenstein‘ resulted in a movie that’s more polished, more ambitious, serves up even richer themes, and adds in some delightfully unexpected humor on top. This is the rare case where a sequel betters the original.
I also feel the need to evangelize for ‘The Exorcist III‘ as much as I can. The movie was a box office bomb in 1990, but is very underrated. Although it’s quite different in tone and style than the original film, and noticeably suffers from studio tampering, it’s still truly the only of the ‘Exorcist’ sequels that’s worth a damn. Be sure to watch the theatrical cut first. Flawed though that version may be, the so-called “Director’s Cut” available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory is compiled from a cruddy VHS source and is best viewed as a curiosity.
Tell us your picks for favorite horror sequels in the Comments.