12 Great Horror Movie Sequels You Shouldn't Miss

New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Like a perfectly-timed jump scare in a slasher flick, sequels to successful horror films are inevitable. Horror movie sequels tend to get a bad rap, whether for relying on ridiculous gimmicks (remember when Jason Voorhees went to space?) or completely invalidating the originals. But for the hundreds of just plain bad sequels out there, there are some gems that occasionally rival—or even outshine—their predecessors.

We spoke with some experts in the world of horror about the second, third, and even sixth franchise installments that deserve a spot on your binge-watching list this Halloween season.

1. BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

One of the earliest horror movie sequels ever produced also happens to be one of the genre’s best. Not long after Universal found success with Frankenstein in 1931, director James Whale and star Boris Karloff returned to make the second part of the story. Bride of Frankenstein was a commercial and critical success, and is widely considered not only one of the best horror sequels, but one of the best sequels to a classic film ever made.

“James Whale took all that was fascinating, horrifying, and darkly humorous in the original and elevated it all,” James Kendrick, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the department of film and digital media at Baylor University, tells Mental Floss. “A postmodern horror masterpiece before anyone knew [what] postmodernism was.”

2. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

Eight Nightmare on Elm Street movies have been released since the original hit theaters in 1984, but not every sequel (or reboot) was created equal. According to Fangoria contributor Anya Novak, 1987’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors stands out from the pack. “It leaves Elm Street behind for the bulk of the story, and it dares to give the victims supernatural agency that they didn't have in the previous two films,” she tells Mental Floss. “It all makes for a fresh entry in the series, a rare win for any third film in a horror franchise.”

3. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)

The Halloween series made a bold move with its third installment by ignoring most of the elements that made the original film successful. Instead of standard slasher fare, Halloween III: Season of the Witch features supernatural themes that play with the holiday’s pagan roots—and Michael Myers is nowhere to be found. “This third installment of the Halloween franchise drew some ire from fans upon its release for dispensing with the franchise’s iconic killer,” Andrea Subissati, executive editor of Rue Morgue, tells Mental Floss. “Still, the years have been kind to it, and it’s now considered one of the superior entries to the franchise.”

John Carpenter and Debra Hill, the creators of Halloween, envisioned the franchise becoming an anthology series of standalone stories all taking place on Halloween, with Season of the Witch being the first. But due to the commercial disappointment of the film, this premise never took off and Myers was brought back for Halloween 4.

4. ALIENS (1986)

James Cameron’s Aliens set the bar high for every horror-sci-fi sequel that came after it. Instead of attempting to recreate Ridley Scott’s original masterpiece, Cameron made the story his own, and produced a instant classic in the process. “When visionary director James Cameron took the reins on this sequel to 1979’s Alien, he imbued it with a generous heaping of action and comedy,” Subissati says. “Good sequels effectively up the ante of the original, and Aliens accomplishes this in spades.”

5. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES (1986)

Friday the 13th is a rare case where the franchise as a whole is more iconic than any one film. But ask horror movie fans to name the best of the decades-worth of sequels and many will say Jason Lives. “While it plays by most of the rules of the Friday the 13th series, it has a tone all its own,” Kendrick says. “Still gory and occasionally scary, Jason Lives is above all funny, a largely enjoyable near-spoof of slasher films in general and the Friday the 13th series in particular.”

In the sixth installment of the series, Tommy Jarvis exhumes Jason’s body with plans to cremate it, but ends up resurrecting the mass-murderer instead. Self-aware humor and scenes that break the fourth wall make Jason Lives one the most original films of the franchise.

6. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

George A. Romero’s influential Night of the Living Dead (1968) has spawned numerous sequels, remakes, and parodies—the most memorable of which may be its direct follow-up. With Dawn of the Dead, Romero returned to the zombie apocalypse he had created in 1968 to explore new themes, like the pitfalls of modern consumerism. According to Novak, “You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of acerbic wit than in the cynical allegory of Romero's Dawn of the Dead. It's a devastating masterpiece in the genre.”

