Our partner organization, Films from the Margin, operates to put on display a showcasing of films “from the margin,” often works that are difficult to find, lesser known, and considered hidden gems. From world famous filmmakers’ smaller, maybe earlier work to a surprising foreign marvel, Films from the Margin aspires to educate and inform viewers of cinematic treasures otherwise hidden by an immeasurable sea of content, while providing hours of gutsy, unique, unforgettable entertainment. This column will feature recommendations of films otherwise considered to be “from the margin,” as well as where one can locate them. For more information on Films from the Margin and how to get involved, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Halloween, seeing as it’s the second year of Latent Images, and our second Halloween edition of RFTM, we decided to focus on one of the pillars of the horror genre: the sequel! While cheap continuations of a franchise are typically thought of as an excuse to print more money, horror is the rare genre where sequels are often just as beloved as the original entry (see: Friday the 13th). Our writers were asked to highlight a favorite horror sequel of theirs.
Annabelle Comes Home (2019, Gary Dauberman, United States)
Though the first iteration of the Annabelle spin-off trilogy was a torrential disaster with no real scares except the creepy face of the doll, its direct sequel, Annabelle: Creation, was a terrifying redemption. It gave us the true origins of Ed and Lorraine’s creepy doll, the girl and the demon behind the mischief she exhibits in The Conjuring. Annabelle Comes Home is a tale of campy shenanigans including a game of feely-meely, a ghostly black dog, and a nosy teenage girl who can’t seem to read the sign that says “DO NOT ENTER!” With a subplot of cheesy teenage romance, this film brings a lightness and humor to the tragic tale of its direct predecessors. This film has it all, the moments of romance between Ed and Lorraine Warren (truly the only reason I love these movies so much), 80’s outfits, fantastical conduits for demonic activity, and of course, jumpscare after jumpscare. The creativity in all the demons should warrant spin-off after spin-off. Annabelle Comes Home is a silly, adrenaline-filled horror fun time. So much can happen in one night in the Warren household! –Karenna Umscheid
Annabelle Comes Home is available to stream on Hulu, and is digitally rentable/purchasable on most major streaming platforms.
The Strangers: Prey At Night (2018, Johannes Roberts, United States)
This Strangers sequel was woefully underseen and remains misunderstood to this day. Genre veteran Johannes Roberts, who helmed both delightfully tense entries in the 47 Meters Down franchise, has made a new kind of horror film: the post-postmodern slasher. Bear with me here. Ever since Scream, this subgenre has struggled to find new life, and only smugly self-satisfied parodies like Cabin in the Woods or Chuck and Dale vs Evil can really manage to make any noise. Roberts’ Prey at Night is a breath of fresh air, blending the gravity and genuine mortal terror of the first installment with a wider scope and a higher body count that pushes it into slasher territory. Based on the marketing and needle-drops, Strangers II could be confused with a brainless work of 80s pastiche, but I implore you to look closer. The best moments here are when the camera lingers on the uncinematic banalities of death: the childlike and irrational pleas of a grown man as he looks into his murderer’s unfeeling eyes, the stillness in the aftermath of a bloodily frenetic death, or the slow, pathetic struggle after the knife’s already been pushed in. Roberts subtly refuses to allow the audience to laugh at mortality, to shrug it off. There’s still fun to be had—the pool skirmish set to Total Eclipse of the Heart is an all-timer — but this chilly undercurrent of existential dread, of real death, is what sets this sequel apart from the competition. –Matt Pifko
The Strangers: Prey at Night is available to stream on Netflix, and is digitally rentable/purchasable on most major streaming platforms.
Child’s Play 2 (1990, Don Mancini, United States)
Screeching right out of the gate with a killer Frankenstein homage, Child’s Play 2 is bubblegum/cotton candy core horror to the extreme. It’s honestly a miracle to see Don Mancini get his way after getting somewhat booted with the first film by presenting audiences with a corporate dystopian nightmare of capitalism. The underlying threat of Play Pals Corporation is looming within every space, from the monstrous trucks to the slimy corporate workers, all leading up to the ass whooping crescendo that is the Kubrick hedge maze parody set piece. Every scene and space is vibrantly color coded, with every single one feeling like a Tim Jacobus Goosebumps book cover that snorted a line of coke. Also, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said about Brad Dourif as Chucky? Needless to say, this supremely rules.
Child’s Play 2 is available to stream on Peacock, and is digitally rentable/purchasable on most major streaming platforms.
New Nightmare (1994, Wes Craven, United States)
The bridge between what are easily Craven’s two most popular movies, New Nightmare is often left in the dust. It’s the seventh entry of the Elm Street franchise and Freddy’s back, or more accurately, he’s here now. Freddy enters the real world in New Nightmare and the stakes are up. Heather Langenkamp plays a fictional version of herself (mixed with a bit of Nancy) and she feels, fittingly, a lot more real. The characters here sell the film, as Scream would continue, and you really do find yourself rooting for Heather to finally extinguish Freddy, rather than simply being there for the cool effects and kills. Highlights are the appearances of John Saxon, Wes Craven, and Robert Englund, who all play themselves in the film. Englund in particular quickly and convincingly alternates between a harsher Freddy and his lovable, “real” self, who’s one of the few people Heather can trust. New Nightmare is not just a film for fans of horror, like Scream, it’s an effectively horrific metacommentary on the destructive and entrapping nature of popular media on the creators themselves. –Charlie Compton
New Nightmare is available to stream on HBO Max, AMC +, and is digitally rentable/purchasable on most major streaming platforms.
Halloween II (1981, Rick Rosenthal, United States)
While fans of Carpenter’s seminal stripped-back horror often dismiss its sequel, Halloween 2 (the first of the franchise’s many secondary entries) possesses similar terse pacing, brutal violence, and a simplistic sense of discomfort and uncertainty throughout its runtime. The pointless introduction of supernatural elements is often a sticking point for those who dislike the film, but it’s a fairly small portion of the runtime. Perhaps the lack of innovation is a reason it is so maligned, but sometimes two servings of a good meal is perfectly acceptable.
Halloween II is available to stream on AMC +, and is digitally rentable/purchasable on most major streaming platforms.
Creep 2 (2017, Patrick Brice, United States)
It seemed inevitable that Mark Duplass and his mumblecore phenomenon would eventually divulge into genre fare, and the Creep series fulfills that genre blend beautifully. While the first film has an incredibly basic found-footage premise (creepy guy kills an unknowing outsider who’s filming everything), the second film takes a different and far more interesting approach. Creep 2’s new protagonist, played by fellow indie darling Desiree Akhavan, goes mostly unphased by the antics of Duplass’ titular creep, adding a new layer of mystery to a very easy premise to sequelize. This sequel turns the table on the first film’s formula, building to a breathless finale. In both films, the micro budgets create a low-fi aesthetic that looks even cheaper than 95% of other Blumhouse fare, but what director Patrick Brice understands is that sometimes all you need for solid horror is a crazy guy alone in a house to make a good movie.
Creep 2 is available to stream on Netflix, and is digitally rentable/purchasable on most major streaming platforms.