HOLLYWOOD—Well October is here people and by now I know plenty of you have watched a scary movie or two or perhaps a marathon of them. Just turn on the TV rather its Cable or Broadcast, someone is looking to deliver scares to you. This week in honor of horror, I wanted to talk a little bit about iconic horror franchises and the endless sequels that have been spawned as a result of them. Let’s be honest, we’re reverting to the 80s people, but I’m only chatting here about some iconic horror films, we might talk about another franchise that I think has the power to revamp the horror genre, which in my honest opinion, just hasn’t delivered the scares as of late.
So the 80s, what is the first iconic horror villain that comes to mind? For me it’s Jason Voorhees, that hockey mask, that machete and a bunch of gruesome, twisted kills and some plots that were just too far-fetched. The “Friday the 13th” franchise has managed to cook up 12 installments. Yes, 12 people that same number applies to Michael Myers and the “Halloween” franchise when we talk about that a bit later. However, out of those 12 movies, not many in the hockey verse are worth watching. Of course, the 1980 flick is a classic and did actually set the stage for the splatter slasher genre as we now know it with everyone trying to craft their own version to attempt to capitalize on what “Friday the 13th” did so well.
Let’s be honest, that movie paved the way and the reveal of the killer being Mrs. Voorhees was iconic. I actually think “Friday the 13th: Part II” is an impressive sequel, not great, but it still has that element of terror that subsequent sequels failed to ignite. The third installment in 3D is something epic if you’ve never seen it, but plot wise it crashes and burns. The fourth which was supposed to be the end is nothing unique.
Now, here I’m going to talk about “Friday the 13th: Part VI Jason Lives.” It was the return of the iconic villain and it balanced wit with terror. You would honestly be laughing one minute and on the edge of your seat the nest. Think “Scream” before the 1996 flick hit theaters. It is one of my favorites in the franchises. The others, there is nothing special about them, even though I have a torch for “Jason Takes Manhattan” simply because I couldn’t see the flick as a kid and when I finally saw it as a teen I thought it was the greatest thing ever, but I’ve come to realize it’s like 30 minutes in Manhattan and barely anything iconic transpires.
If you’re looking for scares from this franchise, the first, second and sixth installments are the best. Subsequent sequels just thought of ways to make the villain dispatch of teens in the most gruesome ways possible and you can only take so much of that people.
I think Freddy Krueger is one of the most iconic horror villains ever. The 1984 classic by Wes Craven was something I wish I dreamed of as a filmmaker, smart, terrifying and just imaginative in a way unlike anything ever known. That first flick sends chills down the spine and makes it terrifying to go to sleep and anyone who says otherwise they’re lying. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors” is hands down an amazing sequel I would almost let it surpass the original if it wasn’t for that somewhat silly ending where Nancy meets her maker by a bad illusion she should have spotted.
These kids KNOW they’re in danger and they’re fighting to survive. This is not typical horror where everyone dies; no one realizes it until only 1 or 2 people are left. This is smart, clever and balances wit and terror to near perfection. Major kudos to “The Dream Master,” while not as savvy as its predecessor is still damn entertaining.
Now that I’m writing this column, there aren’t too many bad flicks in this franchise except the second, sixth and 2010 remake. “The Dream Child” is not as bad as I used to think either; it just fails to comparison of its predecessors, but at least has a narrative that gets you thinking to say the least. This might be the strongest franchise when we look at “Friday the 13th,” “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
So this leads us to the inevitable boogeyman, Michael Myers. Every Halloween, I watch the 1978 John Carpenter classic anytime it’s on TV. That music is perfection and the narrative, simple, yet enthralling with an ending that is shocking. No film has touched that classic in the sense of pure horror and if I’m being honest the movie is NOT a slasher flick, but it delivered some elements that others used as a push for it in the 80s.
Now that I reflect, the 1981 version of “Halloween” is not that bad, it is quite entertaining, for the first 45 minutes of the movie. It has some smart elements, but the whole Michael is indestructible element loses many points for me. “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” even though it has NOTHING to do with Michael Myers is not a terrible movie, you have to actually watch it and you’ll find yourself surprised. I love “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” because it brought him back into the foray, it was smart, it was scary and the first horror flick I ever saw as a kid at the tender age of 4. So go figure.
After that flick, the franchise falls apart. It bounced back slightly with “Halloween: H20,” but that flick was mediocre. We had a 2007 remake that was not terrible, but tried to have too many classic moments redone ala John Carpenter’s classic. Let’s not even discuss Rob Zombie’s “Halloween II” from 2009. That movie was god awful and how the hell that script even got studio approval I will never understand.
Take a look 3 years ago to the 2018 version of “Halloween” by David Gordon Green that skipped all flicks in the franchise except the first one and you have a major improvement in the franchise, satisfying, full of chills and an ending that is genius. It is hands down the second best in the franchise after the original. Then we have the most recent “Halloween Kills” that is just brutal with violence, limited in narrative and the only satisfying element is the opening and that ending, those final 10-15 minutes are literal edge of your seat as it sets the stage for what many are hoping as an iconic conclusion.
So I’ve made it clear which sequels (and there are not many in each franchise) you should indulge in if you plan to watch, but let’s talk slightly about a modern franchise, “Scream.” That 1996 classic directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson is genius people. Just classic, we know our horror, but the killer does too so its brains against brains to see who outwits who. The Drew Barrymore opening, classic, the reveal of the killers’ is epic, and the heroine turning the tables on her antagonists had everyone in the theater clapping and excited.
“Scream 2” is another sequel I hold in high regard because it’s just as smart as the original and was not afraid to take risk. We saw a key character taken out, followed by another ‘presumably’ and the movie delivered one of the best suspense scenes I can recall in years when Sidney and Hallie had to escape that vehicle with the killer unconscious, talk about nearly jumping out your seat when she pressed that car horn people. In terms of big reveals, learning that Debbie Salt was actually Billy’s mother; what a twist I didn’t see coming from a million miles away people.
The third installment in the franchise was set to end the franchise and its solid, with the movie within a movie, but it just didn’t live up to the hype of the previous two flicks. Flash-forward to nearly a decade later and we have “Scream 4” which is a decent entry into the franchise, but I think casting Emma Roberts in the roll of Jill was a major miscast that hurts the movie because when she is revealed as the killer it just doesn’t work for me. I heard that Ashley Greene of “Twilight” was considered for the role and I think Greene may have delivered a bit more of a punch in the role that would have satisfied fans. Let’s be honest, the opening for “Scream 4” though that movie within a movie within a movie, absolutely ingenious.
For those of you in the dark another decade later, we’re getting a fifth installment in the franchise in January 2022, simply titled “Scream.” Yeah, I don’t love that a lot of flicks in the franchise lately are using the same title as the original, I mean we could call it “Scream 5” because it is not a remake, it is not a reboot, it feels like a sequel that is a continuation of the narrative for Sidney Prescott, Dewey Riley and Gale Weathers, in addition to new characters. It looks dark, it looks intense and might take the franchise and the horror genre as well back to its roots of delivering scares to audiences.
So pick your poison America. Its either “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Scream” if you’re looking for an entertaining horror franchise this Halloween people.