Hardly shining examples of the best in filmmaking, slasher movies keep coming like the lifeless killing machines they portray. Whereas the 2018 version of Halloween returns the franchise to the spirit of the original, the series itself is pock-marked with silly sequels featuring increasingly ridiculous scenarios. And that seems to be the case with most horror franchises—a great original, followed by awful sequels that were clearly produced for the cash-grab.
However, even terrible movies possess some merit, whether originality, performances or pure body count. Diminishing returns might be the way of the horror genre, but there is always the chance for a seasoned filmmaker to deliver the goods.
With that in mind, here are the best of the most terrible horror sequels of all time.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
By the time the sixth installment of Friday the 13th hit theaters in 1986, the slasher genre had largely gone cold. How many times can a group of drunken, scantily clad, oversexed teens be lured to an abandoned summer camp to be ambushed by undead maniac Jason Voorhees? Turning the franchise on its head and toward a more comedic, self-aware approach, filmmakers filled Jason Lives with winking nods to the genre itself and campy kills. One actor even breaks the fourth wall to berate the audience for its insatiable blood lust. But the movie is also filled with high stakes and genuinely creepy moments, specifically when Jason stalks a cabin full of actual adolescents.
Chucky, the criminally possessed doll that loved his owner Andy a little too much, was burned beyond recognition at the end of the first installment of the franchise. The sequel takes the burned remains and uses it to make new dolls and—wouldn’t you know it—Chucky is reborn to slash again. Child’s Play 2 is twisted, sick, weird and often hilarious, with a climatic scene set in factory where more of the “Good Guy” dolls are being constructed. This sets up Chucky’s death scene where he is mutilated, covered in molten plastic and eventually blown up with an industrial air hose. This time, he is almost certainly dead for good. Or is he?! (Note: he is not.)
Freddy Krueger’s main advantage is that his victims have no means of defending themselves once inside of his dream world. Dream Warriors turns this plot point on its head by introducing lucid dreaming as a technique for his targets to use to fight back. Set in some sort of halfway house for troubled youths, Dream Warriors is loaded with imaginative kills that perfectly fit the personalities of the victims. (For example, Freddy’s claws transform into syringes to give a recovering addict a fatal overdose. Geez.) Then there’s Freddy’s personality, which was always somewhat sadistically comical. In Dream Warriors he truly becomes the quippy bastard we all grew to love—lots of terror, but also plenty of entertainment.
After Halloween II killed off Michael Myers for what was supposed to be the last time, the filmmakers decided to transform the Halloween franchise into a horror anthology series, with a new premise to come in subsequent films. With no sign whatsoever of Michael Myers, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was to be the first of this creepy experiment. Fans clearly missed that white mask, as the movie failed miserably. However, reexamination of the film reveals an inventive and chilling take where children are brutally killed by sinister Halloween masks that are somehow tainted with a Celtic curse. It’s a transgressive plot choice that must be seen to be believed.