The term “sequel” is almost itself a derogatory word, especially in horror where franchises have famously gone on so long they’ve entered camp territory (looking at you, Freddy’s Dead). This subject was even a tongue-in-cheek conversation in the film class scene in the sequel to Scream, Scream 2 (1997):
After surviving the sequel-heavy 80s, many horror fans are still exhausted by rehashing their favorite franchises. They crave original stories. Sequels are rarely seen as something to be excited about unless you’re a huge fan of the original. However, once in a blue moon, a horror sequel emerges that is better than its predecessor. Here are 10+ horror sequels that are better (even marginally) than the original:
In Aliens, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) agrees to return to the site of the attacks in Alien (1979) with troop of Colonial Marines to figure out what happened. The mission does not go well. The crew finds a colony of humans being used as hosts for infant facehugger aliens, and Ripley discovers that some of the crew are on a double mission to bring facehuggers back to their boss to create biological weapons.
While Alien (1979) is an iconic science-fiction film, Aliens won Sigourney Weaver the Academy Award for Best Actress. It was also one of the highest grossing-films of 1986. It is widely thought to be one of the best sequels ever made.
Because producers didn’t have access to scenes from the original, some scenes were reshot for the flashback scene in the opening. This is why horror fans debate whether Evil Dead II is technically a sequel or a remake. However, the bulk of the movie is indeed a new plot following Ash after the events of the first film (and all the way to the Middle Ages).
Both Evil Dead and Evil Dead II are cult classics beloved by audiences and critics. But thanks to an introduction from Stephen King, a fan of the original, Evil Dead II had a much bigger budget than its predecessor allowing for (even) better practical effects. Evil Dead II is so good, the importance of seeing it is even a plot line in another film, the romantic comedy-drama High Fidelity (2000).
This is one of the more surprising inclusions on this list, because unlike Aliens and Evil Dead II, this sequel did not represent a bigger budget. When a Stranger Calls Back was only a television movie. It has no right to be a superior film, but it is.
Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is back as a college counselor who helps Julia Jenz (Jill Schoelen) after she has a terrifying babysitting experience much like Jill did when she was younger. Jill calls on her friend John Clifford (Charles Durning) from the first film and the two try to protect Julia when the police refuse to believe she is being stalked. There are a number of wild twists and creepy moments in this sequel. It surpasses When a Stranger Calls (1979) and is probably the scariest babysitting movie ever made.
While performing worse than its predecessor financially and critically, Urban Legends: Final Cut is an underrated sequel that can be considered scarier than the original. Both films had the same budget ($14 million), though the sequel feels more low-budget. The lowered expectations (and increased violence and gore) could be the exact reasons the scenes feel tenser and the stakes feel higher.
Amy Mayfield is the new protagonist, a student in her final year at a prestigious film school competing for a coveted “Hitchcock Award” for student films. Inspired by the security guard Reese Wilson (Loretta Devine, reprising her role), Amy decides to make her student film about a serial killer who uses urban legends to kill people. Her production (and those of her friends) is plagued by a killer quietly killing off her cast and crew and making his own movie while he’s at it.
A sequel to House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and second in Rob Zombie’s Firefly series, The Devil’s Rejects follows the members of the Firefly family on the run seven months after the events of the first film. The trio steal cars, take hostages, and are generally as violent and sadistic as possible while trying to make a plan to steer clear of the law. In one memorable scene (and a homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Otis cuts one of the hostages’ face off; in another, a traumatized hostage runs into the road to seek help but is instead run over.
The Devil’s Rejects is more fun to watch and easier to follow than House of 1000 Corpses, though both are cult classics. This is partially due to the film’s Southern rock soundtrack and daylight setting v. the dark, cramped shots inside the Firefly home. Roger Ebert didn’t even review House but gave The Devil’s Rejects three out of four stars and a good review, saying: “There is actually some good writing and acting going on here, if you can step back from the [violent] material enough to see it.”
The original Hostel was ground-breaking in inspiring a fear of travel (and maybe even xenophobia). The second installment is (in my opinion) a better film and the best of the Hostel trilogy. A major change from the first film is that the characters in Hostel: Part II are actually likable and there is someone to “root for.” Additionally, the sleazy protagonist from the original is killed off in the film’s opening scene, which was a fun and surprising treat for fans.
The film then picks up with a new set of characters: Beth, Whitney, and Lorna, three American students in Italy who are convinced to take a weekend trip to a spa in rural Slovakia. They arrive at the same hostel we saw in the first film, and their passports are scanned and uploaded to an auction site for murder tourists to bid on. In a cool surprise, the three female characters are able to stand up to the Elite Hunting Club better than their male counterparts.
The second Rob Zombie sequel on this short list, Halloween II is the 10th Halloween movie in the franchise but the second in Zombie’s reimagining of the story. Like Halloween II (1981), Zombie’s sequel picks up immediately following the events of Halloween. Laurie Strode deals with the aftermath of Michael Myers’s attacks as Michael escapes from custody. A year later Laurie lives with the Brackett’s while Michael wanders as a drifter and eventually sets his sights on returning to Haddonfield.
After he finished his Halloween remake, Rob Zombie said he felt more free to explore the lore of Michael Myers and less bound by the “John Carpenter-ness” of the franchise, which is why distinguished horror fans prefer this installment.
A woman named Michelle wakes after a car crash in the bunker of survivalist Howard along with Howard’s neighbor Emmett. Howard tells Michelle that there has been an attack and they cannot leave the bunker because Earth’s surface is radioactive. He also takes delight in having power over Michelle and Emmett as the two decide whether it’s more dangerous to try to escape or to stay in the bunker with Howard.
While the plot of 10 Cloverfield Lane seems to not at all be related to Cloverfield (2008), the third film in the trilogy, The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) finally shows that the universe is connected. Cloverfield Lane isn’t a found footage movie which means less shaky camera movements and more plot. While the original is a good found footage horror movie, the second is both scarier and more enjoyable.
Flashing back to 1967, Alice Zander lives with her daughters Lina and Doris in Los Angeles, where she works from home as a medium. When Alice starts using ouija boards in her readings, a spirit named Marcus begins to possess her youngest daughter Doris. The ouija board even helps the struggling family find some cash to pay their overdue mortgage, which is one reason they don’t notice Doris’s possession until it’s almost too late.
While the original Ouija (2014) is not memorable, this prequel easily surpasses it in quality. Mike Flanagan shows how skilled he is by reviving a fairly uninteresting franchise and elevating it to be much scarier than the original.
Now going by “Aaron” after his victim we met through the events of Creep (2014), Mark Duplass’s character meets a vlogger named Sara (Desiree Akhavan) and hires her to record a day in his life. This time he openly admits that he is a serial killer, but Sara does not believe him. Sara proves more difficult to scare than his previous victims. Like the original, Creep 2 has a shocking final scene.
While both Creep and Creep 2 are incredible mumblegore films, I think Creep 2 is slightly better. Sara is an interesting protagonist, and though the premise is similar to the original, it feels fresh and unique. I am waiting patiently for Creep 3.
Matias finds a laptop and takes it home. He uses it to video chat with his friends, who realize that Matias is connected to the dark web. Matias learns that by taking the laptop, he has entered a world where a seemingly omniscient group of people can see his every move.
Critically rated higher than its predecessor, Unfriended (2014), Unfriended: Dark Web is the superior horror movie. A third Unfriended film has been rumored.