Horror prequels are more miss than hit, but that doesn't mean they're bereft of value. As modern horror franchises attempt to build a mythology, they usually throw a prequel into the mix at some point to provide scares while giving context to the earlier films, and some of them actually make those earlier films even better.
Mileage varies with all of these horror prequels. Some of them are legitimately great films (and arguably the best of their franchise), while others offer little more than a chance to watch great actors bring gravitas to the horror genre. Every single one of these horror prequels is an interesting entry into their respective franchises, if only because they do something unexpected.
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
The Final Destination movies are a magnificent mix of Rube Goldberg death scenes and good-looking young people getting picked off one by one. None of these movies need to work together, but there is a kind of connectivity between each film, and that's where Final Destination 5 really sings.
Most of the film plays out like the previous movies in the series, and it appears completely disconnected from the rest of them aside from death scenes that play out like Pee-wee Herman's breakfast machine. That is until the film's protagonists end the flick by boarding Volée Airlines Flight 180 - the exact flight the protagonists of the first film board. This twist is incredibly well-done, and the best part is you never see it coming.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Prometheus has its fans, but it's nowhere near as scary or innovative as the films it's setting up, except for one specific section. During the scene, Doctor Elizabeth Shaw is dealing with a serious problem - she's pregnant with a Xenomorph. Rather than find out what's going to happen to her if she lets it fully gestate, she strips down and hops in an automated medical bay that cuts the creature out of her while she's completely awake.
It's a brutal scene where the Xenomorph isn't even the scariest thing on camera - that would be the claw that reaches inside Shaw to remove the alien. Kudos to Ridley Scott on this seriously upsetting moment.
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
The second and third films in this DIY-looking franchise take the concept of the original and crank up the scares with quirky cinematography and set pieces that make use of their limited budgets. Set in 1988, Paranormal Activity 3 follows the first appearance of "Tobi," the super-creepy demon that's always circling around the Rey family.
Paranormal Activity 3's centerpiece is a scene where Tobi stalks an unassuming babysitter, all captured on a camera attached to an oscillating fan. The scene is a master class in establishing tension through negative space and the viewer's knowledge that nothing good can come from this demon walking around under its little sheet.
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'Freddy’s Nightmares: No More Mr. Nice Guy' Is Genuinely Entertaining
The inaugural episode of Freddy's Nightmares retells the Freddy Krueger origin story in a way that's almost in complete opposition to what audiences knew at the time. According to the films, Krueger was burned alive by the parents of Springwood, OH, for murdering their children, and then he didn't return until 1984 when he started taking out every teen who had the gall to fall asleep.
That's not the story Tobe Hooper and No More Mr. Nice Guy tell. Instead, Hooper crafts a story where Krueger is set free because he wasn't read his Miranda rights (which is more or less the story we know) before the parents of Elm Street and a concerned police officer set him on fire.
The rest of the episode is spent with the officer trying to get over the whole killing an unarmed man thing while he has to deal with the possibility of being caught by the FBI and getting offed by Krueger. It's a super-fun look at the horror icon's backstory, even if it doesn't jive at all with everything the audience knows.
Many stories can be told about Hannibal Lecter, and the best (The Silence of the Lambs, Manhunter) keep the sadistic cannibal at arm's length. In his most well-known appearances, he's sneering and menacing on the other side of bulletproof glass, dropping bon mots of wisdom even as he threatens the film's protagonist.
Hannibal Rising may not be as beloved as Jonathan Demme's Academy Award-winning thriller, but by providing Lecter's backstory, it manages to give audiences a character they can root for even as he dives headfirst into a bloody and brutal world of crime.
The Wrong Turn films are wild. Whether you put on the first movie in the series or the sixth, you're going to be faced with a gross-out story that rivals the insanity of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The audience is introduced to One Eye, Saw Tooth, and Three Finger as they escape from a West Virginia prison and start offing the people with their Home Alone-style traps throughout the end of the 20th century.
While Bloody Beginnings can't top the surprise of the first film, it does manage to recontextualize the same old story with cool new kills and a really great setting - the snow. It sounds simple, but this change of scenery makes the gore pop in all-new ways. On top of that, the film ends with one of the most exciting decapitation scenes in straight-to-DVD horror history.