Horror movies are made for sequels: Once you come across a great slasher villain, you don’t want to waste him on just one movie. Unfortunately, many of them are interchangeable: Who can tell the difference between any of those Friday the 13th sequels?
But when you get a truly great one, it can even eclipse the original, taking the concept of the first film and expanding it, maybe even improving upon it. Here are our five best horror sequels ever.
A direct sequel to the original masterminded by John Carpenter, who contributed an excellent new score, 2018's Halloween gives us a Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who survived that initial attack but has never been the same since. Paranoid and armed to the teeth, Laurie becomes a commentary on battered women and abused partners, which gives this horror film an unexpected emotional depth and topicality. Plus, director David Gordon Green is unromantic in his depiction of Michael Myers: the guy is a merciless monster who kills indiscriminately, destroying lives without flair or wit.
In this way, the new Halloween does justice to the original Halloween, which understood how frighteningly unfathomable and inhuman pure evil is.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
The original Danny Boyle/Alex Garland project was so jaw-droppingly original and bracing that they were asking for trouble trying to make another one. But 28 Weeks Later (directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo) is smart enough not to try to top the first one, returning to the universe of the first film but having it revolve around different people entirely.
This movie is terrifying, but in a different way from the first film, thus serving less as a "sequel" and more as a complement.
Also, check out this 2007 up-and-coming cast: Rose Bryne, Jeremy Renner, Imogen Poots, and Idris Elba. Also, wow, that ending.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
In the annals of great movie-poster taglines, "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth" is killer and sets the tone for George A. Romero's excellent, nerve-shredding sequel to Night of the Living Dead.
For those who have trouble keeping their Romero flicks straight, Dawn of the Dead is the one set at a mall as a band of survivors try to fend off ravenous zombies. More gruesome and a lot more humorous than the original, Dawn enjoys grossing us out while satirizing consumer culture. (That big mall is also a big metaphor.)
Less than 30 years later, a newcomer named Zack Snyder directed a remake. Stick with the original.
Evil Dead II (1987)
The original Evil Dead was silly at times, but mostly it was a freak-out scarefest. Sam Raimi turned out to be even more playful than we thought with Evil Dead II, which foregrounds Bruce Campbell's Ash and turns a scary franchise into a brilliantly lunatic bloodbath that would give it legs for decades to come.
Fun factoid: Raimi and high school classmate Scott Spiegel wrote the screenplay for Evil Dead II while living with the Coen Brothers. You can sort of tell, can't you?
When James Cameron signed on to do a sequel to the 1979 original, he had The Terminator under his belt. But his ambitions were just as high for this studio job. "I felt that it was important to be stylistically continuous with the first film," Cameron said recently. "But in terms of the way the story is told, the elements of the story, introducing the idea of a future military, that was just a way into it that made it different, that was a distinguishing factor."
Indeed, Aliens is a beefed-up action movie that lets Sigourney Weaver's Ripley become a gun-toting, ass-kicking heroine — essentially cementing the culture's vision of who this character would be over several less-successful sequels. (She even got an Oscar nomination for the role.)
If Alien was more a slow-burn, the follow-up is simply unrelenting. Game over, man.