Top 10 Horror Franchises They Should Have Killed For Real

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There are two things about horror movies that hold true no matter what. The one survivor is usually a white girl, and there will be sequels. Dozens upon dozens of sequels. But can a franchise really sustain so many sequels? We’re not so sure.

Here are ten horror franchises that should have quit sooner:

10. Halloween

michael-myers-and-busta-rhymes

The first Halloween (1978) is a classic suspense thriller. Much like other movies that launched a genre, the formula has been stolen by everybody, but there’s nothing like the real thing. Whether it’s everybody’s favorite Shatner-mask wearing psycho pinning teenagers to walls with a knife, Laurie Strode discovering he’s unkillable, or even just that killer opening, John Carpenter delivered a classic film.

At least Halloween II (1981) has points to recommend it; it’s not as suspenseful, but it’s got its thrills.

Then for the third one, they decided to make it about a novelty company using Halloween masks to brainwash children with a commercial or something. We’re not kidding. That’s the plot of Halloween III (1982). And it gets worse, as the franchise recycles everything through five more sequels to the point where you’ve got Busta Rhymes berating Michael Myers into going away in Halloween: Resurrection (2002).

Next, they let Rob Zombie reboot the franchise with a remake of Halloween in 2007 (probably the worst idea in film since Batman and Robin) and then he remakes Halloween II (2009) (another bad idea).

We’re pretty sure Michael Myers wishes Laurie Strode really HAD killed him.

9. The Exorcist

The Exorcist (1973) is, again, one of the all time horror classics. Sure, it’s gross. It’s incredibly gross. But that’s balanced by the sheer transgressiveness of the material, which is still pretty shocking, and the calm, documentary feel of the movie. It’s a horror film that’s paced like a drama, although we still want to know why they’d be shooting a movie about student protests in the early ‘70s.

For some reason, John Boorman, the director of the sequel, decided that all of this meant he really needed to put James Earl Jones in a fly suit and have Richard Burton relentlessly overact. We’re not kidding about either. Just as the original was a huge hit, The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) was so legendarily bad, and tanked so legendarily hard, that it’s still used as a measure of a disappointing follow-up.

Ten years later, the writer of the original made a movie called Legion …and the studio forced him to call it Exorcist III despite it having nothing whatsoever to do with the franchise aside from some blasphemy and a forcible name swap between characters. It didn’t even feature the same actors. Amazingly, though, the movie itself was actually pretty good.

But don’t worry, there was a prequel!  Actually, two, as Warner Brothers hired Paul Schrader, writer of lighthearted fun like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, not to mention a guy who has been struggling with his Catholicism for, let’s see here, his entire career, to make a prequel. Then they told him his movie, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist was too intellectual and they hired crap-slinger Rennie Harlin. Harlin wound up making an entirely different movie (Exorcist: The Beginning), had it bomb, and then Warners had to release both (2004 and 2005, respectively) to see a profit.

The moral of the story?  If you hire an artist, know what you’re getting into.

8. Leprechaun

If you’ve never seen the original Leprechaun (1993), well, it features an evil leprechaun and Jennifer Aniston in ridiculous pants. That’s about it for highlights. It’s cheap, it’s ridiculous, it’s stupid, and it’s not scary.

Which apparently means we needed six of them. Two of them set in “Tha Hood”, which strikes us as about a century too late, as there haven’t been Irish people in the inner city anywhere except Boston since World War II. While there’s not much to say about Leprechaun, it deserves a special mention because…six movies? What?

7. Children of the Corn

If there is one author who defines the ‘80s, it’s Stephen King. And the movies sometimes did right by King: Cujo, Christine, The Shining, Cat’s Eye. Other times, it was terrible to him: Lawnmower Man, Night Shift, The Mangler. But nothing defines just how bad it could get like Children of the Corn (1984).

The original movie came out in 1984 and…well, it was OK. It had to expand the short story way too much, but it was fun. And that, apparently, was that, for nearly ten years.

Then Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice came out in 1993. Of course, calling something “The Final” just meant it wasn’t going to die, so they kept turning these movies out all through the ‘90s, with seven all told. Yes, there are more Children of the Corn movies than Star Wars movies.

