- Horror sequels often struggle to live up to the original movie, but some have succeeded by changing the tone and presenting something fresh yet consistent with the previous film.
- Movies like “Aliens” and “Happy Death Day 2U” demonstrated that a shift towards a different genre, such as action or sci-fi, can help horror sequels find success.
- Rebooting or continuing the mythology of a franchise, as seen in “Candyman (2021)” and “Hellraiser (2022),” can also lead to notable horror sequels that expand the story while remaining true to the original’s tone.
In most cases, movie sequels don’t live up to the original movie, and this is often seen in the horror genre, but there have also been various horror sequels that were as good or even more than their predecessor(s). The horror genre is home to some of the most popular and successful franchises in film history, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the sequels have been good. Horror sequels are confronted with the challenge of replicating what made the first movie scary and enjoyable but feeling fresh at the same time, and not all manage to achieve this.
In many cases, as seen in this list, horror sequels succeeded thanks to a tone change, through which they were able to present something new yet familiar and consistent with the previous movie(s). In other cases, horror sequels benefited from the reboot/requel trend, allowing them to bring an updated version of what made the original movie(s) so enjoyable. That said, the horror genre has some notable examples of good sequels worth checking out, and here are 10 examples of horror sequels that live up to the movies that came before them.
Aliens is the 1986 sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien, and it’s directed by James Cameron. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the sole survivor of the alien attack from the first movie, is rescued and debriefed by her employers after being in stasis for almost six decades. Her employers don’t believe Ripley’s claims of alien life, but after they lose contact with the colony on the site where she confronted the alien, she agrees to return with a unit of Colonial Marines to investigate. Aliens is more action-driven than the original movie, and that was key to its success, along with Weaver’s outstanding performance as the franchise’s Final Girl. Aliens also expanded the mythology of the franchise, making it a key entry in the saga.
10 Happy Death Day 2U
Happy Death Day 2U is the 2019 sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day, both directed by Christopher Landon. Happy Death Day 2U reunites viewers with Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), who even though broke free of the time loop in the first movie, is thrown back into it thanks to an experimental quantum reactor – the only difference with the past loop is that this one is set in a different timeline. One of the biggest strengths of Happy Death Day 2U was its shift towards a more sci-fi vibe while still keeping its slasher elements, giving it a fresh spin while being consistent with (and expanding) the original movie.
9 Candyman (2021)
Almost three decades after the release of Candyman, a sequel, directed by Nia DaCosta, was released in 2021. Candyman (2021) introduces viewers to Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), an artist who finds inspiration in the story of Helen Lyle and the legend of Candyman, but he ends up unleashing a dark force beyond his control. Candyman addressed topics like racism, gentrification, and discrimination while continuing to expand the legend of Candyman. Candyman also set up a successor for the title character, making the legend of Candyman scarier and eternal.
8 Hellraiser (2022)
Continuing the reboot trend in the horror genre is Hellraiser (2022), directed by David Bruckner. Hellraiser introduced Riley (Odessa A’zion), a recovering drug addict who comes across the Lament Configuration, making way for a series of horrifying events as she and her friends are haunted by Cenobites and their leader, the Priest (Jamie Clayton). Hellraiser is considered the best movie in the franchise since the original 1987 movie and was praised for continuing the mythology of the franchise, modernizing it, and for its faithfulness to the dark and unsettling tone of the original movie.
7 Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
As the title says, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is the sixth installment in the Friday the 13th franchise. In it, Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews) accidentally resurrects Jason Voorhees while attempting to destroy his body to ensure he wouldn’t be able to return, unleashing a new series of murders. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives was the first movie in the franchise to be praised by critics, as it took it six movies to finally find its groove. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives is not only a slasher, but it also has moments of self-referential humor and fourth-wall breaking, making it stand out among the other, messier and inconsistent Friday the 13th movies.
6 Scream (2022)
Another franchise revived through the reboot/requel trend in the horror genre is Scream, which was brought back to life in 2022 with a sixth installment, simply titled Scream. The movie brought back the three main characters of the saga – Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), and Dewey Riley (David Arquette) – while introducing a new generation of survivors, led by sisters Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), who came across a new Ghostface. Scream modernized the slasher genre while staying true to the formula that made the franchise so successful, and it passed the torch to a new generation while also honoring its legacy characters, even if not all of them survived this new wave of Ghostface murders.
5 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane is the second installment in the Cloverfield franchise, and it’s directed by Dan Trachtenberg. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the story of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young woman who after a car accident awakens in a concrete room, chained to a wall. A man named Howard (John Goodman), who has been looking after her, explains that there was a massive attack and they are now hiding in his underground bunker, along with a guy named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Howard also explains the air outside is poisoned, and they won’t be able to go outside for one or two years. What follows is a claustrophobic journey in which Michelle and the audience try to figure out what’s really happening and who is the real threat.
Unlike Cloverfield, the outside destruction that Howard speaks of isn’t shown until the very end, putting the audience in Michelle’s place and bringing the suspense to the max. 10 Cloverfield Lane relied more on psychological horror rather than sci-fi by setting the story in one closed space with the main character unable to contact the outside world, and its differences from Cloverfield are, precisely, what made it stand out.
4 A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
As the title says, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is the third installment in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, and it was directed by Chuck Russell. Set two years after its predecessor, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors took the audience to a psychiatric hospital when Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) is sent there after an encounter with Freddy Krueger makes it look as if she had attempted suicide. At the hospital, Kristen teams up with other patients and intern Nancy Thompson as they are haunted by Krueger, who continues looking for revenge. The creative premise, variety of characters, sense of humor, and visual effects made A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors one of the best movies in the franchise, and the last with characters that the audience actually grew to care about and root for.
3 Halloween (2018)
The Halloween franchise also benefited from the reboot/requel trend thanks to Halloween (2018), which marked the beginning of a reboot trilogy. As a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978 movie, thus ignoring the rest of the sequels, Halloween reunited viewers with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) four decades after her first encounter with Michael Myers. Laurie had been preparing for his return ever since that night, which hurt the relationship with her daughter and granddaughter, but also meant she was more than ready when Michael escaped again.
Halloween learned from the mistakes of the now-ignored sequels and didn’t attempt to expand the franchise’s mythology, instead sticking to what the original established and crafting a new story from there. The introduction of Laurie’s daughter and granddaughter was also key to Halloween’s success, as they helped bring the franchise to new generations and established new Final Girls.
2 Evil Dead II
Evil Dead II is the 1987 sequel to 1981’s The Evil Dead, both directed by Sam Raimi. Evil Dead II is both a sequel and a remake to The Evil Dead, as it retconned various aspects of the original movie in order to properly establish Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) as the franchise’s hero – a very special and clumsy type of hero. Evil Dead II saw Ash traveling to a remote cabin in the woods with his girlfriend, where he finds an audio tape of recitations of an ancient text, which unleashes a number of demons that would go on to torment him for years. Evil Dead II made a major tone shift and leaned more into comedy, but without leaving its horror elements aside, which along with Campbell’s performance, made it one of the greatest horror movies ever made.
1 Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead is the second movie in George A. Romero’s series of zombie films, showing the effects of a zombie apocalypse on society. Dawn of the Dead follows a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse who barricade themselves inside a shopping mall. Dawn of the Dead has been praised for its visual effects, tone, and social commentary, along with its gore elements. Dawn of the Dead is not only one of the best horror sequels in film history, but it’s also regarded as the greatest zombie movie ever made, paving the path for all zombie movies that have followed and inspiring countless parodies and pop culture references.