Paranormal Activity

The Best Recent Horror Movie Prequels

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

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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

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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).

3. Prometheus

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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

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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

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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.

9 Films That Justified the Found Footage Craze

After Blair Witch‘s disappointing box office run last year, the found footage fad has seemingly died down. This might be music to the ears of the many film fans who had grown weary of the overused trope, but it wasn’t all just shaky noise. Before Phoenix Forgotten once again sours moviegoers’ tastes this weekend, let’s take a moment to honor those films that justified the bygone found footage craze.

9.) The Visit

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To many, this film marks the beginning of the Shyamalanissance (you’re welcome): the reemergence of writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, whose reputation as “The Next Spielberg” infamously soured following the critical and financial flop that was The Last Airbender. It’s also Shyamalan’s foray into found footage and a solid thriller at that. Yes, you see Shyamalan’s signature twist coming from miles out, but what elevates this movie above the mass of forgettable found footage films is its charming self-awareness. It has fun with its premise and in turn the audience has fun.

8.) Unfriended

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While The Visit feeds off our fears of growing old, Unfriended gets its kicks from the new. It puts a scary spin on relatively recent technology like laptops, webcams, and social media. Not only does this make for some pretty innovative aesthetics, but the filmmakers take advantage of the medium to effectively stack the tension as the film builds towards its bonkers conclusion. There is also a deeper layer of horror hiding just beneath the surface scares, particularly for millennials.

7.) V/H/S

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Not only is V/H/S one of the most creative, creepy horror anthologies out there, but it’s also one of the best films to come out of the found footage craze. It benefits from being split into a handful of short stories, which means you don’t spend too much time on one thing. Each film introduces its horrifying hook and splits before you get bogged down in too much exposition. It also helps that these shorts are helmed by the rising stars in the genre, such as Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) and Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers).

6.) Paranormal Activity 2

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The original Paranormal Activity may not have been the first found footage film, but it was the film that set off the craze in the late 2000’s. Arguably, Paranormal Activity 2 is a better film. It successfully lead the franchise in new directions. It expanded the single shaky cam premise from the first film and introduced security cams that were set up around the house. This allowed for the exploration of the family dynamic in new, exciting ways (let’s not forget about the poor baby!). It also paved the road for some of the most iconic scares, not just in the series, but in found footage as a whole.

5.) What We Do in the Shadows

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Who said a found footage horror flick can’t be funny? This quirky comedy centers around a flat of vampire mates who are desperately trying to fit in with the contemporary social climate. It’s your typical fish-out-of-water story but with a supernatural twist. Their failures result in some hysterical hijinks but there’s something ultimately charming about their undying (pun intended) persistence. Indeed, these guys are fun to watch and easy to root for despite their complicated natures. Though they live in the shadows, they’re moral dilemmas are not so black, nor white.

4.) The Last Exorcism

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This film puts an interesting religious spin on the seemingly played out “recording an exorcism” thing. Patrick Fabian gives a strong performance as Cotton Marcus, an evangelical minister who lost his faith long ago but continues to prey upon the religious beliefs of the families he exorcises by charging them to perform fake, theatrical exorcisms. Before retiring, he gets a letter in the mail from a family desperately seeking to exorcise their daughter. Marcus takes the job on the premise it will be his last exorcism. From there his faith is challenged by the increasingly insane Hell he and his camera crew endure. It’s one half intriguing character study, one half terrifying thrill ride.

3.) Creep

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This film is, well, creepy. Like The Last Exorcism, Creep too functions as an eerie character study. Mark Duplas gives a chilling, charismatic performance as a socially awkward but seemingly solicitous individual who employs the services of an amateur videographer for the purpose of shooting a documentary about his “life.” As events unfold in their palatably plodding manner, it becomes clear that Duplas is harboring sinister intentions. Every time I was sure I knew where this movie was going, the narrative took a sharp, 90 degree turn. And the ultimate ending left me shockingly stupefied and wanting to know more.

2.) The Blair Witch Project

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This movie gets a lot of love and deservedly so. Even after sixteen years, this bare-bones thriller still holds up. It features a simple setup and arguably three of the most deceptively plain performances ever. The kids look and act like kids. Even as the film takes its time building towards its now iconic finish, it’s difficult not to be hooked by the mythology. Every town has a haunted house (or forest) with a darkly fascinating history. Naturally, tales about these locations are handed down through the generations to the point where it’s difficult to separate what’s fact from fiction. In the end, though, the actual events, whatever may have truthfully transpired, are a moot point. It’s what we imagine those events to be that enamor us. The Blair Witch Project exploits this tradition to haunting effect.

1.) End of Watch

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It’s strange to think of the found footage craze and not think horror. I mean, just look at this list. Alas, the best film to come out of the fad was End of Watch. It’s the crime thriller that put Director David Ayer (Fury, Suicide Squad) on the map. It features two career-highlighting performances from both Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as partner cops who have a gut-wrenching run-in with the cartel. Equally gruesome and gripping, End of Watch represents the pinnacle of the found footage craze and will stay with you long after the credits roll.

What do you think of our list? Which ones did we get right and which ones would you swap out? Let us know in the comments below!