Horror has a great history eye grabbing phrases like Curse of the… or Attack of the… Today we talk about Return to the… “Return to” is not only an eye grabber, it also implies there’s back story and maybe another film in the series.
So, today, we here at Nightmare on Film Street would like to pay homage to that tradition. Start your history lesson with us and let’s dive into some of the best return’s horror has to offer.
Here are the top ten best horror flicks that Return to the scene of the crime!
10. The Return of the Vampire (1943)
Bela Lugosi is a vampire, not Dracula, even though he looks, sounds and acts exactly the same. This vampire, again not Dracula, falls for an Englishwoman named Lady Jane during WWI. His attempts to win her over fail and he tries again during, well, WWII. Things are going better, but then they learn he is a vampire. Now Lady Jane and her friends not only turn him down, but have to figure out how to take him out.
Lugosi fell into debt, addiction and scandal following the success of Dracula in 1931. Just a decade later Universal had already forbid him from reprising his role and distanced themselves from him. Enter the era of Lugosi doing knock of flicks like this one, in which he tries to capitalize on recognition without coming right out and being Dracula. I love all these classic era monster movies and you should definitely check it out.
9. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
It’s 1988 and Michael Myers has been in a coma for ten years. Unfortunately for the citizens of Haddonfield, Michael has awoken and escaped again. Dr. Loomis learns of this and heads to town to stop Michael once and for all. Loomis arrives to find the killing has already begun. Things get even more complicated when it seems the spirit of Michael somehow is influencing his nephew Jamie, who is also part of the murderous problem. How can Dr. Loomis fix this mess and save the town?
John Carpenter’s original vision for Halloween was for it to be a series of films set around Halloween, but with different villains, characters and storylines. The first was Michael Myers, but his role was supposed to end there. When part III came out and had nothing to do with him, audiences hated the lack of Myers. The plan for a non-Myers ghost story part IV was tossed and they brought Michael back. Part 4 was a hit.
8. Return to the House on Haunted Hill (2007)
The house on that hill used to be an asylum full of horrors. The institution was shut down when the abuses were discovered and abandoned. Ultimately it was bought by a sadistic playboy who decided to throw a party to see who could survive the night. The original film is about that night and only one person survives. That person, Sara, has since killed herself and Sara’s sister Ariel finds herself kidnapped and at the same house. A nuts art dealer named Desmond is the kidnapper and he wants to use a Baphomet idol to summon powers from the dark side. I hate to break it to you, but things don’t go very well.
The original concept was that this would be released as an interactive DVD but director Victor García didn’t shoot the scenes needed for the options. When production wrapped the studio did not have what it needed for the concept and scrapped it. Though it’s all but impossible to hold up to the original Vincent Price classic, this movie has it’s merits and is a fun go if you dig, like me, the whole possessed idols thing.
7. Gate II: Return to the Nightmare (1987)
It has been five years since Terry and his pals opened a gate to the netherworld in Terry’s back yard. With the death of his mother and the alcoholism of his father, things aren’t great at Terry’s house. Terry and his friends decide to take a trip back to occultism to solve his problems. The friends summon a minion and wish for betterment, but with some dire consequences.
Very few people reprised their roles for this sequel. It was only released in a few hundred theaters and made only $2 million in the box office. It was, however, directed by the original director Tibor Takács and has much of the fun and feel of the original. If you loved The Gate as much as I did, you definitely don’t want to miss the sequel.
6. Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)
It’s 2003 and summer camp is in full swing at Camp Manabe. Everyone is having a blast. Well, everyone but Alan, that is. He is being bullied and having no fun at all. Suddenly the mean girls and bullies picking on him start dropping like flies. One of the counselors remembers when this happened back at Camp Arawak years ago. While Angela (the killer from way back when) is institutionalized, her cousin Ricky isn’t and he is brought in to help solve this one. Spoiler alert…it’s Alan. Duh.
Though this was a failure, it is still something that should not be missed by any Sleepaway Camp fan. Why? Well, because the gang got back together and tried to really give it a go. Felissa Rose reprised her role as Angela, Jonathan Tiersten as Ricky, and the original writer/director Robert Hiltzik is back. If you are a b-movie completest, you cannot pass on this one.
