Just to give everyone a heads up, we’ve limited this list to 10 pictures. Furthermore, we’ve also focused on direct sequels to the original pictures, which means films like A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter or Day of the Dead won’t be featured in this lineup. Don’t take that to mean we don’t adore those films, just realize that we’re working within some set parameters here, and we’re not about to stray, especially when there are so many amazing “number 2’s” out there we’d need to soak up hours of your time to “get it right.”
That little disclaimer also goes for some direct sequels themselves. Not every sequel can squeeze into a lineup of this nature. While we thoroughly got a kick out of pieces like Hellbound: Hellraiser II, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 or Final Destination 2, they fell just short of this particular group of films. You’re welcome to be pissed off about our neglect, but know that yes, we love those flicks, too!
Now, onto the meat on the bone!
Now declared legally sane, Norman Bates is released from a mental institution after spending 22 years in confinement over the protests of Marion Crane’s sister Lila Loomis, who insists that he’s still a killer and that the court’s indifference to his victims by releasing him is a gross miscarriage of justice. Norman returns to his motel and the old Victorian mansion where his troubles started, and history predictably begins to repeat itself.
The Verdict: A sequel that probably shouldn’t be anywhere near as engaging as it is, Psycho II actually impresses on a pretty serious level. There are a few maneuvers that feel as though they’re near-carbon copies of moments from the first film, but somehow that doesn’t act as a deterrent. If anything, it’s a little charming. If you’ve managed to steer clear of Psycho II for fear of spoiling your views on the original film, you’ve done yourself an injustice.
Friday the 13th Part 2
After killing Mrs. Voorhees, who was avenging her son Jason’s death, Alice Hardy can finally sigh with relief. But there is just one problem. Jason never drowned at Camp Crystal Lake and lived in the nearby woods as a hermit all this time. The day that Alice beheaded his mother, Jason saw everything and his heart filled with thirst for revenge. Two months later, Alice gets stabbed by an ice pick in the temple and disappears. Is Jason behind this? Five years later, a camp next do to Camp Crystal Lake is built and the counselors start snooping around the old, abandoned camp ruins. This makes Jason very upset, since his shack is next to the remains of Camp Crystal Lake and what is inside the shack shall be kept secret forever, even if it means killing nine people!
The Verdict: There are a lot of elements of Friday 2 that fall short of the franchise kickstarter, but there are also some amazing things happening in the film. Chief among its qualities is the introduction of a grown Jason Voorhees, who has of course gone on to become one of the most recognizable villains in horror history. There are improvements in the acting and the gore doesn’t disappoint. Always a winner!
It’s the same night as the original Halloween. Michael Myers is around the neighborhood, after being gunned by Dr. Loomis six times. Now, he’s in a hospital where the girl Laurie Strode was taken. And there’s a reason why Michael is after her…
The Verdict: At this point we all know that John Carpenter wasn’t a big fan of Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II. But, the film really, really worked for fans, as it did the things a sequel should do. It showcased the return of the pivotal survivors (Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis) of the first film, it picked up exactly where Halloween left off and it intensified the gore just enough to make viewers squirm. The return of cinematographer Dean Cundey also kept the look of the inaugural pic intact. It’s a thrilling, creepy film that falls short of Carpenter’s own creation, but impresses more than any other sequel released to date.
Evil Dead II
A young man, named Ash, takes his girlfriend Linda to a secluded cabin in the woods where he plays back a professor’s tape recorded recitation of passages from the Book of the Dead. The spell calls up an evil force from the woods which turns Linda into a monstrous Deadite, and threatens to do the same to Ash. When the professor’s daughter and her entourage show up at the cabin, the night turns into a non-stop, grotesquely comic battle with chainsaw and shotgun on one side, demon horde and flying eyeball on the other.
The Verdict: In a lot of ways Evil Dead 2 was basically a remake of the first film. There are some obvious differences in the plot and the tone (especially the tone), but when we’re watching Evil Dead 2 we’re basically watching a refined, comedy driven version of Evil Dead. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it works wonderfully well. The movie really impresses, features great special effects, stronger on screen performances and officially cast Bruce Campbell in the role of Horror Standout. This is an awesome sequel that deserves every bit of the praise it has picked up over the decades.
Fifty seven years after Ellen Ripley survived her disastrous ordeal, her escape vessel is recovered after drifting across the galaxy as she slept in cryogenic stasis. Back on earth, nobody believed her story about the “Aliens” on the planet LV-426. After the “Company” orders the colony on LV-426 to investigate, however, all communication with the colony is lost. The Company enlists Ripley to aid a team of tough, rugged space marines on a rescue mission to the now partially terraformed planet to find out if there are aliens or survivors. As the mission unfolds, Ripley will be forced to come to grips with her worst nightmare, but even as she does, she finds that the worst is yet to come.
The Verdict: The difference between Alien and Aliens is extremely pronounced. The first was a taut thriller with a big build up and bona fide scares. The second was a chaotic action film with a whole lot more of the titular creatures on display. They’re both masterful films. Some prefer the action over the mystery, and some don’t. Regardless of preference, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t recognize Aliens as one of the greatest sequels in history. But, if you do happen to run into one of those weirdos, get ‘em out of your presence. Game over, man.
