We live in a day and age where everyone loves a franchise. It has become a million-dollar industry to have a character to hang your hat on in a movie studio. But just as it is said that lightning never strikes twice, not every movie in a franchise can be a winner. Let’s take a look at which horror movies that you can skip in your Halloween marathons this year.
HALLOWEEN – Halloween III: Season of the Witch
“The Night Nobody Came Home…” Including Michael Myers.
What’s better than a Halloween movie with Michael Myers? How about a movie without Michael Myers? With our favorite Shatner Look-a-like currently a burned carcass, creator John Carpenter wanted to remain faithful to the sequel’s ending. What transpired was Halloween III: Season of the Witch, an experimental concept where instead of an iconic figure slicing through every movie, the franchise would become a series of movies simply centered around the spooky holiday it got its name from.
The problems are many. The biggest being that if you wanted to make this a series about the holiday and not Myers, you probably should have made this one the sequel, and never had Michael return in the first place. By setting up the chance of Michael being supernaturally charged and somehow unkillable, you create a world in which Michael is the central character that returns movie after movie, whether you like it or not. Despite some disturbing death scenes, the confusing detour in the series combined with obnoxious commercial themes, a minor story flaw involving time zones, and a protagonist who lacks a large amount of charisma, this makes for a pretty betraying experience for most Halloween fans.
FRIDAY THE 13TH – Jason Goes To Hell
It should suffice to say that when you’re nearing ten movies in a series, it’s probably a hint to stop. Jason Goes To Hell, also known as The Final Friday, wasn’t actually the final Friday the 13th film, but it was also the ninth in the series. Ninth. What are you going to have Jason do by his ninth movie? Do the tango?
Nope, you have him body skip. New Line Cinema should have learned long ago that a movie without your pivotal killer isn’t going to go anywhere. The aforementioned Halloween III, anyone? Freddy’s Revenge ring any bells? Definitely a pattern, guys. But they decided to give it another go with Jason, featuring him in barely ¼ of the movie and then having his spirit inhabit a dozen different people throughout the film. By trying to innovate, the movie suffered and although it set up what would become Freddy Vs. Jason, most people simply became to confused by the constant changes of Jason’s inhabitant and the incredibly specific rules the series had created in order to kill him.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE
I once took a class in college focused entirely on horror films. I was beyond excited, sure to learn and absorb a whole new facet of the genre. What I got was a teacher who simply followed a book he must have found in an alley, which made brilliant observations such as how out of any every single slasher movie made in the 80’s, the one to really focus on was Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
Needless to say, we did not meet eye to eye. I spent most classes restructuring the class into how I could be educating the students around me better than this guy with an MFA film degree could. Makes your heart sink.
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare followed up the lackluster Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, which many feel was the real decline of our favorite dream man. A character that had once struck fear in the hearts of an entire planet had become reduced to a Durante-esque caricature of himself, and Final Nightmare only propagated that. Freddy as the wicked witch. Freddy as Wile E. Coyote. A Nintendo Power Glove. And you know you’re in trouble when you have cameos – with then-infamous couple Roseanne and Tom Arnold hamming it up and Alice Cooper randomly appearing as Freddy’s dad, this makes for one of the saddest moments in the Elm Street story.
Oh, and did I mention the entire third act in 3-D? Yeah. Not a lot to work with here.
SAW – SAW 5
This movie struggled because it was beating a dead horse. What had been a well-told trilogy was getting bled for every dime it could get, so off they went continuing with more movies, leading us eventually to Saw 5. People are killed off the second they become somewhat useful or interesting, and the whole “Teamwork makes a dream work” angle gives you enough to eye roll at. But by winding it back in time, treating it like a prequel that isn’t a prequel, and the overwhelming feeling that it’s a placeholder for whatever they could come up with next to keep the money ball rolling leaves this movie struggling.
Not to mention, and I feel like a broken record here, but your killer is DEAD. He isn’t in the MOVIE. If you kill your character, please look at those who have come before you. If he is merely human, and not a supernatural monster, then you better keep him alive by any means necessary if you don’t want your cash cow to stop producing milk. If you sincerely care about a quality experience for your fans, then don’t beat a dead horse. Jigsaw wouldn’t even beat a dead horse, it’s already dead.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4
The first Paranormal Activity is the first movie to scare me in decades, and probably the only one to genuinely scare me since. I look at it as someone composes a piece of music, with crescendo and decrescendo, stings and accents. In short, a truly well-constructed movie.
