Sequels have it pretty rough. There’s a small sweet spot most seem to aim for that’s both fresh enough to warrant its existence and similar enough to please fans of the original, and even if they manage to hit the target it often comes at the cost of quality. For all the misfires, though, there are plenty of fantastic follow-ups that honor their predecessors while staking their own claims in our horror-loving hearts.
The team nominated nearly a hundred horror sequels and fought hard for their individual favorites — which I would never dream of naming for fear of shaming these lovely people, but that said maybe I’ll hint at them somewhere in this post where they’ll be truly hard to find — but after the dust settled on our voting the top ten were undeniable.
Keep reading for a look at the 10 best horror sequels as voted on by Chris “Creepshow 3” Coffel, Kieran “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” Fisher, Brad “Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues” Gullickson, Meg “Book of Shadows” Shields, Jacob “Jaws the Revenge” Trussell, and myself.
10. Day of the Dead (1985)
Much of the modern zombie story can be traced back to George Romero’s influential original trilogy, but most of these conversations focus on the more widely recognized Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. But hiding within the subterranean military bunker at the center of the second sequel are the larger questions that our modern z-stories ask: how can we possibly go on? It’s not about survival anymore, but about the loneliness of a world stripped of its humanity, attempting to rationalize with a nightmare. And while his trilogy was eventually expanded by the underrated Land of the Dead, Romero does what I’m afraid modern bleak z-storytelling like The Walking Dead will never do: give us a happy ending. To quote Samuel Beckett: “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” – Jacob Trussell
9. Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare (1994)
Unlike the numbered sequels to A Nightmare on Elm Street, which have a bouncier sensibility and a sharper tongued Freddy Krueger, Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare begs your full attention. Pushing the boundaries of meta-storytelling that he would later master in Scream, the film takes Freddy back to his darker roots — not by ret-conning the sequels — but rather by offering a new definition of who, or what, the Springwood Slasher really is. Freddy isn’t just the creation of Wes Craven anymore (who appears in the film as himself), but rather a powerful entity that manifests itself into our reality now that “Freddy’s Dead.” Craven further blends fact and fiction by embellishing the story with actual events, like Heather Langenkamp’s stalker and the 1994 LA earthquake, to resurrect a danger the franchise hadn’t seen since the original. Suffice to say, this is a nightmare well ahead of its time. – Jacob Trussell
8. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
You like gremlins? We’ll show you some damn freaky gremlins. Not interested in repeating himself, Joe Dante goes full-Looney Tunes for his monster movie follow-up. Young Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) is trying to make it in the big city as an architect for billionaire eccentric Daniel Clamp (John Glover). While he struggles on the bottom rung of the ladder, his old pal Gizmo is snatched up by the Clamp Center’s diabolical geneticist (Christopher Lee). The mogwai breed rapidly and naturally get to snacking after midnight. Once the little demons start injecting and/or digesting the magic potions hidden within the top floor laboratory, creature effects maestro Rick Baker is let off the chain. Spider Gremlin! Electric Gremlin! Brain Gremlin! Vegetable Gremlin! Lady Gremlin! Gremlins 2 takes the franchise to cartoonish heights, and you’re either going to pull up close to the TV with a big bowl of cereal or switch channels. For those that connect with the hijinks, it’s a massive sugar rush entertainment. – Brad Gullickson
7. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
How do you follow up a groundbreaking horror movie that married zombies with a strong social commentary? If you’re George Romero, you make a second one. While Night tackles racism with a cold, sharp eye, the follow-up pairs its gory excesses with a condemnation of consumer culture. And I do mean gory. Bright, bloody, beautiful gore brought to life by the master Tom Savini. Romero incorporates some action thrills and human beats alongside the horror, and the whole is aided with a score from Goblin. It’s a thrilling ride that continues to deliver the goods four decades later. – Rob Hunter
6. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
