Horror films have been drawing audiences to the movie theaters for well over a hundred years. While there have been several classic stand-alone films that have garnered critical acclaim, we all know any moderately successful film is likely to be forcefully branched out into a full-fledged franchise in hopes of raking in money for the rest of eternity. With Halloween finally upon us and the month of October drawing to a close, let’s take a look at the top horror film franchises, according to you, our creepy little readers:
#3. Friday the 13th Franchise
Ah, yes. Friday the 13th. Most people instantly think of Jason Voorhees and his iconic battered hockey mask when they hear that title, but how many actually know that he didn’t acquire that hockey mask until Friday the 13th Part III? Or that the original Friday the 13th focused on Jason’s mother? That’s right, the first installment in the franchise featured Pamela Voorhees on her vengeful conquest to kill the new campers at the reopened Camp Crystal Lake, where her son Jason drowned several years before. Jason makes a brief appearance at the end of the film and sure enough, the rest of the installments follow Jason’s story closely as the consummate force-of-nature villain who just won’t stay down— even in outer space.
The Friday the 13th franchise has 12 entries, including the 2003 iconic slasher crossover, Freddy vs. Jason, which pits Jason against everyone’s favorite dreamy killer, Freddy Krueger. There was also a poor attempt at rebooting the series back in 2009 led by Michael Bay as a producer, but we don’t talk about that one. We just don’t. The property hasn’t been touched in nearly nine years, but it can’t be long before we hear the iconic “ki ki ki ma ma ma” back on the silver screen once again.
#2. The Exorcist Franchise
In a shocking twist of
heads fate, The Exorcist comes in second on this list. If you’re surprised to hear The Exorcist spawned a franchise, you’re likely not alone. The Exorcist spawned two sequel films (kinda), Exorcist II: The Heretic and The Exorcist III, and two prequels which are essentially the same film, save for the climaxes, Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. That may seem like quite a bit of world-building, but not when you consider that The Heretic was trashed by The Exorcist director William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty, writer of the screenplay and book the original film was based on. Blatty actually went on to direct his own sequel and subsequently retconned the events of The Heretic when he wrote and directed The Exorcist III in 1990. So there’s that.
As for the confusing case of the prequels: Exorcist: The Beginning was released to world-wide scorn, prompting Blatty to call it his “most humiliating professional experience” despite not being involved in the production. The Beginning was a poorly-planned rehashing of Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, which producers feared would not be well-received and commissioned Renny Harlin to put together his own version for theatrical release. The Beginning’s failure forced the studio to release Dominion the following year. It still failed to garner much critical praise, but earned kind words from Blatty who called it “a handsome, classy, elegant piece of work”. Both feature a kick-ass Stellan Skarsgård playing a young Father Lankester Merrin, but even that isn’t enough to save either version of the film. In short: the films are a total mess, but the original film is an unparalleled horror staple which is widely considered to be the scariest film of all time.
Today, The Exorcist has found some new life as a drama series on Fox. The show’s first season manages to expand on the world of the original film and serves up some half-decent scares for a network television show. The Exorcist is currently on its second season and has amassed a sizable following affectionately dubbed the “Exorcist Congregation” by the show’s creator, Jeremy Slater.
#1. A Nightmare on Elm Street
One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…
Wes Craven’s gift to horror aficionados came in the 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street, which follows a group of teenagers being haunted by a supernatural killer who can murder them in their dreams. Freddy Krueger is a monster among monsters. While Jason and Michael Myers are physically imposing in every conceivable way, there’s just something about a killer who can come after you in the safety of your own dreams.
Three, four, better lock your door…
What sets Freddy apart from his contemporaries Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees is that Freddy doesn’t just rush through his films amassing a high body count — he has fun doing it. Freddy is nothing short of a troll, killing his victims in increasingly imaginative ways as the films progress. Yeah, other horror movie big bads mow through cheerleaders and jocks like it’s their business, but they simply don’t have Freddy’s style. After all, has Jason ever killed Johnny Depp by having him be essentially gobbled up by his bed and being spat back out in a gooey fountain of blood and guts? I’ll wait.
Five, six, grab a crucifix…
Robert Englund’s performance as Krueger is one for the history books and Englund is one of only two actors to play a horror villain eight consecutive times. The franchise has nine total entries with the ninth being yet another Michael Bay-produced remake back in 2010, which we also don’t talk about. (Damn it, Michael Bay!)
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late…
Everything about Freddy and the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is just iconic. From Freddy’s burned and disfigured face, to his green-and-red striped sweater, to the signature metal-clawed gauntlet he wears on his right hand, audiences will always know they’re in serious trouble when they hear that seemingly sweet little nursery rhyme that’s been etched into the minds of Nightmare on Elm Street fans for over 30 years.
Nine, ten, never sleep again…
Mario Avalos is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, along with certificates in Film Studies and Professional and Public Writing.