Fright Club: Best Horror Threequel

Horror sequels—absolutely no genre turns out more of them. There are twelve Friday the 13ths, eleven Hellraisers, nine Texas Chainsaw Massacres Hell, there are eight Leprechaun movies! Usually the first one’s great and each successive sequel is weaker than the last. But are there any series where the third installment really stands out? There are! And we are here to count those lucky numbers three down in podcast form.

6. A Quiet Place: Day One

Recency bias? Maybe. Writer/director Michael Sarnoski has more than inventive scares to live up to as he helms A Quiet Place: Day One. The third installment of John Krasinski’s alien invasion series may boast breathless tension, sudden gore, and the most silent theaters you’re likely to visit. Beyond all those things, Krasinski shows no mercy at all when it comes to ripping your heart out. In that area, he does more damage than aliens. Sarnoski is ready for it—all of it—so you should bring some tissues.

Lupita Nyong’o leads a stellar cast as Sam, an unhappy woman on a day trip with her cat to NYC. Her plans are upended when giant ear-head monsters begin dropping from the sky, smack into the noisiest city in the nation. Any time you can watch a film with giant extra-terrestrials bearing ear drums where a face should be and you find yourself fully believing anything, you’re watching a pretty good movie. A Quiet Place: Day One is a pretty good movie.

5. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

Easily the best in the outright Annabelle series (not specifically ranking the rest of the Conjuring universe in which she’s also situated). Annabelle Comes Home delivers a blast of fun, and a remarkable tonal shift from its precedessors.

Mckenna Grace is Judy Warren, daughter of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga, both in cameo). Folks go out of town to save some souls or buy more polyesther, whichever, and leave Judy with reliable babysitter, who invites an unreliable buddy, who touches every object in the Warrens’ “do not touch by reason of demonic possession” room and all hell breaks loose.

It’s fun—mindless PG13 fun, but definitely fun.

4. Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Basil Rathbone plays the estranged son of the wacky Dr. Frankenstein. He’s spent his life abroad, but now that his father’s dead, he’s decided to look into that old property left to him. His lovely wife and precocious son accompany him, but they find nothing but ill will in the village.

Which does nothing to dissuade the young Dr. Frankenstein from reviving his father’s monster the first chance he gets. Boris Karloff is back, this time taking orders from Ygor (Bela Lugosi), a vindictive little villager who helps out in the laboratory. It’s a tense, sad and often funny film littered with some of the biggest stars of the age, and though it never comes near the heights of the James Whale films, it’s rock solid.

3. Day of the Dead (1985)

The third and in George Romero’s original Dead series, Day of the Dead delivers a cynical look at humanity. The filmmaker turns his eye toward what happens to civilization long after the zombiepocalypse ravages humanity.

It’s clear that this is the episode where Romero began to really identify with the zombies, a thread he pulls more clearly through later installments – Land of the Dead in particular. But if you compare Bub with any of the civilians, even Sarah Bowman, it’s clear who’s the favorite character. Not that anyone blames Romero for that.

2. Army of Darkness (1992)

Yes, all of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films are a laugh riot, a visceral delight, a spew-happy celebration. But the Ashley J. Williams of the first two episodes gets a big makeover for Part 3.

Bruce Campbell loses the unibrow, gains some pecs, biceps and abs, and turns the attitude up to 11. The result is a medieval fantasy spilling over with one liners, bravado, idiocy of the best kind, and angry dooting. That’s right, angry dooting!

1. Exorcist III

Hands down the best third installment of any horror franchise, William Peter Blatty wrote and directed this dialogue-dense sequel to the 1973 phenomenon William Friedken had made of his novel. Blatty starts strong enough, garnishing shots with vivid, elegantly creepy images. He enlists George C. Scott to anchor the tale of a cop drawn back into a supernatural case. In other inspired casting, New York Nicks great Patrick Ewing plays the angel of death in one of Kinderman’s freaky dream sequences, joined by romance novel coverboy Fabio as another angel. Also, the always great character actress Nancy Fish plays the bitchy but reluctantly helpful Nurse Allerton.

There are also two of the scariest scenes in cinema. Eventually the story moves into a hospital and stays there, but just before that move, there’s a terrific confessional scare – crazy spooky voice, effective cackle, blood – that elevates the entire project.

And then there’s that insane flash of terror as one nurse crosses the narrow hallway in front of the camera, quickly followed by some gauze-draped figure, arms outstretched. Eep!

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