Ten Best Horror Movie 2nd Installments

If there’s any genre infamous for churning out sequels, its horror. Case in point: to date there have been nine installments in the Hellraiser saga, and some series, such as Saw and Paranormal Activity, could be counted on like death and taxes to release a new entry each and every year. Sequels are often a classic case of diminishing returns (Hello Exorcist II: The Heretic, although to be fair, the series rebounded quite nicely with The Exorcist III.) But not every horror sequel is vastly inferior to its progenitor. What follows are ten of the best second installments of long-running horror series. These are sequels that, while they might not have been better than the films that spawned them (though a few are), could be held up proudly next to their classic originators.

Phantasm-II

10) Phantasm II

Why The Tall Man, embodied by the late Angus Scrimm, is not included in the pantheon of horror icons along with Jason, Freddy, Mike Myers and Leatherface is, in my opinion, a darn shame. There’s just something about the extraterrestrial town mortician cocking his eyebrow and growling “BOOOOOOOOOY” at a terrified young Mike Pearson that is downright bone-chilling.

Part of the reason may be the hallucinatory, illusory and at times almost incomprehensible nature of the first Phantasm film (although, in my humble opinion, it is those exact qualities which make the first Phantasm so incredible.) Nonetheless, much of the impenetrability of the first installment was remedied in the second, which in many ways is more of an action film than an art house horror. Released in 1988, a full nine years after the original, Phantasm II picks up immediately where the first ended, and then flashes forward six years after our young hero (played by James Le Gros in his only go-round replacing A. Michael Baldwin as Mike) is released from an institution and re-teams with his late brother’s follically-challenged bud Reg (Reggie Bannister) to end the scourge of The Tall Man. Phantasm II is successful as a sequel because it gives the audience more. More Tall Man, more (and more dangerous) flying spheres, and also cements the touching fraternal relationship between Mike and Reggie which continues throughout the series.

Hellraiser-II

9) Hellbound: Hellraiser II

They probably should have stopped after this one. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser is a complex, challenging, perverse and heady horror film with loads of subtext, gore and weirdness to satisfy everyone’s tastes. The film also introduced cinema-goers to the iconic Pinhead and his masochistic and mutilated minions, the Cenobites.

The sequel is an unrelenting gorefest, continuing heroine Kirsty Cotton’s struggles against the Order of the Gash and her villainous stepmom Julia, while introducing a new antagonist in the diabolical Dr. Channard. It’s not subtle, but it delivers the grue in spades and has many, disturbing, disgusting sights to show you. We also get a touch of backstory as to Pinhead’s origins, revealing that he too once was human.

aliens

8) Aliens

James Cameron’s 1986 follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece is cited by many critics as a sequel that surpasses the original, although for my money, I prefer Scott’s stalk and slash space film to its more action-infused predecessor. Still, there’s no denying the visceral thrill of Aliens.

Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is a character for the ages, and in Aliens, she levels up huge. Actually, the entire movie is one big level up. As the sole-survivor of the doomed Nostromo, Ripley is awakened by a space-salvage team after 57 years in hyper-sleep, only to learn that the planet which housed the alien that killed her entire crew in the first film has now been colonized by humans and the colonists have gone off radar. Ripley joins a rescue crew consisting primarily of jacked-up marines to investigate.

Alien had one extraterrestrial to contend with. The sequel earns it’s plural as the Xenomorphs in Aliens are many, ferocious, organized and everywhere! Cameron intended his film as an allegory of the Vietnam War, but Aliens is in actuality not very cerebral. What it is, however, is a tense, violent and exhilarating hybrid horror/sci-fi/action tour de force.

Friday-13th-2

7) Friday the 13th Part 2

Released in 1981, one year after the original, Friday the 13th Part 2 is the first in the series to feature Jason Voorhees as the antagonist. It also features a very different Jason than the one we’ve grown accustomed too. Instead of the hockey-mask wearing assailant whose become a huge part of the pop-culture firmament, this Jason is more of an inbred, backwoods hillbilly type who lives in a dilapidated shack in the woods, wears overalls and hides his disfigured visage in a sack. (Hence, this itineration of Mrs. Voorhees’ baby boy is referred to affectionately by fans of the series as “Sackhead Jason”.)

