10) Halloween H20- The return of Michael Myers and his sister Laurie Strode in 1998 was brilliantly timed and a blast to see in theaters. I think that’s why this one has always been so memorable for me. Both this and the next inclusion on the list were the first slasher movies I saw in theaters and I thought they were brilliant. H20 picked up were Halloween 2 left off 20 years later. It disregards the previous trilogy in the franchise and ultimately I think that’s for the better. Those movies certainly had things to like about them but by Halloween 6 I felt Myers was more than a little separated from his roots. Watching an adult Jamie Lee Curtis battle Michael Myers is almost too good to be true and the film doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Her performance is fantastic and you can really tell she still had a lot of love for the series. Curtis was in no way the only star in this picture, the cast is filled with amazing young talent for Michael to kill like Josh Hartnett, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and even LL Cool J. It’s by far one of the most enjoyable films of the 90s and more than worthy of my number 10 spot.
9) Scream 2- By the time the mid 90s rolled around slasher films had become formulaic and easily predictable. They just hadn’t changed very much since their peak of popularity in the 80s. Most of them stuck to the same tropes and because of that audiences weren’t as enthusiastic for the genre as they once had been. Then in 1996 Wes Craven brought slashers out of the 80s and back into the spotlight with Scream. A film that acknowledged the tropes and stereotypes of slasher films and played on that, adding them to it’s own mythos and using them to it’s advantage in a way that was relatable to a new audience. Naturally it was a massive hit and a sequel was quickly planned for the next year. Of course horror sequels come with their own set of rules and tropes and Scream 2 was just as brilliant in its acknowledgment and use of them as the first film was. It does what so many other sequels fail to do, it feels in every way connected to the first movie. The transition between the two films is seamless and these days I have hard time rewatching the first without watching the second after to complete the story. I can’t say I feel the same about the later films in the series, though I do enjoy them quite a bit. The new cast of characters are a solid replacement for those not returning from the first and make a srong impression in their own right. The stand out of new cast for me was Sarah Michelle Gellar as Cici, though I did keep expecting her to dropkick Ghostface.
8) Paranormal Activity 2- The first Paranormal Activity didn’t leave a very good first impression on me. I was impressed that they were able to do so much with so little and make a ton of money doing it but I just didn’t really think it was all that scary. I thought it was an interesting experiment in film making and that was about as much as I could say about it. When I heard there was a sequel in the works I blew it off as an attempt to cash in on the first movie’s success and nothing more, I was more than pleasantly surprised. This film expanded on the story in fantastic fashion and in doing so made a villain you never see interesting. The more the story expands the more you get sucked into its world and the more the film’s chilling atmosphere begins to show itself. I left this movie wanting to know more, more about the ill fated family and more about the demon that plagued them. Though it’s technically a prequel as most of it takes place shortly before the events of the first, it still plays like a sequel in how it expands the story. They would continue expanding the story through stepping back in the third installment and while it wasn’t quite as strong as the second it was still pretty enjoyable. I recommend this movie to anyone who like me, didn’t really care for the first and didn’t give the later films in the series a chance because of it. I think you’ll find much more than you expected, it’s certainly smarter than the average found footage movie.
7) Army of Darkness- The Evil Dead trilogy is hands down the strangest in cinema history. With a sequel that’s actually an over the top remake of the first it definitely leaves first time viewers with more than a few questions. Army of Darkness takes an already strange series in a very different direction, landing the iconic chainsaw handed hero Ash in 1300 A.D. Once there Ash must battle the army of the dead in order to protect the innocent and return home. This is filmmaker Sam Raimi at his finest but what makes this movie such an awesome classic is its star. Bruce Campbell owns every minute of this movie. No one else could have brought the character to life like he did. All these years later people still love the Evil Dead franchise and Ash, so much so that starting this fall Ash returns in an all new series “Ash vs. The Evil Dead” that has generations of horror fans jumping for joy.
6) Aliens- One of the most iconic follow-ups of all time, Aliens was one of those movies that gives so much and does it so well it spawned an entire franchise of video games, comic books and action figures. The first movie did have some of that success but nowhere near the amount of Aliens. Every character in the film got an action figure eventually, it’s like the rated R Star Wars. So what about this movie made it overshadow the first? Well part of it’s in the titles, the first film only had one Alien and while it used it well and many prefer the original for it the second is definitely more marketable for it increase in numbers . It’s popularity isn’t just because there were more Aliens, this movie introduced one of the most popular elements to the series, the space marines. The awesome cast of characters definitely sets it apart from the rest of the Alien films and made for a tough act to follow. The Alien series never really hit that level of success again, largely due to the lower quality of the later films despite having some talent behind them. A new Alien film is in production starring Sigourney Weaver which promises to be the true follow-up to Aliens fans have been waiting for. Hopefully it can deliver but until then fans can always pop this classic in for their Aliens fix.
5) Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter- Part 4 isn’t just the best Friday the 13th film, in my opinion The Final Chapter is one of the best slasher movies ever made. It does everything a good slasher should do. It has memorable kills, a well cast group of teen victims, an unstoppable killer at his prime and a strong group of protagonists lead by a young Corey Feldman who to this day remains Jason’s most memorable foe. Usually as you watch these movies you feel like you’re just killing time before the killing starts. However, in Part 4 I find myself enjoying the time spent with the teens simple interacting with one another. They had real chemistry and were fun without feeling forced like other groups of slasher movie teens. If this truly had been Jason’s final chapter he would have ended his reign of terror on the highest of notes but for better or worse Jason’s story continued two movies later. The original series ended in 2001 with Jason going to space and somehow that film had more dignity than the 2009 remake. A new Friday the 13th movie taking place in the 80s is set to come out in 2016. Let’s hope it can capture even 1/10th of the Crystal Lake magic that The Final chapter had.
4) Halloween 3: Season of the Witch- I’m sure a good many people will disagree with this movie’s inclusion in this list but more so than any other film on here I stand by it. The original plan for the Halloween series after the second film was for Michael Myers to step away and for every film going forward to be a totally new story taking place on or around Halloween. Season of the Witch didn’t have a scream queen or a masked killer, it was a total different experience. The story played much more like a mystery with a dark twist. Whereas most 80s horror movies had a cast of characters in their teens or early 20s this cast was much more adult and that really works to the film’s advantage. The plot revolves around a troubled E.R. doctor played by the great Tom Atkins uncovering a plot to use an evil Celtic ritual to execute a mass murder. The story is dark and memorable and the ending is as twisted as it is satisfying. It would have been interesting to see where the Halloween series would have gone if fans hadn’t rejected this concept for it and demanded the return of Myers.
3) Psycho 2- To say the makers of Psycho 2 had big shoes to fill would be an understatement. How does one go about following up the godfather of slasher films made by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock? The answer was almost simple, wait over 20 years and do all the things Hitchcock couldn’t do/wasn’t allowed to do. This sequel sees the return of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates who after 22 years in a mental institution is freed and returns home to find his hotel in shambles and under new management. Though he tries to have a normal life it isn’t long before he once again receives the call of Mother. What this movie does better than any other film or TV show in the series is how it explores the psyche of the psycho. As you’re watching you really feel like you’re getting in the head of Norman Bates and while that very well could be the most terrifying aspect of the film, I found myself feeling sorry for the guy and almost rooting for him. Perkins does a great job adding a sympathetic nature to the character without costing it any of its creep factor. The story is brilliantly told and the horror and gore is well done and timed to perfection. To quote Quentin Tarantino “I like Psycho 2 more than the original.”
2) Dawn of the Dead- Ten years after “Night of the Living Dead” writer/director George A. Romero brought his undead creations back to the big screen and cemented his legacy as horror icon. Dawn of the Dead is the best survival story ever told on screen. Everything in this movie takes on a life of its own, even the secluded shopping mall the main characters hold up in. Everyone in the cast really commits to the story and the really make you believe they’re fighting for their lives. Probably my favorite character in the film is a troubled motorcycle gang member played by Tom Suvini. As you watch the film you almost feel like you’re in that mall with them, you feel their fear as they fight hordes of zombies. The survival eliminate is the key to any good zombie story and with this movie Romero wrote the book on it. Every zombie movie to come after it (and there were so many) tried to what Dawn of the Dead did and so few succeed. Even the highly successful 2004 remake of the same name couldn’t even capture a tenth of the magic that the original had. Dawn of the Dead and it’s creator started the zombie movement, today there are countless zombie films, video games, comics and even one of the most TV shows on the air today in “The Walking Dead”. None of that would have happened without George A. Romero, he’s the Godfather of the Walkers and don’t you forget it!
1) A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors- Following the less than stellar sequel to the first film the studio behind the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise brought back series creator Wes Craven to help develop the story for Freddy Krueger’s next chapter. Dream Warriors is my number one choice because it’s my favorite horror movie killer at his absolute best. In this movie Freddy takes on a group of troubled teen led by the heroes from the first film Nancy Thompson and her father Lt. Donald Thompson played again by Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon. It’s great to see where these characters ended up and how the events of the first film affected them. Not to be out shined the new cast of characters make a massive impact to the series. Kristen Walker played by Patricia Arquette is without a doubt Freddy’s second greatest foe, had she returned for the next film as originally planned she might have been the first. Overall it’s the best cast in the whole Elm Street series. This was one of the first horror movies I’ve seen where the teen victims actively try to combat the killer, the dream sequences where they confront him stand out among the other films and it’s really fun to see what each individual uses against him and how he responds to it. Because we learn so much more about these characters than we usually do it feels so much more real when Freddy uses their own insecurities to hurt them. To me this was Freddy at his most sinister. The combination Robert Englund’s always five star performance and some of the best and fear inducing visuals in Elm Street history as well as some funny moments that don’t take away from the horror element as much as later movies in the franchise puts it ahead of the pack. For those reasons and so many more Dream Warriors is my top pick for best horror sequels.