After the seventh Saw movie, we all thought Jigsaw had finally hung up his puppet. But when there’s money to be made, horror villains, no matter how shriveled, dead, or decapitated, always manage to return. Jigsaw, the eighth Saw movie, served as a pseudo-second part to the seventh film. Four years later, the jigsaw killer is somehow still wrecking havoc in Spiral: The Book of Saw, which opens this Friday, May 14. The new film, starring Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, and Marisol Nichols, continues the Jigsaw mystery and will presumably feature some of the franchise’s characteristically insane death traps. Not much else has been revealed about the plot, but we do know we haven’t seen the last of Saw—there’s an upcoming television series and another sequel on the way.
With this new addition to one of horror’s most well known franchises, I couldn’t help but think about the never-ending spectacle of sequels, prequels, and everything in between. It can be a bit tricky to decide which ones to revisit (or watch for the first time), but that’s where we come in. We’ve assembled a list of the best, from the truly scary to the totally cheesy. So get your friends together, or someone to squeeze during the scary parts, and celebrate with a horror sequel marathon.
Let’s start with the series that’s getting another addition: Saw. As the Saw movies have gone on, they’ve become more insane (remember in Saw III when there was a trap to kill someone via pig guts? Or in Saw VI when six evil insurance overlings are strapped to a merry-go-round with a gun facing them?), but the second Saw movie is still the overall best. The film doesn’t veer into complete torture porn the way the later films did and its plotline actually makes coherent sense.
Saw II opens with a bang—a man finds himself trapped inside a “spiked Venus fly trap,” and he has to dig out the key to unlock it from the back of his eyeball (surprisingly, this is not even the most terrifying trap in the film). Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is up to his old tricks again, and the detective who has apprehended him learns that his son is trapped inside one of Jigsaw’s traps. Daniel, the son, wakes up inside a large house with a number of other deplorables who have inhaled deadly gas, and the only way to save themselves is to find hidden syringes with the antidote. But the most horrifying trap ever featured in the series has to be the needle room, in which a young woman is thrown into a pit of used needles (which, if you are terrified of needles like me, is your worst nightmare) and, of course, there is the massive twist in the end, which I won’t spoil in case you haven’t seen it.
Where to find it: HBO, HBO Max, Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube
In most cases, the sequel never lives up to the original film (and in some cases, should never have been made—here’s looking at you, The Exorcist II). There is the rare case, however, where the sequel is actually better than the original. Ouija: Origin of Evil, falls under that category. The first film, Ouija, proved that there wasn’t a whole lot you could do with a board game, so Ouija meandered and delivered lackluster scares. Still, it did well enough at the box office to merit a follow-up film. Ouija: Origin of Evil is actually a prequel, and it turns up the terror factor to great effect.
The film follows Alice (Elizabeth Reaser), a psychic widow (shouldn’t she have seen that one coming?) who decides to incorporate a ouija board into her readings. In order to save their house, her youngest daughter Doris (Lulu Wilson) starts using the ouija board to communicate with her dead father. While she does end up finding some money (I think the dad was maybe involved in some questionable businesses), Doris is actually chatting with a spirit, who proceeds to possess her. Since there is possession, a priest has to be brought in (horror movie rule #17) and he confirms that Doris is indeed possessed by a Polish immigrant named Marcus, who was subjected to horrible experiments by a doctor in the basement of the house. The film then shifts into the spirit bouncing from body to body and committing some pretty heinous acts before taking a hard left turn with a shocking ending. Ouija: Origin of Evil proves that just because something isn’t great the first time, there’s no reason to not go back to the drawing board and try it again. For a possession film that doesn’t take place in The Exorcist or Conjuring universe, watch Ouija: Origin of Evil.
Where to find it: DirecTV, Cinemax, YouTube, Amazon
Having now reached cult film status, the Scream series is known for its tongue-in-cheek humor and satire of the slasher genre. Well aware of the genre tropes, director Wes Craven made Scream as meta as possible. Scream 2 takes the meta-ness to new levels, and it’s the series most underrated film.
Scream 2 begins at a screening for Stab, a movie depicting the events of the first film. Straight off the bat, Scream 2 mocks the idea of sequels recapping the entire first film (see: Silent Night, Deadly Night 2). At the screening, two audience members are murdered by a new Ghostface killer while the rest of the audience looks on and proceeds to do nothing. With a new Ghostface on the loose, Randy (Jamie Kennedy), one of the survivors of the first film, rallies everyone together to take him down. He consistently explains the rules of a horror movie sequel, going so far as to say, “If you want your films to be a successful franchise, you must never, ever—” before being cut off.
As the film goes on, Craven continues to mock various horror tropes, such as the “final girl,” the one girl who survives all the way to the end no matter how much torture and suffering she’s put through. Poor Sydney (Neve Campbell), the final girl in the first Scream, is forced to face off against Ghostface once again. Craven’s self-reflexive use of tropes is clever, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to carry it. Fortunately, he also delivers a genuinely fun film.
Where to Find it: HBO, HBO Max, Amazon, YouTube
It’s impossible to celebrate Halloween without Halloween! The endless series following the immortal Michael Myers is a horror movie staple. Myers just keeps returning no matter how many times he’s been killed, whether by decapitation, explosion, electrocution, gunshots, or falling down a mine shaft. He always comes back, ready to kill more horny teenagers. Is he an alien? A demon? A cursed psychopath? Take your pick.
After a series of uneven sequels Halloween was rebooted in 2007. Rob Zombie’s remake of the original gives the monstrous Michael his own tragic background. The film wasn’t a smash hit, as fans really didn’t care much about the backstory. In 2018 another Halloween was released, this time more successfully.
