Like its predecessor, The Conjuring 2 is an unapologetically old-fashioned haunted house thrill ride, intent on popping out and making you jump by constantly saying “boo.” But no one in the last decade is better at jump scares than Wan, who takes an almost fiendish glee in elaborately building each set piece with his dazzling camera movements. He and screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes also continue the first movie’s emphasis on strong characterization, finding affection and time to linger on the family dynamics of the film’s victims, and the warmth of its heroes Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). You may have seen this type of movie plenty of times, but never in a context where you swoon as a ghost hunter sings Elvis Presley.
10. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Okay, hear us out, how about Nightmare on Elm Street, except this time the kids are superheroes? Whether by design or not, that is more or less the conceit thought up by screenwriter Frank Darabont, working from a story idea by a briefly returning Wes Craven, in this Freddy Krueger threequel. It’s also the film that more or less established the tone of what a Freddy movie is going forward. Whereas the first was a chiller, and the second an interesting homoerotic werewolf-like thriller, Dream Warriors is a fantasy-adjacent comedy wherein Robert Englund’s killer brings the yucks.
From the moment Freddy’s emerges from a TV to say, “Welcome to primetime, bitch,” before shoving his next victim’s face through the glass, the Nightmare movies became about visual sight gags and killer puns—except, you know, with actual kills. It’s silly, but this one is the last Nightmare movie where audiences could at least care about some of the protagonists, including Heather Langenkamp’s returning Nancy. – DC
9. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s 28 Days Later was a game changer for the zombie genre, the film that inspired a whole new era for movies and shows about hungry flesh-eaters, including juggernauts like The Walking Dead and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. Needless to say, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo had some very big shoes to fill with 2007’s 28 Weeks Later. Fortunately, he knocked this sequel out of the park by focusing on what made the original such a tour de force: an intimate tale about a family trying to stay together amid a catastrophe beyond their control. That, and a couple truly terrifying zombie scenes.
The film follows Don (Robert Carlyle), a widower who is finally reuniting with kids Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) after the outbreak that shut down the UK in the first film. NATO has built a safe zone in the Isle of Dogs where citizens can slowly begin resettling the country and rebuilding their lives. But when Tammy and Andy escape the walls of the quarantine zone to visit their old home, they find more than old keepsakes. The Pandora’s box of horror is quickly opened in this hour and 40 minute thriller, as the virus inevitably finds its way back into the safe zone and the infected begin wreaking havoc on their loved ones and the U.S. military alike.
Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau, and Catherine McCormack also put in great performances as they scramble to get out of the country however they can, but it’s really Carlyle, Poots, and Muggleton who sell this sequel as a family trying to come terms with a past tragedy, even as they find themselves in the middle of a new, even more gruesome one. – JS