7. 28 WEEKS LATER (2007)

If Night of the Living Dead created the zombie genre, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2000), which follows the spread of a highly contagious virus, reinvented it. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo had a tough act to follow, but his sequel exceeded many fans' expectations. The film starts with an attack on an isolated farmhouse, and according to Matt Barone, senior programmer for the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, it’s one of the best opening scenes of any horror movie.

“It's one of the few times where on first viewing, a horror sequel convinced me it'd be better than its predecessor within the first 10 minutes," Barone tells Mental Floss. "And yes, I do believe that 28 Weeks Later is the superior of the two films."

8. BLADE II (2002)

Blade (1998), a movie based on a Marvel comic book character who uses his vampire superpowers to protect humans, is more than just a horror flick. It also fits the action and superhero genres, and legendary director Guillermo del Toro embraced all these elements when he signed on to helm the sequel. The result, Blade II, has become a cult classic like this first. “It’s this hyper-violent, pre-MCU comic book horror show,” Fangoria contributor Jacob Knight tells Mental Floss. “It’s essentially the Aliens of vampire movies!”

9. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)

For the follow-up to his 2003 directorial debut House of a 1000 Corpses, Rob Zombie made the sadistic villains from the first film his protagonists. The sequel maintains the gory 1970s exploitation style of the original while also demonstrating Zombie’s growth as a director. “How much of a quantum leap forward The Devil's Rejects is for Zombie as a filmmaker following House of 1000 Corpses can't be understated,” Barone says. “Whereas its predecessor showed promise but ultimately felt like a horror fan just having fun with some new toys, The Devil's Rejects is a heart-attack serious cinematic middle finger aimed at American horror's inability to produce any real in-your-face nightmare fuel in the wake of Scream [1996]."

10. EVIL DEAD II (1987)

In 1981, Sam Raimi shocked theatergoers with his gore-fueled horror flick The Evil Dead. The movie grew into a cult classic, and instead of following it with a more conventional sequel, Raimi decided to give 1987’s Evil Dead II a comedic spin. 

“Is it a remake? A sequel? It’s both," Kendrick says. "The brilliance of Sam Raimi’s rehash of his low-budget debut is that it takes everything that was wonderfully demented and outrageously gory and pours it on even heavier.” The third installment in the franchise, Army of Darkness, was also well-received by Evil Dead fans.

11. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986)

Despite its visceral name, Tobe Hooper’s original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre took a minimalist approach to gore, choosing to keep most of the carnage just off-camera. With The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the director abandoned that style, and many fans were happier for it. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is everything a horror sequel should be: bigger, bloodier, and a lot more fun,” Novak says.

12. THE EXORCIST III (1990)

Largely due to the underwhelming mess that was Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), the third part of the series has largely been forgotten, but if you’re a fan of the original it’s worth checking out. William Peter Blatty, who wrote the screenplay for The Exorcist (1973) and the novel upon which it’s based, returned to write and direct The Exorcist III. The movie may not fully recapture the horror that made William Friedkin's original film a classic of the genre, but it does provide some genuine scares.

“[It's] one of the more overlooked and underrated sequels of all time,” Subissati says. “George C. Scott and Brad Dourif offer some of their best performances on the screen in this cult classic.”

11 Surprising Facts About Sylvester Stallone

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As streetwise boxer Rocky Balboa (in eight films) and haunted Vietnam veteran John Rambo (in five films), the man born Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone has made his brand of muscular melodrama a staple of the action film genre across five decades.

The latest Rambo chapter, Rambo: Last Blood, opens September 20. In the meantime, check out some of the more intriguing facts about the actor, from his modest beginnings as an accidental porn star to his peculiar rivalry with Richard Gere to his waylaid plans to run a pudding empire.

1. An errant pair of forceps gave Sylvester Stallone his distinctive look.

Many comedians have paid their bills over the decades by adopting Sylvester Stallone’s distinctive lip droop and guttural baritone voice. The facial feature was the result of some slight mishandling at birth. When Stallone was born on July 6, 1946 in Manhattan, the physician used a pair of forceps to deliver him. The malpractice left his lip, chin, and part of his tongue partially paralyzed due to a severed nerve. Stallone later said his face and awkward demeanor earned him the nickname “Sylvia” and authority figures telling him his brain was “dormant.” Burdened with low self-esteem, Stallone turned to bodybuilding and later performing as a way of breaking through what seemed to be a consensus of low expectations.