Dawn of the Dead
Following the events of Night of the Living Dead (1968), we follow the exploits of four survivors of the expanding zombie apocalypse as they take refuge in an abandoned shopping mall following a horrific SWAT evacuation of an apartment complex. Taking stock of their surroundings, they arm themselves, lock down the mall, and destroy the zombies inside so they can eke out a living–at least for a while. Tensions begin to build as months go on, and they come to realize that they’ve fallen prey to consumerism. Soon afterward, they have even heavier problems to worry about, as a large gang of bikers discovers the mall and invades it, ruining the survivors’ best-laid plans and forcing them to fight off both lethal bandits and flesh-eating zombies.
The Verdict: As a huge fan of Night of the Living Dead it is a little tough to admit it, but Dawn of the Dead is a radically superior film. Just about everything that was great about George Romero’s sub-genre launching film has become perfect in Dawn, and you can’t ask for anything more from a sequel. Although the mall doesn’t feel as cramped and claustrophobic as the farmhouse, Dawn of the Dead is magical while frightening. This is zombie fare done right. Really right.
Bride of Frankenstein
Dr. Frankenstein and his monster both turn out to be alive, not killed as previously believed. Dr. Frankenstein wants to get out of the evil experiment business, but when a mad scientist, Dr. Pretorius, kidnaps his wife, Dr. Frankenstein agrees to help him create a new creature, a woman, to be the companion of the monster.
The Verdict: The first truly great sequel, James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein was amazing. A direct sequel to Frankenstein, the production values are noticeably heftier, the picture is far cleaner, the performances are just as mesmerizing and the cultural relevance of the movie is like a punch to the chin. You know it means something when you see it. The movie may be the first in history to prominently feature a female monster, and that alone is a game changer. We don’t even need to jump into the feature’s accurate genre foreshadowing and standard setting stance in regards to sequels. James Whale may not often get the recognition he rightfully deserved, but with films like Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House and even The Man in the Iron Mask under his belt, he’s clearly one of the greatest filmmakers the world has seen. It’s a damn shame the man pulled his own plug before gifting us one last treasure.
Mike is released from psychiatry, when he agrees with the doctors that the terrible happenings in his past were just in his imagination. But once he’s free, he contacts Redge and they team up to hunt down and eliminate the “Tall Man”, who plunders the graveyards and abducts the sleeping with help of his terrible gnomes. A beautiful strange girl starts to appear in Mike’s dreams. He assumes she’s in danger and needs their help – will they find her before the Tall Man can do her any harm?
The Verdict: Phantasm 2 is a lot like Phantasm, with a lot more energy, improved special effects and far cleaner imagery and sound. It’s still far-fetched, but it’s also a serious blast. The Tall Man is gifted a stronger outline, but he’s still as mysterious as ever, even if he does feel a bit more “human”, and the terrors of parallel worlds is still here to contemplate and scratch the head over. While we miss the participation of A. Michael Baldwin greatly, James Le Gros doesn’t do a bad job, at all. And, we see Reggie Bannister make a return, and let’s all face it, he’s the charisma and character in the cast. Phantasm 2 is loved by some and hated by some, but most hardcore franchise fans will co-sign this one until their death. It’s pretty effin’ awesome!
The Silence of The Lambs
Young FBI agent Clarice Starling is assigned to help find a missing woman to save her from a psychopathic serial killer who skins his victims. Clarice attempts to gain a better insight into the twisted mind of the killer by talking to another psychopath Hannibal Lecter, who used to be a respected psychiatrist. FBI agent Jack Crawford believes that Lecter, who is also a very powerful and clever mind manipulator, has the answers to their questions and can help locate the killer. However, Clarice must first gain Lecter’s confidence before the inmate will give away any information.
The Verdict: Amazingly, a lot of Silence of the Lambs fans are completely unaware that this is a sequel to Michael Mann’s 1986, Manhunter. While Manhunter was something of a low-key release that didn’t exactly hypnotize the audience, Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs took viewers by complete storm. No one could have predicted the masterful film this would ultimately become, but masterful is exactly what we got from this award-winning 1991 horror thriller. It’s a straight shooter film through and through, with the topic of horror played with not a hint of jest and the jaw-dropping performances featured in the film are the work of wishful thinking rather than reality. This is that rare moment when wishful thinking is chased right out of the door by reality. Top notch on every level imaginable, we wouldn’t be mad if the general consensus deemed Silence of the Lambs the greatest sequel ever made.
28 Weeks Later
28 Weeks Later picks up six months after the Rage Virus has decimated the city of London. The US Army has restored order and is repopulating the quarantined city, when a carrier of the Rage Virus enters London and unknowingly re-ignites the spread of the deadly infection and the nightmare begins… again.
The Verdict: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s follow up to 28 Days Later… is generally regarded as an excellent film, and an overachieving sequel. But here’s the strange thing: It falls into the cracks of the typical fanatic’s mind. Somehow the film always manages to be overlooked or completely forgotten. Not by us. This picture deserves to be ranked amongst the greatest sequels in history. Regardless of a plot that doesn’t differ too much from its predecessor, the performances, the characters, the family values and the sheer brutality of the film guarantee it a place on a list of this nature.