It’s Halloween today and we’re celebrating at The Canyon by screening all of the Halloween films back-to-back on our projector. Before that though, here’s Stuart with his rankings of some of the top horror franchises ever.
THE SLASHER MOVIE
The “slasher movie” has been an incredibly popular subgenre for over 30 years now and is not only relatively cheap to make but also draws in moviegoers again and again. In fact, so popular and so cheap are they that many slasher films will spawn sequels, upon sequels, upon sequels, upon spin-offs, upon sequels.
The received wisdom is that sequels decline in quality as they go along and that the first film is always the best. With a slasher film this seems even more likely, with sequels generally greenlit due to low cost and a strong character that will draw enough of an audience, no matter what the plot or cast. I have taken it upon myself to tackle three major slasher franchises and give you the definitive ranking of quality.
The king of the slasher, the original was released in 1978 and is a true independent film-making success story. It has spawned 9 subsequent films, in the forms of sequels, spin-offs, re-boots and re-makes. Here’s the definitive order of quality:
- Halloween (1978)
- Halloween H20 (1998)
- Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)
- Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
- Halloween 2 (1981)
- Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
- Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
- Halloween (2007)
- Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
- Halloween 2 (2009)
The first is superb, it’s a must-watch for so many reasons: the direction, the script, the mask design, the menace, Jamie-Lee Curtis and the heralding of a new independent film-making spirit. In 1998 a re-boot of the series was released in a post-Scream world, Jamie-Lee Curtis returned to the franchise and Michael Myers was close behind, it’s an enjoyable film that is deferential to the original, completely ignoring the events of films 4-6. Halloween 3 is my third choice because it’s completely mad, has nothing to do with Michael Myers and is actually a pretty creepy movie. The rest are pretty poor, with the nadir being the remake of 2007, it’s so startling cackhanded as a film that it’s a surprise the director was given as much freedom to start exploring Michael Myers as a child. Still, at least it isn’t as villainous as Halloween 6, made in 1995, it should have known better and it should have definitely not wasted a young Paul Stephen Rudd. I haven’t even seen Halloween 2 (2009), I won’t be.
In 1996 Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson introduced the world to a new type of slasher: a cine-literate, horror-aware script packed full of characters that have watched slasher films. A quick sequel arrived in 1997 and another, not written by Williamson, in 2000. That was largely considered to be the end of “Ghost Face”‘s reign of terror but in 2011 Kevin Williamson returned to the mask and gave us Scre4m. Here’s the rankings:
- Scream (1996)
- Scream 4 (2011)
- Scream 2 (1997)
- Scream 3 (2000)
To be honest, all of the Scream films are great fun and eminently watchable, I wouldn’t complain about having to watch any of them. Scream is obviously the standout, for the same reasons as Halloween (1978) is its franchise’s. The cast are wonderful and Williamson’s script is properly funny and terrifying, while Craven’s direction is effective and gruesome. Scream 4 came after a glut of torture-porn pretenders to the slasher movie’s crown and thrust the now mature and adult cast back into the horror setting; it felt fresh and funny despite the long gap between franchise entries. Scream 2 has a wonderful opening, taking the self-awareness of the first movie to a new level with someone being murdered at a screening of the film ‘Stab’ – an adaptation of the story of the first film. Scream 3 was written by Ehren Krueger, it suffered, but is still pretty good.
Friday the 13th is one of the glut of slasher franchises that started life as a conscious effort by studios to recreate the magic of Halloween (1978). Pick some teenagers, a location and a killer with an inanimate mask: let the Benjamins roll in. The best bit about the whole franchise is that the killer is considered to be the drowned boy Jason Voorhees, back from the grave to gain vengeance against those mean, popular kids at Crystal Lake; in the first film it isn’t, it’s Jason’s mother. Here’s the rankings:
- Jason X (2002)
- Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
- Friday the 13th (1980)
- Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
- Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
- Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
- Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
- Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
- Friday the 13th (2009)
- Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives (1986)
- Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood (1988)
- Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason X is set on a spaceship and features a cryogenically frozen Jason being researched upon. He soon sorts that out and kills everyone, including David Cronenberg. It’s brilliant. My next choice, the fifth in the canon is one of the middle slump but I loved watching it; the film is set in a troubled teenager’s retreat and is a continuation of the good 4th film “The Final Chapter”, which features a young Corey Feldman. Next is the original, then number 4 and then the first sequel, that saw the first murders by Jason. Jason Goes To Hell is in fifth because it features a brilliant opening where Jason is entrapped by law enforcement and literally blown to pieces. Some plot thing happens and Jason keeps killing throughout the rest of the film. The rest blend into one, though part 3 is notable for the introduction of the famous hockey mask.
Don’t at any point think that any of the dismissive language used here implies you shouldn’t watch any of these films, you should immediately book in a marathon of any of these franchises and you’ll have a quite wonderful day of jumps, laughs and genuine fear. Start with Halloween, it really is brilliant.