2. sylvester Stallone attended college in Switzerland.

A publicity still of Sylvester Stallone from the 1981 film 'Victory' is pictured
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Despite a tumultuous adolescence in which he was kicked out of several schools for misbehavior, Stallone eventually graduated high school while living with his mother in Philadelphia. He went on to attend American College, a university in Leysin, Switzerland, where he also worked as a gym teacher and dorm bouncer in addition to selling hamburgers on campus. It was there he became interested in theater—both acting and writing.

Stallone continued his education at the University of Miami before moving to New York with the hopes of breaking into the entertainment industry. While auditioning for parts, Stallone worked as a movie theater usher and cleaned lion cages at the zoo. He was fired from the theater for trying to scalp tickets to a customer. Unknown to Stallone, the customer was the theater owner.

3. Sylvester Stallone’s mother was an expert in “rumpology.”

Stallone’s parents separated while he was still a child. His father, a beauty salon owner named Francesco Stallone, was apparently prone to corporal punishment, and would cuff his young son for misbehavior. (Stallone was once caught swatting flies with a lead pipe on the hood of his father’s brand-new car.) His mother, Jackie Stallone—whom he once described as “half-French, half-Martian"—later grew interested in the study of rumpology, or the study of the buttocks to reveal personality traits and future events.

4. Sylvester Stallone had a small part in a porno.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during a promotional tour for the film 'Rambo' in Madrid, Spain in January 2008
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

While struggling to make it as an actor, Stallone was talked into making an appearance in Party at Kitty and Stud’s, a 1970 softcore adult film that was not as explicit as other sex features of the era but still required Stallone to appear in the nude. While he was initially hesitant to take the role, Stallone was sleeping in a bus shelter at the time. He took the $200 for two days of work. Following the success of Rocky in 1976, the film’s producers capitalized on their now-valuable footage and re-released it under the title The Italian Stallion. In 2010, a 35mm negative of the film and all worldwide rights to it were auctioned off on eBay for $412,100.

5. Sylvester Stallone wrote a novel.

In addition to his acting ambitions, Stallone decided to pursue a career in writing. After numerous screenplays, he wrote Paradise Alley, a novel about siblings who get caught up in the circus world of professional wrestling in Hell’s Kitchen. Stallone finished the novel before deciding to turn it into a screenplay. Paradise Alley was eventually produced in 1978. The book, which was perceived as a novelization, was published that same year.

6. Sylvester Stallone was not a fan of the Rambo cartoon series.

After the success of 1982’s First Blood and 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone was confronted with a litany of Rambo merchandising. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune in 1986, he said he disliked that the psychologically-tortured war veteran was being used to peddle toys. “I couldn’t control it,” he said. “I tried to stop it, but I don’t own the licensing rights.”

On the subject of Rambo: The Force of Freedom, a 1986 animated series featuring a considerably softened-up version of the character, Stallone was resigned. “They’re going to make this Saturday morning TV cartoon show for kids with what they tell me is a softened version of Rambo doing good deeds. First of all, that isn’t Rambo, but more important, they tell me I can’t stop them because it’s not me they’re using. It’s a likeness of a character I played and don’t own.” The show lasted just one season.

7. Sylvester Stallone never planned on the Rocky series enduring as long as it has.

Through the years, Stallone has made some definitive declarations about the Rocky series, which has been extended to eight films including its two spin-off installments, 2015’s Creed and 2018’s Creed II. Speaking with movie critic Roger Ebert in 1979 shortly before the release of Rocky II, Stallone indicated Rocky III that would conclude the series. “There’ll never be a Rocky IV,” he said. "You gotta call it a halt.” In 1985, while filming Rocky IV, Stallone told Interview magazine that he was finished. “Oh, this is it for Rocky,” he said. “Because I don’t know where you go after you battle Russia.” In 1990, following the release of Rocky V, Stallone declared that “There is no Rocky VI. He’s done.” Upon the release of Rocky Balboa in 2006, Stallone once more declared he was finished. "I couldn't top this," he told People. "I would have to wait another 10 years to build up a head of steam, and by that point, come on."

