"Sequels suck." At least that's what Scream 2 said, but then again Scream 2 isn't good enough to make this list. This week marks the release of H2, the sequel to Rob Zombie's abysmal attempt to remake/re-imagine/justify ruining Halloween, and while he's got a pretty good track record with sequels (The Devil's Rejects just barely squeaked into the top thirteen) we thought we'd take the time to remind audiences that sequels can be classics too. Whether these films were better than the original (some were), re-invented the franchise (some did) or are simply entertaining films in their own right (they all are), here are a few cinematic delicacies to cleanse your palette, in case H2 leaves a bad taste in your mouth.For more sequel talk, vote on this list of the Worst Sequels of All Time and visit Sequels Planned for 2013 Release.
- Unlike 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.
- It is a truth universally acknowledged that The Exorcist II: The Heretic is one of the worst horror movies ever made. It is somewhat less acknowledged that The Exorcist III is actually one of the very best. William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel the original film was based on, wrote and directed this sequel, which is only tangentially related to the other films in the franchise. But that's good, because it frees Blatty to explore new avenues of horror as a demonic presence tears its way through a hospital, with only an aging detective played by the great George C. Scott to defend the already sick and dying. With some of the scariest shots in horror history, and some of the most disturbing kills (like the victim whose blood was drained completely into dozens of little cups, without spilling a single drop), there are some who think The Exorcist III is actually scarier than the original. They may be right.
- Wes Craven returned to the franchise he created for its seventh (!) sequel, and one of the finest metatextual horror films ever made (at least until he made Scream two years later). By directly examining the power of horror sequels to diminish the original story's ability to frighten audiences, Craven briefly revitalized his greatest creation, Freddy Krueger, but his greatest accomplishment was taking a franchise geared towards teenagers and forcing it to grow up... and still be scary. By taking Nancy Thompson, aka Heather Langenkamp, and placing her in the role of the willfully ignorant mother she was forced to rebel against in the first film, Craven brings his story full circle and forces us to rethink the original movie from the parents' perspective, and realize that it's almost freakier the other way around.
- Despite its outrageous success and the presence of Kevin Bacon, the first Friday the 13th is actually spectacularly badly made, so calling calling Steve Miner's sequel "Better Than the Original!" could be damning it with faint praise. Fortunately, it's also "One of the Best Slashers of the 1980's," cleverly turning the events of the original summer camp massacre into a campfire story for new characters and new audiences, thus deftly glossing over the first film's flaws. Part 2 also deserves praise for introducing the world to the scariest Jason Voorhees to date, but also making him sympathetic at the same time, making this sequel even more historically important that the original too. The strangest thing is that Miner gave us "The Best Friday the 13th of All Time!" and then proceeded to give us the absolute worst in Friday the 13th Part 3-D, first raising and then immediately lowering the bar for every subsequent film in the franchise.