"Third time's a charm" they say. And that sentiment couldn't hold truer than for the third outing of a good handful of horror franchises. Some opted to employ the 3D gimmick by the time they reached their second sequel and others simply learned from the mistakes of their predecessor and took their franchises in bold, interesting new directions often times delivering what years later would be regarded by fans & critics alike as the best in their respective series. There will be what some FearNet readers will consider glaring omissions here; for example, even though Friday The 13th holds the record of the most entries in a horror franchise, I don't necessarily think Part 3 is the best. (Part 4, The Final Chapter is the quintessential Friday The 13th in my humble opinion.) And for those of you that might argue "where's Jaws 3?!" Well, look no further than this clip.
Amityville 3D was one of Meg Ryan's first feature film roles but that doesn't give it enough clout to make this list. And while Zombi 3 features a bunch of Filipino zombies, some of which can talk, a good movie that does not make! So with all that said, let's take a look back to some of the best Part 3's in horror history!
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS
Aborting the bizarre direction taken with Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, the third Nightmare film acts more as a direct sequel to the original and brings everything back to the basics. So not only do we have welcome returns from both Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her father (John Saxon), but it's a sequel that adds and expands upon the mythology established about Freddy Krueger in the debut feature. This one introduces his mother and his backstory as the "bastard son of 1000 maniacs!"
This is also the point where Robert Englund really caught his stride with how to play Freddy Krueger. While the first 2 films kept Freddy in the dark (both literally and in tone), here Englund is implementing sheer glee in his dastardly evil deeds! (In other words, he's having fun and cracking wise here and there, something that would become a trademark for Freddy with subsequent sequels.)
There's also the Dream Warriors; the last batch of Elm Street children whose parents were responsible for Krueger's lynching and murder. All of them are holed up in a mental institution where the adults don't believe them about their nighttime visitor. But in their sleep and with the help of Nancy (and each other), they are able to harness their unique talents into "powers" in their dreams. These kids actually fight back. (Or in most cases, die trying.) This paved the way for some of the most inventive death sequences of this or any other horror series, which includes turning a puppeteer into a marionette himself and bashing an aspiring actress head first into a TV. (Welcome to prime time, indeed!) All these elements combined make for arguably the best sequel of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. They could have stopped gracefully with Freddy's story here, but of course they didn't. Last but not least, it's got one of the creepiest teasers ever!
THE EXORCIST III: LEGION
Directed by William Peter Blatty, (the author of the original Exorcist) and based upon his novel Legion, The Exorcist III is the only sequel in this franchise worthy of the name "Exorcist". Once again, ignoring the events of the second entry in the series and acting more as a direct sequel to the original, The Exorcist III stars George C. Scott as Kinderman, a police lieutenant that's investigating a series of murders that mimics that of the Gemini Killer, thought to be dead for 15 years. Add to that that one of the victims is a priest and dear friend of Kinderman's, and there's a "John Doe" patient at a mental institution that looks a hell of a lot like Father Karras (Jason Miller) from the first movie, who was also thought to be dead for the last 15 years. Did I mention John Doe occasionally morphs into Brad Dourif? Creepy!
Not only does this movie sport one of the scariest moments ever captured on film (oh, you'll know it when you see it… and it still works!), but you get George C. Scott owning just about every scene with outbursts like this:
When people ask me to recommend a good, "scary" movie to watch, 99 percent of the time I will go straight to The Exorcist III: Legion!
ARMY OF DARKNESS (AKA EVIL DEAD III)
While it doesn't have a number in the title, most horror purists know that Army Of Darkness is technically Evil Dead 3! And while this writer personally holds Evil Dead 2 up as the best in the series (hell, it's my favorite movie of all time), I took into account the fact that Army Of Darkness for a lot of people was their introduction into the Evil Dead series, hence making it a worthwhile contender for this list.
Simultaneously acting as a stand-alone film, yet also picking up immediately after the events of Evil Dead 2, Ash (Bruce Campbell) is transported and stranded back in medieval times and must quest for the Necronomicon, aka the Book Of The Dead in order to get back home. When he bumbles up the words he must say before removing the book from its crest, he inadvertently awakes an army of the dead.
While the first Evil Dead was a straight forward horror movie and the second one was a horror/comedy hybrid, Army Of Darkness completely embraces director Sam Raimi's dark Three Stooges inspired sense of humor and plays more for laughs rather than scares. It's easily the most accessible of the films and also the most quote-worthy. It even had this bitchin' teaser trailer that uses not one, but two "fake" Metallica songs!
There are multiple alternate cuts and versions available on DVD, but I tend to prefer/recommend the tightly paced theatrical cut. (I mean, come on, that ending for the theatrical version is pure comedic gold!) Army Of Darkness (or Evil Dead 3) always makes for fun viewing and is pretty much the perfect flick to throw on in the background at a party should you get stumped for something to watch or just need a cool ice breaker!
LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III
Despite its troubled production history, I hold a special place in my heart for Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. I was about 14 years old when this hit theaters and was already a full-fledged Leatherface fanatic having watched the first two Chainsaw flicks countless times on VHS. Then this teaser trailer hit:
After that, I'd do anything to see this movie! And by anything, that turned out to mean waiting 2 plus hours in front of the theater on opening day until someone would pretend to be my "older brother" and get me in. After the bizarre & darkly comic turn of the second film, I welcomed this straight forward horror take on one of my favorite icons, as well as his new demented cast of family members. You've got the lovely, crush-worthy Kate Hodge (She-Wolf Of London) in the lead, William Butler who was already in a slew of genre fare at this point (Friday The 13th Part 7: The New Blood, Ghoulies 2, Night Of The Living Dead 1990), Viggo Mortensen in one of his first feature roles as the demented Tex, R.A. Mihailoff portraying a bad-ass Leatherface and squaring off against none other than Dawn Of The Dead's Ken Foree!