Creed was released nine years later. Following Creed II, he posted a message on Instagram that served as a “final farewell” to the character. Several months later, in July 2019, Stallone told Variety that, “There’s a good chance Rocky may ride again” and explained an idea involving Rocky befriending an immigrant street fighter. It would be the ninth film in the series.

8. Sylvester Stallone was offered the lead role in Beverly Hills Cop.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during production of the 1978 film 'Paradise Alley'
Central Press/Getty Images

In one of the more intriguing alternate casting decisions in Hollywood history, Stallone was originally offered the Axel Foley role in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Not wishing to make a comedy, Stallone rewrote the script to focus more on the action, as Detroit cop Foley stampedes through Beverly Hills to find his friend’s killers. Stallone described his version as resembling “the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan on the beaches of Normandy” and said his climax involved a game of chicken between a Lamborghini and an oncoming train. Producers opted to go in another direction. It became one of Eddie Murphy’s biggest hits. Stallone would later use some of his ideas for a rogue cop in the 1986 film Cobra.

9. Sylester Stallone does not get along with Richard Gere.

While filming 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush, in which Stallone and then-unknown actor Richard Gere both played 1950s street toughs, the two actors apparently got off on the wrong foot. Stallone recalled that Gere drew his ire for being too physical during rehearsals—and worse, getting mustard on Stallone during a lunch break. Incensed, Stallone demanded the director choose one of them to stay and one of them to be fired. Gere was let go and replaced by Perry King.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger once tricked sylvester stallone into starring in a box office bomb.

Actors Sylvester Stallone (L) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) are photographed during the premiere of 'The Expendables 2' in Hollywood, California in August 2012
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Stallone has often discussed his rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the two action stars were believed to be the two biggest marquee attractions in the 1980s. Recalling his 1992 bomb Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Stallone told a journalist in 2014 that he believed Schwarzenegger was to blame. “I heard Arnold wanted to do that movie and after hearing that, I said I wanted to do it,” he said. “He tricked me. He’s always been clever.”

11. sylvester Stallone wanted to create a pudding empire.

In 2005, shortly before Rocky Balboa resurrected his film career, Stallone embarked on a line of fitness supplements. His company, Instone, produced a pudding snack that was low-carb and high in protein. Stallone even appeared on Larry King to hawk the product. A legal dispute with a food scientist over the rights to the concoction dragged on for years and Instone eventually folded.

Highclere Castle—the Real-Life Downton Abbey—Is Available to Rent on Airbnb

Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Emily_M_Wilson/iStock via Getty Images

Have you ever wanted to spend a night in a castle? And not just any castle—the Downton Abbey castle, Highclere Castle? On November 26, one lucky couple will get the opportunity to relive the TV show and movie, when castle owners Lady and Lord Carnarvon will cordially invite one person and their guest of choice to spend the night in the castle, which is located in Hampshire, England—about 45 miles west of London. On October 1 (Airbnb reservations go live at noon BST) anyone with a verified profile, positive reviews, and passion for Downton Abbey can vie for the opportunity. Even though the castle has 300 rooms, they are only making one bedroom available, for $159.

Upon arrival, the royals will host cocktails with the guests in the saloon. Visitors will hear stories from more than 300 years of Highclere Castle history (construction on the castle began in 1679, and has been in the Carnarvon family ever since).

“I am passionate about the stories and heritage of Highclere Castle and I am delighted to be able to share it with others who have a love of the building and its history,” Lady Carnarvon said in the Airbnb listing.

The Earl and Countess will host a dinner for the guests in the state dining room, and afterwards have coffee in the library. Before bed, the guests’ butler will escort them to their gallery bedroom. The next morning, guests will receive a complimentary breakfast, a private tour of the 100,000-square foot castle and 1000-acre grounds, and a special gift from the Carnarvons. (Airbnb will also make a donation to The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.)

It should be noted the castle doesn’t have Wi-Fi or central air, but it does have fireplaces and central heat. There are a few rules guests must follow, though: all newspapers must be ironed; one butler per person; cocktail dress is required at dinner; gossip is restricted to downstairs; the listing is midweek because, as the Dowanger once said, “What is a weekend?”

If you don’t win the opportunity to stay at Highclere, all is not lost: you can tour the castle year-round.

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