As we enter October, the most beloved of spooky months, horror fans begin a celebration of the movies that scare and horrify them most. While previous years commemorated the month with cinematic releases such as the Saw series or the Paranormal Activity franchise, the ongoing pandemic means this year will be relatively empty. However, this does allow for fans to reminisce with beloved favourites from years past, including some of the best horror movie sequels of the last hundred years.
1. The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
The sequel to the original gothic horror classic Frankenstein, The Bride was one of the first horror movie sequels ever made. Whereas the original movie featured a heartfelt and soulful performance from Boris Karloff as The Creature, this movie expanded upon the strengths of Karloff’s depiction. With Frankenstein focusing on the birth of The Creature, The Bride moved to love, casting Elsa Lanchester as Dr Frankenstein’s newest creation, a partner for The Creature.
With both characters representing iconic portrayals of Universal monsters, they set a standard for unexpected humanity within supposed monsters of the horror genre. Works best as a two-part viewing pleasure, as the impact of the sequel is intensified by the groundwork in the original.
2. Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
In 1968, George A. Romero made cinematic history when he released Night Of The Living Dead, an independent black and white horror film made for $114,000 that grossed $30 million in total. With its subtextual analysis on racism, Romero demonstrated an ability to examine real life issues within the horror genre, an act that still resonates today.
Dawn continued this aspect with a focus on consumerism, moving the setting from a claustrophobic farmhouse to a fort-like mall. With a budget increase to $1.5 million, Romero successfully expanded upon its world, including Tom Savini’s impressive make-up and gore. Slightly more tongue-in-cheek with its satirical approach to zombies, Dawn is commonly referred to as Romero’s best, for good reason.
3. Evil Dead II (1987)
Like the previous entry, Evil Dead II can be easily viewed without knowledge of the first, especially as Raimi presents a compressed version of the original in the first ten minutes of Evil Dead II. Whereas the original depicted the protagonist Ash Williams as slightly useless, this iteration morphed Ash into a true action hero for the rest of the franchise, utilising Bruce Campbell’s natural charm and goofy nature.
Incorporating a much more comedic tone to the series also allowed director Sam Raimi to move on from some of the more unpleasant aspects of the original, such as the tree rape (which even Raimi admitted to regretting). A masterclass in slapstick and physicality from Campbell, as well as an expansion upon the mythology of the Necronomicon, Evil Dead 2 would help transition the characters and world created by Raimi into a worldwide franchise still popular today.
4. Scream 2 (1997)
In 1996, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson came together to inject much needed life into a dormant horror genre with the beloved Scream. With its tremendous mix of horror, tension and comedy, it represented something that had been missing from the genre for a while. With the inclusion of its metatextual analysis of the genre, including its ‘three rules for surviving a horror movie’ and characters interacting with the original Halloween, horror had a new icon in Sidney Prescott and Ghostface.
Unsurprisingly, Scream 2 was quickly greenlit and incorporated some of its strongest metatextual elements, including a classroom scene discussing sequels. The movie also focused on trauma for survival victims, an aspect too often forgotten in sequels. While the newer characters may not reach the standard of the original, this is still a high point in the franchise before the inevitable fall in Scream 3 and the flawed Scream 4 (though Kirby is one of the best supporting characters in the franchise).
5. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
A rare anime horror sequel, the original Vampire Hunter D was released fifteen years prior and is a stylistically imaginative vampire movie set in the distant future, following the adventures of half-vampire D. However, the first movie was unfortunately short on substance, leading to the much-improved sequel that increased the gothic imagery and imaginative animation while adding depth to the main character.
Some of the strongest scenes in Bloodlust are surprisingly the quieter ones, whether a heart-to-heart between D and fellow bounty hunter Leila, or a meeting between D and an old man who has an unknown history with the half-vampire. With its focus on violent gore and action scenes, this horror sequel is a little different to expected but worth a watch.
6. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was given the near-impossible task of following Danny Boyle’s beloved 2002 classic that introduced Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris to wider audiences. Boyle had depicted a chilling post-outbreak world full of emptiness and loss, keeping the direction intimate as the familial bond between its characters faced an uncertain future. 28 Days Later ended in an open enough manner for Fresnadillo to expand upon, jumping three and a half months into the future.
Expanding upon the smaller original, bringing in an American military deployment that helped create a safe haven in London, the focus transitions from survival to learning to live again. This overarching picture is repeated in the tale of the protagonists, teenage siblings, returning home for the first time. However, Fresnadillo creates the best set piece in the entire franchise, a palpitation-causing opening scene where the quiet of survival is ruined by the outside world, leading to an iconic chase scene featuring Robert Carlyle. For this scene alone, it’s a must-see.
7. The Conjuring 2 (2016)
In 2010, James Wan moved from the gore-focused favourite Saw into a more classic haunted horror with Insidious. With the success of that movie, Wan moved onto what would become one of the best horror films in years, The Conjuring. A throwback to tension-filled horrors that put characters first, The Conjuring introduced audiences to Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson’s beloved characters, Lorraine and Ed Warren.
The Warrens returned in The Conjuring 2, Wan perfecting his direction with tension-filled scenes that rewarded patience with legitimate terror. Increasing the scares throughout, Wan also remembered the importance of his protagonists, offering quiet familial scenes between the Warrens that endeared them to audiences. It’s not often one of the best scenes of a horror film is a scene of the main character playing guitar to comfort a scared family, but it’s the perfect quiet before the onslaught of terror we experience.
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