The only thing studios love more than a great idea, is a great idea that’s already based on an existing movie. In a lot of cases, a movie is still playing in theaters (or in some cases hasn’t even been released yet), and the studio is already greenlighting a sequel, hoping for a larger return on investment with some name recognition from the first movie.
While all of Hollywood has been going hard down this path for the past decade or so, the horror genre was kind of already there a long time ago. With cinematic universes left and right, it’s easy to take for granted that there was a time when having 10 entries wasn’t something a car chase movie like Fast and Furious would do, but instead something that was relegated to horror movies, particularly slashers in the 1980’s.
And while sequels usually have a reputation for being cheap cash grabs, they sometimes turn out really well and in some cases even surpass the original. Now we’re not saying that any of the following 10 movies are better than their predecessors. We’re just celebrating 10 horror sequels that are of exceptional quality, even if they aren’t quite as good as the previous movie. So here are our picks for the 10 Best Horror Movie Sequels!
Note: We are specifically counting sequels, not prequels. So very well made prequels like Annabelle Creation, Oujia: Origin of Evil, or Prey will not be considered.
There were honestly way too many solid horror sequels that we just didn’t have room to include. These four were among the best that came very, very close to making the list.
Bride of Frankenstein – The OG horror sequel was a bold move back in 1935. But it proved to pay off by adapting one of the more interesting subplots from Mary Shelley’s source novel and just doing a great job of humanizing its monster. It did everything a sequel is supposed to do, expanding the mythology of the original, while telling its own unique story.
Child’s Play 2 – Between young Alex Vincent coming more into his own as an actor, as well as a really cool climax set in the doll factor, many Chucky fans consider this to be the best movie of the series, and rightfully so.
The Conjuring 2 – A lot of supernatural horror sequels fall victim to having the same characters go through the same ordeal again for contrived reasons. But this movie smartly kept Ed and Lorraine Warren, but moved them to another continent for another case so it felt fresh and new enough, while still feeling close in spirit to the first movie.
The Devil’s Rejects – While it feels more like a standalone spinoff, it does follow House of 1000 Corpses and does a great job turning the tables on the Firefly family. There’s even a running joke about how some fans have only seen this one, and never heard of the predecessor.
Now for the Top 10:
10. Saw II
The ending of the first Saw film was undoubtedly one of the coolest horror movie twists in recent memory. So it was always going to be difficult to recapture that magic. So instead, the second film gave us exactly what the first one didn’t: lots and lots of Jigsaw.
The first movie spends most of its runtime with the characters (and audience) having no idea who Jigsaw is. And after revealing him, the sequel smartly puts him front and center, giving us Tobin Bell’s amazing and captivating performance as he just toys and mentally manipulates Donnie Wahlberg’s character the entire movie.
It does everything a sequel should do by giving us something new and just letting Jigsaw do his thing the entire movie.
9. The Purge: Anarchy
The original Purge film had a great concept, but was sadly limited by its very small budget. The result was a typical home invasion film. Its sequel, The Purge: Anarchy took all the cool ideas the first movie had and just ran with them, now that it had the ability to do so.
As the title suggests, we got to see chaos in the streets as a band of unlikely allies stick together to try and survive the night. It shows all the full potential of what you can do with purge night, while also hinting at the larger socio political theme regarding. what the purge is really all about.
8. 28 Weeks Later
Taking the low budget, almost documentary feel of 28 Days Later and expanding it in scope and budget was admittedly a risk. But it very much paid off in this sequel that took basic ideas from the first but expanded upon them. Here we see the longer term effects of the rage virus outbreak in Britain, as well as the efforts to rebuild society.
Granted, there’s a not so subtle subtext about the nature of military occupation, but it’s blended with some outstandingly choreographed chase scenes. And it contains what is perhaps the most heart-pounding, thrilling opening scene to any horror movie in history. We challenge anyone to watch that scene and not have the adrenaline pumping the entire time!
7. Evil Dead II
Much like The Purge: Anarchy, this entry took everything great about the first movie, and expanded upon it, due to having more resources and a higher budget. At times, it feels more like a remake, but it technically does follow the first movie, thus it still counts
It shows us just how much both Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were capable of doing, and its ending scene teased something that at the time, we never knew would eventually pay off with Army of Darkness. It remains the quintessential “cabin in the woods’ horror film, even more so than the original.
6. Hellbound: Hellraiser II
What’s really cool about Hellbound is not only that it begins immediately where Hellraiser ends, but that it feels more like a second half to one larger film. The first one does a lot of buildup to the cenobites and everything that comes with them, while this movie delivers on that promise by showing us hell itself and all the pleasures and pains that come along with it.
Hell itself feels like an abstract painting meets a fever dream, and it’s such a cool direction to take the story after only giving us small glimpses in the first movie. Also Kirsty Cotton proves herself truly worthy of her title of best final girl in how she wheels and deals with Pinhead again, once again coming out on top.
