Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Top Ten Best Horror Movie Franchises



The air is getting crisper, the leaves are starting to turn, and Halloween is right around the corner. Countdown to Halloween with us with our picks for the top ten horror movie franchises, then stop in the library to check one out today!

10. Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is the source for some of the most clichéd horror stereotypes. In nearly every film in the franchise a group of oblivious, lustful teenagers visit Camp Crystal Lake and get picked off in gruesome ways one by one by the hockey mask wearing machete wielding Jason Voorhees. The movies are often intentionally cheesy and sometimes border on outright parody. Through twelve movies Friday the 13th has cemented itself as a B-movie powerhouse with Jason making trips to Manhattan, space, and hell along the way. None of the films are particularly good but in this case that is kind of the point. 


9. Scream
While other films had flirted with it before Wes Craven’s Scream was the first to fully embrace a self aware, sometimes self deprecating humor. The franchise’s niche is messing with horror clichés as in each movie the iconic Ghostface plays upon genre tropes and taunts his victims with horror history. The movies are decent but it’s Ghostface himself who is the real draw – for more than fifteen years now his “screaming ghost” face has been a staple in every store’s Halloween section. 


8. The Mummy
The Mummy has proved one of the most enduring faces of horror for more than half a century now. First appearing in Universal Studio’s The Mummy in 1932 with the legendary Boris Karloff in the title role, the character has gone through numerous incarnations, appearances, and studios. Hammer Studios first rebooted the Mummy with their 1959 film starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and more recently Universal again rebooted the franchise in 1999 with Brendan Frasier in the lead role. The recent Mummy films have essentially been action movies but have nonetheless managed to keep the series alive and relevant. 


7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might very well be the most horrifying and scary series on this list. Starting in 1974, well before any of its mask wearing slasher peers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has offered nothing but undiluted terror since its inception. The first film is a true masterpiece of horror and is one that even the most seasoned genre fans might still squirm at the thought of watching  in the dark. After a few wacky sequels the series came back in to its own with the 2003 remake starring Jessica Biel, a film nearly as terrifying and horrific as the original. Unfortunately this year’s less than stellar Texas Chainsaw 3D marked a significant step backwards for the series.

6. Nightmare on Elm Street
In both concepts and execution the Nightmare on Elm Street series is among the most creative and unorthodox horror ever made. The series’ dream world setting allows for just about anything to happen and filmmakers have stretched their imaginations to often silly lengths for new shocking ways for their sleepy victims to meet their demise. Lead antagonist Freddy Krueger has endured nearly thirty years as one of the most recognizable characters in horror with his scarred face, striped sweater, brown hat, and blade fingers. None of the films have been anywhere near the quality of the original 1984 masterpiece but the series has at least continued to move in interesting, unpredictable directions (except for the disastrously boring 2010 remake).  

5. Evil Dead
Evil Dead is unique even amongst its B-movie peers. The series has run the gauntlet from outright horror to slapstick comedy and back again across only four movies. The wise cracking, chainsaw-for-a-hand Ash played by cult legend Bruce Campbell offers something not common in these types of films: a superhero. The second film perhaps best bridges the franchise’s horror and comedy with the third being nothing short of a parody and this year’s remake reversing all the way back to its grizzly, gruesome roots. The classic setting of a haunted cabin in the woods has never been captured so perfectly in any other film.

4. Halloween
John Carpenter’s original Halloween is the granddaddy of slasher horror. Preceded only by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hitchcock’s Psycho, Halloween inspired an entire genre of copycats in the 80s including Friday the 13th. The first film is widely regarded as one of the all time horror greats and the direct sequel is solid but unfortunately from there the series descends into a slew of lackluster sequels. It wasn’t until Rob Zombie’s reboot in 2007 that the franchise got back on its feet but luckily Zombie’s film is one of the best remakes ever made.

3. Dracula
Dracula is one of those rare characters that are so iconic there is little that can be said about them. The first film to bear the name was Universal Studio’s 1932Dracula starring Bela Lugosi as the Count and this incarnation has remained the most enduring image of the character. However it was the silent film Nosferatu in 1925 that first took inspiration from Bram Stoker’s novel and actor Max Schrek’s appearance as “Count Orlok” has made a bit of a comeback in recent years. Hammer Studios picked up the franchise in 1958 with Christopher Lee making his first appearance as the fanged nightmare. Lee would go on to play Dracula in six more Hammer films – a record number of appearances for an actor in the role. There have been countless other movies starring the character, most notably Francis Ford Coppola’s version in 1992 starring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and Keeanu Reeves as well as Wes Craven’s disappointing Dracula 2000.

2. The Living Dead
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968 is without doubt one of the most influential and widely copied films ever made. Before Romero brought us the undead, shambling, hungry-for-brains zombies that are so popular today zombies in films had still always been associated with voodoo or witchcraft; more brain-dead servants than brain-hungry monsters. Romero continued the modern zombie revolution ten years later with 1978’s excellent Dawn of the Dead. This entry ratcheted up the violence and brought the rotting grave walkers in to color for the first time. Romero’s films are characterized by social messages and topical references and while each entry has marked a decline in quality for the series (all the way up to 2009’s abysmal Survival of the Dead) the franchise has at least retained what sets it apart and makes it significant. 

1.  Frankenstein
If there is one face of horror more enduring and iconic than Dracula it is his longtime pal Frankenstein. The first film was released in 1931 and is credited with launching the entire Universal Monsters brand. If not for the overwhelming success of James Whale’s Frankenstein there may never have been a Dracula, Wolf-Man, Mummy, or any of the other immortal monsters offered by the studio. The first film remains to this day arguably the best horror movie ever made while others will contend that same point for its sequel The Bride of Frankenstein. There have been more than fifty films to feature the character since and an infinite amount of appearances in cartoons, shopping aisles, and on candy wrappers have assured the green faced goblin’s immortal standing in the horror hall of fame.

Halloween is the time for horror. Whether you like scaring yourself silly with the most intense picture you can find or sitting back with an oldie just to get your fill of shadows and cobwebs, make sure to find some time for the ghosts and ghouls this time of year! 

Written by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

*This list was originally published last year on the Collinsville Library blog.