You stay — we belong dead! Bride of Frankenstein finds the infamously reanimation-obsessed doctor alive and kicking and determined to literally unearth old mistakes. Surely the problem was that he only animated * one * corpse, right? We all need companionship and to feel loved no matter how grotesque and assembled out of the bits of dead people we may be. Director James Whale brings a markedly tragic and tender touch to the the Universal monster roster with a celebration of life, death, and the need for affection when you feel like an unlovable freak. Now talking, Boris Karloff’s performance is breathtaking. “She hate me, like others,” is one of the most devastating line readings in horror…maybe even in film. – Meg Shields
5. The Exorcist III (1990)
Is The Exorcist III the best Exorcist film? Yes. (I lost credibility long ago, so I’m comfortable speaking this unpopular truth.) Where straight tales of possession bore this sequel mixes things up with serial killings, a grumpy George C. Scott, and one of cinema’s best scares. Seriously, the hospital hallway scene is a masterpiece in pacing, structure, and payoff. It finds its own story and intertwines it with threads from the original that build the mythology in fascinating ways while finding humanity in its characters. It’s also a little bonkers at times, but in a tale of the devil that’s a welcome trait. – Rob Hunter
4. Blade 2 (2002)
Having successfully worked out his Daywalker self-loathing on the couch of Deacon Frost’s exploding body, Blade leaves the broody half-vampire mentality behind and utterly commits to the eradication of the species. Unfortunately, a new breed of bloodsucker is roaming the streets of Prague. The Reapers have no desire to preen in the moonlight and get their freak-on with willing victims. They’re here to suck the meatsacks dry, and the only thing in their way is the unlikely team-up of Blade and the polite vampire soldier society known as the Blood Pack. Blade II is a riotous tour through the imagination of Guillermo del Toro. Maybe not as obviously artful as Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water, but make no mistake, every inch of its director is jammed into the frame. This was del Toro’s opportunity to expose himself to a mainstream audience, and he didn’t care if it was a Marvel movie or not. Blade II is a massive declaration of passion and talent. Wesley Snipes is just along for the ride. – Brad Gullickson
3. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
In 1984 Joseph Vito took the reigns on a slasher franchise that up until that point was decent enough but hadn’t quite yet reached elite status. That would soon change. When your key ingredients are a dancing Crispin Glover, a finale featuring a 13-year-old Corey Feldman shaving his head while shouting incoherently and Vito’s trashy exploitation magic you’ve got yourself a mighty tasty slasher stew. The fourth entry in the Jason Vorhees saga was intended to officially kill off the aquaphobe but instead it reinvigorated the franchise and lifted it to new heights. When it comes to Jason films none are more fun, more bloody, and more campy. This one gets 5 machetes and 2 hockey masks on the “5-Machete, 2-Hockey Mask Scale of Awesomeness.” – Chris Coffel
2. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Not only is this the best sequel in the Halloween franchise, it’s the best Halloween movie, period. Michael Myers walking around with his knife and William Shatner mask is all well and good, and I’m glad some of those movies exist. However, the series would have been more interesting in the long-run if it contained more movies that weren’t related to the Myers lore. Season of the Witch marked a wonderfully odd detour from the stalk-and-slash elements the franchise is synonymous with in favor of supernatural spookiness that involved creepy masks, evil capitalists, and pagan rituals. Horror fans just weren’t ready for it in the 80’s, but thankfully the movie has found its cult since then. Crack out the silver shamrock and show this masterpiece the love it deserves. – Kieran Fisher
1. Evil Dead II (1987)
Hands off to Sam Raimi: Evil Dead II is the rare sequel that’s better than the original! Of course, while effectively narrative twins, the two flicks couldn’t be more different what with the former being a genuine low budget creep fest and the latter a goopy, Three Stooges-like haunted house ride. Evil Dead II is the same old song with a little more cheeeeese and a lot more production value and you know what sometimes that’s all you need to make a soul-swallowing cult classic. Retaining the ghoulishly charming vibe of its predecessor, the film brings giggles and gasps in what amounts to a delightfully demented good time at the movies that still brings the scares. Groovy. – Meg Shields