After a blockbuster detour with Furious 7, director James Wan returns to his horror roots for like the fifth time in his career with The Conjuring 2, which follows Conju-Uno‘s Ed and Lorraine Warren into their next really true scary case. The original 2013 film was a Certified Fresh smash for Wan and company, notable because it’s rare for horror movies to get Fresh Tomatometer scores, and even rarer for their franchise sequels. So the fact Conjuring 2 is drawing sorta the same praise as its predecessor…well, that inspires this week’s gallery: 24 best-reviewed horror sequels!

This week on home video, we’ve got one of the most acclaimed horror films in recent memory and Tim Burton’s latest film, an understated true story. After that, we’ve also got new films from David Cronenberg and Jean-Luc Godard, as well as some other notable indie titles and a few new releases on television, including a Robin Williams sitcom. Read on for the full list:


The Babadook (2014) 98%

Horror as a genre has undergone a lot of transformations over the years, so much so that it’s become almost impossible to pinpoint what exactly defines a “typical” horror film these days. Perhaps because of this, critics have warmly welcomed films that have returned to what they’ve labeled more “traditional” fright flicks. Last year’s The Babadook, an Australian film about a single mother learning to cope with the death of her husband, offered exactly the brand of horror critics were craving, and they rewarded it with a Certified Fresh 98 percent on the Tomatometer. Essie Davis is Amelia, whose husband’s tragic death six years prior has traumatized their son Sam (Noah Wiseman). After reading Sam a disturbing bedtime story about a boogeyman-like monster called the Babadook, strange occurrences begin manifesting in their home, and Amelia fears she may be losing her mind. More tense and atmospheric than gory or startling, The Babadook‘s reliance on psychological terror is likely to stick with you far longer than the cheap thrills offered by other films.


Big Eyes (2014) 71%

Tim Burton employs such a specific tone and aesthetic that, after 15 feature films, audiences come to his movies with some preconceived notions. Even the few occasions where he’s ventured a little beyond his niche — efforts like Ed Wood or Big Fish — sport enough Burtonian flourishes to bear his unmistakable signature. Enter Big Eyes, a quieter, gentler look at a remarkable true story that still feels like a Tim Burton movie, only different. Christoph Waltz plays Walter Keane, the celebrated painter of the 1950s and 1960s known for his eccentric trademark: portraits of waifs with unusually large eyes. As we know now, however, the truth was that he didn’t paint those portraits at all; they were the work of his wife Margaret (Amy Adams), who let a lie spiral out of control as Keane’s popularity grew. Critics called Big Eyes thought-provoking for its social commentary and well-acted, thanks to its top notch cast, even if some felt it failed to delve deeply enough to achieve long-lasting significance. At 71 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s an understated drama just a bit outside of Burton’s typical wheelhouse, but a fascinating story nonetheless.


 

ALSO AVAILABLE THIS WEEK:

Goodbye to Language (2014) (86 percent), Jean-Luc Godard’s challenging Certified Fresh portrait of a relationship from the perspective of a stray dog.
[Rec] 4: Apocalypse (2015) (81 percent), the fourth installment of the Spanish zombie-horror series.
God Help the Girl (2014) (68 percent), starring Emily Browning and Hannah Murray in a bohemian coming-of-age drama set in Glasgow, Scotland’s West End.
Maps to the Stars (2015) (63 percent), starring Mia Wasikowska and John Cusack in David Cronenberg’s ensemble drama about a troubled Hollywood family.
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2015) (22 percent), the sequel to the 2012 Hammer Films horror entry about the haunted Eel Marsh House.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) (100 percent), Preston Sturges’ iconic Hollywood satire starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake, is the first of two releases from the Criterion Collection and available in a new DVD and Blu-ray.
Odd Man Out (1947) (100 percent), Carol Reed’s celebrated noir thriller starring James Mason and Kathleen Ryan, is Criterion’s second release this week, also available in a new DVD and Blu-ray.
The Missing‘s (2014) (96 percent) acclaimed first season is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Crazy Ones (2013) (55 percent), CBS’ sitcom starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and the late Robin Williams, releases its first season on DVD this week.

Happy New Year! This week at the movies, we’ve got just one wide release: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, a period frightfest starring Phoebe Fox and Jeremy Irvine). What do the critics have to say?

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

23%

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death has two strikes against it right off the bat: it’s a sequel, and it’s being released during the first weekend of the new year, which is traditionally a dumping ground for middling movies. Critics say this one is better than most, but although the film is atmospheric and visually sharp, it’s never particularly scary. It’s 1941, and a group of children have been relocated to an English country house to escape the London Blitz. But when several of the children go missing, their caretakers suspect a malevolent spirit may be responsible. The pundits say The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death looks terrific, but it’s vaguely unsettling rather than tense.

What’s Hot on TV:

The pundits say The Missing (Certified Fresh at 96 percent) turns a routine premise into a standout thriller, thanks to heartfelt, affecting performances.

Also opening this week in limited release: