As always time to look through those scary movies and find a night’s viewing for either your own enjoyment, or perhaps you’re one of those film marathon hosts? Well, in that case we’re on hand to provide you with a list of film series that are among the largest Horror franchises in circulation. From chainsaw wielders to puppets without strings, here are 10 Horror sagas that refused/refuse to lay dormant. Please choose your films wisely…
Despite it being time to carve your pumpkins and prep the fake fangs, here is a series more in keeping with another special occasion (to be sure). The Leprechaun series is relatively younger than many here (at a mere 21 yrs. old) but it is pretty mad to think that Mark Jones’ Horror/Comedy starring a debuting Jennifer Aniston and Warwick Davis as a killer Leprechaun after his gold, could spawn 5 sequels and 1 reboot. But if gold was what the little fella was after he sure got it, even if the series has stretched the premise to breaking point (1997’s Leprechaun 4: In Space or 2003’s Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood). Although this year’s WWE Studios backed reboot (or should that be prequel) Leprechaun Origins (see our review here) was clearly a step too far (plus recasting Davis’ wisecracking antagonist as a monster- not played by Davis but wrestler Dylan Postl– didn’t help satisfy fans). Time will tell if the series will spawn another offspring but lucky charms can only get you so far surely.
Speaking of youth, in terms of years, the Saw series is the youngest on this list, celebrating only its 10th anniversary this year. However in the years past it became a kind of tradition that every Halloween would see the release of the next twisted entry in the gore galore story of Tobin Bell’s serial killer Jigsaw (who actually died in Saw III (2006) but when did death ever stop a horror series) and his fiendishly gruesome traps. Still, say what you will, but from James Wan’s surprise 2004 hit to the latest entry in 2010’s Saw 3D (the seventh film in the series), they always end with a bang (even if the ideology has taken a knock)! Plus Saw fans can rejoice as an eighth film is set to arrive in cinemas come 2015, I want to play a game…again.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974-2013)
You know when something is “based on true events”, that is not always as factual as it sounds, take Tobe Hooper’s 1974 Horror The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was certainly not an entirely accurate portrayal of real life serial killer Ed Gein but it was a sweaty, terrifying, classic. However the huge string of sequels/remakes/reboots that followed certainly stretched the source story beyond the realms of plausibility. Hooper’s own 1986 sequel is the best of the bunch taking things to a deranged darkly comic turn, however parts 3 (1990’s Leatherface) and four (1994’s The Next Generation– which starred a young Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey) are pretty naff fare. Platinum Dunes’ 2003 remake was fine; its 2006 prequel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) was not and last year’s strange attempt at a reboot/sequel/prequel (confused yet?) Texas Chainsaw 3D was admirable enough. Despite the iffy timelines/reviews though, the series is buzzing for more after a lifetime gross of $235,810,750, apparently the next film (which would be the eighth if you are keeping count) will be a prequel that looks at series antagonist Leatherface’s teen years- oh we give up!
Children of the Corn (1984-2011)
A lot of the series on this list consist of straight-to-DVD/video sequels and the Stephen King based Children of the Corn franchise is no exception. In fact all the films were straight-to-video minus the first three. The series has never really been all that favourably reviewed but still reaped some fair profits, hence why Fritz Kiersch’s original spooky 1984 film led to 7 sequels- the latest (Children of the Corn: Genesis) being released in 2011- and a 2009 TV Movie remake. There are currently no plans for the children to go rifling through the cornfields again but we’d bet on another bloody harvest sometime soon.
