For every A Nightmare on Elm Street, there’s a Troll. For every Halloween there’s a Witchcraft. The bad balances the good, and vice versa. But even knowing that this is the reality of horror, it’s hard not to look back on some of those absolutely horrendous films – and franchises – and wonder aloud as to how they managed to be filmed and released.
How did so many of these troubled franchises stumble around so long that a chance of a respectable studio getting behind them to rejuvenate a brand completely disappeared? These may seem like tough questions… until you look at the 10 following franchises.
Every franchise listed here can be successfully revived. The question is how?
Stan Winston’s tragic revenge tale turned a great number of heads in 1988. The film itself is flawed, but the passion in the project isn’t unguided and viewers understand that, as we immediately sympathize with Lance Henriksen’s character, Ed Harley. The man had a front row seat to witness the death of his young son, a direct result of the carelessness of a handful of youngsters who hit the boy with one of their motorcycles. Unfortunately, the boy could not be saved, but there’s a local legend that may help Ed dole out a unique brand of revenge.
The story is powerful, and it tugs at the heartstrings of the parents of the world. And, to be completely honest, Ed’s decision to summon a monster to exact revenge on the tool bags who murdered his son, is a decision that many (myself included) of us would have made. In making that decision, Ed unleashes a great screen monster who lurks through a beautifully atmospheric picture.
It’s too bad it’s the only truly enjoyable film in the franchise. If there’s one monster franchise out there that deserves a high caliber reboot, or even sequel, it’s Pumpkinhead.
Children of the Corn
We all know this story well. The kids of an isolated and rural little community get their kicks by sacrificing adults to a monstrous presence that lives within the corn fields surrounding their ramshackle homes. It’s a great film based on a great short story from Stephen King.
Somehow, after eight sequels we’ve still yet to unearth a legitimately strong installment beyond the inaugural film. It almost feels like you’ve got to really try to make eight horrendous films. But we’ve got one last shot at turning this franchise around: John Gulager, the director behind the awesome Feast trilogy will try to revive this decayed carcass with Children of the Corn: Runaway, the 10th pic in the franchise, tapped to see a direct-to-video release next year.
The first Leprechaun film was a delightful little B-movie that pleased due to its sheer absurdity. It was an ultra-low budget affair, but the titular menace had some great one liners, the screenplay keeps a very basic but precise idea alive and on the tracks through the duration of the movie, and we even get an introduction to Jennifer Aniston, who at that point had done very little television work and appeared in uncredited cameos in a movie or two. She was a total unknown, but somehow, Leprechaun may have been just the career boost she needed, as she landed far more consistent work in the wake of her trip into shoestring horror.
Now, all of that sounds nice. The Jennifer Aniston info might even make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. But that’s where it all stops. Leprechaun was fun, but every sequel to follow has been complete and utter trash. That’s five sequels that tanked on too many levels to count, and a “reboot/prequel” that wasn’t even remotely near related to the other movies in the franchise… in any single way. You’d think that separation from the expected might result in something a bit more memorable, but you’d be dead wrong: Leprechaun: Origins is every bit as nauseating as the rest of the series, if not more so.
It’s time to either walk away from this franchise forever, or fork out the cash it’s going to require to get a true talent behind the camera and a cast that we can all respect. And let’s be real here, none of that is going to happen… although I wish it would!
Bob Kurtzman’s first Wishmaster movie was an absolute blast. It was basically one giant nod to horror greats, with a nasty looking bad guy thrown in the mix. The movie never takes itself too seriously, which was a perfect decision from Kurtzman, and that helped endear the film to fans. It’s really quite simple: Wishmaster was a joyride of insanity and punchlines.
That’s where the magic died.
Three sequels would follow Kurtzman’s first feature. All three of those flicks were nothing shy of utter rubbish. The successful comedy was sucked from every sequel, each looking cheaper than its immediate predecessor. And to make it all worse, Andrew Divoff, who played the Wishmaster, jumped ship after the first sequel.
Here’s the thing about the Wishmaster series: it’s begging for a complete, 100-percent overhaul. We’re talking about creating a completely different kind of movie. Just imagine the Wishmaster with no jokes, only an ultraviolent nature and a steady drive to murder. An amazingly dark, humor-free Wishmaster piece could conceivably be stunning. It could also prove to be certifiably petrifying. It’s a far cry from the movies that already exist, but it could also be the key to successfully reviving a franchise that launched with a world of promise only to fizzle out in just a few short years’ time.
The Amityville Horror
You know that when Hollywood insists on releasing a mediocre remake that does absolutely nothing to attempt to improve upon the original, and it proves entertaining, you’ve got an ugly, ugly franchise on your hands. The Amityville Horror is no doubt one of the industry’s ugliest franchises in existence.
Stuart Rosenberg’s original film was wildly unsettling. We’re talking leave the lights on at night after watching, unsettling. A large part of the flick’s success comes in the inclusion of James Brolin and Margot Kidder, who both turn out to be perfect fits for the story. But the movie had a lot of other excellent things going for it, and you’ll be hard pressed to count how many different sequences left the bladder feeling a bit lighter. The first film is excellent, plain and simple.
And then the whole house came crumbling down and a franchise with all the potential in the world spiraled into embarrassing depths.