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2
What’s great about TCM2 is that it almost feels like it’s in a completely different genre that the original movie, and that’s very much the point. Demand was incredibly high for a sequel to the movie that arguably helped start the slasher genre (4 years before Halloween), but Tobe Hooper held out for over a decade, and when he finally relented by making a sequel, he trolled the very idea of sequels.
Rather than just redo all the same beast from before, this movie takes the cannibalistic Sawyer family, and puts them into the “real world”. Everything is heightened, everything is absurd and over the top, from Bill Moseley’s Chop Top to Dennis Hopper wielding two chainsaws in an absurdly amazing, but badass finale!
4. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
Usually when a horror sequel goes supernatural when the previous film(s) weren’t, it’s a recipe for disaster. But it very much worked in Hello Mary Lou, which winds up not only surpassing it’s far less interesting predecessor (fight me if you disagree), but it’s honestly one of the best slashers of the entire 1980’s (I said what I said).
One part possession story, one part Mean Girls, and one part 80’s slasher, Hello Mary Lou is equal parts hilarious, bloody, and creative. The possession elements utilize fascinating dreamlike sequences.
And Mary Lou herself is just so much fun as a villain. You get the sense that while she was far from a perfect person, she didn’t deserve the horrific fate that befell her in the 1950’s, so now she’s out for blood and just doesn’t care. And in the process, she sort of wound up becoming an unintentional feminist icon.
It was reported that a major influence on this movie was Carrie, and after watching it, it very much shows. It’s an example of bold, creative, and bizarre choices that pay off because they’re interesting and memorable.
3. Scream 2
As Stu Macher exclaimed in the first Scream, “these days, you gotta have a sequel”, Scream 2 lives up to that hype and more. In typical meta fashion, it completely deconstructs everything that a slasher sequel is and kind of does it, because it’s aware of the tropes it sort of gets away with it. It ups the body count, ups the scope, and even ups the stakes, as we learn the motivation behind one of the killers donning the Ghostface mask.
All the while, the characters themselves complain about sequels, as well as watch the events of the first movie turned into a cheap slasher called “Stab”. From here on, this franchise was very big on how media attention played into the nature of these killings. But what’s most impressive about Scream 2 is that it gives us characters that have grown, but are still reeling with the trauma of the first movie.
Their decisions here are much more informed because of what they’ve been through before, and it makes them all feel more like real people. The Scream series tried to do the trilogy trick with Scream 3, it tried to go remake in Scream 4, and it went full requel in Scream (2022), but none of those sequels have ever come close to Scream 2.
This movie almost didn’t make the list on the technicality that it’s more sci-fi/action. But it is a sequel to what is undoubtedly sci-fi/horror. After all, the first Alien has long been described as “Halloween in Space”. So Aliens counts, but alas Terminator 2 doesn’t because we had the draw the line somewhere. Sorry if you’re a huge James Cameron fan like Mickey in Scream 2.
Aliens astonishingly demonstrates just how much of a difference a single letter “s” makes when you add it to the title. Again, taking the mythos of the first movie with the deadly xenomorph and expanding it to an entire army of them that a group of space marines is fighting for survival against, and you have a recipe for a masterpiece.
Vietnam War metaphors aside, Aliens takes a group of soldiers who seem badass at the beginning and strips them of all their confidence and courage as they’re up against a truly terrifying opponent. It’s not just that it had endless quotable lines like “mostly” and “game over man”, it also has one of the most epic finales ever as Ripley takes on the Xenomorph Queen in a stunning battle that’s done completely with practical effects.
This movie provides the answer to the sarcastic question during the first movie, “what if they just had a gun and shot it?” by showing us just how deadly these creatures are, even up against a well-trained platoon of armed soldiers.
1. The Exorcist III
Sometimes alternately titled “Legion” like its source novel, The Exorcist III not only sweeps away the sins of the abysmal second installment that we don’t speak of. It also expands on the ideas of the first film and runs with them into fascinating and surprisingly philosophical territory.
Based on William Peter Blatty’s follow up novel (and directed by him as well), this movie is the epitome of author intent, in a good way. In the wake of The Exorcist, so many other possession movies felt the need to “increase the intensity” with wind machines and earthquakes happening during exorcism scenes. And while this movie dabbles in that a tiny bit, its focus on more on story, character, and mood.
We get a possession movie disguised as a hard-boiled detective mystery, featuring one of the creepiest performances of all time, Brad Dourif as the sadistic Gemini Killer. He’s scary when he’s shouting, but he’s even more frightening when he’s quiet. All the while, we get an award-worthy performance by George C. Scott as a detective wrestling with his own faith and view of the world.
After directing the original Exorcist, William Friedkin claimed that his goal wasn’t to make a horror movie, but rather a drama about the nature of good and evil. Exorcist III succeeds at that goal much more than its predecessor and does something that many horror films (and films in general) are afraid to do, it makes the audience think!
What did you think of our list? What horror sequels would you have included? Let us know in the comments!
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