And just as we have one series inspired by a major author, here is another in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser series. In fact Barker himself directed the first (and obviously the best) Hellraiser in 1987, which is still a violent and sadistically stylish cult Horror classic. Actually initial sequels Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) and Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992) are effective, sadly the series falls apart after that, with the biggest low being 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations (the ninth film in the series), which is the only Hellraiser film to not have classic antagonist Pinhead played by Doug Bradley. Revelations performed very poorly with audiences and critics, with even Barker himself damningly saying, “ If they claim its from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole”. So no wonder the long gestating plans of a reboot have been stuck in development hell ever since, although the last word was that Barker would be taking the helm once more, with Bradley back as Pinhead, so maybe there are hopes for the Cenobites just yet.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984-2010)
When it comes to slasher flicks, they are pretty simple but Wes Craven’s 1984 gem A Nightmare On Elm Street really changed that, with a fantastic dream-stalking premise and one of cinemas most terrifying antagonists in Freddy Krueger (iconically played by a wonderful Robert Englund). Since Craven’s nightmare changed the game, the series’ 6 sequels- and a terrible 2010 remake with Jackie Earle Hayley as CG Freddy- never really measured up. That being said there are some delights to be found in certain instalments, such as Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Walkers (1987), Craven’s meta-concept Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) and the massively enjoyable franchise crossover Freddy vs. Jason (2003). Platinum Dunes’ remake was meant to kick start a new series but awful feedback may have put paid to that, still with a combined $457,001,847 at the box office, a tenth outing for Freddy is likely. So look out for the fedora hat, striped sweatshirt and butter knife fingered glove to haunt your dreams again, sooner rather than later…
And now we finally have the series tailor made for this season and while it is probably the most wonky in terms of quality, the Halloween franchise has gone on to spawn 7 sequels and two further films (the mostly fine 2007 Rob Zombie remake and his laughably bad 2009 sequel, H2). Obviously John Carpenter’s pioneering 1978 original slasher Halloween is the best, kick starting a genre, making a scream queen out of star Jamie Lee Curtis and petrifying audiences with iconic movie madman Michael Myers. The 1981 sequel Halloween II, isn’t bad either, the third Myers-free film (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1982) is a failed experiment, Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) is not bad and Halloween H20 (1998)- a direct sequel to Halloween II– is probably the finest follow up of the lot. Everything else however, ranges from bad to unwatchable- see Myers being revamped as cursed in 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (the sixth film and which saw an early turn by a young Paul Rudd) or facing off against Busta Rhymes in the baffling eighth film Halloween Resurrection (2002). Still Myers is set to rise again, it has been announced and in 3D if rumours are to be believed.
Puppet Master (1989-2013)
Now here is a series many may be unfamiliar with and which has never graced the big screen, that being said Full Moon Feature’s Puppet Master franchise is still going strong to this day. Since the rather chilling original in 1989- which told the story of a group of living puppets terrorising those that wronged them and their master- there have been an astonishing 9 sequels and one unofficial crossover film in 2004’s Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys. The franchise has a very enthusiastic following and while the first set of movies (Puppet Master, Puppet Master II (1991) and Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991) mainly) darker vibe has since become lighter and far sillier, the series continues to grow and its killer puppet characters (mainly the skeletal Blade, bulky bodied Pinhead and facially rotating Jester – the only characters to appear in all 11 films) have become iconic in their own ways. And things don’t look to be changing anytime soon, with plans in motion for more in the series and a 3D re-release of the first film.
The Amityville Horror (1979-2013)
What is often amazing is just how many films have been made in one series, no more is this the case than with the incredibly durable Amityville series. Since Stuart Rosenberg’s 1979 paranormal hit (based on a trueish story), there has been an astonishing 9 sequels and a 2005 remake. The series has not exactly been heaped with praise (even the original was not highly thought of but it was very financially successful) and mostly dominates the TV movie/straight-to-disc market now but that being said the story creeps ever on and after 2013’s The Amityville Asylum, there is already a further sequel prepped to haunt fans in Amityville: The Awakening, which awaits a confirmed release date. Looks like it is going to take more than an exorcism to expel this franchise from the screen.
Friday the 13th (1980-2009)
Well what else did you expect? Jason Voorhees has become as big a horror icon as any other and over the course of 12 movies (including a crossover with A Nightmare On Elm Street and Marcus Nispel’s enjoyable 2009 remake) has butchered, maimed and brutalised more campers than any other masked movie killer. The series is the highest grossing horror franchise in America (adjusted for inflation) and worldwide has gone onto gross $465,239,523. And while many rip on the series’ unoriginality, thin plots and excessively violent kills, Friday the 13th is among the more consistent Horror series out there and offers mostly unpretentious entertainment. Sean S. Cunningham’s 1980 original is still a cult classic (despite being a cash-in on the Halloween inspired slasher craze) but Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Part III 3D (1982), VI: Jason Lives (1986), Jason X (2001) and Freddy Vs. Jason are the franchises best offerings, even if the stories got barmier and barmier (with Jason becoming a zombie (Part VI), fighting a girl with telekinesis (Part VII: The New Blood, 1988), transforming into an evil worm (Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday, 1993) and being remodelled as part robotic (Jason X). The general low points are Part V: A New Beginning (1985), Part VIII (the one where Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)- although it is an enjoyable trashy offering in truth) and Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (the ninth film). As for the future, well a new film (ironically the 13th) is pencilled in for a 2015 release and rumours persist of it being another reboot presented in found footage style. Hey at least it’s different!