Holiday gifts are on the store shelves already, not to mention Thanksgiving-related items. But what about the darkness before the dawn? What about Halloween? We have the better part of a month to indulge the darkness that lurks within the human soul. Let us not waste this time of ghostly spirits, haunted houses, and supernatural entities with tried-and-true horror films recycled year over year on cable television, or played-out vampire romance dramas for that matter. Let us open the door to strange mysteries and terrifying tales of the macabre. Ha! Ha! Ha! Let’s face it, the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe will never forgive us for wasting this unearthly and extraordinary time of year. 

Now it is time to dim the lights, don your favorite sweater, steam up a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, pop the old Orville Redenbacher’s and get your fright on! In this particular installation we’re focusing on exceptional sequels to notable films. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to make a sequel to match the authenticity and character of an original film, but these bugaboos do just that. And if they are not every bit as good as the original, well, they’re close enough. So, as Mr. Eliot once wrote, “Let us go and make our visit …”

EVIL DEAD II

When asked how the filmmakers approached the making of Evil Dead II, the film’s protagonist and de facto punching bag Bruce Campbell once said, “The message was very clear: Keep the pace fast and furious, and once the horror starts, never let up. ‘The gorier the merrier’ became our prime directive.” Well, if 1987’s Evil Dead 2 is any indication, writer-director Sam Raimi, lead actor Bruce Campbell, and producer Robert Tapert certainly fulfilled their goal of nonstop horror and relentless gore—along with a lotta laughs and unexpected chills. 

Ash Williams travels to the woods with his girlfriend Linda for a romantic weekend. All is right with the world until the two accidentally unleash deathly spirits within the ancient “Book of the Dead,” and all hell breaks loose … literally! What follows is unrelenting in-your-face filmmaking with Ash drawn into a battle royal with evil in a heroic poem of horror iconography. 

Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, The Quick and the Dead) does a terrific job here of balancing terror and comedy, and the DIY filmmaking is nothing short of groundbreaking. And Bruce Campbell as the long-suffering Ash is practically a B-movie prototype. So, enter the cabin if you dare, but know this: You have been warned!

PSYCHO II

Twenty-two years after Anthony Perkins shocked and horrified movie-goers with his portrayal of the ultimate Oedipal nightmare Norman Bates in 1960’s Psycho, Anthony Perkins reprised his role of the murderess mama’s boy with surprising results. Although critics generally slammed the film as an affront to the long shadow and iconic legacy of the one and only Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho II manages to succeed on its own terms and carve out its singular niche in the implausible world of cult horror. 

After a long stint in the madhouse, Norman returns to the home of his childhood to get back on track and to resume a normal life. But things get complicated when guests start disappearing at the humble and unassuming Bates Motel. The plot has many delicious twists and turns. And there are a number of excellent performances here including a young Meg Tilly (The Big Chill, Agnes of God) as the beguiling and potentially dangerous Mary Loomis, Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue) as the ultimate sleaze, Warren Toomey, and Vera Miles, who played Lila Crane in the original film, returns as benevolent and caring old Lila Loomis. 

If you resist the urge to compare Psycho II to the incomparable Psycho, you might just have a good time. And if not, well, you’ll still find out what happened to old Norman Bates after we left him for dead in the first movie—as he stared into the camera with sly resolution. 

THE EXORCIST III

The inimitable George C. Scott (Patton, A Christmas Carol, 12 Angry Men) gives an underrated and powerful performance in The Exorcist III as the tortured, world-weary police lieutenant Kinderman. He’s charged with investigating a series of grisly murders which are somehow linked to the deceased Gemini serial killer. Kinderman’s search leads him to a psychiatric ward where nothing is as it seems, and horror awaits all who enter the moribund facility. 

The Exorcist III is a stand alone sequel which has little to do with the first two films. But the fact that number three doesn’t adhere to the strictures of the Exorcist franchise gives the movie its freedom to create a whole new world of suspense and terror. The film’s director William Peter Blatty, author of the seminal tome The Exorcist, really understands how to ratchet up tension and take the viewer on a dark journey through a world of hot blood and bitter memories. 

George C. Scott is amazing in this film, but look out for horror mainstay Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Blue Velvet, Child’s Play) as his performance is killer!

So, any sequels you’d like to add to the list? Feel free and be kind please!

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