Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just for Screams: An Examination of Horror Films and Their Ridiculous Sequel Count

Horror films. Everybody loves the thrill of being scared. What's the result of this? They keeps us coming back for more- literally.
I don't think anybody would argue that horror films, more accurately "slasher flims",  put out more sequels than any other genre of film. So in honor of Halloween 2010, I have put together a list of the most recognizable horror films that, for the most part, owe their notoriety to their sheer number of sequels, prequels, and remakes. 

 The golden age of horror films was definitely the 1980s, and none of it would have been so if it weren't for John Carpenter's Halloween. Released in 1978, John Carpenter's original is, without doubt, the greatest installment in the series.

Shot in only 21 days, with a budget of only $300,000, this B-film started a revolution in horror. What is it you ask? The teenage slasher film. Shortly afterwards we had movies like Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street which all featured supernatural killers, both of which turned out ridiculous amounts of sequels.

Speaking of sequels, Halloween went on to produce seven more sequels which lasted on through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, each one continuing to add on to the mythology of Michael Meyers and effectively ruining the franchise. This, of course, not including Rob Zombie's two remakes in 2007 and 2009, which also did their part in turning the series into something unrecognizable.

Everybody loves Friday the 13th. We all love the mystery, the superstition, and, of course, the chopped up teenagers spread across cabin floors.

Originally released in 1980, Victor Miller, the original writter, admitted that he was riding off the success of John Carpenter's Halloween, taking the idea of a teen killer who can't be killed (teens being his target, not his age).

Shot in only 28 days, the original 'Friday' went on to succeed seven more sequels under the same name. In fact, 1988 was the only year in the 80s without an installment. Eventually Paramount sold the rights of the Jason Voorhees character to New Line Cinema, not the actual Friday the 13th name. New Line went on to put out three more 'Jason' movies:  Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X and the crossover film Freddy vs. Jason.

All together, Jason Voorhees has appeared in twelve films, including the 2009 remake of the first three. Now you take the number of teens he's sliced and diced in each film and add them up... That's a lot of premarital sex.

So picture this: You're standing in your shower, totally at peace, not getting your hair wet, not using any soap, just letting the water hit the bottom third of your body, the totally realistic way, and all of a sudden some crazy man-lady starts stabbing you! Well, that actually happened to Jamie Lee Curtis' mother.

Filmed from November 30, 1959 to March 1, 1960, this was Hitchcock's last feature film in black and white. Norman Bates and his derranged company ended up putting out two sequels, a prequel,  a television based spin-off, and a remake in 1998 starring Vince Vaughn. Crazy, right?

So what could be worse than a child murderer? A dead child murderer who continues to murder children through dreams. Well, in this case, nightmares.

Enter wise-cracking, Christmas sweater wearing serial killer Freddy Kruger. Brainchild of  suspense master Wes Craven, the script for the original was written in 1981 and "flew around" for three years until horror pioneer New Line Cinema picked it up.

When it was finally released in 1984, A Nightmare on Elm Street was a hit, grossing over $25 million worldwide and spawning six sequels, the crossover Freddy vs. Jason, and a remake just released earlier this year. Up through now, Freddy has appeared in a total of nine films. If that doesn't scare you, Kruger was inspired by a hobo Wes saw staring at him through his window when he woke up one day, back when he was a 10 year old.

People in Texas are crazy. If you don't believe me, you can take it up with this guy.

Talk about a face only a mother could love. The Texs Chainsaw Massacre is the second movie on my list to be inspired by a series of grizzly murders by a flesh-wearing maniac who lived in Wisconsin (the other being Alfred Hitchock's Psycho).

This has been more of a generational story, one or two movies released each decade since 1974. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the eighth highest grossing horror franchise in America, only slimly beating out the Child's Play movies.

By the time Leatherface was done sawing up horny teenagers, the series had  three sequels and a remake in 2003 and a prequel in 2006. I guess prequels are what you do when you have run out of ideas but still want to milk a franchise.

"Hello, Sidney."

From the master of suspense himself, Wes Craven is known for many of his classic horror flicks and Scream is no exception. When it was released in 1996, it brought back the slasher film for the 1990s and even for today.

People fell in love with Scream for it's mock on all horror movie cliches and yet, it is a horror movie in itself. It's called a pastiche.

Scream eventually produced two successful sequels, one the year after, and the third installment came three years after the second, in 2000. Ever since it's original release back in '96, this franchise has continued to stand out among other horror flicks because of its self awareness and ability to mock everything it is while providing thrills and chills all the same.

But wait, there's more... a fourth installment, cleverly entittled Scream 4, is due out on April 15th, 2011. This one is said to play by the new rules of the new generation off horror cliches.

"If it's Halloween, it must be Saw". This catchy tagline has been used every Halloween for the last seven years.

When talking about endless sequels to horror films, you can't leave out the infamous Saw films of last decade. Filmed in a record of 18 days, the orginal film was intended for straight-to-video release, but became a premiere franchise after gaining positive reviews.

A premiere franchise is right. Saw was the most successful horror series of last decade and it's easy to see why- people keep paying the money to see people get hacked up by terrorizing machines and traps; enough to make a fan of blood and guts very, very happy.

Saw went on to produce a movie for every year since its original release. In total, that's six movies and a seventh one comes out today, in 3D none the less. It claims that it is the last one, but we'll see about that.

"Hi, I'm Chucky". This is probably one of the most chilling lines in all of horror cinema, simply because it comes from a doll.

Released in 1988, Child's Play was almost tittled Bloody Buddy. If you ask me, they both sound pretty scarry.

Everybody's favorite playtime doll, Chucky, has earned quite a name for himself. This "Good Guy" went on to scare us for two more sequels with United Artists, remaining faithful to his fans as the darker, scarier Chucky.

Eventually U.A. sold the rights of the characters to Universal Studios where Brad Dourif's signature voice would once again bring life into the doll. However, unlike last time, these two sequels would feature a much funnier, wise-cracking Chucky. Not many fans liked this decision.

Seeing is how my list is about ridiculous amounts of sequels, prequels, and remakes, it probably won't surprise you to know that a remake of the original is expected to be released sometime next year. This remake will star Brad Dourif (hopefully) and return Chucky back to his much darker roots. Golly gee!

All this and it still isn't over. As we speak more classic horror films are either are being remade or have sequels or prequels on the way, such as a sequel to the lastest Friday the 13th installment and remakes like Terror Train, Birds, and many more. Horror is an interesting genre that is definitely going to stay with us for as long as we exist; tapping into the deepest emotion that dwells within us all- fear. And these relentless sequels, prequels, and remakes are concrete evidence that fear never truely dies.

Thank you for reading and happy Halloween.

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