The Ten Horror Movie Franchises...THAT WOULDN'T DIE!!
With the possible exception of pornography, no genre in all of moviedom can churn out sequels like horror. In a lot of ways horror sequels are pretty similar to porn sequels. Each iteration is essentially the same movie with a different cast, a loosely connected theme and occasionally some more creative ways of killing or having sex.
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.
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?!?!
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
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
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
Honorable Mention: Child's Play. Five movies strong, that annoying fucking doll just will not go away.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
The premise: A family of cannibals in Texas, one member of which happens to be a cross-dressing hulk named Leatherface, terrorizes teens who come its way.
The key to longevity: My guess is that some Hollywood executive saw the first one when he rented it mistakenly thinking he was doing his civic duty and that it was some wankfest documentary about deforestation. Upon seeing it, he decided that a revival of the series would make him some serious money and had the first one re-made, kicking off a whole new set of sequels. Of course, said executive had no idea that Rob Zombie's
Signs of an idea drought: Three movies-the two remakes and the repugnant The Next Generation-have attempted to kick-start the series again.
Up next: A prequel to the newest remake, entitled The Beginning, which promises to finally reveal the origin of Leatherface. My guess is that his parents let him play with Barbie dolls, ruining his gender identity, and also chainsaws.
The premise: A little leprechaun who only speaks in devastatingly stupid couplets (they're not even limericks, for Christ's sake) kills anyone who gets between him and his gold.
The key to longevity: Low expectations, it would seem. When you give up on the idea of people actually enjoying your films and pretty much go straight for the "Let's rent this, it'll be terrible" audience, you can apparently make as many movies as you goddamn want. Honestly, the only reason to rent any of these movies is for a good bad-movie night. If you actually rent any of these out of a genuine desire to see them, you may have some sort of mental disorder.
Signs of an idea drought: Setting changes like whoa. The third one was set in Vegas, then they set one in space, then they set two in "da hood." They might as well just put a blurb on the DVD cover that says "exploitative!" On second thought, they might just do that on the next one.
Up next: The actor who plays the leprechaun, Warwick Davis, is in the new Harry Potter movie, so maybe he's done with the little guy. But I wouldn't bank on it.
The premise: The demonic Pinhead and his sadomasochistic buddies, the Cenobites, unleash hell on earth when people are brought back from the dead with a weird puzzle cube thing.
The key to longevity: A crazy, goth fan base. I mean, I make a concentrated effort to suffer through the worst that the horror movie genre has to offer, but even I gave up on this series around the fifth one. So I have to figure that there's just a very committed group of
Signs of an idea drought: The most recent sequel moved the hellish action into cyberspace. No joke.
Up next: A fan film called Hellraiser: Prophecy is set to be released via YouTube on Halloween. Several other fan films and parodies are in production. Weirdos.
Honorable Mention: Children of the Corn. There are seven of these movies, but I'll be damned if I can remember anything about any of them.
The premise: The crazed, masked killer Michael Myers breaks out of an asylum, avoids his doctor, and tries to kill his sister, among other things.
The key to longevity: Because sometimes, Jamie Lee Curtis needs money. At least, that's been the case for the last couple. Before that, it was because Donald Pleasence, who played the doctor, needed money. Really, I can't think of any other reason for bringing back a killer six times who basically had enough motivation for two movies, at most..
Signs of an idea drought: The producers of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (including original director John Carpenter) must have agreed with my assessment of Michael Myers, because it had absolutely nothing to do with the first two. Not one character, not one plot point. The rest of the movies had Michael Myers in them, all the way up to Halloween H20, which, despite its title, did not occur underwater, but instead featured an all-star cast in an attempt to fool people into thinking it wasn't shit.
Up next: A Rob Zombie "reimagining" of the original is set to open next year. Few details have been released, but odds are it will be reimagined as a film about a cannibal family in Texas.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
The premise: A child murderer who was burned to death by people in his neighborhood comes back to invade the dreams of the lynch mob's children.
The key to longevity: Having a really cool high concept and genuinely being pretty good. It also helps that Freddy Krueger is one of the most recognizable horror characters after Frankenstein and Dracula. I mean, go into any mall Halloween store in the next couple weeks and I bet you that you'll see at least one prominent Freddy mask there, and, unlike the Pinhead mask, people will actually want to buy it. Of course, the movies are utterly ridiculous-the first one features a scene in which Johnny Depp spews more blood than could possibly be in
Signs of an idea drought: For one thing, they outright made a movie proclaiming to be the last one (which is generally a sure sign there's more to come). Then, they made one in which Freddy, a fictional character, came into the real world to kill his creators and actors from previous movies. It was a part of Wes Craven's "I'm going to make fun of movies I made years ago" period that also produced the Scream series, and, honestly, I think Craven may be the only person who got the joke. Most recently, they produced a crossover with another huge horror franchise.
Up next: A sequel to said crossover, featuring other famous horror characters, has been rumored, and talks for a prequel centering on Freddy's pre-burning child-killing days are in the works. A movie about a non-supernatural human guy who kills young children sounds like a real audience-grabber, by the way.
The premise: Technically not in the horror genre, but see if these movies about bumbling cadets learning how to be cops doesn't leave you nauseous and give you nightmares.
The key to longevity: Ireally have no clue. The guy who makes those crazy sounds, maybe? I think it must be that guy.
Signs of an idea drought: A plot summary of Police Academy 5 found on Wikipedia: "The officers attend a police convention in Florida where Cmndt. Lassard inadvertently switches his briefcase with that of a group of jewel thieves. The thieves try to get it back." Yeah.
Up next: An eighth film is scheduled to come out next year with most of the original cast because apparently somebody wanted to kill my very spirit.
Honorable Mention: The Omen. Maybe now that they've remade the original, they can remake the third one where he's President! That would be sweet.
FRIDAY THE 13TH
The premise: A young boy who was drowned by two counselors at a summer camp comes back for revenge years later. He soon decides to kill basically anyone who has sex or takes drugs.
The key to longevity: Dependability. You always know what you're getting with a Friday the 13th movie, which is to say a large, silent man in a hockey mask hacking people with a machete. Any time that formula has changed-like when a copycat killer was used in the fifth movie-fans have raised hell and demanded that the old Jason be brought back. Particularly entertaining are the various creative ways that Jason has been brought back from the dead, from a Frankenstein-style lightning bolt to a telekinetic little girl. It' also worth noting that the series spawned three comic book series, 20 books, and the most annoying NES game of all time, not to mention any number of copycat movies like the abhorrent
Signs of an idea drought: Well, let' see. There' the ever-laughable space setting in the tenth movie, the presence of people with special powers in the seventh movie, two movies in the series claiming to be the last one, several instances of self-parody in the sixth installment, a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a movie set in New York city. Basically, the whole series is one big idea drought.
Up next: An as-yet untitled 12th installment directed by everyone' favorite director, Joel Schumacher, is currently on hold. Can you say Jason-nipples?