The third part in any horror series is the hardest to get right and in some ways the most important. If it’s not the end of a trilogy, it’s the beginning of a franchise. It can bring things full circle or it can push things in an entirely new direction. For the most part, these threequels are a wide mix of both.
10. PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON’S REVENGE-
The long-running Puppet Master franchise was always cheesy, but it got really cheesy really quick. That’s why this movie is so surprising. Even though it’s about a bunch of (generally stop-motion-animated) killer puppets, it’s at least a well made and well acted B-Movie. With great genre actors like Richard Lynch, Guy Rolfe and Ian Abercrombie. This one was a prequel set during World War II to explain the origins of the killer puppets (although another prequel would follow years later to give the origins of these origins, called Retro Puppet Master) that was better acted and more sincere than it had any right to be. The puppet effects by David Allen are in top form and many fans consider this one to be the height of a franchise that ran out of steam way too quick.
9. CHILD’S PLAY 3-
This is usually the most maligned entry in the series, right behind Seed of Chucky and it really shouldn’t be. It’s a much better movie than people give it credit for. This one switched things up a bit, focusing on a teenage Andy Barclay who has now been sent off to military school. Chucky is at his most sadistic here, with some imaginative kills including a trash compactor and a game of paintball that Chucky switches up with real ammo. There’s also a nice play on masculinity with the non-masculine characters (the most capable character in this one is a girl) being the heroes while the tough guys are picked off with relative ease.
8. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH-
The underrated Halloween III sticks out like a sore thumb in its own franchise, but it’s started to gather a lot of attention in recent years. After three decades, people are starting to come around to this weird but interesting film. This one has nothing to do with Michael Myers, in fact it goes out of its way to show that it can’t possibly exist in the same universe (which is one thing I don’t like, anything for the fans to connect would have made them a lot happier) and instead has an entirely different focus. This one’s about a businessman hoping to end the world (or at least the lives of the children in it) with a television commercial. When the children tune into the commercial on Halloween night and wear their Silver Shamrock brand Halloween masks, their heads explode in grisly, gooey ways. The movie gets points for imagination and the Silver Shamrock jingle is impossible to get out of your head once it’s in there.
7. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3-
There’s one thing that really pushes this movie into the realm of iconic, and that is the fact that it’s the movie in which Jason first puts on the hockey mask. It’s the sort of moment in film where, once it happens, you can’t believe it wasn’t there all along. It just fits so perfectly and Jason is much more menacing behind that mask. More than that, though, it’s a fun slasher with some inventive kills and a menacing Jason performance by Richard Brooker. It doesn’t top the film before it, and doesn’t hold up half as well when it’s not viewed in the 3D format it was shot in, but it’s definitely entertaining regardless.
6. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3-
Return of the Living Dead 3 is one of those movies I’ll probably be defending until the end of time. It’s one of the most underrated horror sequels ever. It adheres to the mythology created by the great first film and takes things in an entirely new direction. This is a date movie for the body mod generation. Curt and Julie are planning to run away together, but she dies in an accident. He takes her body to the government installation his dad works at, where he knows some strange things are going on, and he uses the Trioxin gas to bring her back. At first she’s great, fully functional and nothing like a zombie… but she’s cold to touch and getting hungrier. Julie discovers that pain keeps the hunger at bay, for awhile at least, so she transforms herself from top to bottom with blades and wires and broken glass. Disturbing and yet somehow disturbingly attractive.
5. ALIEN 3-
Let’s talk about one of the most underrated movies in any genre. David Fincher’s first directorial outing was screwed over by the studio, sure. But the major problem with Alien 3 is that it’s not Alien or Aliens. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great movie, because it is. While it did make the really bad decision of killing of Newt and Hicks (the other survivors of Aliens) off-screen, it’s a moody, gothic horror movie that’s completely different from the previous film in the same way that Aliens was completely different from the first. There are great characters, a great atmosphere, the creature design is top-notch and Ripley’s characterization here may be the best out of the whole series.
4. EXORCIST III-
Another one that has gathered some fans in recent years, Exorcist III is as good as the immortal original classic. It’s directed by William Peter Blatty (author of the original novel and the original film’s screenplay as well as the second novel on which this is based) and features George C. Scott taking over the original film’s detective as he struggles to find a killer who’s apparently come back from the dead to resume his work. Of course the possession angle is key and it does factor into the story, but the worst element here is the actual exorcism scene that was shoehorned into production at the last minute. Other than that, though, this one stands up great.
3. DAY OF THE DEAD-
The capper to George Romero’s original zombie trilogy is at least as good as the other two. This was a zombie movie for the Reagan era. The military had created an underground haven for themselves, and when their scientists uncover a potential solution to the epidemic, the Colonel in charge of the operation realizes that he’s living a dream down here and he may not want to give that up so easily. This was the movie in which the humans had finally become as bad as—or maybe even worse than—the zombies.
2. ARMY OF DARKNESS-
It’s a classic. In fact, it’s hit such popularity that it’s possible this movie may one day be remembered as an actual classic instead of a cult classic. While the movies lack for continuity, there’s something about the tone and the style that seamlessly develops over the course of the three movies. You start with the offbeat horror antics of Evil Dead, work through the Three Stooges stylings of Evil Dead II and wind up at Army of Darkness, finally a full-blown horror-adventure-comedy. The once meek Ash has now accepted his fate and has now become a smarmy, arrogant and often incompetent hero. When it comes to B-Movies, this will probably always be the king.
1. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS-
A great horror sequel is supposed to expand the mythology of the original while respecting everything that came before. Almost no horror sequel does that better than Dream Warriors, the fan-favorite entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street saga. This introduced a great cast of incredibly relatable teenage characters in addition to bringing back original heroine Nancy Thompson to teach the kids how to hone their dreams, so that they can go toe-to-toe with Freddy on his own turf. Freddy was at his best here. This struck the perfect balance between witty, sadistic glee and a sinister, evil presence. He had fun being evil, but he was still evil. All of that plus the greatest, most imaginative kills in the series and what we’re left with is simply one of the best horror sequels of all time.