It seemed the franchise was out of gas in 2001, becoming so bad even direct-to-video didn’t do anything for it…and then, of course, it was rebooted. On the SyFy Channel. And King stated he wanted no part of it in a letter he sent through his lawyer. Yeah, real classic, there.

6. Final Destination

The original Final Destination (2000) was actually kind of brilliant: it’s a slasher movie, without the slasher. Instead of a nutjob with a knife, it’s the spirit of Death itself, which apparently is a huge fan of Bond movies because we’ve seen less elaborate plans in the Saw movies. Boy, Death just doesn’t want to fool around, does it? The original was both suspenseful and hilarious, and worked really well; although, catch the original ending if you can (much better, but it unfortunately didn’t test well).

Then they just basically kept remaking it. And remaking it. And remaking it. There’s no twist or any attempt to make it special: there’s a big opening disaster that’s an effect showpiece, and then smaller showpieces offing middling actors and Abercrombie models until the ending…which is generally a hint that Death doesn’t give up easily.

How many are we up to? Well, number five is being made as we speak. Maybe this time, Death will just make them cocoa. That’d be a good twist.

5. Candyman

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The original Candyman (1992) was a great movie. Yeah, it was a slasher movie, but it was a different kind of slasher movie- one built on the classic “Bloody Mary” legend with a great hook (pun intended) and featuring noir elements. And you’ve also got Tony Todd, who, let’s face it, is just great as a slasher. The first ends on a twist, and it’s great.

Then they made the sequel (Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh, 1995), which decided to throw the ending out the window in favor of exploring family trees, because that’s what you need with a Candyman movie: ancestry. Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999) was so bad it couldn’t hit theaters. Thankfully, any threats of a reboot have been just that. Let’s let the “Candyman” rest in peace. After all, we wouldn’t want the Candyman to come… YEEEEEAAAARGH!

[Writer’s Note: And that’s why you don’t say his name five times, kids.]

4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is, of course, a classic. Tobe Hooper created an atmosphere of painful unease and creepiness, with a disturbed family in the middle of nowhere. Made on a shoestring, and creating the original image of the slasher movie being a dude with a chainsaw, it’s unnerving even to this day with its matter-of-fact violence and surreal presentation.

Unfortunately, the first one was distributed by, well, the Mob, so everybody involved got screwed even though it was a major hit. Tobe Hooper went back twelve years later and made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) but, unfortunately, he was accompanied by schlock merchants Golan Globus, who you might remember as producing every crappy movie from the ‘80s.

You’d think that’d be the nadir, but you’d be wrong. A third one, pretty much just Leatherface running around in a boring slasher flick, hit (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, 1990) and then the series got not just bad, but weird.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) stars, of all people, Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger in a movie that has little relation to anything resembling coherence, forget horror. Although McConaughey casually backing over an annoying character a bunch of times is, in fact, absolutely hilarious. Still, good luck figuring out the weird, dream-like ending, which seems to exist because horror directors were discovering foreign movies in the early ‘90s and thought weird, abstract endings were cool.

Oh, and then there was the reboot- a remake of the original movie (2003) and a prequel (2006)- which apparently has managed to launch and kill a franchise in two films. Considering this list, that’s a real achievement.

3. Psycho

The original Psycho (1960) is, of course, a classic of suspense that changed everything from horror to the way we watched movies. Based on a classic novel by Robert Bloch, Psycho opened the door to more serious, engaging suspense films.

Then, twenty-three years later, they decide to make a slasher movie out of the second one. And the third. And the fourth.

Oh, and keeping with the theme, there’s also Bates Motel (1987), a movie set at the titular motel that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Psycho except for the location.

Not to mention the by now inevitable remake, this time a shot-for-shot one done in 1998 by outsider art weirdo Gus Van Sant. Thanks, Gus. We’re touched.

2. Saw

Saw (2004) ranks so high on this list for a very simple reason: how convoluted can one plot even get in the first place?