Despite being drastically cut and even having an out-of-place re-shot ending, I still loved this sequel and quite frankly, it's better than anything that followed in the Chainsaw series. The DVD has got the unrated cut on there which is probably the most complete version of the film we're ever going to get. If you're interested in more regarding the making of Leatherface, I did a pretty extensive interview with the director Jeff Burr several years back on Icons Of Fright which you can read right here.
PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE
A lot of people will see an image of the murderous little puppet Blade and immediately harken back to fond memories of the Puppet Master series. But if you actually go back and revisit those films, well… they're not exactly very good. That is however except for Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge, which not only has probably the best production value and budget of any of the Puppet Master films (or Full Moon films for that matter), but it's the "origin" film which explains Andre Toulon's backstory during World War II. It also pits his killer puppets against the Nazi's! So who wouldn't get behind that?!
Guy Rolfe portrays Andrew Toulon with Superman 2's Sarah Douglas playing his wife Elsa. And in a brilliant stroke of casting, you've got Richard Lynch as the evil Nazi henchman Major Krauss. It's no coincidence that he resembles Blade, the most recognizable and popular of Toulon's puppets. As you discover, the secret to Toulon's life serum is each puppet represents someone he actually knew in life; someone who has the will and desire to keep on living and fight the Nazi's. (If only Herbert West knew!)
David DeCoteau helmed this entry and would also return (uncreditted) for Curse Of The Puppet Master and Retro Puppet Master. The latest entry Puppet Master: Axis Of Evil is his proper return to the series.
SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER
Some of you may be scratching your heads at this pick, but I quite like the entire Scanners series! I enjoy the early works of David Cronenberg just as much as the next genre fan, but I kind of dig these sequels more than the original, in particular Scanners III: The Takeover.
In this entry, the two Monet siblings live as secret scanners, but after a freak accident which leaves the brother Alex guilt-ridden, he leaves to live in a monastery and learn to control his ability. Meanwhile his sister Helena starts taking an experimental drug created by their father which brings to the forefront her murderous impulses. Before ya know it, she's recruiting scanners and planning for world domination! This brings her brother out of hiding to stop her, as he may be the only one that can do it.
So pretty much, the Scanners movies are like X-Men movies, expect everyone's power is that they can blow up people's heads. So if you look at this as the pre-X-men X-men movie, you'll love it.
Seriously, doesn't this look like pure insanity? That's because it is! I also sincerely enjoy the follow-ups, Scanner Cop and Scanners: The Showdown (aka Scanner Cop 2!). All of the Scanner sequels are only available on VHS, however Anchor Bay UK did put out a DVD box set with the first 3 films in the series so those of you with multi-regional players should seek it out!
DAY OF THE DEAD
Ah yes, considered the third chapter in George Romero's "Living Dead" series, I still consider this my favorite of not only his zombie movies, but of all his movies in general.
Confined to an underground bunker after the full out living dead outbreak, a group of military officers and scientists cope with their next course of action. The military want to do what they do best, blow away as many zombies as possible and get the hell out of there. The scientists want to continue experimenting and understand why the dead are coming back to life. While some genre fans find this "slow", I was always riveted by the human drama between the conflicting opinions of these characters. (Hell, there's a little show out there right now called The Walking Dead that's applying this same formula.)
Most memorable bits of this sequel? The tough-as-nails female lead Lori Cardille as Sarah, a far cry from Barbra in the original Night Of The Living Dead. Good ol' Richard Liberty as Logan aka Dr. Frankenstein who forms a strange bond with one of his test subjects Bub the zombie. (A fan favorite!) You've got the sleazy Captain Rhodes (who appeared briefly in Romero's Dawn Of The Dead) played with malicious zest by Joe Pilato. And last but not least, the real star of the show is Tom Savini's incredible realistic gore FX. Top that off with Jonathan Harris's brilliant score and you've got Romero's best zombie flick.
Last but not least and also the most bat-shit crazy of the Part 3's featured in this article is Psycho III, directed by none other than Norman Bates himself Anthony Perkins. While not very well received upon its initial release, Psycho III has its fans, especially amongst the current crop of modern horror directors. If anything, the bizarre story acts almost as a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's original if we already knew that Norman Bates was actually "mother" and we get to see that story from his conflicted mind. Who better really to tell a Psycho movie from the point of view of its killer than the man who lived with Norman Bates for the latter half of his life, Anthony Perkins? And Perkins directorial debut is impressive in implementing a very colorful, almost European style pallet to the latest exploits at the Bates Motel.
Scripted by Charles Edward Pogue who also that summer wrote the screenplay for David Croneberg's The Fly, Psycho III also is unique in that it's the first Psycho film to have a legitimate love story for Norman. Sure, she's a crazy on-the-run conflicted nun, but that's beside the point. She's the perfect gal for Norman! (And after all his torment, he's earned it.) It also features my favorite "mother" reveal of all the Psycho movies with Perkins showing up in full "mother" garb and speaking in that creepy old lady voice. If you've seen the previous flicks but never gotten to this one, rectify that immediately. If you've never seen the Psycho movies, this might be a good start.