The kills in Part 2 are incredible, although some have accused director Steve Miner of ripping off Mario Bava, who employed similar kills in his 1971 film A Bay of Blood. Nonetheless, this is one of the scariest entries in the long-running series, in no doubt because Jason is portrayed as a real human being, rather than the unstoppable, zombie-like killer with immeasurable strength and superhuman like regenerative abilities he ultimately became. In addition, Amy Steel as Ginny makes for one heck of a final girl.

rec-2

6) [Rec] 2

Whether you love them or hate them, found footage flicks don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. I personally am not a fan. In fact, the only one I really enjoy is the 2007 Spanish-import [Rec].

[Rec] tells the tale of a television reporter who covers the night shift at a local fire station for a documentary television series. Upon receiving a distress call indicating that a woman in an apartment building is trapped, the reporter and her cameraman head out with the brigade. The woman bites a policeman inside, and soon the entire building is quarantined from the outside. The reporter, residents, firemen and police are trapped inside as an unknown infection spreads.

The sequel takes place immediately after the events of the first film, with a SWAT team being sent into the still sealed-off building to determine what transpired and get a blood sample of the first infected. In tow is a doctor who is actually a priest sent from the Vatican.

[Rec] 2 expands the story of the original film and is a worthy companion piece. It’s a much more frenetic and relentless film than the first, barely stopping to let the audience take a breath. It also allows the audience to see the same events from different perspectives. While not as original nor as pee-in-your-pants scary as the first, [Rec] 2 is only a slight notch bellow. (The same can’t be said for the third and fourth in the series as they’re both rather abysmal.)
Chainsaw-Massacre-2

5) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

Released in 1986, the follow up to one of the most seminal films in horror history could not be more different from its progenitor. Tobe Hopper expected that audiences would laugh at the first ‘Saw, and he also expected it to earn a PG rating. He was wrong on both counts, and instead of viewing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as a black comedy, audiences in 1974 wished they had brought a second pair of underwear with them to the theatre.

So with the sequel, Hopper really went at it. He made a film that could not be more tonally different from the film that spawned it. Gone is the gritty, cinéma vérité feel of the original, replaced with a much slicker product firmly rooted in mid-80s aesthetic. This Chainsaw is wacky, tongue-in-cheek, and chock-full of over-the-top gore gags courtesy of effects maestro Tom Savini.

Dennis Hopper, who played Lieutenant “Lefty” Enright, the uncle of Franklin from the first film, cited TCM2 as the worst film he’d ever appeared in. But this is coming from a man whose resume included Waterworld and the big-screen adaptation of Super Mario Brothers, a movie which currently sits at a comfy 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, so make of that statement what you will. TCM 2 is a wild ride that is almost pure parody, but for all its indulgences, it works. The film also introduced the world to the newest member of the Sawyer clan, Bill Moseley’s Chop-Top: a Sonny Bono wig-wearing, head-scratching, ‘Nam vet with a medal plate in his cranium who was off serving his country during the events of the first film. Chop-Top owns the film. Gorging on enormous mouthfuls of scenery, Moseley comes this close to stealing the spotlight from ol’ not-so-vegan-friendly-face himself.

psycho-2

4) Psycho II

Back in ’83, the notion of a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho seemed almost sacrilegious. Who would have balls big enough to even attempt to follow up a flawless film considered one of the best ever made. And to do so 23-years later after the original? Preposterous!

And yet, screenwriter Tom Holland and director Richard Franklin pulled of the

impossible. Psycho II turned out to be way better than it had any right to be. The film focuses on Norman Bates who (spoiler alert) was reveled as the killer in the original Psycho. Finally released from an institution and declared sane after 22 years, all Norman wants to do is integrate back into society and live some semblance of a normal life. And as an audience, we’re rooting for him to do just that. He takes up residence in the old Victorian mansion behind the (in) famous motel and is given a job at a local diner, where he meets Mary (played charmingly by Meg Tilly), a co-worker who gives Norman the benefit of the doubt. However, not everyone is so willing to accept Norman back into the community, least of all Lila Loomis, the sister of Marion Crane (Vera Miles reprising her role from the original) who insists that Norman is still crazy and should never have been released. Soon, Norman starts receiving notes from “Mother”, murders occur, and Norman fears his grip on his newfound sanity is yet again slipping away.

Anthony Perkins reinhabits his most famous role as if he’s slipping on his favorite, most comfortable, worn-in pair of jeans. His Norman is sympathetic, vulnerable and charming and we really want to see him succeed. However, some things just aren’t meant to be, and that gives Perkins’ a chance to show yet another facet in his bravado performance.

Hitch would be proud.
Evil-Dead-2

3) Evil Dead II

Erroneously considered by many as a bigger budgeted remake of the first, Evil Dead II is indeed a continuation, with the first bit serving as a newly-shot, CliffsNotes version of the first film. Director Sam Raimi didn’t have the rights to reuse any actual footage, so in the interest of brevity, Raimi decided to ret-con things a bit (actually a lot). And so we see Ash taking the wheel of the Delta 88, driving his girl Linda and Linda only to the infamous cabin in the woods. Scott, Cheryl and Shelly, compatriots from the first film, are nowhere to be found. Now it’s Ash who finds the tape and the Necronomicon, not Scotty. Ash is the hero right from the get go. Evil Dead II is a different film from its progenitor, but granted, a lot of it does play like The Evil Dead on steroids. And speaking of steroids, take a look at Ash!

Like the guy in those old comic book ads who got sand kicked in his face at the beach, then takes a weight-lifting course and returns as a slab of man meat looking for vengeance, Ash Mach 2 is lean, mean, ripped and ready for action. In Bruce Campbell’s indispensable autobiography If Chins Could Kill, Campbell writes that “Evil Dead II required my character, Ash, to grow from “cowardly wimp” to “leader of men. [I had to create] a sturdy physique that would work in harmony with the hero-in-a-torn-shirt concept.” The slapstick lunacy that the series is known for begins in this installment, and it’s in Evil Dead II that the Ash character coalesces into the rapscallion hero we all know and love: the one who sends Deadites back to hell with extreme prejudice and a perfect one-liner. It’s here where we first get the sawed-off shotgun, the chainsaw in place of a hand, and the metamorphosis of a protagonist from a bit of a pansy into the grooviest hero in all of horror.

dawn_of_the_dead

2) Dawn of the Dead

The social and cultural influence of Night of the Living Dead cannot be understated. George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie opus is one of an elite group of films that truly revolutionized the medium.

Ten years later, Romero returned to zombies with 1978’s Dawn of the Dead and created yet another stone-cold masterpiece. This time, in lieu of a farmhouse, a small group of survivors barricade themselves inside a shopping mall as shelter from the hordes of rampaging undead outside.

Romero’s zombie films are always imbued with social criticism and subtext. Many read Dawn of the Dead as a savage attack on mindless consumerism and materialism in American society, with a little class criticism thrown in for good measure. But beyond the satire and subtext, Dawn of the Dead is also an incredibly accomplished zombie film, featuring great characters including Ken Foree’s heroic Peter, a novel setting, and distinct and iconic zombies such as Nurse Zombie, Hari Krisna Zombie, Plaid Shirt Zombie and Machete Head Zombie. All that and a kickass, pounding musical score by Goblin to boot.

Bride-of-Frankenstein

1) Bride of Frankenstein

It’s a testament to how good some horror second installments are in that each of this list’s top three could easily have made the top. However, the first major horror sequel, 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein is arguably the best. It’s also one of the most accomplished movies ever made.

Director James Whale reteamed with stars Boris Karloff as the Monster and Colin Clive as the hubristic Dr. Frankenstein (as well as the unsung hero of Frankenstein, makeup man Jack Pierce), to deliver a story that takes the pathos and heartbreak of the original to a whole new level. Frankenstein’s monster has always been the most sympathetic of the monsters, and the sequel is the rarest example of a horror movie that can elicit tears just as much as it delivers thrills.

The story of the lonely monster – rejected by his creator, shunned by a world he never asked to be a part of, and desirous of a mate – resonates deep within the most vulnerable recesses of the human psyche. Karloff and Clive are incredible as always, and Ernest Thesiger as the similarly bumptious Dr. Pretorius is off-the-charts fantastic.

Anyone who doubts the power of Bride of Frankenstein need only watch the scene of the monster and the blind hermit. The depiction of two lonely isolated souls coming together and forming a friendship only to have it suddenly ripped away will soften even the hardest of hearts. And that’s not even taking into account the Monster being rejected yet again by the one other who should not be rejecting him – his intended bride. The direction by Whale is virtuosic, the set design is striking, and it really doesn’t get much better than this one.

Let us know what your favorite film was the second time around. Leave a comment

Jeff is the co-host of the podcast Really Awful Movies. Click on the link to to check it out! You can also follow his web site Really Awful Movies

 

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