A number of successful horror movies have come out in recent years that have taken audiences by surprise, giving rise to a surge in sequels (we’re talking 4 or 5 here) due to insatiable popularity. The odd thing here is, their sequels were even more popular than the original – a rarity compared to earlier franchises. Which begs the giant looming question, are horror sequels getting better than their predecessors?
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
Let’s start with Blumhouse’s largely successful PARANORMAL ACTIVITY franchise. In 2009 the first movie took the world by storm with its hand-held documentary approach to filming. With a legitimate storyline, and making it feel authentic without all the theatrics and special effects, it created a residual fear that moviegoers wanted more of. It was smart. With a budget of only $450,000 and earning about $194,000,000 worldwide, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY created a trend in filming, and also paved the way for indie filmmakers to make box office hits with low budgets.
Now let’s jump to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 in 2011. Grossing a record $53 million domestic opening weekend and $202 million worldwide, PA3 totally eclipsed the first and second films. And out of all six, it still sits on top as the most grossing film out of the franchise. But why? Honestly, it was just really good. My personal favorite out of the six, it serves as a prequel to Katie and her horrific experiences with her boyfriend Micah. It focuses on Katie and her sister Kristi as children when a demon disguised as “Toby” shows up and starts haunting the family. It’s a rejuvenation sequel, if you will. It takes the original story and goes more in depth and answers questions the audience was left with after the first installment, making it fresh and stimulating.
THE CONJURING 2
Ed and Lorraine Warren have had their fair share of publicity, but THE CONJURING franchise has really put them and their endeavors into the spotlight. Horror films based on true stories are almost always going to be more popular than others, just for the simple fact that one gets chills as they secretly think to themselves, “it actually happened.”
THE CONJURING was great in and of itself because it was an original based-on-a-true-story tale with A-List actors that was jumpy as hell, with all too real fearful elements that resonated with the audience (religion, family, hopelessness). But as KJ Proulx on moviepilot.com wrote in his article, “Why ‘THE CONJURING 2’ Is A Better Horror Film Than The First,” he makes a valid point in saying,
“From a spine-tingling score to jump scares that actually work for once, this is a far scarier film than it’s predecessor. With a fantastic balance of story and thrills, this film is able to leap over the clichéd sequences that every horror film seems to deal with, and make it it’s own.”
I agree with this. The actors are phenomenal, especially the children; the music works well with the scares; the nun is scary as s#@*%; and they delve deeper into Ed and Lorraine’s history, again answering questions the audience were left wondering from the original. Getting to know your characters more in a film makes you become closer to them and empathize, leading to a more successful experience of a movie.
I would just like to say that I am not a fan of the first two INSIDIOUS films. Though I love Patrick Wilson, I felt the movies seriously under delivered. I scream like a little girl at jump scares. I did none of that in either of these films. I felt that they were grasping for something they couldn’t quite reach when in development. More than half of it just felt like a bad dream. But that’s just me.
Then there’s INSIDIOUS 3. It’s practically a movie of its own, leaving the family from the first two movies completely out of it, but wisely keeping our medium Elise Rainier. I always felt that she was the glue that kept the first two movies together, but making her one of the main characters in INSIDIOUS 3 seems to be in her own right. We get a bigger backstory on her, and root for her throughout the entire movie, whether it be so save Quinn, or to tie up loose ends in her own life.
Then there’s the Mouth Breather. His emaciated looking body with burn scars and an oxygen mask that covers half is face is blood curdling. That dude is scary. And it’s not because he pops out at you for a second like most other ghostly antagonists do. Well, that’s part of it. But it’s mostly because he legitimately hurts and breaks down our main character Quinn. He causes her to get hit by a car, breaking both her legs. He throws her from her bed and messes up her neck, but not before creepily closing the curtains and shutting the door until everything goes to black, leaving Quinn and the audience feeling hopeless and scared to death. That, in and of itself is cause for INSIDIOUS 3 to truly be scarier and more effective than the first two.
Mike Catalano of joblo.com actually created a face-off between INSIDIOUS 2 and 3. Check it out!
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR
Coming back around to Blumhouse’s PURGE franchise, I’d say ELECTION YEAR damn new blew the first two out of the water. Election Year was the highest-grossing film in the PURGE horror franchise with a worldwide ticket count of $114.2M. The reason being? Aside from it opening on Fourth of July weekend, according to deadline.com, “What made ELECTION YEAR an anomaly stateside is how it tapped into the nation’s current political zeitgeist.” It delved deeper into the shady and dangerous political game that could very well parallel closely with our own. It came out just a few months before election time last year, and I think the writers and producers knew this would hit a sweet spot. Well played, Blumhouse.
Aside from the political aspect I felt that the gore was more intense, the killing scenes were absolutely brutal (remember the school girl that got hit by the car and then was bludgeoned to death by Laney Rucker?), and the plot was believable and true to our own worst fears about government.
THE DEVIL’S REJECTS
HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES is on my top 10 list for its bizarre storyline, surprisingly well-done cinematography, and over-the-top characters that enhance each horrific scene. But THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is another kind of monster. One that doesn’t lose its ties to 1000 CORPSES, but becomes a whole other movie in and of itself.
We follow the characters of the first film right after the police surround their home. It becomes an outlaw ride-or-die movie where we actually come to empathize with the characters. Regardless of the horrific acts they commit, we see a softer side to them: comradery, friendship, devotion, and even love when times are toughest. It’s a great film with an outstanding soundtrack, and definitely outdoes its predecessor, both in content and the box office.