5. A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)
An anthropologist, played by Cohen regular Michael Moriarty (The Stuff), returns to Salem’s Lot only to find it’s been taken over by the undead. The only people still living in town are kept as food for the vampires. The anthropologist couldn’t care less and says he respects their ‘lifestyle.’ Well, that’s nice and all, until a Nazi hunter (strangely played by legendary director Sam Fuller) inexplicably shows up determined to kill the vampires. He does and in glorious fashion by impaling the head vampire on an American flagpole.
What Warner Bros was thinking handing this project to the king of schlock Larry Cohen, I’ll never know. The original Salem’s Lot was a huge hit and was overseen by Stephen King himself. Totally bizarre that the sequel was given to Cohen to write, direct and produce. So bizarre, but it makes for one weird, fun b-movie.
4. Return to Oz (1985)
Return to Oz tells the story of, well, Dorothy’s return to Oz. From the starting bell, this version is bonkers. Dorothy, who is somehow younger, being brought to an institution for electroshock therapy because Auntie Em believes she’s making up all this Oz stuff and is nuts. A lightning storm frees her from the restraints somehow and she is able to escape, only to be transported to Oz thanks to the help of a mysterious little girl. Once she arrives, she discovers things are not going so well and the place is now run by a frightening witch named Mombi. Shit gets weird and Mombi is truly terrifying.
Oh man, this movie. How many of you were straight up disturbed by this movie when it came out? If you saw it as a kid, I’m guessing all of you. So, a studio decided to do a sequel to The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s a trippy hellscape. People did not care for it and it earned back just $11 million of it’s $22 million budget. This movie is odd and really disturbing at times and I absolutely love it. It’s dang iconic and Fairuza Balk is a revelation.
3. Return to Paradise (1998)
This 1998 thriller is directed by Joseph Ruben (The Good Son, The Stepfather). Three friends go to Malaysia. They have a blast and leave on different flights. The routine of life takes over and the three lose contact. That is, until Beth and Sheriff (two of the friends, played respectively by Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn) learn the third friend, Lewis (played wonderfully by Joaquin Phoenix) never left Malaysia. He was caught with their remaining hash before he left and has been on death row this whole time.
Beth and Sheriff also learn if they return to Malaysia he will be spared the death penalty, but they will also spend life in prison along with Lewis. They have a terrible decision to make, but when they do return to Malaysia, things only get worse.
This movie is tense and tough. It does a really good job of leading you down the path of thinking it is going to be all chill and relaxing. Then it switches gears into a movie of torture and imprisonment. It’s a tight thriller with a fantastic cast, that includes, in addition to those already mentioned, Vera Farmiga and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
2. Return to Horror High (1987)
What would any list of mine be without some 80’s b-horror? Nothing, that’s what! 1987’s Return to Horror High tells the tale of Hollywood getting more than they bargained for. The small town of Crippen was shaken to its core by a series of murders that all took place at the local high school. Flash forward several years and a sleazy producer, played by the incomparable Max Rocco (The Godfather), arrives to shoot the film adaptation of the story on location.
The producer is just there to make that green. So, they shoot there anyway. You’re not going to believe this, guys, but bad shit starts happening. Some heroes arise, including two students, inexplicably played by none other than George Clooney (O, Brother Where Art Thou?) and Maureen McCormick (aka Marcia Brady), and fight to put an end to the killings. Boy do they. Spoiler alert! The killer gets impaled on a javelin and then shot a ton. So, yeah, it’s pretty great.
1. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
It’s late in the day at a warehouse in 1984 and foreman Frank is boasting that there are drums in the basement that contain government waste from a failed experiment. He and the other employees check it out, but when they open one of the drums it releases a gas that knocks them all out. When they wake they learn the gas reanimated corpses that, for some reason, were also in the warehouse. Now they have zombies loose in the building and possibly loose in town. Will they stop the invasion?
When John Russo and George Romero made Night of the Living Dead, Russo retained the rights to the phrase ‘the living dead.’ Russo had a script for a zombie comedy horror take and the 80’s proved a perfect time for it. He hired Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) to direct, but Hooper became more interested in Dan O’Bannon’s (Alien) script Lifeforce. O’Bannon suggested they switch, with him Directing Return and Hooper directing Lifeforce. It proved a great move and Return became a cult classic perfect for the time.