Audiences have a right to be afraid of sequels. For every good follow-up (The Godfather Part 2, The Dark Knight) there are dozens of duds. Nowhere is this more true than in an arena viewers really should fear—the horror film. Once the smell of success hits the genre effort, it is quickly spun into a pointless series of repeats and reconfigurations. Granted, a few of these fright franchises have more good (A Nightmare on Elm Street) than bad (can you say, Puppet Master???) but on the whole, the scary movie machine doesn’t deal in quality. Instead, it senses the always willing demographic is open to just about anything, and delivers the same in unhealthy, oft half-baked doses.
However, there are a few fright flicks which actually stand up to—and in a few elite cases, surpass—their fear foundations. Most, if not all, follow a simple, satisfying rule: explain the original while expanding the substance and storyline. Indeed, of all ten choices listed below, only one or two avoid that moviemaking mandate. On the other hand, a film like [REC]2 (new to DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), uses this strategy to take what was already a fantastic bit of dread and turn it into something almost… epic. Thanks to the vision and determination of the filmmakers involved, these ten films represent the best that terror has to offer…the second time around, beginning with the rebirth of a legend:
While far from an accomplished film (it is a standard slasher slice and dice after all), this sequel to the original murder by numbers knockoff has one thing going for it that the first film did not: the hulking behemoth with major Mommy issues known as Jason Voorhees. Oh sure, Part 1 saw the deformed boy version of the soon to be mythic murderer show up, but this is the Jason we all came to know and fear—hulking, half-human, and hating every intruder to his sacred Camp Crystal Lake. While Momma Voorhees made her mark in the initial movie, her son stole the second and the rest of the series.
Leave it to torture porn guru Eli Roth to follow-up his blood drenched look at institutionalized evil in Eastern Europe by keeping the splatter and switching the gender. Instead of a trio of unlikely male victims discovering what terrible truths lay just beyond the Iron Curtain, the director brings a collective of comely babes to the new brutality, and then goes a step further in making them both victim and victimizer, gullible and yet guilty of as many atrocities as their high paying persecutors. Yes, there is an undercurrent of misogyny that’s hard to overcome, but the results are far more intense than their predecessor.
Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm was really nothing more than a collection of known horror beats, a greatest hit compendium of every crazy creepshow concept tossed into a heady stew of drive-in Saturday nightmares. When the ‘80s boom in scary movies mandated a sequel, the director decided to trash the homage and go with his series’ strengths; that is, Angus Scrimm’s sinister Tall Man and his collection of lethal metal orbs. Thus we have a story which sees the original characters battling their nemesis for ultimate control of the Morningside Cemetery and its horrific secrets. By upping both the blood and the backstory, Coscerelli manages to top himself.
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