Speaking in general terms, prequels get a bad rap and that seems to go double for horror prequels. This weekend sees the release of Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to Annabelle, which itself is a prequel to The Conjuring. If social media is any indication, it seems many have prematurely dismissed the forthcoming origin despite its official release still two days out.
It’s tough, though, to blame potential moviegoers for a lack of enthusiasm on their part regarding a second Annabelle movie. Sure the original scared up huge box office success, but the film was critically panned and nobody since has been clamoring for another go-around with the world’s creepiest doll.
Thankfully, recent history is on our side. No longer does a horror movie prequel automatically mean a horrible film. In fact, some have gone on to be better films than the original. Here are five recent examples of great prequels to horror films.
5. Insidious: Chapter 3
Horror Master James Wan is a household name. After establishing two mega-popular tent poles (Saw and The Conjuring) and refueling another (Furious 7), he should be. But not every swing is a hit, even for great filmmakers. Insidious: Chapter 2 is a critical stain on Wan’s otherwise beloved resume. It left such a sour taste in audiences’ mouths that the third chapter shares so few ties with the first two installments, with of course the exception of Lin Shaye, who is an absolute delight as the series’ psychic. By stepping away from recognizable names and faces of Insidious and focusing on a new family while keeping a tight leash on tension, this prequel has breathed new life into these movies. Bring on Chapter Four!
4. Final Destination 5
Where is a franchise to go following a fourth film called The Final Destination? Back to the beginning, of course! As it turns out, not such a bad call for the Final Destination franchise. While Final Destination 5 doesn’t do anything to win over new audiences, hardcore horror heads will no doubt revel in the prequel’s tongue-in-cheek sense of mischief and its effectively silly application of 3D technology. What’s more, ‘FD5′ features some of the series’ most ludicrous and memorable deaths (see: acupuncture Buddha and gymnastics splat-tastics).
Prometheus is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing films to come out of the last decade. Many moviegoers praised Director Ridley Scott for imaginatively exploring new possibilities within the Alien universe and an equal number of people criticize the filmmaker for unnecessarily squatting over his cherished property (hence Ridley “Squat”). By its inclusion on this list, I’m sure you’ve already surmised that I tend to hang my hat on the former. That wasn’t always the case, though. Prior to Alien: Covenant, I thought Prometheus was a pretentious cash grab that promised answers but ultimately left me with more questions. After seeing where Ridley Scott plans to take the series, I’ve since changed my tune and see this film as the first act of a larger story featuring Michael Fassbender’s David, who is slowly becoming one of modern cinema’s greatest villains.
2. Paranormal Activity 3
The original Paranormal Activity reinvigorated the found footage horror fad that lasted the better part of a decade. Paranormal Activity 2 was just more of the same. Instead of giving the same ol’ situation one more try, the third installment straight up jumps back to the eighties to explore the haunting of its lead heroines as young material girls living in a material world. The lack of contemporary tech forced Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost to roll with it and craft once in a lifetime scares. The result was a truly terrifying thriller.
1. Ouija: Origin of Evil
Prequels are the life support systems of the horror genre. They’re a studio’s attempt to keep a lucrative franchise alive. Typically, that involves upping the ante on whatever the gruesome gimmick of that particular series is at the expense of coherent, compelling storytelling. Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) managed to achieve both with his prequel to the dumpster fire that is Ouija. Through the course of a deliberately paced slow burn, Flanagan simultaneously builds his characters and his scares. Consequently, ‘Origin of Evil’ is as tender as it is frightening and a decided improvement over the first film.
There you have it. Good horror movie prequels do exist and we’ve been fortunate to get as many as we’ve had the past few years. Speaking for Annabell: Creation, David F. Sandberg showed us he knows original horror when he put out last year’s Lights Out. Plus he recently landed the Shazam! gig, so James Wan isn’t the only visionary who thinks Sandberg’s capable of creatively spinning existing material.
Let us know what you all thought about our list in the comments section below and be sure to include your list of best horror movie prequels.