If At First You Don’t Succeed: Horror Sequels Better Than The Original

Sequels are going to happen. And not just to good horror movies. Yes, there’s Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween – good horror movies that produced successful franchises. But even mediocre, and sometimes, bad horror movies beget neverending repeats. Did the world really need follow-ups to Children of the Corn or The Amityville Horror? Yet sometimes a sequel comes along that improves on the original. Maybe it’s a subtle course correction. Or perhaps its expanding on a good idea that was poorly executed.

Below you’ll find a list of five horror sequels that improved on flawed or, outright terrible, movies. Don’t expect to find Aliens, Dawn of the Dead, or [REC]2 here. Maybe these sequels improved on their predecessors. Regardless of personal preference, those original movies were great in their own rights. This is a list of sequels that course-corrected or revived seemingly ‘dead’ concepts.

The Collection

The Collector is actually a pretty decent late entry to the 2000’s ‘Torture Porn’ craze. True, it’s clearly a Saw rip-off that just qualifies as a ‘small’ box office success at best. But The Collector’s story of a deranged killer who traps and kills some victims, while ‘collecting’ one lone survivor, must have seemed worth a second go-around. Three years later, sequel The Collection double-downed – no, triple-downed – on everything that made The Collector gory fun. Think of The Collection as ‘Aliens’ meets ‘Saw’. Is the sequel implausibly stupid? Yes. But director Marcus Dunstan always keeps the action moving with a wild mix of CGI and practical gore effects. It doesn’t hurt that the mysterious, silent ‘Collector’ is an underrated horror villain.

The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge has one of the better horror movie premises in recent memory. To date, the original movie has spawned two sequels, a prequel, and a television series. Given the franchise success, I’d forgive you for forgetting that The Purge is just a pretty average home invasion flick. In contrast, The Purge: Anarchy is a huge leap forward in quality. Director James DeMonaco opens up The Purge’s world, downplaying the horror elements in favour of suspenseful action. The result is a tighter roller-coaster movie that easily eclipses the first movie. And The Purge: Anarchy has Frank Grillo.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

Ouija is everything wrong with major studio horror movies. It’s a blandly cynical, inoffensive piece of PG-13 horror produced for teen audiences. Critics hated it, but audiences showed up at the theaters. Based on the laws of the box office, a follow-up was guaranteed. But this time Blumhouse Productions enlisted the talented Mike Flanagan (Hush, The Haunting of Hill House) to helm a prequel. The end result is night and day. As compared to its predecessor, Ouija: Origin of Evil is suspenseful, taut horror. Flanagan crams in several fantastic jump scares into an emotionally grounded story about a family in distress. Best of all, it’s a prequel that stands up to multiple views. And you really don’t need to watch Ouija to enjoy it. In fact, I’d avoid watching Ouija at all costs.

Annabelle: Creation

Everything I said about Ouija applies to The Conjuring’s first spin-off, Annabelle. Like Ouija: Origin of Evil, the Annabelle prequel instantly sets things back on course by putting the right talent behind the camera. Director David. Sandberg (Lights Out) balances jolts and shocks with sustained tension. As compared to the dull Annabelle, the prequel is a damn scary movie that has you watching through your fingers for much of its runtime. To be perfectly honest, Annabelle: Creation isn’t a particularly innovative horror movie. It doesn’t defy or re-write any conventions. But what Sandberg does is infuse those conventions with a whole lot of frightenting life.

The Devil’s Rejects

To date, The Devil’s Rejects remains Rob Zombie’s best movie. Hands down. Though House of 1000 Corpses is a nightmarish journey, it’s a flawed directorial debut. In fact, Zombie’s first movie is more of pastiche of horror images assembled in music video fashion. In contrast, The Devil’s Rejects is a brutally lean horror movie. Zombie ditches the jarring editing and strange interludes. Moreover, he ignores the more supernatural elements from the first movie. What’s left is an ultra-violent roadtrip movie. And somewhere along the way, Zombie subverts expectations, making his Firefly Clan the the ‘good guys’. Now we just have to wait for the next instalment, 3 From Hell.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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