Horror is one of the main genres frequently subject to sequels. More often than not, if a horror movie is successful producers will try and capitalize on that fact and get a franchise going as soon as humanly possible.
Unfortunately, more often than not, this results in some of the most underwhelming horror movies of all time that fail in any way to measure up to the success of the original movie. As an example, just look at how greatly the Jaws, Paranormal Activity, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels paled in comparison to the original movies.
Still, that doesn’t mean there haven't been quite a few successful sequels to beloved horror movies out there. Some managed to even surpass the original movies they followed, providing more scares and an increasingly better reputation as the years went by.
On Halloween, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the must-watch horror sequels out there worth seeing, as well as providing information about where they're currently streaming.
List Criteria: Please note, for this list, we decided to go with horror movie sequels, meaning you won’t find any remakes, prequels, or spin-offs on this list. (For those sticklers prone to splitting hairs over whether Wes Craven’s New Nightmare counts as a sequel or a spin-off, since it takes place within the same basic universe as A Nightmare on Elm Street and because Freddy Krueger does appear in some form, we counted it as a sequel, hence its appearance on this list.)
Dawn of the Dead
No October is complete without watching at least one zombie-related movie. When it comes to choosing a zombie movie worth your time, you can hardly do better than any movie directed by George A. Romero, the man synonymous with the zombie sub-genre horror, and who is responsible for making the first modern zombie movie ever with Night of the Living Dead.
As great as that movie is, however, Romero created numerous other incredibly entertaining movies building off the continuity and world of Night of the Living Dead, including the well-known sequel, Dawn of the Dead, which some could even argue surpasses the original. Whether it does or not is up for debate, but you can't deny Dawn of the Dead its status as an enjoyable zombie movie and a cult classic for horror fans across the globe.
Taking place more or less right after the events of the first movie, a small group of people who have survived the zombie apocalypse band together to live in a secluded mall against the overwhelming waves of the undead.
It's a now-classic zombie scenario, adapted later by Zack Snyder for his 2004 remake of Dawn and serving as the basis for the fan-favorite Dead Rising video game. However, it's important to remember that the original Dawn of the Dead did it first, with Romero not only managing to create yet another popular zombie archetype, but also making a sequel worthy of the now-iconic Night of the Living Dead.
Not currently streaming, but available to rent online
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Evil Dead II
The Evil Dead series has perhaps one of the largest and most dedicated fan followings of any horror series ever. A sleeper hit that came out of absolutely nowhere when it first premiered in 1981, The Evil Dead is credited for being one of the most successful indie movies of all time, kickstarting the careers of its director, Sam Raimi, and its main star, Bruce Campbell.
Based on the overwhelming success of the first Evil Dead, Raimi and his crew attempted to make a sequel that takes place directly after the events of the first movie. However, rather than revolving the story around the straight horror elements shown in the first movie, Raimi decided to infuse a significant amount of comedy into the film, blending it with horror to show Ash’s deteriorating sanity. His newfound sarcastic personality would be developed further throughout the subsequent movie and follow-up TV series, Ash vs. Evil Dead.
Today, Evil Dead II remains a favorite of horror fans, thanks largely to its slapstick comedic elements and horror, producing one of the funniest, scariest, most beloved sequels of all time.
Not currently streaming, but available to rent online
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28 Weeks Later
It may be fair to credit 28 Days Later as the movie that relaunched the second zombie craze that swept pop culture throughout the 2000s. With their 2002 movie, screenwriter Alex Garland and director Danny Boyle significantly updated the entire zombie mythos, altering some of the concepts and creating a much-needed change to the otherwise dated zombie movies audiences had tired of in the '90s. The result, 28 Days Later, was a huge success and remains one of the most popular horror movies of the modern age.
Its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, had a lot to live up to, and while most people initially thought it would be yet another second-rate horror sequel, 28 Weeks Later completely shattered expectations, managing to directly rival the success and acclaim of the first movie. Taking place six months after the zombie apocalypse shown in 28 Days Later, NATO forces attempt to quarantine London and get the city back under control.
Just as the city seems to be returning to a relative state of normal, an outbreak occurs that once again endangers all of the city’s inhabitants. A bit more action-heavy than its predecessor, 28 Weeks Later nonetheless manages to deliver plenty of frights and some amazingly tense scenes, making it one of the more enjoyable zombie movies released at a time when the genre was producing a ton of inferior zombie movies.
