Monday, November 03, 2014

Ask JKM a Question: Horror Movie Franchise Sequels?

A regular reader named Tuomo writes:

“John, the classic horror franchises like Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and even Texas Chainsaw Massacre spawned quite many sequels.

You have written about these sequels from time to time on your blog. My question is a general one: 

For a movie fan of all genres, are the sequels worth it or are the originals enough to cover the topic?

Tuomo, that’s a great question, and one that I am very happy to answer to the best of my knowledge. 

To start with -- in general -- I am not at all against sequels, in idea or practice.

I don’t feel that anything is wrong or improper about continuing a cinematic story that has proven popular, or beloved.

There are certainly literary precedents for sequels.

Homer’s The Odyssey is, in a sense, a sequel to The Iliad. So the sequel isn’t some corrupt modern format that was invented by movie-makers simply to squeeze more money out of audiences.

But of course, in Hollywood sequels do tend to be greenlit because an earlier film was financially successful.

For me, the sequel matter comes down to a simple question: does a sequel have a good story to tell, specifically one that adds meaningfully to our understanding of the “universe” and characters of the first film?

If the answer is affirmative, there is no reason for filmmakers not to make a sequel, and no reason for audiences to avoid them.

Now, in terms of the franchises you list, I feel that many are quite worthwhile.  

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II (1986), for example, takes into account all the cultural changes (namely the Reagan Revolution) since the 1974 original. It is a very different film from Hooper’s classic, yet it is one that stands on its own merits.

Similarly, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) is a brilliant, top-notch horror film that could not exist if all the previous Elm Street sequels had not existed and had not, to some extent, watered down the Freddy character.  That Craven film could not exist without sequels two through six. 

In the case of Halloween, I feel slightly differently. It was in Halloween 2 (1981) that we got all this unnecessary background information about Michael Myers and Laurie Strode being biological siblings, and this revelation, for me, seriously negates the horror of the Shape. 

The great terror of Michael Myers is that he could be the Boogeyman and that his brand of evil is opaque, impenetrable.  Suddenly, Halloween 2 gave us a motivation for his behavior. Unlike New Nightmare, I don’t feel that the additions of Halloween’s sequel really added anything important to the universe.

That fact established, I would hate to lose Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), or Halloween H20 (1998).  I like those films very much.

In terms of Psycho, it was considered apostasy for Richard Franklin to make a sequel.  But Psycho 2 (1983), Psycho 3 (1986) and even Psycho IV (1990) all write new and rewarding passages in the tragedy of Norman Bates. 

As for Friday the 13th, there’s a lot of crap to wade through in the sequels. I can safely recommend watching the first two films. I also very much enjoy Tom McLoughlin’s Jason Lives (1986) because it has a sense of humor about itself and the franchise. But I would not, in good conscience recommend that general movie viewers wade through all those films. 

Some sequels -- like Part III in 3-D (1982), Part V: A New Beginning (1985), Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), and Jason Goes to Hell -- are very, very bad indeed.

Your question was posed in general terms, and so for movie fans of all genres, I would say that the following sequels from “classic” franchises are definitely worth their time:

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween: H20 (1998)

Friday the 13th Part II (1981)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Psycho II (1983)
Psycho III (1986)
Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Bride of Chucky (1998)

Phantasm II (1988)

Finally, two last points. There isn't a single sequel in that list above that is better than the original film in the franchise, even if it is a strong installment  

Secondly, if a particular horror film series impresses or strikes you more powerfully than the others, then give all the sequels a try. Your mileage may vary, and your opinion may differ from mine.

Readers, don't forget to ask me your questions at


  1. Anonymous10:53 AM

    Right to the point, thanks! -T.S.

  2. I thought 'Hellraiser' was truly one of the best horror films of the 80's. Of course, the quality of later sequels made the franchise almost unrecognizable from it's original installment. However, the superior quality of the first one & the so-so nature of its immediate sequel deserved a mention, imo.