What about those horror movie sequels that were hated but are now adored by fans and critics? On the 41st anniversary of one of the best examples of this phenomenon, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, it's a great time to discuss fright film sequels that were absolutely loathed by audiences and critics but, over time, have become some of the most beloved horror films ever made. They are films, like Halloween III, that dared to try something new or not adhere to the franchise formula. Over time, sequels with huge fan expectations are given a second chance on streaming and through physical media releases. Often, fans and critics give the movies a second chance unclouded by those expectations, and their opinions differ. Read more: INTERVIEW: Sam Zimmerman Walks Us Through Shudder's FearFest 2023 Lineup.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, the sequel to the found footage classic, The Blair Witch Project, wasn't immune to criticism either took a drubbing critically. Its critical rating average is still 14% to this day. However, reviews that came fifteen years later have started to reevaluate director Joe Berlinger's film. Berlinger is known best for his documentary films, the Paradise Lost film trilogy, and Metallica: Some Monster. Fan opinion of the film has changed, and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 has become a cult favorite, with fans on online forums posting their versions of a director's cut of the film and calling for a Blu-Ray release of the film. Berlinger is attending repertory screenings of the film for fans for whom the film has become a favorite.
Slumber Party Massacre 2 (1987)
Slumber Party Massacre 2 is a slasher film that deviates wildly from the first installment in the series. It's a black comedy slasher musical, and in it, the killer has turned into a "greaser" who kills his victims with a huge red guitar with a power drill bit attached to it. The Slumber Party Massacre film series is known for its female point of view as the films in the series were all directed by women, and feminist author Rita Mae Brown is the screenwriter of the first film. The first film was intended as a parody of slasher films and was filmed without prominent comic elements, making it even funnier. Slumber Party Massacre 2 has become celebrated for its embrace of rock and roll flamboyance from director Deborah Brock, which likely confused fans and critics at its release. The release of an extended and unrated director's cut by The Shout Factory has factored into the film's reassessment. Read more: Scream King: Top Ten Kyle Gallner Horror Movie Roles.
Day of the Dead (1985)
Zombie auteur, George Romero's films are beloved, but of the original trilogy of Living Dead films, Day of the Dead is the least popular of the three. At the same time, an average of 86% positive reviews would be considered a success for most films; both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead have averaged in the 90th percentile, 96% and 93%, respectively. Critics were hard on the performances in the film, but in the interim, the performance of Joe Pilato, which is sometimes called over the top because a fan favorite, and the film's "empty world" atmosphere and imagery have grown on fans. The gore and special effects by Tom Savini have always been cherished, but increasingly, the film's more philosophical tone has been given more appreciation.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a sequel that seems to run screaming in the opposite direction of the artful dark fairy tale of the original. It was widely derided as having destroyed what the original created, but it was director Tobe Hooper's vision of a black comedy that would upend the expectations of critics and fans. With Dennis Hopper double-fisting chainsaws in a cowboy hat and Caroline McWilliams and Bill Johnson, as Leatherface engaging in chainsaw flirtation, the film was probably much wilder than expected. The character of Chop-Top (Bill Moseley) only added to the gleeful mayhem. The film has become a cult classic, and many of the things that critics and fans were contemptuous of have become audience favorite scenes and characters, especially Chop-Top. Read more: Mangled Parts: Texas Chainsaw 3D 10 Years Later.
Jason X (2001)
Jason X was greeted with howls of outrage and low box office numbers, but it is still not the lowest-grossing movie in the series. One prominent critic quoted the film saying, "This sucks on so many levels." However, the tastemakers in the United Kingdom first saw the film's value during the film's release, with one critic stating the film was "Wittily scripted, smartly directed and well-played by an unfamiliar cast." Younger fans have latched on to the film's humorous tone, wildly entertaining story, and outrageous kills; the liquid nitrogen kill is a particular favorite, as are Jason's attempts at killing the unkillable hologram campers. With a hilarious cameo from none other than auteur David Cronenberg, a Friday the 13th movie in space, and an "Uber-Jason" played by Kane Hodder, what more could you want out of a horror film?
Alien 3 (1992)
After the thrilling and anthemic roller coaster ride with a hopeful ending of Aliens, David Fincher's Alien ³ downbeat sequel was not popular. It currently has a critical average of 48%, and Fincher has disowned the film himself and reportedly walked away from filming when the studio demanded reshoots. But even some of its harshest critics had to admit the film looked great. However, critical assessment of the film has changed, especially after Sony released an extended "Assembly Cut" on DVD, perhaps as a way to apologize for the treatment that the film and director David Fincher received. It has developed a devoted cult following, and critics regularly write reevaluations of the film and its quality. Read more: Alien: Black, White, and Blood: Anthology Announced By Marvel Comics.
The Exorcist III (1990)
The Exorcist III, written and directed by William Peter Blatty, was a box-office disappointment with a 58% critical approval rate, considered "rotten" on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Critics didn't savage it, but it wasn't seen as the equal of the first film's enormous artistic and box office success. Fans and critics alike have rushed to defend the film since its release, and many tributes to Brad Dourif's performance as the Gemini Killer and one of horror's best jump scares have been written in the decades since.
Prometheus, Ridley Scott's return to the Alien franchise he created, was a modest financial success that will still be below studio expectations. Fans and some critics seemed confused by the film's drift into different horror and science fiction areas that are more concerned with existential questions and philosophy than traditional Xenomorph terror. It might not be remembered now since fans and critics have come around to the film's lure, but the disappointment was palpable among its audience after its release.
Psycho II (1983)
Psycho II, directed by Richard Franklin and written by Tom Holland, was likely a film that would fail the expectations of its core audience no matter what. However, the film, regularly put on lists with names like "worst horror sequels of all time," has also grown a devoted audience that calls it a misunderstood classic or a cut above the "usual cash grabs." Audience expectations for the sequel to a beloved film are hard to overcome. Still, time is usually on the filmmaker's side in finding an audience or gaining an understanding of a film's artistic intent. The film does have a fresh rating of 62% as a critical average, which is still a little too close to the dividing line between fresh and rotten.
House of Wax (2005)
House of Wax had a rough time as a film released in 2005. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the film was carrying the weight of having cast socialite Paris Hilton in the film. Horror fans were against the casting and contemptuous of it, so much so that the film's marketing department made a virtue out of the problem by using the catchphrase, "See Paris Die," as an incentive to see the film. House of Wax has an average critical approval rating of 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, some fans have changed their opinion and championed the film as entertaining and Hilton as a highlight, while critics have written essays defending it as surprisingly fun to watch. Collett-Serra would later make the film "Orphan," which horror fans loved.