Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Prequels. They’re basically the black sheep of the movie world. Most of them feel unnecessary at best and predictable at worst because we already know where this is going and nobody wants to watch a movie if you know exactly what happens next.
Like most people my response to seeing a prequel is being released is a hard eye roll and probably a comment or two asking, “Why bother?” But every now and again, like a rare double rainbow, we get an origin story that’s not only entertaining but also manages to add actual value to movies we’ve enjoyed. So with a big old retroactive SPOILER ALERT here are my Top 5 Horror/Thriller Prequels That Are Actually Worth Watching:
#5 The Thing (2011)
Now before you decide you’re never reading another thing I write, give me a minute to explain myself. John Carpenter’s The Thing is beyond iconic at this point. It easily takes first place as the best horror remake of all time, and when they announced they were giving it the old prequel treatment you can trust me when I say I absolutely hated the idea. Then I saw the movie…and I still hated it! Initially I detested what felt to me like a weak imitation of a flawless film that we never needed to see. But after some time had passed I realised I had to be honest with myself because the truth was I didn’t give the movie a fair shake at all. I set out to hate it and in doing so refused to see the elements that work.
Yes, the special effects suck (due to heavy studio interference as they actually did create some amazing practical effects for this movie that we never got to see) and yes the overly polished look and forgettable characters don’t hold a candle to the original (I’m supposed to be listing the GOOD stuff, right?) but the movie also gives us a great lead in Mary Elizabeth Winstead. And like the 1982 original it also has a couple of memorable sequences that stick with you even if you don’t remember anything else about the movie. It also effectively builds on the existing story and seamlessly takes us right into the glorious madness that comes next. 2011’s The Thing was never gonna live up to its predecessor, but it’s nowhere near as bad as I had made it out to be. And here’s the kicker—I don’t mind watching it again. Trust me; I’m as surprised as you are.
#4 Ouija: Origin of Evil
I’ll forgive you if you’ve never seen or heard of this one. 2014’s Ouija was a terrible movie that isn’t worth your time in the least. But for some reason or another they decided it required a prequel. Well douse me in holy water and get me an old priest and a young priest because Origin of Evil not only gave us a terrific backstory for the subpar Ouija, it stands on its own as a genuinely creepy and entertaining horror movie.
Maybe my praise of this movie comes from the fact I went into it expecting the same boring jump scares and one dimensional characters found in Ouija, but I don’t think that’s it. Origin of Evil has a well-written story, it’s filled with creepy atmosphere, and all of the actors involved deliver performances that actually make you care whether they live or die (an issue I didn’t have with Ouija). But you know what the best part is? Ouija: Origin of Evil is good enough to stand on its own, which means you don’t even have to suffer through what comes next. And I don’t think I can say that about any other prequel I’ve seen.
#3 Final Destination 5
Our list returns to 2011 for another prequel, this time moving from sci-fi horror into the realm of the supernatural. The original Final Destination was one of those horror movies that came out of nowhere with a simple but chillingly effective premise—a group of people escape a horrible death when one of them has a premonition of it, only to have Death itself hunt them down like the world’s most terrifying debt collector.
Part 5 not only manages to avoid being a rehash of the previous films but stands out among the bunch as a prequel to the entire series. The effects are considered by most fans of the franchise to be the best of the series (rightfully so) and I remember the first time I saw it when they seamlessly revealed the fact that these events take place before the explosion of Flight 180. I didn’t see it coming at all! Part 1 will always hold a fond place in my heart but this prequel is my favourite Final Destination movie of the bunch, hands down.
#2 Annabelle: Creation
Annabelle was introduced in The Conjuring and somehow managed to creep people out enough they decided to give her a movie. Unfortunately that movie wasn’t anywhere near as good as the film that spawned it, so it was pretty surprising when the studio decided a prequel was just what the doctor ordered. No one who saw the first film went into this expecting anything good, but in the hands of a talented director like David F. Sandberg (his YouTube horror shorts are amazing) Annabelle: Creation turned out so good it’s now considered on of the best films of this modern day horror franchise.
Sandberg’s use of lighting and sound creates an atmosphere that keeps the tension on from the minute those girls entered that house. And the conclusion blends the two films so perfectly you could easily watch one right after the other and not skip a beat. A prequel that’s good enough to make its lacklustre predecessor entertaining? I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself.
#1 Red Dragon
So this is an interesting one. You see Red Dragon isn’t just a prequel, it’s also a remake of a movie that came out in 1986 called Manhunter. While both films have their merits, Red Dragon is the better made movie that kept the name of the novel it’s based off of. And like The Silence of the Lambs it stands out as the most memorable of all the Hannibal-based films. Red Dragon was also adapted for television as it makes up the plot of Hannibal Season 3.
Doing a fantastic job of giving us a closer look into the mind of Hannibal Lecter while also delivering a solid serial killer mystery, Red Dragon not only stands on its own as a meticulously-made psychological thriller but it’s final scene takes us right into The Silence of the Lambs. A prequel worthy of the Academy-Award winning film that spawned it, Red Dragon is by far the best horror/thriller prequel to date.
So which of these is your favourite? What horror/thriller prequel would you add to the list? And you can check out more great horror lists below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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