There is no secret of Hollywood’s obsession with sequels and IP, even when it comes to horror classics. This is a genre at the forefront of franchising and sequels since the early days of cinema.
Thanks to horror’s enduring popularity, low production costs, and recognizable characters, finding a way to continue the story from horror classics is easier than most.
Often because of this, a horror franchise can pump out many sequels. Those end up sustaining years of diminishing returns, even after a beloved classic makes an impact. If it’s making money and doesn’t cost much to produce, why stop?
Unfortunately, this results in several forgettable and inferior versions of what came before. Yet, this also results in some trashy-fun times as well. Occasionally, you get a sequel to a horror classic or even a masterpiece of the genre that is quite good; yet goes under the radar.
Those sequels deserve a little spotlight, so let’s shine some very deserving sequels to five horror classics.
5. Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep is the most recent addition to any horror classics sequels list. For some unknown reason, one many chose to skip. How can you make a sequel to Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece of environmental and elemental terror?
With The Haunting of Hill House and Oculus, Mike Flanagan is no slouch when it comes to making horror films. Yet, he is quite different from Kubrick (something I think even with which he would agree).
Yet, this sequel’s origins rest in the hands of the author, Stephen King, who famously disliked Kubrick’s adaptation. “Doctor Sleep” was a sequel to King’s book and not Kubrick’s film. Yet, in a complicated twist, this was a sequel of Kubrick’s film and King’s novel.
Doctor Sleep is sometimes crushed under the weight of being a sequel to two fundamentally different beasts thematically. Nonetheless, Flanagan escapes the trap of replicating Kubrick. His strength has always flourished in his attention to character drama to drive the horror.
Here, Flanagan manages to carve a compelling story of trauma and cyclical demons to powerful results. He also manages to create striking images on screen. Doctor Sleep has its unique scares that are not reflective of Kubrick’s approach. That may be off-putting. But if you can engage on its own terms then what you’ll find is a piece of true catharsis.
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Over the years, we have been treated to numerous Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels, remakes, reboots, and even sequels to the remakes and reboots. Some have managed to make a case for itself. For example, the 2003 film remains one of the better slasher remakes of the 2000s.
That said, most have been forgettable or downright awful. None have matched the documentary style and grimy terror that was Tobe Hooper‘s original. Yet, unlike many slasher sequels and franchises, the original director did return for one sequel —The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
This sequel received mixed reviews. Hooper didn’t follow the same path as the first film, jettisoning the stripped-down hillbilly terror for a darker comedic sense.
The results? An unrelenting mixture of the darkest form of comedy and terror. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 understands the difficult feat to make a sequel close to the original’s documentary. In this historic case, a dirty ’70s style masterpiece and anything but a poor man’s imitation.
Instead, it goes for broke in pure self-conscious ’80s excess. Unlike the Friday the 13th franchise — a product of 1980s Americana — becomes a critique of the Ronald Reagan era voter. The sequel pointedly casted the family of cannibals of small-town businessmen who loathes taxes and votes against their self-interest.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 may not be as terrifying as the original. At times, the sequel doesn’t feel like it was fashioned in the same universe. Its sick, twisted humor eventually becomes pure depravity that creates a new form of terror, different from the original but twisted all the same.
3. The Strangers: Prey at Night
The Strangers is not considered in the same league as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Shining. However, it has found a spot as a minor modern slasher/home invasion classic with its post-9/11 theming and intellectual gestures.
Yet, while I can recognize it was composed with intelligence, it never really did it for me. Its minimalism and more small-scale approach would appeal to me. Unfortunately, a few scripting mistakes and some lacking direction it always fell short whereas it became beloved by many.
However, I actually liked the sequel.
Many see this new horror classic sequel as a disappointment. In my opinion, this film is an improvement. It drops many lofty goals from the first film. Instead, Prey at Night focuses on being a slasher film, borrowing themes from John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and even a little Brian De Palma.
This sequel achieves goals far better than the original did. There is genuinely great staging and suspenseful sequencing. The pool sequence alone (pictured here), with its neon-soaked colors, juxtaposing music, and excellent sound design is more exciting and tense than anything in the first one.
This is not a great film. It’s not even on-par with the rest of the list, but this is a far better follow up than many give it credit for being.
2. The Exorcist III
The Exorcist is often cited as the scariest horror film ever made. That moniker unfairly puts a massive burden on the film some modern audiences feel it doesn’t reach. It was one of the most wildly successful horror films of all time. This film — a horror movie — even snagged 10 Oscar nominations and won two for writing and sound.
Why would you make a follow-up to what many consider the greatest achievement for horror cinema?
Well, they tried in 1977 with The Exorcist II: The Heretic. To be fair, the second sequel has some supporters, specifically due to Excalibur‘s director John Boorman’s psychedelic inspired visuals. It’s actually stunning this ever got made.
Then, came the third film, The Exorcist III. To make more of a direct connection, it was based off the follow-up novel from the original author Willam Peter Blatty, Legion.
Blatty personally jumped in the director’s chair after original Exorcist director William Friedkin dropped out. If you watch carefully, you can see some of Blatty’s limitations as a first-time director. His novelist approach allows some dialogue scenes to meander often.
Regardless, The Exorcist III is an atmospheric and haunting entry that plays well off the original film. It drips in forbidding guilt and a bombastic third act (that does feel just a tad out of place) that is memorable, as it is disturbing. And while it’s not such a celebrated sequel as it should, it does possess the best jump scare in horror history.
It feels close in conversation to the original but Blatty forges his own path, mixing in slow burn-police procedural with demonic possession. The results? It is not as good as The Exorcist or as singular in its effect, but I find the result more subtle.
It is not as terrifying to watch but there are still images and moments that I still have difficulty shaking and leaving my head since viewing it for the first time.
1. Psycho II
Any sequel to Psycho was destined to live in the shadow of greatness. Quite frankly, it seems sacrilegious to even attempt such an endeavor, especially without Alfred Hitchcock).
Its shifting POV and genuine sympathy given to Norman Bates provides a different horror than the original. Here, we are normally placed in his shoes, wanting him to succeed and live a normal life. Meanwhile, the rest of the town (and other forces) almost want him to be the psycho that we knew him to be.
When this horror classic sequel came out, the slasher genre was in full force. Although this sequel falls after one of the originators of the genre, Psycho II doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to resemble its contemporaries.
Its metatextual reading of audiences’ desires and needs for bloodshed plays as a strong bit of tension here that director Richard Franklin (a student of Hitchcock) plays like a fiddle.
When it tiptoes into Psycho‘s territory, we believe the film is at its weakest and overmatched, but Franklin does carve out an identity of his own, even if the final reveal does strain credibility. This works wonderfully in the context of a meta reading in what is an honestly compelling story.
I’m very surprised by what this had to offer.
What horror sequels were surprising to you? Any from this list that you love as well? Any you would add? Sound off in the comment section below!