Horror Sequels That Are Better Than the Original

Disappointing sequels to beloved horror classics is a reality as obvious to genre audiences as Michael Myers' indestructibility. After all, for every Child's Play 2 there's a Halloween: Resurrection. Bad horror sequels tend to take what viewers loved about the original and squeeze the life out of it, milking the story and concept by upping the gore in place of character development as well as introducing more gimmicky elements like timeline twists, mysterious relatives that come out of the woodwork to wreak havoc, and revenge-based stories with convoluted plots and motivations that stretch credibility. But every once in a while, a horror sequel comes along that is not only a successful film in its own right, but is even better than the original film that made it possible in the first place. Whether due to upping the stakes and deepening the characters we fell in love with, expanding the world of the original, or bringing more refined filmmaking to the table, here are 7 horror films that are better than the original.

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The Conjuring 2

Sequels to supernatural horror films can be tricky to pull off. All the tricks and twists are usually used in the prior films, making it hard to give audiences what they loved about previous entries while being careful not to repeat the same horror tropes or story beats. A boring retread of past material is not the case in The Conjuring 2. The film trades the paranormal activity of a spooky Rhode Island farmhouse for a suspected poltergeist in Enfield, London. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return as Ed and Lorraine Warren, respectively, and their characters are the beating heart of the film. The Conjuring 2 takes great strides to not only deepen their relationship with each other, but also with the Hodgson family who they have come to assist. Ed and Lorraine's love for each other is on full display, and in showing how acutely aware they are that they are putting their lives in danger with every case they investigate, the dread and tension is automatically increased.

The Conjuring 2 is also commendable because it features a new and creative take on how to get rid of the evil entity plaguing the Hodgon family rather than copying from the playbook of the first film with another bland exorcism scene. Not to mention that it introduces us to the demon Valak, which director James Wan smartly uses to up the characters stakes by connecting it to Lorraine and her religious beliefs. Ultimately, The Conjuring 2 is a prime example of taking what works from the first film and amplifying it.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

Despite being a commercial and box office success, Ouija was bashed by critics. Ouija: Origin of Evil is a different story. Although it was released two years after Ouija, it serves a a prequel to the 2014 film and improves upon its predecessor in almost every way. The story involves a widow named Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) who runs a phony seance business in 1960s Los Angeles with her two young daughters, Doris (Lulu Wilson) and Paulina (Annalise Basso). But their scam backfires when they unknowingly invite a spirit into their home that possesses Doris.

Origin of Evil is an interesting entry for its decision to jump backwards in time instead of continuing the story from the previous film. It's a welcome change that shakes up the story in new and exciting ways (especially in a time period without modern ways to call for help, like cell phones) with some fresh scares. It works as a surprisingly successful and well made period piece, and director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) connects it back to the first film in a smart, uncontrived way that makes it a fresh and worthwhile follow-up.

The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy is the perfect antidote for viewers who felt cheated by the promise and potential of the first film. While The Purge was mostly a home invasion thriller taking place in one location, Anarchy opens up the world of the annual Purge, where any and all crimes are legal for a 12-hour period, and takes it to the streets. Naturally, chaos abounds. It's a feast for the eyes as well as serving to increase the film's levels of suspense since the very state of the annual Purge means that danger could be lurking behind any corner.

Anarchy features several stories that we follow separately before their eventual intersection. Grieving father Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) is an LAPD police officer looking for revenge against his son's murderer, waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) are trying to survive after being attacked by their landlord, while husband and wife Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) find themselves the target of a group of purgers after their car breaks down. The sequel's approach to character-driven horror is a welcome (and smart) one, giving us reason to care about what happens to the characters when they find themselves in horrific circumstances. Thanks to its prioritization on characters, suspense, and expanding the world of the Purge itself, The Purge: Anarchy both lives up to its promise and surpasses its predecessor.

The Devil's Rejects

Two years after Rob Zombie's directorial debut with House of 1000 Corpses, he followed it up with the much better sequel, The Devil's Rejects. It picks up with the Firefly family, Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley), and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), as they flee from the crimes they committed in the first film. While House of 1000 Corpses has the frenetic energy and wild editing of a music video, The Devil's Rejects features a more refined and focused sense of filmmaking from Zombie, and is a much more polished final product. It also boasts added character depth of the Firefly family, especially Baby and Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook), not to mention a particularly juicy storyline involving a sheriff (William Forsythe) who will do whatever it takes to bring them to justice. The first film is a little messy in terms of story, but with a more streamlined plot, better developed characters, and a more deft sense of filmmaking, The Devil's Rejects is an impressive and worthwhile sequel.

Scream 2

From its fantastic opening scene, Scream 2 lets viewers know right away that it's going to deliver the thrills and meta commentary of the original. This time around, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is trying to leave the events of the first film behind her as she leads a new life in college. Of course, it wouldn't be a horror sequel if the protagonist led a quiet, peaceful life. Ghostface returns but Sidney is even more of a badass than before. Her bravery is shown in her investigations of (and fights with) Ghostface, giving us a heroine to root for. Scream 2 also brings back the cast from the first film, including David Arquette, Courteney Cox, and Jamie Kennedy, and their chemistry that made Scream work so well is once again on full display here. The film's Ghostface reveals and motivations also connects back to the first film, deepening the franchise's mythology and bringing everything full circle. Along with featuring a smart meta commentary on film sequels themselves, the stakes are higher and the whodunit aspect of the film keeps us guessing.

Saw III

Saw III surpasses its two predecessors in terms of gore and mean-spirited traps, but also regarding character development. While Saw and Saw II featured strong characters like Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) amid the carnage and bloodshed, Saw III takes it to another level with some of the strongest character work in the franchise. Between Amanda's (Shawnee Smith) jealousy and John's (Tobin Bell) inability to trust her actions, there's a push/pull struggle throughout the film that makes it a fascinating character piece in a way that many of the Saw films are not. The choice to build the entire film around the surrogate father-daughter relationship between John and Amanda anchors the film and allows us to become invested in them as people. The result is a tension-filled horror sequel that also has a surprisingly strong emotional core.

It: Chapter Two

It: Chapter Two boasts a longer runtime than the previous entry, and for good reason . How else would we get an accurate and complete adaptation of Stephen King's whopper of a novel? The sequel features the Losers as adults with Bev (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Bill (James McAvoy), Eddie (James Ransone), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), Ben (Jay Ryan), and Stan (Andy Bean), reuniting to battle Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) after he re-emerges in their hometown of Derry, Maine 27 years after they forced It into hibernation. There's a greater amount of character development on display here, and the performances are particularly stunning (especially from Chastain and Hader), so that when the film's climax comes, we have an even greater reason to care about what happens. It: Chapter Two also deals with trauma and how the events of childhood affect our lives as adults, which gives the horror proceedings an added depth and gravitas. Not to mention that there's more tension, the stakes are at their peak, and Pennywise is scarier and more vicious than in the first instalment.

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Ricky Ruszin (23 Articles Published)

Ricky Ruszin is a Features Writer for Collider, focusing on film and TV. He is also a horror and suspense novelist, having earned his BA degree in English Language and Literature from Stevenson University. When he's not watching or writing about movies and TV, he enjoys reading, traveling, and seeking out the world's tallest and fastest roller coasters. He lives in Baltimore, MD, where he can be found quoting Seinfeld from the couch and eating way too many donuts.

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