Most horror movies don’t need sequels, but of course most franchises have pointless sequels in them, anyway. It’s something that’s been true about the genre going all the way back to the beginning. As fans, it’s something we’ve always had to tolerate, even though every generation seems to think that sequels are unique to them and the films of their time alone.
But most of these sequels have their fans. People love the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, which is fair. There’s something great about seeing a story develop over time, which is the route that the best series take. It’s hard to imagine, for example, Phantasm existing without the sequels that carry on and develop that story. When horror fans become attached to a character or world, they want to see that world and those characters develop and continue on.
Even still, there are the movies that are considered cornerstones of the genre. The “true classics,” the films that supposedly should not be revisited or touched in any way. And while that can be a silly mentality, many of these classics tell a full, complete story that—in most cases—doesn’t even leave much room for expansion.
But when something is a huge hit, as most of the movies on this list were, then whether or not there’s actually room for a sequel doesn’t factor in much in the grand scheme of things. If it made money, investors and producers want to replicate that success. That’s why horror sequels so often turn out horribly.
That’s also why it’s so surprising that these pointless sequels actually turned out okay.
There are plenty of fans who prefer the second Poltergeist to the first, if only for the appearance of Kane, one of the most frightening villains in horror history. He gives a face to the evil presence that hung over the first feature, and that face is absolutely terrifying. Not just because the man looks so skeletal, walking around in a black suit like the Tall Man, but also because he speaks with such a gentle, Southern drawl.
We can all just about agree that Exorcist II: The Heretic was an absolute mess. But Exorcist III is more of a true sequel to the original as it was based on original author William Peter Blatty’s own book sequel, Legion. Blatty even wrote and directed this adaptation, which honestly does rival the original Exorcist in terms of quality. Its only minor downfall is a tacked-on exorcism scene which, despite the title, it really didn’t need. Brad Dourif also gives one of the most chilling performances of his career.
It’s such a big franchise at this point, so it seems weird to say, but Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 probably didn’t need to happen. It was made over a decade after the original. But it’s such a fun deconstruction of the first movie. It’s very intentionally everything the first one was not. It’s over-the-top, full of gore, and is one of the best of Hooper’s career for completely different reasons than the original.
This one was made over two decades after the first and caused a groan from just about every horror fan when it was announced, myself included. But it’s actually a smart film that updates the themes of the original for the 1990’s, turning the focus around to target what young men in high school get away with and exploring some heavy themes including rape culture and shaming women for being sexual beings. It’s a movie that is just as relevant now as when it was released sixteen years ago.
Again, as a fan of the Halloween franchise, it’s strange to say that the whole franchise didn’t need to happen. But it really didn’t. Halloween stands perfectly well on its own and even when I watch it now, I watch it as an individual movie. I’m not really thinking about the sequels. Despite that, I think Halloween II is a great slasher that does a pretty solid job of recreating the atmosphere of the original.
Psycho II is a fascinating movie that, even as it builds its fan base, still does not get nearly enough love. It’s got a great story, centering on a rehabilitated Norman Bates who wants nothing more than to move on with his life. But original survivor Lila Crane will do anything it takes to put Norman back in a cell, attempting to drive him insane again to prove he’s still dangerous. It changes the question from the original from “Is the mother the killer?” to “Is mother still inside of Norman?”
Jaws 2 is a slasher parading as a shark feature, and it works excellently as such. It’s competently made, but it’s not trying to be the classic that Spielberg’s movie was, and wisely so. The story is both more realistic and more absurd than the original at the same time. You have the boating teens surrounded by a shark, which sounds like something you’d see on the news, or at least hear about in a Shark Week special. But then you have things like the shark attacking a helicopter. This shifting tone, along with the shark’s almost supernatural nature and Freddy-esque facial scarring, make for an undeniably fun viewing experience.