Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Our Favorite Horror Sequels

Sometimes in horror movies, the second time's the charm.

JB: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987; dir. Sam Raimi) - I know, I know… I am cheating a little bit, given that Evil Dead 2 is really more of a remake than a sequel. It’s as if Sam Raimi was finally given enough money to get the first film right. I remember seeing this on the Friday night it opened because Dann Gire in the Daily Herald gave it such an enthusiastic review. Boy howdy, that audience was not prepared for Raimi’s patented mix of laughs and shocks. 

It has been said that a great movie contains three great scenes and no bad scenes. I would argue that Evil Dead 2 is comprised of ALL GREAT SCENES. All killer/no filler.

You got yer “Dancing girlfriend decapitation” scene. You got yer “Ashe’s possessed hand” scene. You got yer “Who’s laughing now/hysterical cabin” scene. You got yer “Shaki-cam as Evil Spirit POV” scene. You got yer “Chainsaw hand” scene. You got yer “Come to Sweet Henrietta” scene. You got yer “Eyeball flies across room and lands in girl’s open, screaming mouth” scene. You got yer “Groovy.”

But why am I writing all this?  I am clearly preaching to the choir. Surely, you have ALL SEEN IT, HAVEN’T YOU?


Mark Ahn: The Silence of the Lambs (1991; dir. Jonathan Demme) - It was scared when watching this movie for the first time in high school (it didn’t realize there was a movie called Manhunter from before). It found Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s unerring, maniacally cool stare into the camera especially jarring, particularly when contrasted to Clarice Starling’s na├»ve but determined glances (it doesn’t know if Jonathan Demme had done this in prior films, and had not seen it in others). It totally loved Hopkins’ once-in-a-career portrayal of the coolest, calmest, and deranged of serial psychopaths (and he’s one of two). Aside from Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, it also liked the appearance of favored “those guys” like Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Ted Levine, and Charles Napier. It loves the covert and the overt sexualization of the female protagonist, which is what makes this movie so creepy in its tone (night vision goggles, anybody?). Now, it’s going to put the lotion in the basket before he comes back.

Mike: The Devil's Rejects (2005; dir. Rob Zombie) The Devil’s Rejects is the movie I’d always hoped Rob Zombie would give us. I was excited for House of 1000 Corpses, if for no other reason than I knew Zombie was a big horror fan (particularly '70s horror) and I hoped that would translate into his work. House, however, didn’t do it for me as much as I wanted it to. So I was a little more hesitant when the sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, came out. Maybe my tempered expectations aided my enjoyment, but I walked out of Rejects smiling ear to ear. This was my kind of horror film.

With The Devil’s Rejects, Zombie gave us a gritty, almost too real at times, horror movie that feels like it fits perfectly on the shelf next to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Last House on the Left. Like those movies, Rejects makes me want to shower when it’s over. And I never shower.

Zombie likes to use stunt casting in his films, employing horror stars of the '70s and '80s in bit parts. And while I usually roll my eyes at the obvious fan service, for some reason I embraced the hell out of it this time around. I enjoyed seeing Ken Foree and Michael Berryman. It felt more like a tribute than a stunt. And while we’re on casting, Bill Moseley is brilliant in this movie. I may be the only person to ever use “Bill Moseley” and “brilliant” together, but I mean it. His performance is one of my favorites in any horror movie.

The Devil’s Rejects is the rare sequel, even rarer horror sequel, to transcend the original. And while Rob Zombie’s overall filmography isn’t very good (although I have a weird love of Halloween II), The Devil’s Rejects stands as a great addition to my horror library and it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, he has another one in him.

Patrick:  I've already named Dawn of the Dead as one of my favorite movies of all time, so it's safe to say that (along with Bride of Frankenstein) it's probably the best horror sequel ever made. But there's no fun in stating the obvious, so I'll make a case for two underrated Part Twos.

First is Psycho II, a movie that shouldn't even exist, much less be as good as it is. Though it's couched very much in the '80s (it's gorier and trashier, but still restrained by the decade's standards), it doesn't just feel like a stupid cash-in. With Richard Franklin directing and Tom Holland contributing the script, Psycho II turns out to be a fascinating character study of Norman Bates years after the events of the first film. You do have to overlook some of the changes it makes to the mythology and where it takes some of the characters (cough Vera Miles), but the movie is worth it for Anthony Perkins' performance alone. It's not Psycho, but no movie will ever be. It's still pretty great.

