Of course, a few horror movie franchises far outshine the rest in terms of outright longevity, and, just like their main characters, they return from the grave every few years to terrorize moviegoers. Just in time for Halloween (and Friday the 13th), here are 10 of the most zombiefied and Frankensteined horror franchises ever, plus a few honorable mentions.
Number of movies: 2
The premise: A crazed killer named Jigsaw puts people in elaborate death traps and forces them to try to figure a way out.
The key to longevity: Of all the horror movies in the most recent tear of unwatchable genre crap, the Saw series seems to have the most potential to achieve franchise-that-never-dies status for a couple reasons. For one, the first two movies both made a shitload of money at the box office. The first one made almost fifty times its budget. That's retarded. Yes, only two have come out so far, but there's been one released every year since the first (a third movie is set for late this month). And unlike all those J-horror remakes of the past few years, this doesn't seem to have "dying trend" written all over it. It does have "formulaic and badly acted" written all over it, but people honestly don't seem to mind that.
Signs of an idea drought: The third movie features a female assistant for the Jigsaw killer, most likely because they've realized that the potential for the character-who laid on the floor pretending to be dead for the whole first movie, mind you-has been exhausted.
Up next: The aforementioned third movie opens on October 27. I wonder if the people will make it out of the traps alive?!?!
Number of movies: 4
The premise: A monstrous undertaker from another dimension called The Tall Man squishes dead people down into hooded slaves for work on his home world. He also keeps terrorizing a young boy and his ice cream salesman friend with a deadly silver ball.
The key to longevity: True, there are only four movies, but the release of those four movies was stretched over a nearly 30 years, in spite of a total lack of some huge cultural resurgence like the Exorcist movies got a couple years ago. The Phantasm series was outright willed into existence from the 1979 first film up to the surprisingly good fourth entry in 1998 by director Don Coscarelli. This is despite the fact that the third movie is terrible. Okay, maybe this technically isn't a series that won't die, but I love these movies, so I'm going to mention them anyway. Try to stop me. Also of note: The Tall Man is played by Angus Scrimm, also known as music critic and Grammy winner Rory Guy. That's badass.
Signs of an idea drought: The fourth Phantasm movie featured two horror movie clichés that are a sure sign of writers trying to spice things up: 1) A generically ominous subtitle (Oblivion) and 2) time travel.
Up next: A prequel to Coscarelli's superb film Bubba Ho-Tep, entitled Bubba Nosferatu and the Curse of the She-Vampires, is in pre-production. More Bruce Campbell as Elvis? Sign me up.
GEORGE ROMERO ZOMBIE FILMS
Number of movies: 6 (including two remakes)
The premise: The dead come up out of the ground and eat people. Said people try to avoid said zombies, often unsuccessfully.
The key to longevity: Well, inventing a whole genre helps. If I included all the movies that were rip-offs of or that were influenced by the series in question, the number up there would be in the hundreds for this one. It also helps that the creator of the franchise is a horror god who can create movies as mediocre as Land of the Dead and not get one bit of shit for it. Anybody who ever said Day of the Dead wasn't that great back in the '80s? Rumor has it that Romero came to that person' house, cracked open their head, scooped their brain out with a spoon and ate it. That's devotion to the craft.
Signs of an idea drought: A year after I ragged on the Dawn of the Dead remake for resorting to putting its protagonists into a tank because it was an easy out, Land of the Dead puts its protagonists into...a tank. Yikes, Romero. (Please don't eat my brain.)
Up next: Diary of the Dead, about a horror movie crew that gets attacked by zombies. It's so fucking meta.
Honorable Mention: Child's Play. Five movies strong, that annoying fucking doll just will not go away.