Rob Zombie's Halloween remake didn't hold up to the original, but his ambitious sequel stirred up all the most interesting ideas from the Halloween sequels and served them on a gory, psychosexual platter. It's a divisive film but whether you love it or hate it, Halloween II's sheer audaciousness is worthy of praise.
The alien hunter moved from the literal jungle to the urban jungle in this semi-futuristic sequel, in which a group of Los Angeles cops investigate a series of murders perpetrated by a camouflaged extra-terrestrial. Predator 2 doesn't have the same subversive streak as the original, and that's okay, because it's still fun, effective entertainment.
The first Scream changed the horror genre, possibly forever, and although the second film doesn't have the same impact it's still a very effective slasher, with smart characters, suspenseful set pieces, memorable deaths and a few genuinely shocking surprises.
Thomas Harris's over the top follow-up to The Silence of the Lambs became an over the top movie, spilling over with gran guignol flourish and outsized drama. Okay, so Hannibal isn't nearly as refined as its predecessor, but it's a gloriously gothic piece of entertainment, with a handful of unforgettably grotesque moments.
Several of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels are entertaining, but the second film may be the most tragic and horrifying, using Freddy Krueger not as an excuse for inventive death scenes but as a representation of the phobias and anxieties that swirl around a teenager's sexual identity crisis. Freddy's Revenge breaks some of the "rules" of the series, and some fans are still mad about that, but if you look past you'll find it's one of the most ambitious and unsettling films in the series.
The Final Destination movies are, more than even most slashers, all about elaborate death scenes. And never were the deaths more consistently glorious than in Final Destination 2. From the fantastic opening freeway chase to the spectacular dentistry fake-out and beyond, this sequel - once again about people who cheat death, and who become death's next victims through any means possible - features a lot of the highlights of a franchise which, let's be honest, had no shortage of them.
The killer doll Chucky was scary enough in Child's Play, but that film spent more time focusing on the adults than on the kid whose plaything turned evil. Child's Play 2 focuses on a child's experience, amplifying the horror and creating a more tragic atmosphere, because nobody believes the child's stories until it's way too late. And the Terminator sequence at a toy factory is a masterful climax, packed with action and nightmare fuel.
A national holiday when murder is legal is a great concept for a horror movie, but it wasn't until the first sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, that audiences finally got to witness the carnage in all of its glory. Frank Grillo plays a man who gets sidetracked from his own murderous mission, who can't help but save innocent lives in a world gone violently, imaginatively mad.
The flailing Halloween series found its focus once again when original heroine Laurie Strode returned with a lifetime of personal baggage for (supposedly) one last duel with Michael Myers. Halloween H20 is a slick slasher but Jamie Lee Curtis's impressive performance puts the awkwardly-titled Halloween H20 over the top.
Rob Zombie's first film, House of 1,000 Corpses, was overblown and hard to watch. But somehow his sequel, The Devil's Rejects, made audiences forget all about that. It's a prurient and amoral crime thriller about a family of mass murderers on the run from the law, which - thanks to Zombie's overwhelming sentimentality for monsters - makes us care more about the unforgivable creeps than their victims.
Tobe Hooper through subtlety out the window for his second Texas Chainsaw Massacre, an overwhelming horror comedy about a DJ who gets embroiled in a cannibal family's plot to put human flesh in chili and a sheriff who plays to chainsaw duel to the bad guys to death. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a loud, chaotic descent into madness, with one of the most spectacular climaxes in horror movie history.
If The Purge: Anarchy was the action movie fans of the original were waiting for, then The Purge: Election Year is the apotheosis of the franchise, combining horror, action and damning political commentary. A liberal politician, who plans to fix the country and outlaw "The Purge," becomes a target for assassins and hides out with oppressed communities who have plans to use The Purge to their bloody advantage as well. This is intelligent and challenging horror filmmaking, wrapped inside a brash and gory package.
Child's Play 2 may be the scariest film in the franchise, but Bride of Chucky is easily the most enjoyable. Chucky and his bride Tiffany (played spectacularly by Jennifer Tilly) are on a murderous road trip with two hapless teens in a sequel that finally acknowledges the absurdity of the whole "killer doll" premise and has fun with it, with great gags, unexpected twists and surprisingly fun characters.
The violent delights of the original Hellraiser give way to demonic decadence in Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, a film that expands on the series' already complex mythology and ups the ante in terms of visual effects, makeup and depravity. This film features what may be the greatest depiction of literal Hell in movie history.
