Part 1 of 2
A horror film can be extremely profitable, especially if it spawns a franchise. There are to date, 12 Friday the 13th films, 9 Nightmare on Elm Street films, 11 Halloween films, 8 Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, and 10 Hellraiser films. There are also remakes for The Fly, The Thing from Another World, Cat People, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, House on Haunted Hill and countless others. Now I realize that some of these films are less than high quality, however there are certain sequels, reboots, or remakes that offer something different or even better than their predecessors. I understand if you feel a strong urge at any point to disagree with me and if you do feel free to comment and argue with me, in fact I encourage it, I love talking about horror films in any context.
It is very rare that a sequel tops the original, or even lives up to it, but there are a few notable cases. A good horror sequel, or a good sequel period, can build on the concepts or characters introduced in the previous film. Some sequels even introduce the truly iconic aspects of their respective franchises, such as the second and third Friday the 13th films which introduce Jason as the killer and the iconic hockey mask respectively. They can also expand on the setting, focus on a new set of characters, or even go in a completely different direction. One of the best things about horror is, as long as it is scary, we love it.
There are some that truly eclipse the original and, in my opinion, Hellbound: Hellraiser II does just that. The film truly expands on what Hellraiser introduces not only in the characters, but the themes and concepts as well. The character of the lead cenobite, now dubbed Pinhead, is given an origin and in the process, more is revealed about the puzzle box that fuels the narrative of a majority of the franchise. The film actually takes the viewer into hell and visually reveals many concepts alluded to in the first while simultaneously posing more questions about the nature of the realm and its inhabitants. The film also takes advantage of a larger budget, tripling the number of skinless victims shown onscreen and introducing refined designs of the cenobites as well as a new antagonist in the form of Channard.
A similar example can be found in V/H/S/2 where the concept of the previous film is greatly expanded upon. In this case the film takes the idea of “found footage” and features more creative ways to employ the concept such as an artificial eye or a cyclist’s helmet camera. The film also utilizes the anthology format to showcase uniquely written segments that tackle the themes of the genre and follow compelling characters, as opposed to the shock-fest of the first film. Other sequels have proven to be more iconic and significant in popular culture than the film that came before, a prime example is found in Dawn of the Dead. Romero’s follow up to the groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead features a similar social commentary while showcasing the larger societal effect of the zombie outbreak. The film also showcases some pretty great effects with the undead and the really creative deaths of living characters or otherwise. It is also the debut of legendary special effects artist Tom Savini, whose work in the film enriches the carnage.
A sequel that serves a similar purpose is of course Rob Zombie’s second film The Devil’s Rejects. A follow-up to his directorial debut House of 1000 Corpses, the film now features the previously antagonistic Firefly family as twisted protagonists. One interesting thing about the first film is that the supposed heroes are extremely unlikable, and their fates aren’t really that upsetting. Zombie’s sequel does not have that problem, in fact it loves the idea of serial killer heroes and focuses on the characters that were the most interesting to begin with. The viewer follows these characters as they embark on a path of blood, violence, and a hell of a good time full of debauchery. Visually it has a much grittier look than its predecessor and opts for a more realistic tone than the somewhat supernatural mood of the previous installment.
Not every sequel needs to be better than the first, in fact some sequels are just fun. In recent years Halloween II has seen quite a lot of criticism in the horror community for its introduction of the familial bond between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, to the point where this was removed in the most recent installment of the franchise. While this plot development does take away from the mystique and ambiguity of the Shape’s motivation in the first film it still delivers as a pretty worthy sequel. The hospital setting is in many ways just as terrifying as the quiet suburbia of the first film, as both seek to make a typically safe space quite unsafe. The death scenes also feature a much more visceral quality than they did in the 1978 film. One particular scene that I enjoy personally, is the killer lifting up a victim as he stabs them. The jacuzzi murder scene is also very notable, and the explosive finale is fairly satisfying.
A fairly underrated sequel that I personally enjoy is A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Some have criticized the film for its departure from the quite dark and disturbing tone of its predecessor, as well as its campier nature and homoerotic undertones. I however completely disagree; the film is plenty dark. First of all, what has been described as campy or homoerotic is really one of the reasons that the film is scary. The challenging nature of sexuality featured is something that everyone goes through at some point, gay or otherwise. The idea that this self-discovery can be a horrific experience is quite an intriguing thought. The film’s not so subtle symbolism of Freddy literally being inside of the protagonist and visually ripping himself out is something that many people could easily identify with. What we view as our darker nature emerging around those we would rather keep it secret from is not an incomprehensible concept.
While not all of these examples share the exact same characteristics they are all sequels and if you enjoy any of them then you would have to acknowledge that they can be a good thing under the right circumstances. Personally, I love all the films mentioned, as if that wasn’t evidenced enough by the fact that I chose to write about them. Each of these films, I feel, offers a unique perspective on their predecessors as well as the genre as a whole. Of course, sequels aren’t the only franchise phenomena that occur in horror films, there is also the remake.
Please check out next week’s article as I dive into positive and negative examples of remakes as well as their purpose in the horror genre.
Tank’s picks of the week:
Don’t Look Now-1973
Nosferatu the Vampyre-1979