The first movie, although the main twist is pretty easy to peg, has a unity of concept that actually works pretty well. The second movie, OK, we’ll buy what it says. But then it goes into the realm of the insane, where you have to have seen all six previous movies to understand what the hell’s going on in the latest one. One example: a character reads a letter in one movie, and goes into a psychotic rage, and we don’t learn who wrote it until the NEXT movie, and we don’t learn what it says until the movie AFTER the next movie! This really happens!

It seems like every Saw movie reveals something else that Jigsaw planned ahead for- to a degree generally reserved for people who can see the future. Forget being prepared, this guy must have spent most of his time running statistical analyses and outsourced the trap building to China or something. And how many people pissed this guy off, anyway? Every movie seems to introduce somebody else who treated him like crap, or somebody we’ve been previously introduced to by the series like crap, and tie it into his backstory or the events of the previous movie somehow. We’ve seen X-Men continuity less involved.

It gets to the point where you can’t really pay attention to the movie because you’re too busy trying to puzzle out what actually happened. It’s so involved even the video game has continuity points. Since when did understanding a movie’s plot involve so much work?

We can’t wait for the reboot. We bet it’s not actually a reboot; the twist is they pretend it’s a reboot, but it’s really not.

1. Friday the 13th

There’s a lot we can say about Friday the 13th (1980). There’s just literally no place they haven’t taken this franchise, and if it’s a stupid idea, well, so much the better. How much abuse can one character take?

Let’s start with the original, which stars Kevin Bacon’s Speedo-covered butt and Tom Savini’s admittedly awesome gore effects. If you don’t like being spoiled, tough, because we’re ruining the ending. It turns out the killer isn’t Jason at all, but Jason’s mom; who, after her idiot son drowned in a pond, apparently developed both a split personality and an abiding hatred of nubile 18-year-olds. Yes, the defining character of the franchise doesn’t even show up in the first movie. But it gets worse!

Then there’s Part 2 (1981), which features a Jason who has somehow actually survived, wearing a sack over his head. Yes, the defining character of the franchise isn’t wearing his defining outfit. But it gets worse!

Finally, we’ve got Part III (1982), which actually establishes the Jason formula of hockey mask, machete, and idiot teenagers. You’d think we’d be all clear, and for two movies, we are. Then we’ve got A New Beginning (1985), which, spoiler alert number 2, doesn’t even actually feature Jason, just a Jason impersonation who apparently was so lazy that he heard the circumstances of Jason’s mom dying and said, ‘Yeah!  Let’s roll with that!’

Parts VI, VII, and VIII actually feature Jason stalking and killing teenagers. Let’s make a note here: the circumstances the franchise has been famous for occur in four movies out of seven. That’s a ratio of, let’s see here, a little under 60%. Then we have attempt number two to end the franchise, which explains that Jason Voorhees is not, in fact, an individual but rather able to possess people via some sort of worm…thing. And that he has a sister and a niece nobody ever bothered to mention or talk to, despite the fact that he’s been popping up and murdering people for the better part of a decade at this point.

The tenth movie, Jason X (2002), launches him into space, and at least has the courtesy to realize how utterly ridiculous it is. Then, they finally delivered on Freddy vs. Jason (2003), which, we admit, was more awesome than it had any right to be.

Then they rebooted the franchise.

We hear the next one is called The Final Friday. Honest.

by Dan Seitz


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19 Comments

  1. I agree with others in that Nightmare and Hellraiser deserve to be on this list. Problem is, so do the ones already on the list. It just goes to show that Hollywood goes back to the well way too many times with too many franchises. I heard a statistic somewhere that some ninety percent of all Hollywood properties now are sequels, remakes or adaptations of other works (i.e. plays, television shows or books). Seeing this list makes me believe it.

    Oh, and great list, btw. I think you hit the nail on the head with Friday the 13th being number one.

  2. I think the only ones that really belong are Leprechaun Friday Psycho and maybe Exorsist the rest were good movies. I never found SAW boring or hard to follow. Nightmare wouldnt belong as it isnt a remake or something redone but a classic. Final Dest is also a mordern classic to me. And I love the Candy man films. To a real horror lover this list is pretty stupid to be honest.