Streaming on HBO Max
Wes Craven's New Nightmare
We were very close to naming A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (a satisfying movie commonly named one of the stronger horror sequels out there), but ultimately, we opted to go with New Nightmare instead. In terms of continuity in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, New Nightmare was and continues to be unlike any horror sequel.
Following the release of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, which seemed to spell the end of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, actress Heather Langenkamp (the star of the original Elm Street) tries to move past her former roles as a slasher movie icon and get on with her life. However, a demonic entity taking the guise of Freddy Krueger soon enters into the real world, haunting the cast and crew of the original series.
More of a spinoff movie than a straight sequel in the conventional sense, such as every post-Nightmare on Elm Street movie up until this movie, New Nightmare is about as meta and self-referential as the Scream movies.
After a string of films that made horror icon Freddy Krueger increasingly more comedic, New Nightmare returned to Craven's original vision for the character, turning him into a much darker, menacing figure for this movie. It's an incredibly unique movie in a genre dominated by disappointing slasher sequels and is one of the major highlights of Wes Craven's lengthy career.
Streaming on HBO Max
No disrespect to Scream 2, but Scream 4 is one of the most underrated sequels in the slasher sub-genre. The story—like all previous entries in the Scream canon—takes on a more meta approach than other slasher movies out there, this time taking aim at reboots and remakes in its typical tongue-in-cheek fashion.
Scream 4 once again stars Neve Campbell as recurring series protagonist Sidney Prescott, now in her 30s, who returns to Woodsboro to promote her new book and reunite with her family, including her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), and her now-married friends Dewey and Gale (David Arquette and Courtney Cox).
Their wholesome reunion, however, is short-lived, as a new murderer taking on the guise of Ghostface begins targeting people in Woodsboro 15 years after the original murders took place. Over the years since its release, Scream 4 has earned a loyal fan following and praise for managing to stay with the times (including relying on cellphones and social media), creating a movie that managed to revitalize the Scream franchise after the disappointing third entry in the franchise.
Perhaps the film’s biggest weakness is that it spends too long focused on the stars of the first three Scream movies and not enough on establishing the new characters, but regardless, Scream 4 remains one of the strongest slasher sequels out there.
Streaming on Paramount+
We were somewhat on the fence about this one. Yes, director James Cameron did make an incredibly enjoyable sequel to the now-legendary sci-fi horror movie, Alien, but a serious argument can be made that Cameron turned Aliens into more of an action movie than a horror film in the same vein as the original. However, critics still considered Aliens as one of the foremost sci-fi horror movies, as regularly praised as Alien. Set fifty years after the original, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the lone survivor of the Nostromo incident that saw her entire crew killed by a mysterious hostile alien, is woken from cryo sleep by her employers.
After evidence suggests the alien race Ripley had previously encountered has infested a lunar moon colony, Ripley and a group of Marines are sent in to investigate and rescue any surviving colonists. Cameron is known today for his work in action and sci-fi (just look at the action sequences in the Terminator movies or the final battle in Avatar), but few really give him credit for his work in horror.
This movie, like the original Terminator, is full of extremely suspenseful scenes involving characters constantly in danger while facing off against a terrifying otherworldly menace. It's an edge-of-your-seat horror sequel, and is just as horrifying as Ridley Scott's original Alien.
Streaming on STARZ
A Quiet Place Part II
A Quiet Place is one of the better-received horror movies to come out in recent years. Praised for its unique concept involving vicious blind aliens who react to any kind of sound, A Quiet Place was hailed for its originality, not to mention John Krasinski's direction and the film’s performances, including Krasinski’s, Emily Blunt’s, and those of the child actors involved.
Following the events of the first movie, Evelyn (Blunt) leads her children from their former home to explore the surrounding areas nearby, wherein she encounters other survivors (Cillian Murphy foremost among them). Like any sequel, there were some doubts heading into the movie whether Krasinski would once again be able to catch lightning in a bottle, but he more than managed, delivering a first-rate suspense movie with the same amount of thrills as the first Quiet Place—perhaps even more so.
Streaming on Prime Video and Paramount+
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
It's fair to say none of the Friday the 13th movies are incredibly good—sorry hardcore Friday fans, but it's the truth. Say what you will about the sequels to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, or A Nightmare on Elm Street, but at least those series had a great initial movie, which is certainly more than be said for the original Friday the 13th.
