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Rank and File finds us sorting through an exhaustive, comprehensive body of work or collection of pop-culture artifacts. This time, we sift through the slush pile of horror sequels and separate the terrible from the terrifying.
There’s perhaps nothing more pure than a stand-alone horror movie. Well, a good one. You know, something like They Live or The Craft. But, as is often the case in Hollywood and elsewhere, if it gets that cash, it’s gonna get a sequel. We’re all so enamored with The Babadook and It Follows these days, but where would we stand on the original films after four or six more entries in either franchise? Would we like the originals better? Worse? Would it be a Nightmare on Elm Street situation, the kind where we’d think of how revered that original film would be had they never made a sequel? We’ll never know.
But horror sequels sure are tempting, eh? Not just for studios, but audiences, too. No matter how blasphemous or unnecessary it might seem, we horrorhounds dutifully file into the theater to see if lightning can strike twice or, in one of those rare, rare instances, the sequel can actually surpass its predecessor. After all, there’s nothing that says Saw V has to be bad. It’s just that usually it is. But we keep going back, and as long as they keep making ‘em, we’ll keep going back. There’s something comforting about that.
In celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, we decided to revisit not just our favorite horror sequels, but also our least favorite. That meant watching every horror sequel. And that, of course, meant ranking every horror sequel. Our major criteria was that the film had to have had, at least in some form, an American theatrical release. We also shaved off some years by ignoring the Universal Monsters/Hammer Films and focusing solely on every horror sequel (not prequel) that followed 1976’s The Omen. Again, they must have had an American theatrical release.
Did we forget any? Let us know and we’ll write a sequel to this article. Don’t act like you wouldn’t read it.
150. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Yes, they brought back Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal. Yes, they reconstructed the original Myers house. Yes, they returned to Haddonfield, Illinois after the California detour in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. But, they also totally dismissed the ballsy finale of its predecessor by working in an asinine Texas switch that not only turns Michael Myers into Mission: Impossible‘s Ethan Hunt but dresses down the entire character of Laurie Strode.
Everything Jamie Lee Curtis’ iconic heroine accomplished in H20 — conquering her fears, dominating evil, becoming one of the strongest female protagonists in horror — is all for nothing thanks to her perfunctory death in Resurrection. Her pathetic send-off is on the level of a cheap ’90s soap opera, and once the brother and sister embrace, you start to realize how far a sequel can go in this industry before it’s just absolutely unrecognizable.
Today, fans still want Resurrection officially wiped off the canon by the Akkads as they aren’t quick to forget this slimy move. Or, you know, the fact that they turned John Carpenter’s little-indie-horror-that-could into a reality television parody, complete with a lame subplot involving a Blade Runner fan, underwritten idiots, and a kung-fu loving Busta Rhymes who delivers the trailer-ready, achingly 2002 line: “Trick or treat, motherfucker.” Oy. –Michael Roffman
149. Basket Case 2 (1990)
Frank Henelotter’s sequel to his 1982 cult-classic, Basket Case, dialed back on the horror and turned up the silliness. The film finds Duane Bradley and Siamese brother Belial living in a community for other deformed individuals that comes under attack by the real monsters of the world: tabloid reporters. Basket Case features some wonderfully gooey and gory special effects, and it’s always great when the original creator comes back for a sequel, but the film lacks much of the New York sleaze of its predecessor. –Mike Vanderbilt
148. Carnosaur 2 (1995)
“Weird Al” Yankovic once sang, “Jurassic Park is scary in the dark.” Maybe Al, but this one sure ain’t. There was zero reason for anyone to even think about a follow-up to 1993’s instantly forgettable Carnosaur; it wasn’t a box office hit, it was released four weeks before Spielberg’s epic, and the critics loathed the damn thing. John Savage, what the hell were you thinking signing up for this? –Michael Roffman
147. The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (2015)
The first Human Centipede got by on novelty, the second on shock. There’s nowhere else for director Tom Six to go for the final entry in his sick trilogy. It’s not even enjoyable from an exploitation perspective. It’s just a bad film. –Randall Colburn
146. Leprechaun 2 (1994)
Long after Jennifer Aniston first ran away from Warwick Davis, the Leprechaun series would find its proper footing by becoming a collection of fish-out-of-water parables. See: Leprechaun’s Vegas Vacation (aka Leprechaun 3); Leprechaun 4: In Space; Leprechaun: In the Hood; and Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Skip: This one. –Michael Roffman
145. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)
Here’s a partial list of people who might get the first sequel to 1997’s critically tolerated Anaconda terrifying: fans of animation and special effects (the CGI is … something), people who know anything about wildlife in Borneo (it’ not exactly like what’s shown here), and people who have tried and failed to get their own films made while this sailed into production. And here’s a complete list of people who won’t be: people who like to be scared by horror films. —Sarah Kurchak
144. The Human Centipede 2 – Full Sequence (2011)
The metafictional device is a nice touch (the portly killer here is inspired by the original Human Centipede), but this sequel strips away all the arthouse buzz of the first film to reveal what this series really is: an ass-to-mouth-to-ass schoolyard joke that creator Tom Six can’t stop laughing at. It still stands slightly above Human Centipede (Final Sequence), if only for its grimy black-and-white cinematography and the fact that it actually manages to be shocking instead of just lazy. –Dan Caffrey
143. Hatchet II (2010)
Back in 2006, Adam Green’s throwback slasher film, Hatchet, won over a number of critics and effectively garnered a minor cult fanbase. It helped that veterans Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Tony Todd hopped along for the ride. Unfortunately, the wood proved too tough for Green’s second swing, and not even the addition of Halloween scream queen Danielle Harris (in lieu of Tamara Feldman) makes this dull slice of horror a cut above the… oh fuck it, you get it. –Michael Roffman
142. The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death (2015)
No Radcliffe? No dice. –Randall Colburn
141. The Gate II: Trespassers (1990)
Tibor Takács’ original supernatural horror film, The Gate, was a neighborhood nightmare. Stephen Dorff played a precocious little boy who battled creepy crawlers from beneath the ground with a mythos that could have been drawn up on construction paper and with crayons. It’s dumb fun now, but as a kid, it was terrifying — almost a cautionary tale for why we need our ‘rents around. Takács returned three years later to helm the Dorff-less sequel, only he lost the story’s dark magic in transition. –Michael Roffman
140. Piranha II: The Spawning (1980)
James Cameron’s “directorial debut” (he started on set as the special effects director and was promoted when the original director walked, but he doesn’t feel like the final cut represents him in any way) is not a classic. It’s a less scary, less-sensical, and less self-aware follow-up to the 1978 horror satire Piranha that stars flying fish. And those fish are played by glorified wind-up toys. But it’s still arguably better than Titanic. (Editor’s Note: Take that back, Sarah! I’ll never let that go. I’ll never let that go…) —Sarah Kurchak
139. Piranha 3DD (2012)
Alexandre Aja’s loose 2010 remake of 1978’sPiranha proved to be a spirited, tongue-in-cheek parody that was less concerned with poking fun at old tropes than just straight up beating them to the ground like a rotting horse corpse. It helped that the film was chock full of familiar faces, namely Adam Scott, Elizabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, and Richard “Damn you” Dreyfuss. John Gulager’s exhaustive, excessive sequel, however, bites off way more than it can feed to the titular shitheads. Hasselhoff playing himself is a nice touch, though. –Michael Roffman
138. Pet Sematary Two (1992)
Pet Sematary Two never gets as scary as the original. (Nobody likes seeing animals dying on-screen, and let’s all admit that the spinal meningitis-afflicted Zelda is the most disturbing thing ever). Two delivers more re-animated corpses and canines, and while less depressing (and perhaps more charismatic than the original), it just doesn’t pack the same visceral punch. Though, it’s always cool to see Clancy Brown as a villain. –Mike Vanderbilt
137. An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
Love Tom Everett Scott. Love Julie Delpy. Love the Bush remix of “Mouth”. Can’t say the same about this paint-by-numbers remake of the original film. Woof. –Michael Roffman
136. Scanners II: The New Order (1991)
Making a sequel to one of David Cronenberg’s horror masterpieces might be blasphemous, but the impulse is, in its own twisted way, understandable. The mad scientist of the art film world consistently creates such uniquely fascinating settings in his work that you can’t help but want to play in those bizarre sandboxes a little while longer. But when you try to take on a Cronenberg idea without any of the artist’s nuance or intelligence, you get Scanners II. —Sarah Kurchak
135. Slumber Party Massacre Part III (1990)
Three times the charm? Not exactly. The third go-around with the driller killer doubles down on the gore and scales back on the humor, losing what made Deborah Brock’s ludicrous second entry so much fun. Then again, by 1990, the whole slasher parody schtick was old hat, which is probably why Slumber 3 feels like a joke that’s been passed around for years. It’s also telling that this is the only entry in the trilogy not directed and written by a woman. While Sally Mattison helmed the picture, it was Bruce Carson behind the typewriter. Dammit, Bruce. –Michael Roffman
134. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)
What a wet fart this one was. After five engaging movies that peaked and dipped but never plateaued, the Paranormal Activity franchise limped toward its finish line with this dull, forgettable entry. Watch the first one, then watch this, and just try to piece together how one led to the other. The original Paranormal Activity worked because its limited budget necessitated a reliance on atmosphere over effects. The Ghost Dimension is all CGI, none of it redeemed by even a single engaging character or clever justification for the film’s found footage conceit. A wasted opportunity. –Randall Colburn
133. The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)
The original Carrie (and the novel that inspired it) wasn’t just horrific for its creepy crucifixes, dead teenagers, and buckets of pig’s blood. The story also has genuine pathos, unearthing the crippling pain of what it’s like to get bullied both in high school and at home. But the sequel disregards all of this by turning Carrie White’s half sister into a stereotypically brooding loner. She’s not an expansion of the archetypal teenage outcast — she’s a cardboard cutout of one. “Dude, it’s her! It’s her doing it!” Turning Carrie into an afterschool special; that’s what. –Dan Caffrey
132. House II: The Second Story (1987)
Remember how good the artwork was for these movies? Anyway, while the original was a pretty fun example of a horror comedy, this one gets rid of the terror altogether. Think comedy/fantasy/western. It only worked on Brisco County. This House has bad special effects, a pleasant old timey zombie, time travel, and a lot of Arye Gross. Oh, and that is most definitely Bill Maher at a dinner party light years before his ABC show. New rules: No more acting! –Justin Gerber
131. Rings (2017)
Rings finally answers those mythology questions left dangling after The Ring 2. Or maybe it’s as pointless as any sequel we received in 2017. In this installment, we discover a new wrinkle surrounding that dastardly tape, but unfortunately we’re following a couple of leads who are hawt as HELL but could care less about. Naomi Watts isn’t the only thing missing from this movie. With so few scares the once-haunting presence of Samara may as well stay down that well forever. –Justin Gerber
130. Underworld: Awakening (2012)
Awakening is a significant improvement over the 2009 prequel Rise of the Lycans which is one of the nicer things you can say about the latest installment in the Underworld franchise. Selene (and Kate Beckinsale’s considerable charisma and catsuit-wearing skills) are back, and now she has a vampire/lycan/human hybrid child named Eve. Michael (Scott Speedman) appears only in archival footage. Vampires and lycans continue to fail at diplomacy. And apparently we’ll get more of the same soon! —Sarah Kurchak
129. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
The first two Insidious movies are so tremendously boring. I honestly can’t fathom how these films were both financially successful and critically acclaimed. I am sitting here at my desk getting angry thinking about Insidious: Chapter 2, which I know is one of the most pathetic sentences ever written. Here’s what I wrote in my review of Insidious: Chapter 3: “the Insidious movies are more Halloween costume than horror movie, relying on anachronistic aesthetics — candlelit hallways, vintage dresses, dollface makeup, marionettes, the list goes on — to tap into a universally accepted idea of horror, rather than anything truly uncanny.” That sums it up. –Randall Colburn
128. Saw V (2008)
The worst of the series, undone by the franchise’s bizarre belief that we give a single fuck about the histories of its bland supporting cast. Saw V mostly concerns the backstory of Costas Mandylor’s Detective Mark Hoffman, a main antagonist/Jigsaw apprentice who is so boring and Jesus Christ why would anyone ever want to watch this. Completely inessential, even for fans of the franchise. –Randall Colburn
127. Blair Witch (2016)
When it was revealed that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s The Woods was actually a sequel to Blair Witch, the announcement was met with quite a bit of excitement for a sequel that arrived 16 years too late. The film ended up disappointing audiences, but who knows that they were expecting from a reboot of a franchise that appears wasn’t meant to be. The film’s third act delivers plenty of claustrophobic scares and some inventive takes on the genre (the drone in particular), but in the end Blair Witch is nothing more than a found footage potboiler. Maybe this was Wingard attempting to make sure there was never another Blair Witch like Gus Van Sant did with Psycho. –Mike Vanderbilt
126. The Grudge 2 (2006)
Many horror sequels try to significantly up the gore and body count in an effort to give viewers something more and a little different from what they liked in the original. This sequel to the 2004 Japanese-American remake of the 2002 Japanese film, Ju-On: The Grudge, does something a little different. While only slightly darker and deadlier than The Grudge, it really doubles down on its predecessor’s unfocused plot to offer something maddeningly incomprehensible. –Sarah Kurchak