  3. Saw actually stems from “The abominable Dr. Phibes.” Check it out, it’s pretty good. U can find in in dollar stores and at Big Lots. Vincent Price plays the evil genius and the finale features a saw-standard torture device. It’s also the movie that influenced David Lynch’s production style – all the kitsch and oversaturated colors. That itself comes from Roger Corman’s “The masque of the red Death”, a 1950s color horror film with the most awesome ending.
    The Misfits made a song about the sequel “The abominable Dr. Phibes rises again”. They released it on some album of studio out-takes. It’s a straight-ahead heavy metal song.

    • I’m not quite sure where you got your information, but I’d like to point out that:
      A) Although Saw shares similar themes with Dr. Phibes, saying it
      stems from” it is somewhat misleading. It seems to insinuate that the creators (James Wan and Leigh Whannell) were directly influenced by it. As a huge fan of both movies (and the horror genre itself) I’d have to point out that many of the themes within both works (revenge, innovative ways to die) have been around for centuries.
      B) I couldn’t find any mention of David Lynch being directly influenced by this film.
      C) As with Point A, I’m not quite sure that the production of Dr. Phibes “itself comes from” The Masque of the Red Death. Many films have a similar production style.

  4. On your list is “Psycho” the original and “Psycho 2” wasn’t bad as well. But the others were just plain awful to watch. Especially the remake with Anne Heche (as Marion) and Vince Vaughn (as Norman). The real question is, Who in hell can do a remake of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. He was, is and always be the “Master Of Suspense”

  5. My only major complaints are:
    1) I don’t think the Saw series deserves to be on this list. An actual well-integrated plot is one of the things that makes the series unique from so many other horror movies.
    2) Hellraiser should seriously be #1. There are currently 9 of them. The first three were great, and all related continuity-wise. The original director of the fourth one quit because of increasing demands of the producers, and the film suffered for it. The 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th films, although not necessarily horrible, were basically movies that could have been their own and Pinhead was just stuck in there to sell more. By far the worst though, was the 9th one. It was scrapped together in 3 weeks because the production company didn’t want to lose the rights to the franchise. That’s the only reason.

    • It was a well-integrated plot the first time around. After that, it was just as dull and repetitive as all the others on this list.

      • I’ll agree to disagree about Saw, but I still say that Hellraiser should’ve been high up on the list (probably number one).

  6. You’re right that these series are all tired, but your commentary on them leaves much to be desired. It’s obvious that you’re not much of a horror fan, which is fine. I am, but I won’t bore you by comenting on every sequel, what Friday or Halloween movies were good of bad, blah blah blah. I could talk for hours, but here are just a few important points…

    1. “Ten years later, the writer of the original made a movie called Legion …and the studio forced him to call it Exorcist III despite it having nothing whatsoever to do with the franchise aside from some blasphemy and a forcible name swap between characters.”

    Nope, William Peter Blatty’s novel Legion is actually a direct sequel to The Exorcist, and the third book in his self-named “faith trilogy”. The trilogy started with The Exorcist. The second book is called The Ninth Configuration, a comedy/drama that was also a movie, starring Stacey Keach and directed by Blatty. These books are primarily about a person dealing with their doubt, their loss of faith. In the first film it was Father Damien Karras, in the Ninth Configuration it is Captain Billy Cupshaw, and in Legion it is Lt Kinderman. And several characters show up in both the first and third films, so they’re not name swaps. Father Morning, Father Karras, and Lt Kinderman all make appearances in both The Exorcist and The Exorcist III. It is a continuation of the events of the first film. But you’re right in saying that it was a really good film.

    2. “…not to mention a guy who has been struggling with his Catholicism for, let’s see here, his entire career, to make a prequel.”

    See above. This actually made him a great candidate to direct the prequel. In fact, Blatty wrote The Exorcist to reflect his own struggle with Catholic faith and doubt. It is what these stories are really about. The Exorcist is as much a work of religion and philosophy as it is horror, maybe more so.

    3. Psycho II was surprisingly very good. More people should check it out. Not kidding.

    4. “There’s just literally no place they haven’t taken this franchise”

    Oh Please. It’s this kind of lazy, uncreative thinking that put Jason in space in the first place.

