- 1Rob Zombie's first film, House of 1,000 Corpses, probably suffered from TOO much post-production while he struggled to find a distributor. The result turned a film with a simple concept - teenagers run afoul of the crazed owners of a Roadside Attraction - into a borderline unwatchable nightmare of stylistic flourishes. The Devil's Rejects, on the other hand, was an exciting getaway picture, cleverly focusing on the serial killers from the first film as they attempt to evade capture from a lawman who makes the mistake of looking so deeply into the abyss that he didn't notice that anyone was looking back. It's still overwrought (and making the audience sit through ALL of Freebird is the height of hubris), but if it weren't for every other movie he ever made The Devil's Rejects would probably make Rob Zombie seem like a misunderstood genius.
- 2As exceptional as James Whale's original Frankenstein was, it was pretty unambitious compared to his surreal and comic sequel (which he famously preferred). Though not particularly scary by anyone's standards today, Whale nevertheless brought artistic legitimacy to horror for the first time (outside of Eastern Europe, at least) by loading his film with subversive religious imagery like the iconic crucifixion of one of history's most famous monsters, bizarre asides like the bottled experiments of Dr. Pretorius, and of course the fact that this Production Code-Certified film is, at its heart, entirely about necrophilia.
- 3It may play fast and loose with the finale of the first Re-Animator (somehow even the severed head survived), but the follow-up to Stuart Gordon's original classic, now directed by producer Brian Yuzna, is an entertaining film in its own right, actually hewing even closer to H.P. Lovecraft's original story. The effects are somehow even cheaper, but Jeffrey Coombs' iconic portrayal of Herbert West is the real draw here as his relationship with Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) evolves from professional manipulation to a genuine, albeit homicidally misguided, attempt at male bonding.
- 4What a difference a location makes! George Romero's sequel to the original Night of the Living Dead was, on paper, deceptively simple: just move the first film to a shopping mall. Luckily, Romero took the concept and ran with it, creating one of the first universally-recognized-as-socially-relevant horror films, at once lampooning and condemning modern consumer culture (why else would all the brainless zombies gravitate to the mall?). With its groundbreaking special effects (for the time, but they mostly hold up today) and iconic storyline, Dawn of the Dead was so good that even the completely unnecessary remake couldn't screw it up.
- 5Unlike all the other sequels on this list, which critically acclaimed or not are still overshadowed by their predecessor, Evil Dead 2 is infinitely more famous than the original, with many fans not only ignoring but often forgetting the very existence of the (still good) Evil Dead 1. Part of that is due to Sam Raimi's decision to remake the original film with a smaller cast in the first 15 minutes of Evil Dead 2, allowing the film to stand on its own but also open more breathlessly than practically any other film ever made. The special effects may creak a bit (they did when it was first released, too), but the dizzying camera work and whipcrack editing combine to form the largest collection of genuine popcorn-spilling, scream-inducing scares in film history. It used to be called a "cult classic," but that cult has grown so large in number that it's time to officially call Evil Dead 2 what it really is: an actual classic, one of the best horror films ever made, and in its own way one of the best films of any genre.
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