Stabbing at Sequel Greatness: Four classic horror sequels deserving of critical acclaim

Stabbing at Sequel Greatness: Four classic horror sequels deserving of critical acclaim

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The real horror of most horror sequels is how horrible most of them are. Let’s face it, there have been many more awful sequels (Exorcist II: The Heretic; Jaws: The Revenge) than there have been successful ones.

The latest sequel to hit the big screen, Paranormal Activity 4, takes place several years after the franchise last left off. It follows a teenage girl (Kathryn Newton) and her family who begin to experience strange disturbances in their home after a couple of odd people move into the neighborhood.

With directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) back at the helm, Paranormal Activity 4 (which is also being released in IMAX) will hopefully breathe new life into the financially successful but critically diminishing franchise—we’ll find out when the movie hits theaters October 19. In the meantime, join us as we look back at some of the finest horror movie sequels ever made.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
directed by James Whale

Released nearly 80 years ago, Bride of Frankenstein is one of the oldest (and best) horror sequels. It was the last horror movie helmed by classic fright master James Whale, who directed many of the classic Universal horror films, including the 1931 original Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man. Boris Karloff returns as Mary Shelley’s iconic, sympathetic monster who was thought to be dead at the end of the first movie. As this sequel quickly proves, the creature is still very much alive and Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) soon sets about creating what he promised in the original—building a mate (Elsa Lanchester) for his lonely, love-hungry monster. Bride of Frankenstein set the standard for a successful horror sequel, expanding upon the previous movie with a surprising blend of horror, humor and tragedy.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
directed by George Romero

Writer-director George Romero’s follow-up to Night of the Living Dead takes place during an ever-growing zombie epidemic, in which four survivors take refuge in a shopping mall (the movie was shot at the Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania, which has since become a tourist attraction for Dawn fans). While the movie is an exciting, blood-soaked zombie extravaganza (with creative makeup effects by gore auteur Tom Savini), Romero’s script also has a darkly funny, thought-provoking element that unexpectedly adds witty social satire to the mix. The movie can be seen as a tongue-in-cheek take on American consumerism; in Romero’s view, shoppers trudging through a typical suburban mall are not all that different from his “zombies.” With its ambitious scope and layered meanings, Dawn of the Dead still stands as the The Godfather: Part II of horror sequels. Note: Fans of the film should seek out Joe Hill’s excellent short story “Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead” (available in his 2005 collection, 20th Century Ghosts), which takes places on the Dawn of the Dead set (and features Romero and Savini as characters).

Aliens (1986)
directed by James Cameron

James Cameron took the Alien franchise in an exciting new direction with this rousing sequel. While the first, Ridley Scott-directed movie was a haunted house set on a spaceship, this sequel amps up the action element considerably, with a larger scope and more pyrotechnics. Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley, the lone survivor from the first mission, who, in the intervening 57 years, has been in a cryogenic sleep. When her ship is discovered, Ripley is brought up on serious criminal charges and, to regain her pilot’s license, must accompany a military team to the planet where the original crew discovered the alien. Will she, and the rest of the team, make it back alive, especially since the title is now plural? The Terminator may have been Cameron’s breakthrough movie, but Aliens solidified his reputation as a pulse-pounding, visceral moviemaker

Army of Darkness (1993)
directed by Sam Raimi

The third movie in the The Evil Dead trilogy starts exactly where the previous entry, Evil Dead II, left off—with lowly S-mart employee Ash (Bruce Campbell) teleported into a medieval world where demons and witches actually exist. A live-action comic book come to life, Army of Darkness piles on the goofy humor more so than the previous movies, but also increases the number of ghoulish nemeses for Ash to battle, including his evil doppelgänger. It’s one of the most outrageously entertaining sequels ever made.

New Nightmare (1994)
directed by Wes Craven

Although New Nightmare is technically the seventh movie in the Freddy Krueger saga, it’s a much more rewarding viewing experience if you pretend this movie is the only follow-up to Wes Craven’s 1984 classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. New Nightmare is an original, bold take on horror sequels with Heather Langenkamp, star of the first Nightmare, playing herself this time around. Heather discovers she must take on the role of Nancy one last time to stop the evil, real-life spirit of Freddy Krueger from entering the world. The movie boasts supporting performances from cast and crew members of the original movie, all playing themselves: John Saxon, Robert Englund (playing both himself and Freddy), former New Line Cinema CEO Robert Shaye and even writer-director Craven, who, in the movie, is having recurring nightmares of the iconic slasher to whom he gave life. New Nightmare expertly explores the concept that a cinematic creation can literally take on a life of its own. With its unique, self-reflexive approach, the movie breathed new life into the tired Nightmare franchise and proved that occasionally a sequel can match the creativity and fright-factor of the original.

Have a fave horror sequel that’s not on the list? Let us know below!

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