If the original Gremlins was horrifying subversion of Main Street America, then Gremlins 2 is a spot-on satire of corporate America, with the fiendish little imps undermining television stations, movie theaters and a billion dollar company. Joe Dante's already impressive imagination runs wild, with bizarre sight gags, fourth-wall breaks and mutated gremlins that get bigger brains, spider legs, vegetable faces and wings.
The original Friday the 13th becomes, in the first (and best) sequel, a campfire story for future generations. Little do the new camp counselors know that there's a nugget of truth in the old legend of Jason Voorhees, and that he plans to kill them one by one. Only the heroine, who takes the horror genre seriously and finds a small amount of empathy for the madman, has a chance of surviving in this impressive, thoughtful, influential slasher classic, one that is superior to the original in almost every way.
The third film in the Evil Dead movie abandons any aspirations to genuine horror and focuses instead on daffy supernatural action-comedy, a medley that works impressively well when headlined by the dashing Bruce Campbell and directed by the wacky Sam Raimi. Our hero has been rocketed into the past and rescues King Arthur's court from an army of undead monsters, including his own evil doppelgänger, and spouts one hilarious and quotable line of dialogue after another.
Dario Argento's Suspiria is considered one of the scariest movies ever made, and his first follow-up - Inferno, about another all-powerful witch filling the world with vibrant, violent evil - might be even scarier. It's a stream-of-consciousness nightmare, flitting from one protagonist to another as they fall prey to supernatural influence, composed with terrifying and brilliant imagery and music. Inferno is difficult to describe, but impossible to ignore.
The second film in the Exorcist series is one of the worst ever made, which led many to overlook The Exorcist III altogether. They missed out on a film that's arguably more frightening than The Exorcist was, an alternately elegant and phantasmagoric mystery about an aging detective (George C. Scott) investigating murders that make no sense, and which will haunt your nastier nightmares. Some of the shots in The Exorcist III are among the scariest ever filmed. The rest of the movie nearly follows suit.
George Romero took the zombie apocalypse of his original, classic Night of the Living Dead and expanded it into a colorful, action-packed, gory satire of consumer culture. Dawn of the Dead shoves its heroes into a mall and dares them to want to leave, while an army of mindless ghouls tries constantly to break in. One of the most influential films in the horror genre, and with good cause.
As beloved as Dawn of the Dead may be, time is proving even kinder to Romero's third zombie classic. Day of the Dead is an extended panic attack of a film, in which what may be the last few human beings on Earth fall victim to paranoia and utter madness as they fight to preserve or rid themselves of the last few vestiges of normalcy. Meanwhile, the zombies might be getting smarter. Terrifying and amazingly violent filmmaking, from start to finish.
Wes Craven finally returned to the franchise he created, but he didn't just make another Nightmare on Elm Street sequel. He made a film in which his boogeyman, Freddy Krueger, tries to break into the real world because a series of ineffectual sequels made him a useless metaphor for our fears. And if our stories can't hold our fears, they're bound to become more dangerous in real life. Wes Craven's New Nightmare isn't a self-aware comedy, it's a disturbingly insightful examination of the whole horror genre, and an inverse, subversive retelling of the events of the original Nightmare on Elm Street from a wholly different point of view. And yes, it's scary as hell.
Sam Raimi's low-low-low budget Evil Dead became a merely low-budget sequel, and the filmmaker's wild imagination makes the most of that added budget by turning the saga of a man trapped in a cabin in the woods with malevolent supernatural forces into one of the most wild and inventive horror movies ever produced. The bravura filmmaking techniques, cartoonish gore and bizarre storytelling in Evil Dead II became a flashpoint for the genre, inspiring and setting a high bar for nearly every filmmaker that followed.
Ridley Scott's influential "haunted house in space" sci-fi classic evolved into a full-fledged Vietnam War allegory in James Cameron's explosive sequel. What was once the story of a normal woman outmatched is now an action-packed saga of gun-toting macho marines dissolving into quivering masses in the face of a superior enemy, with spectacular monster effects and impressive writing, directing, and acting on every front. Aliens isn't just one of the best horror sequels, it's one of the best action movies and one of the best sci-fi movies too.
Everything people want from sequels can be found in The Bride of Frankenstein, a bold and funny and creepy follow-up to James Whale's original blockbuster horror classic. Innovative visual effects, fascinating characters, bizarre new themes and visual storytelling that was easily decades ahead of its time keep The Bride of Frankenstein feeling as fresh and exciting as ever. It's still one of the very best movies ever made, and it's certainly the best horror sequel.