No movie genre commits to excess quite like horror. And that commitment to over-the-top tension, gore, and body count often translates to an overabundance of sequels.
For instance, the number of follow-ups to now-classic franchises like “Halloween,” “Scream,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” runs into the double digits, and, for the most part, they never quite live up to the original.
However, there are a handful of sequels that have equalled or, in some cases, outshined their predecessors. Sure, they’re as rare as unicorns, but they do exist. And here they are, in no particular order.
1. ‘Aliens’ (1986)
First of all, no, “Aliens” isn’t just a sci-fi movie. In 1979, “Alien” reimagined what a horror movie could be by setting it in a spaceship, and it’s sequel, “Aliens,” reimagined horror yet again with a terror-filled, sci-fi-action epic set on another planet. “Alien” and “Aliens” have the same H.R. Giger-designed monster and iconic heroine in Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), but the films stand on their own merits, and each has their own legion of devoted fans. Also, “Aliens” gave us the best line a protective mother-figure could ever shout: “Get away from her, you bitch!”
2. ‘Friday the 13th Part 2′ (1981)
Does anyone remember that Jason Voorhees didn’t show up in the “Friday the 13th” franchise until “Part 2″? Jason’s mom, Pamela Voorhees, was the killer in the first film. Now you remember, right? Avenging the (alleged) death of her son at the hands of irresponsible camp counselors, Pam went around killing the unsuspecting youths at Camp Crystal Lake. While the story was fresh (and fun!), Jason quickly became the face of “Friday the 13th” after his starring role in the sequel, and his trademark lumbering, machete-wielding, somehow-he-catches-up-to-you killing sprees have made us all think twice about camping ever since. Does anyone hear “chih chih chih pah pah pah”?
3. ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
Before you start yelling at your phone or computer in protest, “Silence of the Lambs” <em>is</em> a sequel. Michael Mann’s “Manhunter,” in which another FBI agent seeks out Dr. Hannibal Lector in order to help him track down a serial killer, is its older (albeit not biological) movie sibling. “Manhunter” featured a completely different cast (Brian Cox as Lector, Joan Allen, William Petersen), and “Silence” far surpassed it in critical praise, audience reception, box office take, and Oscar wins, including Best Picture. The creepy patient-doctor relationship between Clarice Starling and Dr. Lector continues to go unrivaled, and who couldn’t love a movie that gave us such notable quotables as “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti”? Genius.
4. ‘Army of Darkness’ (1992)
Technically, “Army of Darkness,” the third in the “Evil Dead” series from director Sam Raimi, is a horror-comedy spin-off, but that’s enough to qualify it for a spot on this list. The story starts off with S-Mart employee Ash, who now has one hand thanks to the evilness that ensued in “Evil Dead II,” getting accidentally sent back to 1300 AD, where (or should we say when) he must hunt down the infamous Necronomicon before he can return home. The flick’s purposefully campy production value, over-the-top gore, tongue-in-cheek humor, and downright absurd premise make it a great movie, sequel or not. No wonder it became an instant cult classic.
5. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978)
Zombies are so hot right now! And, guess what, they were hot in 1978, too. George A. Romero’s follow-up to the classic “Night of the Living Dead” brought zombies out of the rural countryside and into a suburban shopping mall. (We’re not safe anywhere!) While the gore factor was amplified and the kills made more imaginative, it was the underlying social commentary of “consumers as zombies” that has stuck with audiences for the decades following its release, making it, in some ways, more memorable than the original. Almost.
After you’re done with our list, add your own picks in the comments, on Facebook, or via Twitter.