The Best Sequels
DAWN OF THE DEAD directed by George A. Romero
Chris H.: Upon releasing Night of the Living Dead in 1968, director George A. Romero certainly couldn't have expected his little, low-budget, zombie flick would go on to be the benchmark of the sub-genre. But it's his 1978 sequel, Dawn of the Dead, that horror fans remember most fondly. Taking his original concept of the dead returning to overrun the living, Romero throws in some social commentary by setting the film in a shopping mall (though the commentary would get thicker with 1985's Day of the Dead and all of his later "Dead" films) and gives us a whole slew of awesome Tom Savini gore effects to boot. I still consider the first three of Romero's flirtation with the undead to be the pinnacle of the sub-genre but it's Dawn that showed us how to make an effective, suspenseful, and bloody zombie flick properly.
Josh: Not only is Dawn the best sequel ever made but it is one of the best horror films of all time. George Romero expands on the idea he created in 1968 and delivers a classic that we can all relate to by using a location that we all know - a shopping mall. As we watch the movie, we fantasize about how cool it would be to have a shopping mall to ourselves and the characters take full advantage of the benefits that the situation offers them. By creating this situation and having memorable characters, we are fully engaged in this epic and when the honeymoon ends, we are disappointed and angry. The ability of a horror movie to evoke these kinds of feelings is rare. To add icing to the cake, Tom Savini offers up some of his most memorable make-up effects, the action set pieces are unique, the music fits perfectly, and there are a whole lot of zombies.
Chris C.: You may well regard it as the quintessential zombie sequel, but George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead is more than that. It's the most enduring, most comical and, arguably, the most pop-culture-captivating of Romero's early triumvirate of ground-breaking zombie shockers. Chock full of classic splatter, iconic lines and a raging score, what you have here is a film that was an integral part of my early years as an avid and hungry horror fan. Having invented the now-traditional zombie with Night of the Living Dead, Romero leaves a definitive imprint on the collective consciousness with this sequel and provided it with an almost untouchable legacy.
ALIENS directed by James Cameron
Chris H.: Ridley Scott's Alien was a champion of subtle suspense and had awesome creature design by Swiss artist H.R. Giger but it was Terminator director James Cameron who came to the series and delivered the slam-bang action the remaining follow-ups would try to re-capture with varying success. Cameron doesn't rely on shadows and stalking scenes like Scott did instead throwing a bunch of hard-ass Marines on a spaceship with survivor Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) to fight off the aliens and their Queen. This sequel is so high octane that it's easy to see why it was a hit (it's still the highest grossing entry) but there are enough tense scenes and alien attacks to please anyone.
Josh: Director James Cameron takes the world that Ridley Scott created and makes a balls-out action flick rather than a quiet scarefest and it works way better than one would have expected considering how great the original was. Sigourney Weaver returns to fight aliens along with a team of soldiers and a little girl who is actually not annoying. Each of the soldiers has a unique personality from Hicks (Michael Biehn) to Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) to the hilarious Hudson (Bill Paxton). We also get Lance Henriksen as an android and some unbelievably cool alien monsters courtesy of Stan Winston and his team. This is one of those movies that you think of and remember as pure awesomeness.
Chris C.: Okay, so 'less is more' doesn't always apply! How on earth do you follow-up a quiet, brooding piece of sci-fi/horror cinema like Alien? It's simple: you hand the sequel to another director, chuck in a load of action, cool characters, a badass leading lady and more acid-spitting Xenomorphs than you know what to do with! Director James Cameron picks up the pieces left behind by his predecessor, Ridley Scott, and delivers a strikingly different but no less engaging sequel in Aliens. It's harder, darker and faster than all the other entries in the series, and shows us heroine Ripley's transition from fearful victim into unabashed saviour. Plus, there are innumerably more aliens and plenty of wicked cool guns. What's not to love?
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN directed by James Whale
Chris H.: When you think of Universal's classic Frankenstein films, you instantly think of Boris Karloff. But Bride of Frankenstein introduced a foil to his monster in the form of Elsa Lanchester. Continuing where the original left off, Bride works in many ways: with comedic elements, a tragic story of love and rejection, and a finale filled with destruction and death. I consider this the last serious Frankenstein film Universal made in the era of "Classic Monsters" and still, to this day, find a surprising amount of resonating emotion in a movie that, I assume, wasn't taken seriously by the 1930's viewing public.
Josh: This list is of the best horror sequels, not the best horror sequels that were better than the original. That being said, this is a classic Universal horror flick that was made in a time where there were not a lot of sequels. Hollywood finally caught on the the money potential that sequels offer in the 1940's but it was a different time and not nearly as expected as it is today. At any rate, I do not think that Bride is better than the original Frankenstein but as a sequel, it is a Hell of a good flick. Boris Karloff returns as the monster and Colin Clive returns as his master. Also returning is Dwight Frye as a slightly different character and Elsa Lanchester in the iconic role of the bride. James Whale's direction is more ambitious and the plot more complex than the original. Karloff is instrumental in moving the character forward especially in interactions with a blind man and during the final moments of the film.
