Sometimes movie studios can’t leave well enough alone. There are many, many horror movies that stand as classics in the genre, landmark masterpieces that changed horror for the better. Of course, if there’s one hugely successful film, why not make more? It’s almost guaranteed money, which is good, right? Not always. Here, in no particular order, are 13 horror films that spawned the worst sequels.
The Omen (1976) – There are many reasons why this film is a classic: an impeccable performance (see what I did there? Gregory PECK?), creepy foreshadowing, and the Antichrist. It’s dark, tense, and haunting. And, yes, I could see why people would want to see what happened to Damien, but really, we already know. I haven’t seen the TV series that is currently airing about the character either – he is the Antichrist, he will bring about the end of the world. WE GET IT.
Psycho (1960) – When you have an ending with such a good twist, you don’t need to make more sequels. Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was a landmark, ushering in the “modern” horror era, and it blew audiences and critics away. In the end, Norman Bates is locked up for the multiple homicides he has committed. End of story. Or at least it should have been, but no, we get three more sequels that follow Norman after his release.
Scream (1996) – Never has a horror film been so meta. This combo of soap opera, social commentary, and horror film hit all the right notes. It even spawned a new boogeyman for the ‘90s, Ghost Face. It should have ended there. The other three films in the series simply follow characters we loved too far down the line, making them caricatures and no longer enjoyable.
Jaws (1975) – In the end, the shark is killed. How does it come back three more times? It’s probably not the same shark in the other films (I haven’t seen them because they are universally panned), but still.
The Birds (1963) – The concept of birds swarming for no reason and wreaking havoc is scary. The fact that it can propel the plot of an entire film is testament to Hitchcock’s brilliance. We did not need a TV movie that revisits the plot.
American Psycho (2000) – Patrick Bateman is what makes “American Psycho” scary. He is suave, cunning, vicious, and absolutely nuts (or is he?). This movie was as groundbreaking as it was controversial, and for good reason. But the end of the film, ambiguous as it is, did not warrant a sequel, let alone a sequel that turned Patrick Bateman into Rachael Newman.
Donnie Darko (2001) – This is one of my favorite movies ever. If you haven’t seen this film, please stop reading and go watch it. “Donnie Darko” has everything: wit, sass, pop culture references, time travel, a guy in a creepy suit, the saddest song ever, and it paints some of the truest pictures of life – that angst does not necessarily end in adolescence, there is always more to the story, and love can make the darkest moments a little brighter. Also, it painted a complete ending to the story, all loose ends nicely tied. I refuse to acknowledge that the sequel even exists outside of this article.
Poltergeist (1982) – Again, here is another film that tied up all the storylines into one supernatural package. We did not need two more sequels (although I did love the remake).
Hellraiser franchise (After II) ¬– “Hellraiser” and “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” are awesome. Clive Barker did a fantastic job showcasing his talent for toeing the line between gore, beauty, pleasure, and pain, and he did leave the ending open for a sequel (probably because he “signed his life away” with the contract to get the first one made and hoped for a franchise). And man, “Hellbound” delivers – especially because, finally, Julia is seen as the real villain, which was Barker’s intention. But the rest of the franchise, while it does have some great one-liners and visuals, simply falls short. A part of me actually feels bad that they have to be on Doug Bradley’s CV, but at least they let him keep getting acting gigs, because he really is wonderful.
The Exorcist (1973) – Simple, subliminally beautiful, and scary is how I would sum up this film: a little girl is possessed by a demon and must have an exorcism. That’s pretty simple, right? And the end seems very final. But NO, Hollywood had to make two sequels and two prequels, only one of which was any good (“Exorcist III” is criminally underrated, but still unnecessary). Side note: if you want to really be scared, please read the book. It is awesome.
The Lost Boys (1987) – Most people were angry when the sequel was announced in 2008. Hollywood should have taken note, and not released that film, nor the third.
‘Salem’s Lot (1979) – My favorite novel and one of my favorite horror films, this TV miniseries/film from horror master Tobe Hooper is a classic among Stephen King adaptations. But wait, you say, they made a sequel? Yes, “A Return to ‘Salem’s Lot,” and it is the most horrendous movie I have ever had the displeasure of watching.
Universal Classics – Yes, I’m going there. Universal invented the horror film, and more specifically, the monster movie. But we did not need sequels for “Dracula” at all and “The Bride of Frankenstein” should have put the Frankenstein myth to bed. At the end of “The Wolf Man,” Larry is killed. How do you go on from there? I do love “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,” but none of the other films featuring my beloved Larry Talbot are good. Every classic monster got at least two sequels, and almost all were subpar.