Then, of course, there's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Tobe Hooper's 1986 follow-up to his original classic. Knowing that he probably couldn't touch the grimy realism of the first movie, Hooper (and screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson) turn the sequel into absurdist black comedy of the darkest order. It's ugly and it's shrill and it's gory and it's over the top and it's downright hellish in its production design. It's also brilliant, and the rare horror sequel that I prefer to the original movie.

Doug: Obviously, the only right answer to this question is Troll 2. And by "right," I mean "wrong." And by "wrong," I mean Troll 2 is probably the worst movie ever made. The ... Best Worst Movie? Zing! So much awfulness -- and definitely more terrible than its predecessor -- Troll 2 is also hilarious. And charming. And ridiculous. And fun. And, most importantly, it has IMAGINATION. Take, for instance, this quote: "Nilbog! It's goblin spelled backwards! This is their kingdom!" There aren't even TROLLS in the movie! Imagination, people. What more do you want in a horror film?


  1. You guys really help a guy stay awake on a 24 hour shift.

    Patrick mentioning Psycho II is great because even if I havn't seen it in years I remember seeing it in the theater when it first came out, on my first trip to California. I was in 3rd grade going into 4th that summer, so it could have very well been my first horror movie in the theater experience. (Unless Poltergeist came out before.) either way seeing it, then going to the Universal lot and seeing the Bate's house a week later was cool, and it got me interested in the original.

    But the best Sequel would have to be Stepfather 3.

    1. Stepfather 3? Priscilla Barnes? Not-Terry-O'Quinn? That's the only Stepfather I've never seen.

      I think Psycho II came out one year after Poltergeist. But Psycho II is Rated R, so that counts.

  2. (This browser at work isn't letting me reply directly so I'll try this)

    Stepfather is one of my favorite movies of all time. I made all my Soldiers watch it before the shitty remake came out, which was the first time it came out on DVD. But Stepfather 3 is so bad it's good and has this crappy made for TV feel to it that you just gotta love it, plus it has a wood chipper scene, and a kid in a wheel chair. The guy playing the Stepfather plays it like a bad sitcom dad or Bruce Jenner. The baby making scene is incredible, the look on Priscilla Barnes' face can't be described. When I get home from this long shift I'm going to watch it again and try and post something for the challenge.

  3. So, favourite sequel, eh? Well I hate to break it to you folks, but you're ALL WRONG. Jaws 4: The Revenge is clearly the best horror sequel of all time for the following reasons:

    (1) Lorraine Gary came out of self-imposed acting retirement to make this movie, and then promptly retired again. If it's good enough for Lorraine Gary, it's good enough for me.

    (2) Not only is Michael Caine in this movie, he missed accepting his Best Actor Oscar to do some reshoots for it. Some people would call that irony but those people would be incorrectly implying that Jaws 4: The Revenge it not a great movie.

    (3) It is explained that Chief Brody, even after single-handedly killing two sharks himself, died as a result of Shark-Related Fear. I didn't even know that was a thing. Terrifying.

    (4) Who the shark is and what's his beef is a terrifying mystery - Chief Brody killed those first two dickhole sharks, I don't even remember what happened in the third, red-headed stepchild of the franchise, and now there's a shark that both hates, and is capable of identifying, the whole Brody Family? I know, it's almost enough to make you crap your pants and/or disbelieve these are based on a true story.

    (5) Banana boats do not provide adequate protection from Great White Sharks. They will eat your fun-lovin ass right offa there. This revelation is unsettling to say the least.

    (6) Sharks explode on impact! Who'd ever have thought these water-breathing death tubes are even more dangerous dead than alive?!

    I could go on (and on) but I think I've proven my point. Watch it tonight if you dare - I guarantee you that by the time it's over, you will be about 90 minutes DEATH.

    1. On the "How Did This Get Made?" podcast, they recently did an episode on Jaws 4 and address the whole thing about Brody dying of SHARK-RELATED FEAR. They pointed out that Brody's entire character arc of the first movie is getting over his fear, and then they make a whole SECOND movie about the same thing (I think; I don't think I've ever seen Jaws 2). So not only is dying of Shark-related fear not a thing, it makes even LESS sense in the context of the series.

      Your last line should be on the poster.

    2. I think I'm about to cheat on your podcast with another movie-related podcast because I would love to hear someone tear apart that movie.

      I still vividly remember how excited I was to rent it the first time - like I could barely believe I was going to be watching a NEW Jaws movie. You've spoken before about hitting that age where you actually start to discern what's good and what isn't - I was NOT at that age yet (though I think I always knew the original was the best at least). I watched that sucker 20 times between 8 and 12 and then not again until a few months ago and the Chief Brody thing stood out for a couple reasons - the quote is: "He died from fear. Fear of that shark." THAT shark? So, it's all been just one immortal shark now? And yeah, totally takes a dump on the first movie and one of my favourite movie characters.

