Horror has become almost synonymous with sequels. If you include the remake, These days, horror fans can pretty well guess what is going to get a sequel the second the credits roll. The 80s was the golden age of film sequels. Once horror was making money, studios were all about replicating the formula and making even more money. At some point, it’s bound to happen that this is going to yield diminishing returns. Horror loves it’s villains, though, and some of the most iconic characters are from franchises. Jason Voorhees got up from his grave 12 times if you include the remake. Chucky has appeared for 7 films, with a remake coming up and a TV series to boot. There’s nothing saying that sequels can’t be successful. But for every amazing sequel, there are plenty that just don’t reflect the standard of the original work.
The 80s had a certain aesthetic that lends itself to what we consider cheesy today. Unfortunately, many people consider “cheesy” and “bad” to be the same thing. If you start with these gems of sequels, you might just change your mind!
And PS: Gremlins 2 is 1990. I checked.
Psycho II (1983)
I’m going to go on record and say that this is one of the single most underappreciated horror sequels of all-time. I’m assuming that the sequel craze to replicate the success of slashers is the 80s is the reason for this one coming about, but this film is miles above your average psychotic killer sequel. Twenty-three years after the original, Norman Bates has been released. He has returned to the Bates house as he has nowhere else to go. Things are looking up as he gets a job in town at the local diner, and he is really just trying to move on with his life. It proves more difficult than he thought, being a small town and all, and people are not necessarily happy to welcome him with open arms. He begins to see things, and wonders if he is going crazy again. But is he going crazy, or is someone messing with him? This is a suspenseful ride, and Anthony Perkins does an amazing job as Norman Bates, as usual. It seems sacrilegious to try to out-do a movie as iconic as Psycho so many years later, but this one manages to do it justice.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
This movie was largely panned when it came out, perhaps because it wasn’t marketed as the first in an intended anthology that was to follow Michael Myers’ Haddonfield massacres in the first two. People went in expecting Michael Myers, and I’d imagine they were kind of pissed when they came out. Over the years, though, this one has come to be regarded as a classic. It makes me wish they had hung in there with the anthology idea, as it really is a great movie. This film is pure Halloween, as a sinister company is manufacturing Halloween masks with microchips in them that will murder all of the children wearing them on Halloween as a ritual sacrifice when triggered by a TV Halloween special. The premise of this is super dark, and mixes this dark idea with fun effects. Because if you can put a robot in a movie, you should.
Evil Dead II (1987)
This sequel is probably the best known on this list, but not including it would be a horror community faux pas. This sequel is one of the most unusual because its part sequel, part remake. After the success of the first one, Evil Dead II takes you on what basically feels like what the filmmaker’s dream for the first one was. It is bonkers. It is hilarious. And it is terrifying. Bonus: it also sets up the ending to lead us into Army of Darkness. And if we didn’t have Ash Williams as he is today, where would we even be as a society? Evil Dead had two sequels and a series taking us through Ash’s midlife crisis, and what has made them so successful is the fact that they are all absolutely true to Ash Williams as a character. If you love Ash, you love all of the sequel material. Period.
Creepshow II (1987)
Okay, calm down. No one is saying that Creepshow 2 is better than Creepshow. Creepshow is a true original of the 80s, combining the creativity of comic books with the effectiveness of an anthology film. It gave us such iconic lines as “Where’s my caaaaakkkkkeeeee?” and “If you can hold your breath….” Nothing is going to top the lightning in a bottle that Creepshow captured. But the sequel is a solid addition, using the similar format and making it just over-the-top enough for the viewer to enjoy the crazy. The segments are longer, resulting in only 3 plus an interlude, but allows for a little more buildup of suspense. In particular, I loved the segment The Raft about 4 college students who go for a swim and get trapped on a raft by a blob-like creature. For 50s style comic book camp, this sequel provides great entertainment.
Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
The Amityville Horror definitely goes down in horror canon with the likes of The Exorcist for scaring the pants off of people in the late 70s. Satanic panic films were huge, and studios saw the potential for money-making in The Amityville Horror. It was like a 70s Blair Witch, intriguing people with its true story premise, and the controversy surrounding Jay Anson’s novel. Amityville 2 is really more of a prequel, loosely based on the events that occurred with the DeFeo family who was murdered in the house before the Lutz family moved in (using a different name, of course). I found this one more disturbing that the first one. In the first film, it is clear that George Lutz is being driven off of his rocker by an evil presence in the house. While that is also true for young Sonny, his already strained relationship with his abusive father really ramps up the tension and makes the audience see how susceptible Sonny is to snapping even before the demon was added in to the mix. As things escalate, things get really uncomfortable in the house, including an incestuous relationship between Sonny and his younger sister. All in all, this managed to capture the similarities in the presence in the house, while managing to hit home a story of a family fractured by abuse.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
The third entry in this classic franchise tells the story of the remaining children of the parents who burned Freddy Krueger. They are institutionalized, some seen as suicidal, others for sleep disorders. Nancy Thompson is a nurse there, and recognizes that they are all dreaming of Freddy. The death and dream sequences in this movie are some of the most creative of the whole franchise, which is now nine films long, including a remake starring Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy. It really leans into the idea that in a dream, ANYTHING can happen, and goes full-tilt bonkers. This one will always be one of my favourite of the entire franchise, and I will forever hum “Dream Warriors” whenever anything Freddy related crops up. Starring a young Patricia Arquette, check out this third entry in the franchise for some great scares and creative effects.
What are some of your favourite horror sequels, 80s or otherwise?