When they decided to make it a series, I said sure, I’ll ride this train. The sequel ended up being pretty great as well. I was excited for the third, as we were beginning to be let into the backstory of why this family was plagued and with what exactly, but with an abrupt ending that left even more questions rather than answers, that was when I started to feel the strain.
Enter the fourth installment of the series: As opposed to the third, which was more of a prequel, we are back in present day, so there’s no hope of questions being answered there. Although the use of an Xbox Kinect and its blanket of dots is ingenious and effectively bans such devices of Satan from my house, this is by far the weakest of the franchise. By this point, we’re wanting answers. We want to know what happened in the 80’s. Why the house burned down. Yes, we’d like to know what happened to Hunter, but why on Earth did another kid have to get involved? Not to mention an odd secondary storyline involving a strained marriage, and an instance where I could clearly see a harness under an actor’s shirt. You reinvigorated the horror industry and are a big cause of the found footage concept everyone is now crazy for. Step up your game. (Which they did, in Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.)
ALIEN – ALIEN 3
The thing about Alien 3 is that it really isn’t too bad on its own. If you hadn’t seen the first two, or at least the second one, you probably would find this movie pretty intriguing and it is relatively well done. I recommend the factory cut, though.
The problem with Alien 3 is a combo of producers wielding far too much power, a brilliant director who is only starting out and doesn’t have the oomph behind him to fight back and oh yeah, completely negating the point of the second film.
In a nutshell, Aliens involves resident ass kicker Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, saving a little girl named Newt. Pretty much the whole point of the movie, you’re rooting for them, they succeed in the end, etc. etc. At the beginning of Alien 3 you discover that hey, remember that cute little kid everyone fell in love with in the second movie? She’s dead. Died in a crash. Oh well. That, combined with a laundry list of demands the studio insisted on making pushing out several creatives from the project before finally snagging David Fincher, (Fight Club) to direct his first film makes the story of this movie’s gestation a painful one.
All this being said, Alien 3 is probably the best movie on this list. As long as you watch the Assembly Cut. The gritty, serious and altogether cerebral tone to the film was something that summer audiences in 1992 were not quite expecting, but is quite a beautiful film on its own.
HELLRAISER – HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS
I lost count of how many Hellraiser movies there were decades ago, as the only watchable ones are the first two. But many believe that this last installment that was released in 2011 was finally the killing blow. Except for the upcoming reboot, of course. But if any series had earned their reboot and needs to be reborn, it’s this one. Especially after Hellraiser: Revelations.
Sometimes I wonder how money is found to fund projects like this. Then I see it, and I realize there is no money behind it. With no real artistic integrity left, as it was thrown by the wayside a dozen movies ago, that’s to be expected. But when the one and only Pinhead himself Doug Bradley bows out on this one, you know there has to be a problem. He’d done all of them up to this point. Let that sink in.
Two Pinheads, neither of which being Bradley. Half found footage format, half cinematic. A girlfriend who researches what happened to the victims by looking up the word “Cenobite” in a dictionary. Are you being for real? I enjoy Hellraiser as much as the next person, which makes this movie almost a personal attack.
POLTERGEIST – POLTERGEIST 3
Poltergeist was my gateway drug, the movie that made me slide down the bloody rabbit hole of horror movies. So of course when my obsession was at its peak, I had to watch all the Poltergeists. And to our readers born in 1990 and above, I’m an old fogey. I had to actually go out and hunt for these treasures. Half the fun, honestly. I weep that you won’t experience that.
But I digress. I got my hands on Poltergeist II: The Other Side almost immediately, and enjoyed it thoroughly, but I couldn’t find the third anywhere. No one seemed to even know it existed. Finally, one fateful Blockbuster carried it and I popped it into the VHS player, ready to be thrilled. And just as quickly as that first movie taught me the magic of horror movies, Poltergeist III taught me just how disappointing one could be, as well.
The concept of mirrors being gateways for spirits isn’t a new one, and is something that has been around for centuries. But the shoddy effects, the recasting of Kane due to the original actor’s unfortunate passing and the only remaining originals from the other films being Carol Anne and Tangina makes this a hard pill to swallow. It was as if the entirely brand-new team creating the movie decided to try and jam it into a slasher movie shape – attractive teens trying to get it on, grab a buzz, but getting killed instead. The problem is the Poltergeist films were never intended to be slasher films, and as terrifying and iconic as Julian Beck was as the Reverend Kane in “Poltergeist II,” the movies were never meant to be a franchise.
ROMERO’S LIVING DEAD – SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD
George Romero is heralded as one of the fathers of modern horror and sociology in the genre. Night of the Living Dead is on every person’s top 10 list at Halloween that is worth their salt, unless it is “Dawn” or “Day,” and is often seen as a indie-film messiah, inspiring generations of artists to tell their story even if all they have is a video camera and a dream.
