Horror is a genre dominated by sequels. If an original movie is even a moderate success, it will most likely get a sequel in an effort to cash in. Unfortunately, many of the sequels stink. For every Child’s Play, there’s a Child’s Play 2. You get the idea.
Not all sequels are bad, though. In fact, they can complement and even improve on the original. For some of the biggest franchises in horror, these three sequels helped expand their storytelling and stylistic possibilities. Underrated by critics and even some fans, Halloween II, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, and Exorcist II: The Heretic (yes, you read that last one right) are horror sequels that deserve another watch and more attention and love from their respective fan bases.
Halloween II unjustly got a lot of negativity when it was released, primarily for committing two unforgivable sins: it wasn’t the original Halloween and it transformed Michael Myers from a random Boogeyman to a killer with a motive straight out of a daytime soap opera (he’s out to get his long-lost sister). Time has been kind to the Rick Rosenthal-directed sequel, and even after 40 years and almost a dozen new entries, it’s probably still the best sequel in the Halloween franchise.
What makes Halloween II so effective is that it dares to continue the night of terror that began in the first movie, following Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis as she recovers from being nearly killed. And it doesn’t get enough credit for expertly chronicling how the small town of Haddonfield slowly unravels as it tries to capture an uncatchable killer. Halloween II ups the gore content, and while many critics sneered at this (both then and now), it’s actually quite effective. Whereas Halloween functions more as a thriller, Halloween II is unabashedly a slasher, and it still hasn’t been surpassed in how it marries shameless violence with genuinely creepy suspense.
Halloween II is streaming on Peacock.
Generally considered to be one of the worst movies of all time, Exorcist II: The Heretic isn’t entirely innocent of being kinda bad. When compared to the original Exorcist, which is still the best in the series, it’s a major comedown, with too much time spent focusing on a stone-faced Linda Blair under deep hypnosis. The plot doesn’t make much sense either, and the lead male star, Richard Burton, looks perpetually hungover, and almost sneers at the bad dialogue he has to spout throughout the movie.
And yet, there’s a strange beauty in Exorcist II, a weird energy that makes it wholly original and unlike any other movie ever made. That’s largely due to the director, John Boorman, and the director of photography, William A Fraker, who fill the screen with wild, sun-stained imagery that makes you believe in the divine. There’s a terror to this movie’s strange, sullied beauty, and it’s a sight to behold.
Exorcist II: The Heretic is streaming on Max.
Of all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Part 3: Dream Warriors is usually singled out as the best and most popular entry (with good reason), while Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge gets the lion’s share of critical reassessment for it’s barely hidden queer subtext (which is interesting, but doesn’t redeem what’s always been a lackluster horror sequel). My favorite Freddy movie has always been Part 4: The Dream Master, as it’s the best at showcasing what makes the Nightmare on Elm Street horror movies work so well to begin with: great female heroines (with Dream Master Alice kicking ass in this movie), a supporting cast you actually care about, off-the-wall humor (“Wanna suck face?”), and spectacular horror VFX.
Part 4 also gets props for bringing back the survivors from the last installment and brazenly killing them off one by one, thereby keeping the audience second-guessing as to what the hell is going to happen next. Plus, the kills in this movie are some of the best, with nerdy Shelia getting French kissed to death, horny Joey getting killed by a literal wet dream-turned-nightmare, and jock Debbie getting turned into a giant cockroach and getting squished by Freddy. Is it scary? Not really, but it is slightly demented, a little bit gross, and always inventive.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master is streaming on Max.
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