Thursday, October 30, 2008

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Even Better the Second Time Around

If you're a horror fan you've certainly sat through your fair share of wretched sequels, many so bad that they make you forget what you loved about the original film (I'm looking at you HILLS HAVE EYES II and your canine flashback).

But not all sequels are created equal. For every horrible installment like FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING – in which Jason isn't even the main villain – there's the great FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER with Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover and one of cinema's few (only?) corkscrew attacks.

In some cases, the sequels defy all logic and are almost as good as (sometimes better than?) their predecessor. Though later installments can't match the original's "what the f**k?" feel or PHANTASM 2's action-packed nonsense, the whole PHANTASM series is a keeper.

My recent viewing of HALLOWEEN III: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH got me thinking... what other horror sequels don't suck? I neglected to include SEASON on the list largely because I've already discussed it here and also because it's a sequel in name only. It features none of the characters from Carpenter's original film and the only connection is through brief clips seen on TV and Jamie Lee Curtis' voice as a phone operator.

Other "sequels" not included are the Waldemar Daninsky werewolf flicks of Paul Naschy. Though deliriously fun, the flicks reinvent Daninsky with each installment rather than continue an ongoing storyline. But don't worry, I'll be talking Naschy later when I get around to the recent release of WEREWOLF SHADOW.

Without further ado, here's my list of 12 Horror Sequels That Don't Suck...

1. BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003): I wasn't a huge fan of Brian Yuzna's BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, but this prison-based installment was hugely entertaining and reminded me of 1974's FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL as Herbert West teams with another incarcerated doctor to continue his experiments.

2. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978): To me it's a toss-up between DAWN and DAY for the title of "Most Entertaining Zombie Sequel". While DAY paints the screen red thanks to some of Tom Savini's most inspired effects ("Choke on it!!!!"), the epic sprawl of DAWN gives it the nod.

3. EVIL DEAD 2 (1987): While Sam Raimi's ARMY OF DARKNESS gets lots of love I prefer the second installment due to the way it balances the original's ballsy horror with the slapstick humor of ARMY.

4. FINAL DESTINATION 2 (2003): Like the original DESTINATION this dark, sinister, gory and fun sequel is an enjoyably junky way to spend 90 minutes. Unfortunately, the third installment did away with much of the fun of the concept and settles into a mean-spirited groove that always brings me down.

5. FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969): It's not often that the fifth film in a series is not just great but one of the best flicks the horror genre has to offer. Peter Cushing is at the top of his game as Frankenstein, delivering a dark and sinister portrayal complete with decapitations, fights, plenty of slapping, deviousness, lying, assault and murder. By this point in the series, Frankenstein IS the monster, a clever way of addressing a horror icon that often confuses viewers.

6. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV - THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984): Easily my favorite film in the F13 canon complete with dorky Crispin Glover, hot twins, dick jokes, nudity and Corey Feldman as the monster-obsessed Jarvis kid. Demented fun. JASON GOES TO HELL and JASON X are also worthy contenders when it comes to this series which gets a big-budget reboot next year.

7. HOWLING III - THE MARSUPIALS (1987): Who thought this flick would be any good? Certainly not me. But after the brilliant original and campy sequel (which I've come to appreciate), director Philippe Mora delivers this weirded out blend of conspiracy ideas, sci-fi, ballerinas, and romance.

8. NEKROMNATIK 2 (1991): While director Jorg Buttgereit's 1987 original has a strong following, I actually prefer this wickedly funny and skin-crawlingly gruesome tale of looking for love in all the wrong places. The raw, low-budget documentary feel combines with icky effects to give the whole thing a demented home movie vibe that's tough to shake.

9. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 - DREAM WARRIORS (1987): Despite my dislike for the way this series took the sinister persona of Freddy Kreuger and turned him into a Catskills comedian with knives for fingers, I do enjoy the first three flicks in the series. Reuniting Kreuger with Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her father (John Saxon) rights the ship after the rocky first sequel and strikes a good balance between the dark tone of the original and the tries-too-hard FREDDY'S REVENGE.

10. PHANTASM 2 (1988): Series creator Don Coscarelli took his sweet old time making this gory, action-packed sequel to the original but it was worth the wait. Plus, Reggie Bannister turns in a crowd-pleasing performance that defined him as a B-movie icon. It's too bad the flick hasn't been given the proper DVD treatment since it's a slam-bang follow-up to the slower, more thoughtful original.

11. RESIDENT EVIL 2 - APOCALYPSE (2004): Another case where I might just enjoy the sequel more than the original. The accidental release of a virus unleashes a plague of zombies which forces Alice (Milla Jovavich) and a group of survivors to get through the night hoping the zombies don't outnumber their bullets. Fast-paced action-horror that knows when to quit and injects an ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK-inspired third act plotline.

12. RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD (1973): Not a sequel to THE EVIL DEAD at all but the second installment in Amondo de Ossorio's epic Blind Dead series. If TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD is the STAR WARS of devil worshipping, virgin chomping, excommunicated knights flicks, then RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD is THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. It's just got more. More what, you ask? More action, more death, more blood, more eyes burned out, more, well, everything! This slightly nudges out the fourth film in the series – the Lovecraftian NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS – but you can't go wrong with either.

What are some of your favorite horror sequels?

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