      Sorry, this is probably way more discussion than this movie deserves!

  4. I haven't seen Jaws: The Revenge in years and have never seen Jaws 3D but Jaws 2 is actually a pretty solid movie.

    Turning Jaws into a franchise sort of undermines its credibility but once you get past that, the first sequel is pretty watchable. I like that the focus is on the kids and that they're all pretty good teenagers. I like that the shark gets burned during an early kill and then is scarred the rest of the movie. The sailing sequences are pretty fun. My only real gripe was that the Mayor is still in denial of the situation and so a fair amount of time is spent with Brody once again trying to convince everyone that the recent water deaths are shark-related.

    1. Totally agree - Jaws 2 is definitely alright. Good point about the teenagers - they are likeable for the most part so it's not one of those movies where you're like, "Oh, I hope that asshole gets it!" And the idea that ONE more shark wandered into the area is at least semi-plausible, though yes, the fact that they still treat Chief Brody like a crazy person is annoying.

      But yeah, I'm hoping it eventually gets the blu-ray treatment as it is a decent sequel.

  5. Doug...agree that Troll 2 is the most entertaining train wreck ever.

    However, your logic that it beings wonderful is partly because it's a movie without trolls would also mean that Blair Witch II: Book of Shadows is also a good sequel because it not only has it no witches (Blair or otherwise) but I don't even remember seeing a damn book!

  6. Most of the best have been said already but I would throw Scream 2 into the mix. It's underrated. I watched it before I saw Scream 4 (shudder) and was surprised it held up as well as it did.

  7. -Friday the 13th: Part 2 & The Final Chapter: the closest the sequels came to being 'not shitty', and the rare case where the sequels are better/more entertaining than the original.

    -Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master: Lisa Wilcox, 'heart attack going one way stream', Lisa Wilcox, Renny Harlin trying to prove he could waste $100 million on a pirate movie starring his wife if given the chance, half of Freddy's one-liners actually being funny, the 'pizza' gag, Lisa Wilcox, etc. Honorable Mention: Wes Craven's New Nightmare, for at least trying and succeeding at being different and an interesting 'reboot' idea before the so-conventional-it's-disheartening deus ex machina ending cliches take over.

    -Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers: Truest and most fun to watch follow-up to Carpenter's original "Hallween," right down to an ending I really like and wish the sequels had followed instead of pussying out of it's troubling implications.

    -Hellraiser III: despite the low budget and detour from the myth/characters introduced by the first two films it carries Pinhead's still-seductive tradition of sweet-talking and seducing his victims before plunging the box's hooks to the skin.

    -Exorcist III: The Heretic: for just that one scene everyone that sees the movie comes out praising (you know, 'that one') it merits inclusion. But, because W.P. Blatty tried to play it straight before the studio took over and George C. Scott invests Kinderman with so much pathos (and makes you forget about Lee J. Cobb's take on the character, which still works for Lee's role in the original "Exorcist"), even the butchered version out now has a 'class' missing from the even-numbered abortions trying to cash in on the original's good name.

  8. I finally got around to watching House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects last night. I had always written these films off as cheap fan fiction by a rock star with a few too many dollars to spend on guitars.

    I found House a bit odd. It seemed like it was a Texas Chainsaw Massacre ripoff done in the style of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Unlike Patrick I am not a fan of TCM2 so I didnt really go for that neon light, fantasy style....but im prepared to notch that up to just personal taste rather than overtly criticising the film.

    But Devil's Rejects, like Mike said, is much more my type of Horror film. The realism makes everything more scary. Rather than being a world where anything can happen including miraculous recoveries and insignificant consequences (that you get when you enter into the fantastical) the realism of Devil's Rejects makes the smallest thing uber-creppy and threatening (the taunting in the motel room comes to mind).

    But I was thinking about this some more and I think the film style differences between these two films is actually quite clever because it reflects the point of view of the two films. In House the POV and ultimate victors are the killers. So the style is fantastic, nightmare fairytale because we are in their world where all of this horror is basically a fun game.
    In Devil's Rejects the story is driven more by the cop that is after them. The killers have been driven from their home, the party is over so to speak, and they are being hunted in our world. therefore the realism portrays the more real world setting, pov and consequences of the actions.

    Maybe im reading too much into it and the reason was simply for Mr Zombie to try something different. Either way Rejects works for me in a really effective way that House just couldnt.

    (although i am quite interested in Dr Satan's experiments some more).