Does Every Great Horror Film Need A Sequel?

The resourceful, stealthy, and stressed out Abbott family is the focus of A Quiet Place.

As I predicted this past spring once I saw the box office grosses rolling in for A Quiet Place, a prequel was inevitable. Okay, I was slightly off. A sequel has been greenlit with a targeted release of May 15, 2020.

I loved A Quiet Place. It’s an emotional, thoughtful tale of a family living in a near future where blind aliens who hunt by sound have decimated the human population. A resilient and resourceful family of four (lead by co-writer/director John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) have managed to stay alive by keeping quiet, albeit with some difficulties. They have three children with mom expecting a fourth, but one of them gets snatched away at the start of the film while playing with a noisy toy outdoors. Who knows how much harder life will get when a screaming baby arrives. The characters elicit sympathy because they struggle with staying mute and using sign language to communicate. One of their children is deaf, and that is a hard circumstance on more than one level. The moving finale works because it ties into the film’s central themes of familial love and sacrifice, and our genuine concern for the characters elevates it beyond the standard monster movie. The audience I saw the film with was so invested in it that many of them tried to stay silent during scenes of danger, as if they too could get caught by one of the aliens.

My concern is that A Quiet Place is a self-contained story that does not need to go any further. (Sorry, spoiler alert: There is one less central character for the follow-up.) A prequel would make more sense, but even then it seems like Krasinksi and company told the tale they needed to. Another installment seems unnecessary and could cheapen the emotional resonance of the original. Of course, other scary movies have begat further entries, like the SAW, Insidious, and Purge franchises. SAW II was great while its successors were subpar. The first two Insidious films were the best, although I like parts 3 and 4 because of Lin Shaye’s wonderful protagonist, who is an anomaly in the horror world, an older woman fending off demons. The Purge movies work simply because they have different characters and social and political scenarios to explore, but even then, bringing a prequel and 10-part TV mini-series into the mix is dragging things out. I loved The Descent so much I never bothered with the sequel, and from what I’ve read I didn’t miss much.

Lin Shaye portrays parapsychologist Elise Rainier in the Insidious series, the rare example of a protagonist carrying through a horror series as opposed to a villain.

Obviously, I just listed examples of some franchises work when split up into multiple parts, but A Quiet Place seems like it would suffer from that scenario. They could expand the character roster because we know other survivors are out there, but I am not sure how exciting that would really be. Many horror franchises that have gone on for years and years tend to have a key villain or concept driving them, while their victims tend to be disposable. Hence why we have 12 movies with Jason, 10 with Michael Myers (with another on the way), 9 with Freddy, 8 with Jigsaw or his accomplice, 8 with the Xenomorphs, 7 with Chucky, and 6 with the unseen hand of Death in the Final Destination continuum. The Insidious series is tied together by a protagonist and her two cohorts, while the six Resident Evil flicks are anchored by zombie killer Alice, which makes them different in that regard. But most of these series have lapsed into cartoonishness at various points.

We’ll see what happens with the Quiet Place sequel. Maybe they’ll surprise some of us. But at a time when so many great, original horror films have done well at the box office — and many, including Get Out, The Witch, and Annihilation, are not breeding sequels — it might be better to leave A Quiet Place alone. There are plenty of other cinematic concepts material out there to work up and explore. I prefer how the James Wan horror series The Conjuring has begat spin-offs like Annabelle and The Nun. That is an interesting twist to the concept of the horror franchise: an expansive universe rather than an endless series of sequels.

So no, not every great horror movie needs a sequel. I like what director Robert Eggers said about not making a follow-up to The Witch: “I think I’m stealing the words from another director I cannot place, but if I wanted to know what happens after the last shot of the film, I would have made a longer movie.” Sometimes our own imaginations might conjure better sequels in our minds.

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