Chris C.: It's rare that a sequel eclipses its predecessor but James Whales' genre-defining Bride of Frankenstein occupies such hallowed ground. Released in 1935, Bride tells the story of the crazed Dr. Frankenstein and his attempts to create a mate for his tragic monster. It's a film that makes use of its gothic undertones and Whales' creativity, resulting in a fine piece of cinema that aptly proves just how strong the Universal era of the 30's was. Further films would ruin the mystique of Karloff's famous monster and dilute the appeal of the character, but Bride and the film it followed remain striking examples of early horror cinema and should be high on your list of essential purchases if the history of creepy movies interests you.
EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN directed by Sam Raimi
Chris H.: Less a sequel and more of a remake, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is the film that made me fall in love with the series. Bought on VHS tape for me by my Grandmother (a purchase made simply due to the box art, I might add), my teen years were filled with multiple viewings of Sam Raimi's delightful mixture of slapstick and gore. While I enjoy the original more as a horror film, this is the movie I (and many like me) became a big fan of Bruce Campbell and the seemingly endless abuse he takes in the film. Where else are you going to see someone lop off their own zombified hand, cut off his fiancée's demonic head with a shovel, and have a laughing fit in a room filled with possessed clocks, books, and a mounted deer head. When I need a good laugh or smile, or when I want outrageous gore, I always rely on Evil Dead 2 to deliver - and it always does.
Josh: As we have seen so far in this list, the secret to making a great sequel is to expand on the original rather than repeat it. In a sense, Evil Dead 2 is very similar to its predecessor but director Sam Raimi recognizes the talent and appeal of star Bruce Campbell and makes him the ultimate horror fanboy icon. Raimi fans know of his love of slapstick and comedy and these elements are amped way up in this flick making it one of the most fun gory movies you will ever see. It is one of those situations where you have the perfect director/actor chemistry and the rest of the crew clearly understand what they are trying to achieve. The result is pure entertainment that looks like it was just as fun to make as is to watch. The third film in the series, Army of Darkness, has the same attitude and is also a rip-roaring piece of pure entertainment.
Chris C.: It doesn't take much to become a hero in film these days, but becoming an iconic and influential one takes some doing. Fortunately, Bruce Campbell's comic-timing and appropriate love of the Three Stooges (a love shared by director Sam Raimi) has ensured that his beloved character Ash has remained a stalwart of horror cinema for decades. Helmed by Raimi largely as a bigger-budget remake of his previous film, The Evil Dead, this more comical but no less imaginative sequel finds the bumbling Ash cooped up in that isolated house again for another fight with creatures and spirits from another world. Madness ensues as Ash has yet another crazy night and we're along with him, peering at the shadows in the corners of the room and laughing at the sheer insanity of what's unfolding. Yes, Evil Dead 2 really is a very special film indeed, as it rather neatly captures all the energy, excitement and sheer bloody horror that we enjoy in our cinema. Oh and the one-liners start here and, yes, they are awesome. Groovy!
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS directed by Chuck Russell
Chris H.: Of the choices here, I have the most mixed feelings about this one. I love the movie and what returning co-writer (and series creator) Wes Craven and Chuck Russell did with it but I feel that it's the film responsible for making Freddy into the pop culture comedian all the sequels would portray him as. However, Dream Warriors was a great return to form after the mediocre second entry and proved you could make an imaginative, funny, and just plain "cool" sequel. There's a lot to like here from Dokken's title song downward. Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon both return, Robert Englund gives his best performance as Freddy, and the premise gives a lot of opportunity for cool, dream focused set pieces such as the infamous "Welcome to prime time, bitch!" television smash and the 'Freddy worm'. This isn't one bit scary but is too damn entertaining for you to really care - it's too bad that the next entry would begin a drop in quality that our razor-handed killer has yet to recover from.
Josh: We had to include at least one flick featuring either Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers and this is the one that seemed to shine above the rest. Although I am not a fan of the Freddy movies, this one manages to take the original concept a little further and make us forget the lameness that part two delivered. The sequels in the series got gradually worse but when I think of the unholy three horror icons of the 80's, this movie did the best job of trying something new. This is likely due to the fact that both Wes Craven and Frank Darabont (The Mist) were involved in the script and the fact that Heather Langenkamp came back from the original. There is also the unforgettable kill featuring Freddy using a person's veins as puppet strings. At the end of the day, though, when I think of this flick, the first thing that comes to mind is Dokken and their classic theme song.
Chris C.: You may argue that many of the A Nightmare on Elm Street sequels missed the mark, but few would not agree that Dream Warriors is one of the stronger examples of how to mix the dynamic Freddy Krueger into a script that balances its darkest elements with some of the burgeoning comedy that would take centre-stage in later films. Conceived largely as a direct sequel to the first film (and seemingly ignoring the rather bizarre part 2), Dream Warriors showcases the return of Nancy Thompson, as she joins forces with a group of psychiatric hospital patients to combat the return of sweater-wearing dream killer Freddy. Co-written by Wes Craven, who helmed the first film in the series, Dream Warriors coasts along wonderfully, thanks largely to its fearless imagination, strong casting and a great concept. Robert Englund is in fine form here, with his upgraded billing clearly showing that there was much left to come for the character, but much of it would rarely be as good as this.