The one thing Friday the 13th sequels do have, though, is a distinct sense that they are slasher movies that don’t take themselves too seriously. With each new entry in the Friday franchise, the plots became more ridiculous, the performances more over the top, and the deaths so cartoonish, by the time Jason Lives rolled around, the movie was more a spoof of traditional slashers than it was an attempt at horror. Jason Lives is an overall weaker entry on this list but perfectly manages to blend horror with comedy without stressing one of those genres too greatly at the other's expense.
For example, you'll be chuckling at some scenes (including a scene where Jason targets a group of try-hard, middle-aged paintball players) and then all of a sudden cringing at another that contains pure horror elements associated with a classic slasher. It's one of the more off-kilter movies in the Friday franchise, but definitely one of the better ones (which honestly might not be saying much, given how bad some of the Friday movies are).
Streaming on fuboTV
Bride of Frankenstein
In the mid-1930s, the idea of a “sequel” was a somewhat new concept to movies. Sure, there were plenty of books and comic strips that saw sequels following the originals, and silent movie stars regularly appeared as the same basic character from film to film (just look at Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin's famous Tramp), but the idea of a following up a successful horror movie with another film was something nobody had ever really seen before at the time—especially when it comes to following a movie as groundbreaking as the original Frankenstein.
Following the events of the first movie, Bride of Frankenstein focuses on the titular doctor as he is coerced into making a bride for his infamous monster (Boris Karloff). Bride of Frankenstein is often seen as one of the best Universal monster movies of its time, rivaling the success of the original movie, thanks in large part to director James Whale's fairy tale-esque visuals, clever concept (the movie opens with the Shelleys and Lord Byron discussing Shelley's original novel, and whether she ever had any idea for a sequel), and Karloff's now-iconic performance as the monster.
It's a delightful movie to watch, and though relatively tame by today's standards, is an extremely impressive movie for its time.
Streaming on Peacock
While the original Halloween from 1978 is a quintessential classic of the horror genre, the subsequent Halloween sequels have unfortunately earned a negative reputation as some of the most disappointing movies in the entire genre. Some of the later Friday the 13th sequels seem like Citizen Kane compared to Halloween: Resurrection or Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.
You know a franchise is bad when most of the series' entries are retconned not once, but twice, as was the case with Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and again with Halloween (2018). The latter movie, however, served as a return to form for the Halloween franchise after four decades of sequel after disappointing sequel. The most recent entry in the Halloween franchise, this movie saw the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter, helping provide a much-needed foundation that recaptured the tone of the original Halloween, even if they couldn't maintain it for subsequent sequels.
Coupled with that was David Gordon Green's fantastic direction, and a wonderful script largely written by the always entertaining Danny McBride, who managed to add in just enough genuinely funny comedy while also providing nonstop scares throughout.
Not currently streaming, but available to rent online
Following on the heels of one of the most successful and critically acclaimed horror movies of all time is never easy. Over the years since its initial release in 1980, The Shining has become of the most-watched and celebrated horror movies ever, thanks largely to the legendary director Stanley Kubrick and the performances of Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Jack Nicholson as the infamous family man-turned-unstable-lunatic, Jack Torrance.
After the groundbreaking success of It, numerous Stephen King adaptations were released, most of them unremarkable compared to the original novels. However, director Mike Flanagan‘s adaptation of King's own sequel to The Shining was arguably the best of them. Set forty years after The Shining, a now-adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) overcomes his alcoholism and finds work at a hospice facility.
While getting his life back together, he begins trading psychic communication with a young girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who is targeted by a cult preying on those who possess “the shining.” Faithfully adapting the original novel, Flanagan also includes numerous nods to Kubrick's Shining, following the same basic continuity while managing to combine King's work with Kubrick's in an entertaining, satisfying way.
Streaming on HBO Max
There is no shortage of just horrendous horror sequels out there in the world. For every good entry into a horror franchise, there are about four sequels that are nearly impossible to sit through in their entirety. We feel this list best presents a sizable selection of horror movie sequels well worth your time, some of which even manage to surpass the original movies they followed.
For other sequel recommendations out there, we also really enjoyed the 2021 sequel to Candyman (also titled Candyman), as well as Scream 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, as previously mentioned.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).