Movie scientists say that sequels should have the same basic structure of the original, but with more of everything; Aliens had more aliens, Godfather II had more gangsters, and Terminator II had more terminators. With that in mind, understand that what follows is a scientific document explaining why the worst horror sequels are indeed so bad.
So, running from best (relatively speaking) to worst, here is the list that those aforementioned scientists came up with:
10. Parnormal Activity 2
The third one’s on its way and if the second one is anything to go by we should all start preparing our yawning gear. The first one was a genuinely spine-tingling, nerve-jangling shocker that did amazing things with not much at all. Even the central conceit of needing to keep the house under constant surveillance worked in the first film. In the second, it comes across as a sort of insane overreaction to a bump in the night. How many more ways can there be of recording everything that happens in a house?
9. Halloween III – Season of the Witch
This film was doomed from the start. Departing from the established formula is always a risk but when it’s the third film in the Halloween trilogy, the audience needs to see the next stage of the Joanie Laurer / Michael Myers saga. Actually, the film was about an evil toymaker and his nefarious plans for a small town in California come Halloween night. The synths that worked so well for the first two films only make this film seem worse, and the performances are just awful. John Carpenter never returned to the series after this film, and with good reason.
8. I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer
A straight-to-video instalment of one of the worst horror trilogies of all time. A horror film has one job – scare the audience. Any genuine threat that our man with the hook in the big hoodie once carried is lost in this music video of a horror movie. It’s all jumpy shocks, shaky cameras; all the worst aspects of the Saw movies absorbed into one below-average horror film. How are films like this even made any more?
7. Scream 3
Scream 3 should have worked. It’s a really great idea – the popularity of the Stab series has forced Sidney Prescott, who is again being taunted by Ghostface, out of seclusion. In many ways, the multitude of Scream sequels parodies the amount of sequels that horror films usually have, and this would be the case if the films were a little bit better. By itself, this film would probably just be a standard horror film but it suffers from Godfather III syndrome – when compared to what preceded it, it seems terrible.
6. Psycho III
Everything that could have been done with the Psycho idea – deranged man dresses up as his deceased mother to kill people – was achieved with style and panache in the first film. Hitchcock had a way of making films use their negative points – ludicrous plot, awful acting, overbearing music – in a way that somehow makes the film better. Hitchcock’s deft touch in this area is best demonstrated with the terrible job that Anthony Perkins – Norman Bates himself – did with directing this film. Sensing that this was the character he would be remembered for, he did his best to milk it for every drop its shrivelled old teat could muster. Not many people realise that there are sequels to Psycho – this film is the reason for that.
5. Texas Chainsaw: The Next Generation
Has any film ever been made better with the suffix ‘The Next Generation’? Ever? The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a brutal exercise in audience torture and well and truly answered the question ‘How long is it possible to make an actress cry for?’. TCTNG, while having the stupidest initials of the films on this list, also boasts surprising star-power – this film would have long sunk into the awful horror swamp if not for the pre-fame Renee Zellwegger and Matthew McConaughhey making early film appearances in key roles. The film is an embarrassment to the both of them now, with good reason. It takes Texas Chainsaw Massacre and turns it into I Know What You Did Last Massacre.
4. Book of Shadows – Blair Witch 2
The sequel to iconic horror The Blair Witch Project sets about trying to muddy the waters about what, if anything, is real any more. It posits that the first film, sold on its authenticity, is fake and that this film, is indeed real. It’s a traditionally shot film about the consequences of the release of the first film and effect it has on a group of teens – all humorously conforming to one or more slacker / stoner / goth stereotypes – who go to Burkittsville to find the truth for themselves. It’s a cynically made film about a man cynically making money from the fictional legend of the Blair Witch, and in this way becomes what it itself strives to identify. Also, it’s rubbish.
3. Exorcist II – The Heretic
This film is legendary in its badness. This terrible sequel follows many of the traits we’ve come to expect – iconic first film, gleeful abandonment of everything that made the first film(s) great, and the whole creative team behind the first film(s) collectively jumping ship. Exorcist II – The Heretic takes what was subtle and meaningful about the original – Karras’ loss of faith, Merrin’s cynicism – and throws them out, in favour of a dull and boring plot about the further adventures of Pazuzu the demon. Who barely ever pukes.
2. The Birds II – Land’s End
Like Jaws III, The Birds II – Land’s End sets about destroying all of the goodwill for the iconic first film that exists in the national consciousness. Unlike Jaws III, it decides to do this in its very first moments by showing a man in a boat getting killed by seagulls. Unlike the first film, which in black and white made the birds seem like an identical menacing swarm, the film is shot in colour and so it’s difficult to really feel afraid. They just look like stupid birds, not the terrifying agents of doom that they seem in the first film.
1. Jaws III
The sequels to Alien, which was pitched originally to the powers-that-be as ‘Jaws in space’, shows us what the sequels to Jaws could have been – they are great films in their own right. Jaws III rests too much on its honking shark laurels and relies too much on overwrought music. It loses all of the subtlety of the original without adding any excitement or action. Just rubbish – unbelievable characters, awful humorous (not awfully humorous) scenes, and terrible performances make this film sink, not swim.