Sequels happen to the best of movies. In fact, sequels happen to some pretty underwhelming efforts, too. Take a look at the current movie landscape. Hollywood loves itself some reliable intellectual property to milk. Too bad not all sequels are created equally. For this April 2023 edition of The Chopping Block, we take a look at bad sequels to great – or at least well-regarded – horror movies. Three rules guided the inclusion on this list. First, we’re only looking at first sequels – once you get four or five movies deep into a series you kind of have to expect diminishing returns. Next, the movie on which the sequel is based needs to be moderately good. Troll 2 is a notoriously bad movie, but the first Troll didn’t set the world on fire either. Lastly, the sequel needs to be generally regarded – by critics and fans – as a ‘bad’ movie.
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
What better place to start than with John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic. On a list of worst follow-ups to good horror movie, Boorman’s ill-fated sequel may be the worst offender here. It’s one thing for the quality of a sequel to plummet relative to its predecessor. But Exorcist II: The Heretic is a bad movie regardless of its source material. There’s certainly a wealth of talent on hand for the sequel including Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, James Earl Jones, and Ned Beatty alongside the returning Linda Blair. And Boorman was no slouch behind the camera. Nevertheless, this sequel is almost ridiculously stupid in both its plot and execution. Nothing here remotely works. Trying something different is commendable, but not if ‘different’ is a codeword for shitting on everything that made the original so good.
The Hills Have Eyes II (1985)
In the 1970s, Wes Craven directed two landmark horror movies – The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream followed in the 80s and 90s. Yet somewhere in between The Hills Have Eyes and Elm Street, Craven struggled to connect with horror audiences. Neither Deadly Blessing nor Swamp Thing lit the horror world on fire. With little in the way of money but renewed studio interest, Craven opted for a sequel, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2. With little in the way of a budget or ideas, the director leaned on flashbacks. Like another movie on this list, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is heavily composed of old footage. Even a dog has a flashback from the original movie. Among its worst sins, however, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is really just a boring movie. Nothing here approaches the meme-worthy Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. If the original The Hills Have Eyes was a brutal 70s exploitation horror movie, its sequel is a lazy, derivative slasher movie.
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)
If you grew up in the 80s, odds are that Poltergeist formed a huge part of your childhood memories. Whether Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg directed, this haunted house movie is an absolute classic of the genre. Not surprisingly, a sequel was all but inevitable. In fairness to Poltergeist II: The Other Side, it’s not even close to being one of the worst sequels on this list. In fact, the sequel has its own following and it’s not hard to at least sort of understand why. Clearly, the sequel misses Hooper behind the camera. But the biggest problem with the sequel is that it has no reason to exist other than a desire to make more money. Rather than naturally extending the original’s story, Poltergeist II: The Other Side makes the fatal sequel mistake of retconning and adding unnecessary backstory. Besides, when the most memorable part of the sequel is an effect that gets coined ‘The Vomit Creature’, you know something’s gone wrong.
Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
No one’s going to mistake Silent Night, Deadly Night for a classic horror movie. But it’s a gritty, grimy piece of Grindhouse horror that’s unforgettable. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat as well. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is a really, really bad movie. Yet two things save this inept sequel from being unwatchable. First, it’s a hilariously incompetent movie that becomes unintentionally hilarious as it progresses. Second, nearly half of the movie is just made up of footage from the first movie. Yes, that’s right. Most of Part 2 is a literal re-hashing of Part 1. What’s left of the sequel’s limited budget must have been squandered on the most inexplicable car explosion in movie history. Still it’s become a meme-worthy cult classic that lovers of bad movies will appreciate.
The Fly II (1989)
Remakes are usually inferior to the original. Occasionally, however, a remake re-interprets the subtext of its predecessor and, in some cases, surpasses the original. Such was the case with David Cronenberg’s 80s update of horror classic, The Fly. Over 40 years after its release, Cronenberg’s grotesque body horror re-imagining remains a compelling watch for horror fans. For those who didn’t grow up in the 80s, you’d be forgiven for not knowing a sequel Cronenberg’s The Fly three years later. Starring poor Eric Stoltz as the offspring of Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, the sequel follows Martin Brundle’s captivity in a research lab where scientists hope to recreate Seth Brundle’s telepod technology. Though it’s equally repulsive as the original, The Fly II lacks any of Cronenberg’s subtext and, as a result, just comes across as a brutally ugly take on the premise.
Pet Sematary Two (1992)
The original Pet Sematary has a mixed legacy – 80s horror fans tend to revere it, while critics are a bit mixed. Before a remake rekindled our love affair with the 80s Stephen King adaptation, an ill-conceived 90s sequel reminded us that while it’s hit-and-miss, the original still largely worked. Even with its original director on board, Pet Sematary Two feels like an effort to cash in on the first movie’s success. Though it’s mildly watchable, it’s a sequel that never unsettles or scares like its flawed predecessor. Most importantly, Pet Sematary Two can’t escape the feeling that it just dug up King’s original story and tweaked a few things here and there. Aside from Clancy Brown’s performance, the sequel doesn’t have much to offer. Next time Hollywood should do what they did with The Shining – wait for King to pen a sequel himself.
An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
Delayed sequels aren’t universally bad. But their track record isn’t stellar either. Long before the term ‘legacy’ sequel existed, movies like An American Werewolf in Paris didn’t pretend to continue the legacy of their source material in anything but title only. Yes, if you pay close enough attention, the female lead played by poor Julie Delpy is apparently the daughter of the original’s David and Alex. It’s lazy retconning from a writer who went on to do absolutely nothing. Aside from Exorcist II: The Heretic, An American Werewolf in Paris may be the worst sequel on this list. By the mid- to late-1990s, horror movies were commonly using underdeveloped CGI in place of practical effect. Here, the CGI werewolves are laughably awful. The characters vary from dull to unlikable. As for its conclusion, it’s both stupid and an insult to the classic to which it owes its existence.
The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)
Carrie is a horror classic and a standout from the 1970’s, one of the genre’s best decades. No one was asking for a sequel, especially over 20 years later. With no Stephen King, no Brian De Palma, The Rage: Carrie 2 flopped. Everything about The Rage: Carrie 2 is a downgrade. We get Katt Shea as director in place of Brian De Palma. Emily Bergl subs for Sissy Spacek, while J Smith-Cameron fills in for Piper Laurie in the ‘mother’ Role. How bad is the downgrade? We get one of the kids from Home Improvement in place of John Travolta. If Carrie was in part defined by its mesmerizing performances, The Rage is shackled by underwhelming turns across the board. It’s cardboard characters with stiff performers delivering stilted dialogue. Perhaps what’s most unforgivable about The Rage: Carrie 2 is its generic and, at time, odd visual style. No one expected a filmmaker to replicate De Palma’s signature style. But The Rage is a limp sequel in most regards.
Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch 2 (2000)
The Ring Two (2005)
The Ring is the rare example of an American remake of a foreign classic catching lightning in a bottle. And The Ring ignited a J-horror movie remake craze that coincided with the general remake cycle that defined the 2000s. With Naomi Watts returning and the director of the original Ringu behind the camera for The Ring Two, you’d assume the results would at least be passable. Yet somehow the 2005 sequel marks a massive freefall in quality from the Westernized original. Like most unnecessary sequel, The Ring Two needlessly adds to its own mythology for no other reason but to justify its existence. Often unintentionally funny, rarely scary, this is a sequel that completely misses the mark hit by its source material.