But just as Lucas choked on the new Star Wars “trilogy’, or with Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, it seems Romero’s well has run dry. I am one of the few people who enjoyed his 2005 movie, Land of the Dead, where he poses the idea that zombies are capable of intelligence, organization, etc. But 2009’s Survival of the Dead is less than a shadow of what Romero’s Living Dead series was, opting for less social commentary and more gags.
Mr. Romero is getting up in years, so maybe he’s just decided to have fun with the movies he’s got left in him. I can respect that. Regardless, that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. Perhaps if he didn’t make them part of his iconic zombie series and made a clean delineation between the two, there would be a better audience for this film. But even if it had that distinction we’d still have to deal with masturbatory writing, dated lingo and a hard-to-follow storyline due to its sheer boring tone. I’d stick to the classics from now on.
TEXAS CHAINSAW – TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION
This one will always go down in history as, “That one horrible ‘Texas Chainsaw’ with Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger.” Who knew such a stinker would bring us two Oscar winners. But it is because of A Time To Kill and Jerry Maguire becoming such hits around the same time that took this mess of a film from a forgotten blemish on the festival circuit to something we could actually get a hold of.
It just…makes no sense. There’s the Illuminati, (don’t ask me, I don’t know,) there’s people being killed, brought back to life, and then killed again. There’s a half dozen bad guys. Are they family? Are they a weird, creepy commune of Dexters? I have no idea. Nothing about this movie makes sense, and although Matthew brings it a little harder than his counterparts, there is no reason to ever watch this movie. No reason. Ever. I mean, the Illuminati? Did I land in Narnia?
CHILD’S PLAY – CHILD’S PLAY 3
Now I know this one will hold a little contention. With the likes of Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky in this franchise, how could I pick one of the movies that was supposed to be scary? That’s exactly why I chose it. Bride and Seed abandoned the scare for the slapstick. And although I thoroughly enjoy every single one of the Child’s Play movies, (BTW, do yourself a favor and watch the new one, Curse of Chucky. Chucky’s back to his roots and is brilliant,) I felt weird leaving it out of such a list and one of them had to take the fall.
Which brings us to Child’s Play 3. Having been thrown together in the 9 months after Child’s Play 2 had come out, Chucky suffered a bit with jumping the gun and not fully realizing anything in the movie. The movie holds promise, but simply wasn’t developed enough to really make it strong. Also, the Tyler character makes me want to claw at the walls. Pretty irritating.
All in all though, I’d say the Child’s Play franchise is one which you can watch all of them and not resent your life choices for it. So let’s hear it for Child’s Play 3! You didn’t suck as bad as these other ones did!
SCREAM – SCREAM 3
When I think of Scream 3, I think of 3 things, funny enough. I think of getting kicked out of an R-rated movie without a guardian, causing my dad to drive down and watch with us because my dad was awesome. I remember the weird, creepy, “You’re-my-half-brother-and-you-want-to-kill-me-but-now-that-you’re-dying-I’m-gonna-hold-your-hand-and-gaze-longingly-into-your-eyes” moment. And I remember Jay and Silent Bob.
This is what my brain chooses to remember from Scream 3.
What makes this one so sad is that the whole point of the Scream story is that it makes fun of horror movies. Well, what happens when a horror movies satirizing horror movies becomes the kind of horror movie it satirizes? Cameos? A million red herrings that we’ve already seen versions of before? Kevin Williamson’s writing is sorely missed in this movie, as he couldn’t commit and the new writers threw out pretty much any and all notes he left. All we can do is imagine what if he’d been able to hang in for this movie. At least we got Scre4m, and got a little better closure than we got with this forced wrap-up.
BLAIR WITCH – BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS
Oh Blair Witch. What you could have been.
When The Blair Witch Project hit theaters, it changed a lot of things. It put found footage and viral marketing on the map. It also made a fat stack of cash that Hollywood was ready to pounce on. It came as no surprise that once the secret was out about this movie that they wanted to create this into a series of movies, with Blair Witch 2 & 3 green-lit at the same time, and the second one started almost immediately.
Maybe that was the problem. What it was, Book of Shadows had absolutely zero of what the first movie had. Intrigue and mystery were replaced with a Big Brother reality show-style plot, obnoxious stereotypes and clearly scripted scenes, as opposed to the raw, simplistic grit that was the original. The Hollywood machine decimated the magic that was Blair Witch, and a third movie was quickly forgotten. Lucky for us, Paranormal Activity got a better grip on things.