    5. I’ve never been much of a fan of the Saw movies, but now I have to defend them. It deserves to be on the list because it overstayed its welcome, and the last few movies really started going downhill. But, you bash the Saw franchise for having a well written plot with continuity and surprises, plot points that carry over into sequels and reveal things down the road. That’s pathetic. If it was too much for you to digest, take a seat and grab an ice pack.

    I don’t love the Saw franchise, but I respect it. Whereas Friday the 13th and Halloween have seen the franchise’s continuity dragged through the mud, Saw was meticulously produced to all be interwoven as one solid epic. The set designers, prop dept, make-up dept, art design team, supporting cast, etc were all carried over from one film into the next as much as they could be. The end goal was near perfect continuity. Saw is, if anything, an exercise in creating a horror franchise as one tight story, with sequels planned out ahead of time. This is the opposite of the treatment Jason and Freddy and Michael got, which resulted in all of the thing you had just gotten done complaining about. Hell, even from Friday 2 to Friday 3, which picks up the very next day, Jason inexplicably has an entirely new outfit… and face. And the set noticeable switched from Connecticut to Georgia. And people in the area seemingly have no idea that a killer is on the loose. And the worst part? Both movies were directed by the SAME guy, Steve Miner, who is generally regarded among horror fans as one of the best slasher directors. So with that in perspective, complaining about Saw seems a bit silly, no?

    So the Saw franchise isn’t the best, but it’s certainly one of the most carefully crafted and intertwined horror franchises. You complain that someone actually put thought into a horror franchise, and that’s a real shame. In fact, you literally just complained that a movie called “Saw”, starring a killer named “Jigsaw” felt like a puzzle. Maybe a… jigsaw puzzle? Yeah, I know, sit down, deep breaths, grab that ice pack. It’s a lot to take in, huh? I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but the Saw movies might be too deep for you. Try Hostel.

    • Oh, and one more thing, I agree with Mr. F. Hellraiser should be on this list. In fact, I’d put it in at #1. That franchise is already 9 movies in, and the 4th was in space. So somehow this series managed to go 5 movies “post-space.” The latest film was rushed into production without Doug Bradley, just so that the studio could keep the franchise rights.

      Kill it.

    • From one horror fan to another, I’d like to say your comment was very well written. I am a Saw fan (as my comment above yours notes), and your defense of it was excellent. To complain that the Saw films were bad because they had an intricately-woven plotline is seems quite ridiculous. Frankly, I would think that the continuity and the attention to detail are something to be admired in a series.

  7. I agree with this list wholeheartedly and agree some others should have been added. I certainly think Hellraiser should be on the list I can stomach the second but after that it’s too much and for that matter (and in no descending order)

    The Omen
    Scream (although it has been only four, am I the only one who disliked the third?)
    Alien/s

    Don’t get me wrong I love horror, my collection is pretty much all of this genre but there is a way to do things. And I have to stick up for SAW, sorry! but it’s pretty fun and non-engaging, trying to figure out the puzzle is pointless, it is meant to be confusing. Switch your brain off. I’m not necessarily a fan of the films past film 3 (although I have a begrudging respect for Saw 7) but they try to pull you in and work, it helps that you do have a tendency to care for the characters.

    And I will defend Candyman too. By far the first is the best yet I can’t share the same anger toward the sequel. Yes it might have gone off on a tangent but the central female character is pretty likeable and the story is coherent enough to follow. I HATE Day of the Dead, it’s poorly written with an actress who’s intelligence seems rather questionable. Why Todd chose to be in this is beyond me, worst idea I have seen in quite some time.

    Halloween did lose some of its spark as it continued on, on, on, on and on, and on… but the first is still a legend in my eyes.

    The list is not terrible, in my opinion, but it omits some films that have committed some atrocities in the passing years. To not put in The Omen especially is beyond me. The original great, the follow ups… eh…

    Horror is a genre we all ought to be proud of I just wish that studios would stop bringing out potentially good movies (Paranormal Activity, it had hope!) and then just adding new additions to the series. Leave it as it is. We don’t need the remake of the remake of the remake or a reboot, nor do we need the franchise to lose steam.

    I wait in sincere hope for the day a horror film is done as an original and left as that. I can hope…

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