#tbt review: Horror sequels that wield an axe – Good follow-ups

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maxresdefaultJames Cole Clay // Film Critic

If we could get a show of hands, most of us would say that horror sequels are pretty terrible. This all started (for contemporary horror) back in the 80s when all you needed was a concept, a spooky mask and a $ 1 million dollar budget. It is (or was) a simple formula that has worked time and time again at the box office, but a chilling horror sequel is like finding an actual snipe on a “snipe hunt.”

It just gets to the point that familiarity becomes the worst enemy of a horror franchise. When mystery is revealed and we understand the method to the madness… the yawns and groans take the place over shrieks and scares.

How many times will Jason Vorhees be killed before he is banished to space? The answer is nine, nine whole movies of him sauntering around with a machete gratuitously preying on blonde girls and their boyfriends. But sometimes you just can’t resist a trip down memory lane, and for every JASON X, there’s one NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS lurking in the shadows of a video store.

THE CONJURING 2 comes out in wide release this week, and at this point has been getting favorable reviews. From experience, I can tell you the film plays like gangbusters in a crowded theater.

Here are a few of our personal favorite horror sequels.

psycho ii tony and megPSYCHO II (1983)

The great one, Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal horror film PSYCHO (1960) is a flawless film that has zero room for improvement. In the hearts and minds of Hitchcock followers, the thought of sequelizing Hitchcock is a crime punishable by a one way ticket to Bates Motel. But along came director Richard Franklin and screenwriter Tom Holland with a pointless sequel that really wasn’t such a terrible idea.

The 1983 follow-up PSYCHO II catches up with Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) 22 years after his killing spree. The original used Bates as more of a side character to tell a larger story, but Hitchcock knew how to find the darkness behind Perkins’ boyish charm.

Bates is the central focus of PSYCHO II and is back in the mansion questioning his sanity after stashing his mother’s body. Franklin and Holland make good use of a familiar location and use Bates as somewhat of a gumshoe throughout the film which unfolds as a mystery of sorts. With a solid performance from Perkins and supporting players Robert Loggia and Vera Miles, PSYCHO II is damn-near a miracle.
– James Cole Clay

maxresdefault-1ALIENS (1986)

James Cameron pulled off an incredible feat by following up Ridley Scott’s atmospheric and horror classic ALIEN. He upped the ante, provided more humor and thrills.

ALIEN and ALIENS are very different movies in tone, but both are equally as great. Saying which one is better is each person to his own: It depends how you like your movies. ALIEN operates like a slow-burning and eerie haunted house flick. Instead of fleeting spirits, you have an extraterrestrial presence lurking in the shadows.

ALIENS, on the other hand, moves at full tilt, never stopping for audiences to catch their breath. The threat is larger (there are more aliens), the set pieces are memorable and the direction flows smoothly.
– Preston Barta

a-nightmare-on-elm-street-3-dream-warriors-movie-image-26A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

To me, as we teased in the intro, DREAM WARRIORS is the first movie that comes to mind when it comes to “best horror sequel.” It upped the stakes, like ALIENS, in terms of narrative and imagery– and, AND it pits Freddy against a group of young mental patients who are not your usual horror movie idiots. They got plans of their own, they are interesting and there is actual skin on their bones. Plus, the film has some of the most inventive images ever– A TV box killing or vein puppeteering (pictured) may ring a bell.
– P.B.

Honorable Mentions: EVIL DEAD II, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3, Wes Craven’s NEW NIGHTMARE, and INSIDIOUS 3.

THE CONJURING 2 opens tomorrow.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.