The latest incarnation, from director David Gordon Green’s version, is a direct sequel to the original Halloween. Michael Myers (Nick Castle) manages to escape the institution he’s been at for the last 40 years after his murder spree of horny teenagers. Of course, he murders even more people during his escape. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the sole survivor of Myers’ original murder spree, is suffering from PTSD, alienated from her daughter, and alcoholic—which, honestly considering what she went through, makes perfect sense. It’s rare to see a violent film address the aftermath of witnessing and experiencing violence, so this portrayal of Laurie already makes the film more interesting. In true slasher fashion, Michael goes on to kill more people (and a few more horny teenagers, because Michael Myers is all about abstinence) and somehow manages to survive another killing. Cue the Halloween music because Michael Myers will strike again in two upcoming sequels!
Where to find it: DirecTV, Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube
Arguably one of the best and most controversial horror films of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was actually meant to be funny—it was a commentary on post-Vietnam disillusionment. Since audiences and critics didn’t pick up on the dark comedy, director Tobe Hooper decided to make this more explicit in its sequel: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Made more than 10 years after the first Massacre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an underrated masterpiece. The sequel follows Stretch (Caroline Williams), a local DJ, and Lieutenant “Lefty” (Dennis Hopper) as they team up to take down the murderous Sawyer family, who have been quite busy since their last outing. Drayton Sawyer (Jim Siedow) has been entering and winning chili cook-offs due to his secret “meat” (if you know anything about Texas Chainsaw Massacre you can guess what it is). This is the first sign that this film is going to be ridiculous. After Stretch plays audio of Leatherface (Bill Johnson) murdering a victim, the Sawyer family goes to off her. Instead, Leatherface spares her after he develops a crush in a reverse case of Stockholm Syndrome. Seeing Leatherface actually care for someone is oddly endearing, especially when considering how much his family treats him like crap. Sure, Leatherface’s way of showing love is to create a mask out of human flesh for Stretch, but it’s not like he has a lot to work with! Meanwhile, Lefty goes to try out a number of chainsaws in a sequence so absurd even the owner of the chainsaw shop starts laughing.
Due to their chili cook-off winnings, the Sawyers have upgraded to living in a multi-colored abandoned carnival, decorated with human bones (the Sawyers aren’t wasteful). Stretch is tortured by the Sawyers at the dinner table up until Lefty barges in and they literally have a sword fight with chainsaws. Not many horror films involve chainsaw sword fights, which is another beautiful moment in this brilliant parody. There have been few sequels that have even come close to the hilarity of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
Where to Watch It: Tubi, Pluto TV, Apple TV
Despite the wild success of Alien, Aliens was almost not made. Fox didn’t feel like making a sequel, lawsuits followed, and the work environment was not ideal (to say the least). However, Aliens managed to overcome all of these difficulties, and isn’t just one of the best horror sequels, but one of the best horror and science-fiction mash-ups ever made.
Directed by James Cameron (back when he still dealt with violent aliens), Aliens takes place 57 years after its predecessor. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who had a close encounter in Alien, is called back to help a group of marines take down even more Aliens (hey! That’s why the title is plural). After landing on a moon colony, the crew quickly discovers that everyone has been slaughtered, except for a single little girl: Newt. The crew investigates the ship and finds baby aliens (awww), then proceed to kill one of them. Understandably, this angers the alien queen, who proves that hell hath no fury like a mama seeking vengeance for her baby. With half the crew wiped out, it’s up to Ripley to save the day. Aliens is legitimately creepy (being trapped with “facehuggers” is the stuff of nightmares) as well as action packed. The film also contains messages about the dangers of colonization, corporate greed, and motherhood, among others. Aliens went on to become such a hit that Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for best actress, a first for a science-fiction film.
Where to Watch It: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and YouTube
It all goes back to Frankenstein, one of the original Universal Classic Monsters and the first horror franchise in American film. While the first film was very popular, the follow-up Bride of Frankenstein, stole the thunder. Released in 1935, Bride of Frankenstein had its own production woes, but in the end it was a huge success and is even better than the original.
The film itself is based on a subplot in Mary Shelley’s original novel, in which Dr. Frankenstein mulls over the idea of creating a mate for his monster. While this doesn’t happen in the book, it’s the basis for the plot of Bride of Frankenstein. Following the events of the first film, it turns out that Frankenstein (Colin Clive—remember that’s the name of the doctor, not the monster) and the monster (Boris Karloff) are both alive, and the monster still doesn’t take too kindly to mankind. Having learned absolutely nothing from the first film, the doctor decides to team up with his mentor and create yet another monster—this time a female version. Meanwhile, even after making a friend and saving a girl from drowning, the monster is still chased by a mass mob. Having enough of that bullshit, he goes to Frankenstein and demands his mate. Unfortunately, the bride (Elsa Lanchester) straight up rejects the monster (you can literally pinpoint the second his heart rips in half). It seems like no matter how hard the monster tries, he just can’t make a “friend.”
Despite not being on screen for very long, the bride makes quite the impression. She’s as iconic as her monster mate—people still dress up as her for Halloween. Although the film has some generally scary moments, it will really make you feel for the monster. And if you’ve ever been rejected by someone you really liked, you’ll empathize with the monster as he tears apart the laboratory.
Where to Watch It: Apple TV, YouTube, Amazon, Vudu
Trolls 2: It’s considered one of the worst movies ever made, but it falls into the category of “so bad it’s good.” It’s worth watching just for the line delivery in this scene alone.
Where to Watch It: HBO Max/HBO, DirecTV, Amazon