Acing a prequel in Hollywood is really tricky, especially when it’s a horror one. Unless one has something to add to what has already been said, a horror prequel can’t really be merited. This also makes prequels more difficult to design than sequels, because everyone wants to know what happened next, but, unless you can style the genesis of a tragedy the right way, prequels can come off as blatant cash-grabbing attempts. Still, the same can also be said of some rather badly designed sequels, as well.
The story-teller has to know when their subject merits an investigation of its history. Hollywood has given us some very incredible horror prequels and sequels in recent times… and some rather bad ones, too. Here are some of the worst horror prequels and prequels that we’ve come across.
10 Worst Prequel: Exorcist: The Beginning
Renny Harlin’s prequel to The Exorcist received overwhelmingly bad reviews, and, truth be told, that’s not shocking. The 70s film has a huge fandom which unanimously agrees that the masterful William Friedkin film did not need a prequel at all, certainly not one that was this sloppy.
The prequel famously ran into some creative troubles, which made it clear that the film doesn’t have a specific focus and may just be a faulty attempt; at one point, Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader got involved but was fired because the producers didn’t like his approach. The story by William Wisher and Caleb Carr was too long-winded, and, since it was conceived as the story of the young Father Merrin, it obviously needed a very different treatment.
9 Worst Sequel: Omen IV: The Awakening
The Omen is the perfect franchise vehicle and is one of the few horror series that can actually rely on formulaic story-telling because the audiences have proven that they would go back to see the same story play out over and over again. But, this Canadian-made sequel somehow manages to ruin the premise by taking itself too seriously.
The narration in the movie has the approach of an origin tale… even though everyone knew exactly what was going to happen. The makers could have taken some easy liberties or could have introduced some relevant detailing, but the fact that the film actually brings in Damien’s daughter as the protector of the antichrist was set up so unceremoniously that the appeal of it fell flat even among the franchise’s loyalists.
8 Worst Prequel: Vacancy: The First Cut
This slasher outing brings forth the question as to when a horror film should be considered for a prequel. The 2007 film Vacancy starring Kate Beckinsale finds a couple stranded for the night in a motel that they eventually realize that the joint runs a snuff film operation and their rooms have video cameras in them.
But, no one really wanted to know how the operation started or who asked who first. The reason why horror movie characters like Jason from Halloween or Freddie Kruger get their own prequels is because they’re singular cases, which often make for a study in psychology or a strong political commentary. Vacancy’s prequel unravels a rather ludicrous setup behind the seedy proceedings, and the film was clearly an ill-conceived attempt at making a quick buck.
7 Worst Sequel: The Birds II: Land’s End
This sequel was a bad idea on so many levels. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds remains to this day one of the most intriguing horror films ever made, which could successfully justify all its outlandishness under the guise of a political allegory. But, Rick Rosenthal’s attempt to bring in the same premise to a different time and place thirty years down the line lacked the repeat value that the first film had.
It’s important to establish that a film like The Birds only worked because of Hitchcock’s design. This was also the first Hitchcock film to come out after Psycho, so, naturally, his viewers had high hopes, but this Tippi Hedren-starred environmental horror outing seemed too cerebral to be dismissed as bad. The sequel, made in 1994, didn’t have anything going for it except the fact that it tried to cash in on the success of the Hitchcock film. Even as a stand-alone film, the project is really boring and one-dimensional.
6 Worst Prequel: Paranormal Activity 2
After the smashing success that was the first Paranormal Activity, this one was a huge disappointment to the fans because its premise had such great potential and had already tested really well with the fans. The viewers were hoping for something braver and maybe a little risker, but this horror prequel felt really flat compared to the last film especially because the last ten minutes acts as the sequel to the first film and fans unanimously agree that it cluttered the format.
Ideally, the second film should have been an origin film which could have developed the mythology or the curse further and would have been a cleaner break.
5 Worst Sequel: Annabelle: Creation
As sequels go, Annabelle: Creation gets a lot of things wrong in its plot design. It goes about the story in a somewhat dusty, formulaic way, though it manages to create a storyline that’s believable and simplistic enough to keep up with, and it had so much potential to be more audacious. At the end of the film, though, viewers were just disappointed with how straightforward the attempt was.
The film is also the fourth film in the Conjuring franchise and could afford to take some risks at this point. It also brings in Lights Out director David F Sandberg and relies on some old cliches and jump scare forms that other mainstream horror films also. Gary Dauberman’s screenplay is also a bit old-school, and there’s nothing wrong with that—unless your audiences think it’s too predictable.
4 Worst Prequel: Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning
A film as original and well-designed as Ginger Snaps does not deserve a prequel so lazily drafted. The Canadian horror franchise is a female-led take on the myth of the werewolves, which is really refreshing. The story of the first film which came out in 2000 was widely applauded for its satire and use of smart, subtle metaphors.
The film got a sequel named Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, but it’s the prequel that does the most disservice to the franchise. Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning also tests out a werewolf-led mythology, but what could have been a promising period horror piece turns into something quite lost and unambitious. Moreover, the film takes on more than it can handle and lacks the narrative flair of the other two films in the series.
3 Worst Sequel: Scream 2
The Scream franchise is, at its core, a bold attempt at melding the genres of slasher, whodunit, and self-satire, which is why the second film was such a let down after the first one. The first problem was, of course, the story-telling. Everyone knew Ghostface would be back, but his entrance needed some build-up or a better design.
Plus, the plot takes no new liberties, which is somewhat disappointing, yes some things have changed and some of the developments are quite plausible, but the film needed to cash in on the higher stakes involved. Also, the Mrs. Loomis angle felt very unnecessary, and the film really needed a better killer.
2 Worst Prequel: Paranormal Activity 3
This film was tasked with explaining the genesis of the possession and did a sloppy job at it; considering the entire franchise is dedicated to the ‘found footage’ format, the makers should have really designed a better way to anchor the story-telling. The film takes the viewers back to Katie and Kristi’s childhood when they make their pact with the devil to trade the firstborn son.
The script was actually a really smart one and not too unrealistic, but the film failed to create the tension that the subject and the mythology demanded. The film also needed to delve deeper into the witchcraft storyline, but it only scratches the surface for some very basic plot devices, which made the script look half-baked.
1 Worst Sequel: Doctor Sleep
The most disappointing thing about this film is the fact that it had a literary canon to depend upon and still contributed nothing to its literary or cinematic chronology. The film, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, is the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and director Mike Flanagan simply brought in too many elements together for it to work right
It has the build-up of an origin story and focuses on the life of Danny Torrance; the film follows the aftermath of the events at Overlook Hotel, but the film needed to try harder to help fans connect with the happenings of The Shining. Any sequel needs to be a credible standalone project first and needs to be in sync with its predecessor. But, Doctor Sleep fails on both counts, not to mention a different casting would have helped draw in a younger audience.
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