Pearl has impressed horror movie fans as a smart prequel, and there are several other films that show how it should be done.
Ti West's X prequel Pearl proved that there is definitely an appetite for prequels in the horror genre. Sometimes these films can fall flat and seem boring, as if the story strays too far from what fans know, there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to watch. But in rare cases, a prequel has a new character with a lot going on and leads seamlessly into the original film, creating just the right amount of backstory.
Both Annabelle: Creation and Final Destination 5 are interesting prequels that prove what can be done, and while they can be watched as stand-alone films, they are fascinating prequels that make the rest of their respective franchies feel scarier.
Many horror movies need prequels and there are two that stand out as being particularly smart examples of successful films because they give good context to the overall story and also feature smart endings. Annabelle: Creation was released in 2017 and is a prequel to Annabelle (2014). It's one of the best movies in The Conjuring franchise and is about the Mullins family taking in Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and six orphans. The film checks many boxes: it's a great haunted house horror movie and, of course, features the evil doll Annabelle who horror fans love.
The movie is an effective prequel because it's fun to see Annabelle in a setting like this one. She feels even more dangerous because she's just hanging out innocently in a closet in the large home and then a terrifying demon gets out into the open. It has a satisfying horror movie ending because it concludes right before the events of Annabelle (2014) when Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John Form (Ward Horton) are tormented by the doll. By design, a prequel should include information that is fresh and can't be gained from watching the original movie or even a sequel. Annabelle: Creation shares the dark history that Annabelle can lead to demonic possession, which sets up the rest of the films in the franchise.
Janice (Talitha Bateman) is the character who is possessed, and she goes by Annabelle and commits murder in Annabelle (2014). Janice is one of the best horror movie kids because she's a blank canvas for evil. She came down with polio before the movie begins and she's young, vulnerable, and sad. It's easy to be scared of the power that Annabelle has, but since Janice has been dealt such a terrible hand, it's also easy to feel badly for her and forget that she has been taken over. The Annabelle films really dive into the innocence of children and their favorite toy (namely, a doll), which makes the story even scarier.
Without this important context, Annabelle is just another creepy doll in a horror film who can make objects move and is responsible for people's deaths. While that's easy to shudder at, it's better to know the full picture, and Annabelle Comes Home (2019) is even more frightening knowing that Annabelle can take over people's souls and turn them evil.
Final Destination 5 is another excellent prequel that deserves praise. The movie was released in 2011 and is a prequel to Final Destination (2000). The main character Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto) goes on a work trip with his co-workers and when they drive across the North Bay Bridge, he sees a vision of the vehicle crashing. Sam and his friends are able to get away, but of course, as fans of the interesting horror franchise know, Death is waiting for them.
Every Final Destination movie has horrifying deaths and the prequel does, too, like when Olivia Castle, played by Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, goes for eye surgery and falls out the window. While Final Destination 3 is the franchise's best film, Final Destination 5 has many elements of a good prequel. It has solid characters, feels enough like the first movie to keep fan engagement high, and offers up a legitimately interesting story of its own.
While a prequel should have new information, that can be risky since fans want to see something that reminds them of the story that they love so much. The best prequels also include endings that lead directly into the original movie, solving this problem. Both Annabelle: Creation and Final Destination 5 do this perfectly. In this case, Sam and Molly Harper (Emma Bell) are flying to Paris and see Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) upset and talking about how the plane is going to crash. This ending ties both films together and feels familiar to fans.
It will be cool to see how the franchise continues with Final Destination 6 as the prequel does something important: makes the other films in the franchise feel even more terrifying. Before this movie, it seemed like Alex was the only one who saw his death, saved himself, and then became stalked by Death itself. Now fans know that this has been going on for a long time, which makes it feel even creepier.
NEXT: The Hunger Games Prequel: Everything We Know So Far
Aya Tsintziras is a freelance writer who writes about TV, movies, and has a particular interest in the horror genre. She has a Political Science degree from the University of Toronto and a Masters of Journalism from Ryerson University. She loves coffee, reading, working out, and watching TV. She lives in Toronto.