October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best direct-to-video (dtv) horror sequels is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
It sometimes feels as if too many people automatically discount the possibility of a sequel being good. That tendency only magnifies when the sequel in question bypasses theaters and heads straight to home video. It’s safe to say that those people are missing out as there’s fun to be had with follow-ups as unburdened by expectation as they are by big budgets.
DTV sequels exist across every genre, but they’re especially prevalent in horror. Some of you might not even know that sequels exist to films like The Butterfly Effect, The Howling, Prom Night, and From Dusk till Dawn — but they do! And none of them made our list below of the best DTV horror sequels! The films that did make the cut come from franchises big and small, but what they have in common is a sense of fun and an eye for entertainment. Quick note, to spread as far a net as possible here, we’re only allowing one entry per franchise on this list.
10. The Prophecy II (1998)
One of the typical guarantees when it comes to DTV sequels is that the original stars — actors worthy of theatrical releases — won’t be returning for the much lower-budgeted follow-up. To that idea, Christopher Walken says an expletive-ridden but firm “no.” Walken returns as the angel Gabriel, still not a fan of humankind and still intent on ending their presence in god’s mind while battle rages in heaven. His jet-black hair and Bronx accent make for a compelling and entertaining villain, and he’s joined by more familiar faces that elevate this supernatural chase flick, including Brittany Murphy, Russell Wong, Jennifer Beals, Eric Roberts, Ethan Embry, Glenn Danzig, and more. It’s a slight slice of action/horror, but it’s a good time for fans of religious horror. (Rob Hunter)
9. Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
Folks knock the Children of the Corn franchise for being fairly dull, and they’re not wrong, but that arguably applies to the first film too. It’s just not a very exciting story (and it’s essentially done better in 1976’s Who Can Kill a Child?). What this DTV sequel does, though, is to mix things up right out of the gate by moving these little corn-shucking bastards to the big city, Chicago specifically, and the change of scenery offers up new opportunities for fun. It can’t touch the legit entertainment of part two, but Urban Harvest delivers with rooftop corn, a fun finale, a creepy scarecrow, and some memorable kills courtesy of practical effects wizard Screaming Mad George. Also, and this is no small thing, a certain uncredited Charlize Theron co-stars making this her feature film debut. (Rob Hunter)
8. Deep Blue Sea 3 (2020)
If the Boo Crew was solely my domain and not a democracy there’s little doubt that this shark attack flick would have topped the list. Sadly, none of these jabronies have even seen it! Their loss, as it’s a ridiculously entertaining follow-up to the first sequel to Renny Harlin’s shark-filled, B-movie classic. While part two is wet garbage, this entry delivers across the board with a fun script, solid performances, and great kills. The sharks don’t look great, but the movie is a great time with characters you dig and a survival spread you’re not expecting. It has a stellar sense of energy and entertainment about it, and you owe it to yourself (and me) to give the damn thing a chance. Just make sure you skip Deep Blue Sea 2 on your way here… (Rob Hunter)
7. Silent Night Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out (1989)
Like the rest of the films in the SNDN franchise, Silent Night, Deadly 3: Better Watch Out is less a good film and more a bizarre experiment in filmmaking. Picking up six years after the previous film, Ricky Caldwell (Bill Moseley) is now comatose after being shot down by police. An eccentric doctor attempts to awaken Ricky by using a blind clairvoyant to reach him. The clairvoyant makes progress, but it’s the taunting of a drunk hospital staffer dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve that finally triggers Ricky’s brain. Now awake, Ricky picks up where he left off, leaving a trail of dead bodies as he’s drawn to the clairvoyant. Roger Corman disciple Monte Hellman directs, using frenetic camera angles to keep the visuals interesting while Moseley’s Ricky walks around with a transparent dome sitting on his head. Better Watch Out would most certainly have failed at the box office, but as a straight-to-video oddity, it manages to be somewhat compelling. (Chris Coffel)
6. Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996)
I experienced my initiation into the world of Tremors by catching most if not all of the movies on the Syfy Channel (or the Sci-Fi Channel, as it was once known), so I was shocked and affronted to discover this late in the game that Tremors 2: Aftershocks is actually a direct-to-video sequel. But if ever a movie could prove that DTV offerings can be more than haphazardly made cash grabs, it’s this one. Made six full years after the original, Tremors 2: Aftershocks is a refreshing change of pace in several ways. While the first horror comedy was a survival movie, the second puts its characters on more even ground with their foes, reuniting them for a lucrative chance at graboid-hunting and arming them with a whole bunch of new tricks for blasting worms.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks also includes some great creature design: in a post-Jurassic Park world, filmmaker S.S. Wilson imagined a version of the graboids that’s evolved (“this time, the worms have turned,” the trailer’s voiceover warns) into a two-legged, dinosaur-esque monster capable of chasing Fred Ward’s Earl, Christopher Gartin’s Grady, and the rest of the worm-hunting crew around the oil fields of Mexico. Tremors 2 is genuinely exciting, but it’s also funny in the way that few horror comedies are – tongue-in-cheek but never trying too hard for a laugh. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
This list of the best direct-to-video horror sequels concludes on the next page…
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