Soon, very soon, I will be posting my favorite horror films ever. In anticipation, I’m letting you know in advance that both Halloween and Nightmare On Elm Street are in the top 5 (and Friday the 13th is not). But none of their sequels are. Which is not to say that all the sequels stink. In fact, some of them are pretty good. Let’s find out which are the best, and which are the worst, of the 15 sequels to two of the best horror films of all time.
1. Halloween II (1981). Written by Carpenter, it picks up where the first film left off. Best scene: The hot tub, of course!
2. Halloween (2007). Rob Zombie’s reimagining, which was much better than it should have been, emphasized gore and sadism over suspense and subtlety. Although we didn’t need to know this much about Michael’s back story, Zombie’s fresh take was perfect for the nothing-is-graphic-enough modern era.
3. New Nightmare (1994). Wes returns and gets all meta. Craven, Langenkamp, and Englund all play themselves making a Freddy movie in a world where the real Freddy Krueger is trapped not in the dream world but in the film world and not by nightmares but by bad movies. An extremely strange concept, to be sure, but it works, somehow, largely due to the genius of Wes. I’m not sure it qualifies as horror, but by 1994, I think we were all relieved that at least it wasn’t horrible.
4. Halloween H20 (1988). No, it has nothing to do with water, and nor is it the 20th film in the series. It just feels like it. The 20 refers to the years that have passed since Halloween II. At least this one ignored Halloween 4 through 6, in which we were told that Laurie Strode had died, and managed to bring back Jamie Lee Curtis. This is actually a pretty good tale, and features early roles by Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams. When she was doing the press for this, Jamie seemed to actually believe that this would be the last of the series. Not a chance.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). Wes Craven returned (as a writer) to franchise to tell the tale of the remaining Elm Street children, all of whom are in the looney bin (for obvious reasons). Featuring future network psychic Patricia Arquette as Kristen, this is more of a teen action thriller than a horror flick, and when seen as such, it isn’t half bad. Of the films on this list, this one, number 5, is the last I could actually see myself recommending.
6. Halloween: Resurrection (2002). The 8th film Picked up where H20 left off, and actually bothered to explain that Laurie hadn’t killed Michael at the end of H20, she’d killed a paramedic dressed as Michael. This completely unnecessary prologue leads to a story about an internet reality show hosted by Busta Rhymes that takes place in Michael’s childhood home. Michael comes home again, and the fun begins. Not a terrible film, but not an imaginative one, either. It’s a by-the-numbers kill-as-you-go flick.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985). Freddy goes to a pool party, and hilarity ensues. No Wes. Not terrible, but far from good.
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988). Continuing Kristen’s story from part 3, but sans any Arquettes, part four involved a battle between a good dreamer and a bad dreamer, fighting for the night lives of children. The movies started to get a little too mystical here, which is where I started losing interest in the franchise.
9. Freddy vs. Jason (2003). Y’know what I hate? When movie promos promise a showdown and a big ending but don’t deliver. I can’t possibly give away who wins in this battle, because nobody does. And if you paid movie theater prices, clearly you were the loser. I speak from experience here, folks.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989). In number 4, we met Alice. Here, her Freddy jumps into her unborn child to come to life. We also learn that Freddy’s mom was a nun who was gang raped by 100 mental patients. Too much information, too much backstory. We can’t have sympathy for Freddy—it just doesn’t work. The only reason this isn’t the worst film in the series is because it at least made an attempt to continue the mythology.
11. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988). Michael stalks Laurie Strode’s daughter and is eventually dropped down a mine shaft. The real crime with this is that it is all terribly dull, and not even the killings are inventive.
12. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989). This one picks up where the last left off—Michael survived the mine accident and is taken in by a friendly hermit, a la Frankenstein. At this point, the franchise just got stupid. At the end, Michael is arrested but escapes prison with the help of Dr. Loomis’ partner (but we don’t learn that that’s who the mystery man is until the next film, six years later).
13. Halloween III: Seasons of the Witch (1982). Because a Halloween film without Michael Meyers is better than one with him, at this point.
14. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). By far the worst of the series, the creators seemed to be making this up as they went along, and went even further into Freddy’s childhood. Stupid, silly, senseless and relentless, I had a really hard time sticking through to the end for this one. But at least it’s not number 15, which I could only watch on fast forward.
15. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995). In this, the sixth film, it’s revealed that Michael is under some kind of mystic spell. Way too much information. Then he’s stopped by being injected with sedatives. Ugh, ugh, ugh.