To date 17 films (many containing just a loose connection to the original film) in the franchise have been released. They’re all face-palm worthy, the budgets taking consistent hits, the screenplays becoming more amateur with each film. These movies are just horrendous. But there’s still a shred of hope.
2017 will see the release of Franck Khalfoun’s Amityville: The Awakening. If a talented filmmaker like Khalfoun can’t right this ship, nothing can.
Hellraiser actually produced a strong first sequel that explored some realms we weren’t treated to in the franchise starter. However, everything post-Hellbound: Hellraiser II has been dismal and uninspiring. Somewhere along the way the decision was made to neglect storylines in favor of some of the most grotesque special effects you’ll see on film. While I love great effects – especially practical effects – I need a little story to accompany the ruby red.
That’s something that went forgotten for a great number of years, and somehow, these films were created, over and over again, each one a little gorier than the one before it. Each one devoid of a compelling narrative
I guess if you just enjoy being grossed out this is your dream franchise. If you’re like me, and you place value on a strong story, you’ve likely got just one final chance to see the Hellraiser movie you crave, as Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who will helm the next Hellraiser flick, Hellriser: Judgment, has openly stated this is his true passion project.
The one pick on this list that leaves me insanely frustrated, The Howling could have been a remarkable series. There are a number of possibilities that open up with the first film concluding in the fashion it did (I won’t spoil it, in case you’re about 35 years late to the party), but following through and building upon that story could have led to some marvelous work. The story offshoots were born during the duration of Joe Dante’s movie, it’s just sad that no one felt it necessary to pick up immediately where the first pic ended and create a follow up that Dante himself would have approved of.
While I’m already a little damaged by this choice, as the werewolf sub-genre is no doubt one of my absolute favorites, I’ll go ahead and tell you what you already know: the vast majority of sequels to The Howling were depressing, disjointed affairs that struggled to impress anyone. It’s a bummer of a way for the series to unfold.
No official, concrete news of a new Howling film coming our way any time soon, but if you’re feeling brave, you can attempt to make it through The Howling: Reborn, which is a little too close to Twilight-esque sparkle for me.
I may be flamed to Hell and back for this selection, as the Puppet Master series no doubt has a strong cult following. In fact, I’d be a certified liar if I told you I myself didn’t get a kick out of a few of these movies. Overall though, the Puppet Master franchise is more of a bad joke than a memorable collection of films.
As budgetary issues began to rise in the world of Full Moon, these films were forced to be put together on ever dwindling budgets. The fiscal limitations are clearly visible when watching the movies, but they’ve still got some charm, and there’re still some enjoyable special effects and twisted creations to admire.
The real problem with the Puppet Master franchise, whether you like an installment or so, is that it’s not successfully frightening, funny or memorable. These movies slipped through the cracks long, long ago… even though they’re still being made!
Puppet Master: Axis Termination and Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich are both scheduled to arrive next year. I don’t have much hope for Axis Termination, to be honest, but S. Craig Zahler’s involvement in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich does leave me feeling a little hopeful!
The first Wrong Turn film was a nutty, backwoods cannibal redneck piece, and it was a lot of fun. The budget, while not enormous, proved enough to gift us a feature with some fine filming locations and sets, some strong special effects and a decent young ensemble. It’s an enjoyable flick, for sure. And, to a lesser extent, the very same could be said for the immediate follow up to Wrong Turn, appropriately titled Wrong Turn 2.
Then Declan O’Brien stepped onto the scene and punched a few additional holes in a slowly sinking vessel. O’Brien massacred these movies, stealing away any hope of ingenuity or polarizing characters. He just tossed cardboard cutouts in a situation as familiar as the back of your hand. The spirit left the franchise, and it did so for three separate films. That’s more than enough to time for former fans to decide bailing out seemed a smart thing to do.
Valeri Milev directed the sixth film in the franchise, and while it had some fun moments, and it far outshined O’Brien’s works, it was a bit more confused in its intent. Just the same, confused or clear-headed, the sixth movie in the franchise was easily the best we’ve seen since the first film or so.
I’m just left to wonder why we haven’t seen a studio go all in for a franchise like this. Get creative. Manufacture new conflicts. Cast quality performers. Get an amazing screenwriter in there. Take the time to invest a lot of work to give us one final truly impressive Wrong Turn movie.
It’s all just wishful thinking, isn’t it?
Oh, Prom Night, Prom Night, Prom Night… where the hell do we begin?
Let’s be completely real for just a moment: the original Prom Night wasn’t exactly a special film. It was an ugly production, it used a very cliché concept and the big twist doesn’t make for much of a surprise. But we love it, because it features the stunning Jamie Lee Curtis who gifted the term Scream Queen an adequate revival. We love it because it fell right smack dab in the mix of the series of horror films she made in the late 1970s through the early ‘80s.
We loved this movie because of Jamie Lee Curtis.
There, I said it.
However, despite the clichés this one employs, it does come off as a fun film to tune into. That can’t be said for most of the others in the franchise. A franchise, might I add, that produced three sequels and a (basically in name only) remake.
So what can be done to slam the adrenaline shot in the chest of the Prom Night franchise? Honestly… the only idea I have would be to create a story that acts as a true sequel and opens the doors wide enough to see the damage done to those who survived the first feature. I can’t imagine any studio leaping to cough up money for that!