Halloween is right around the corner and, as always, I’m getting in the spirit. I love scary, spooky, gory stuffy, and like many of you, I’m a diehard fan of horror movies. What’s better than rolling a fat blunt, getting some snacks, dimming all the lights, and really getting into a good scary movie? There are so many different types of horror movies to choose from, but I’m really into the elaborate, theatrical franchise films. It was honestly hard to get a list together, because there are so many good ones, but below is part one of my all-time favorite horror movie franchises.
Why we love being scared
Although fear is typically viewed as a negative emotion, we can’t deny the fact that many people enjoy it and seek it out. And it’s not just horror movie lovers, but many people who don’t consider themselves fans of fear and gore still binge on true-crime shows, documentaries about serial killers, podcasts, and novels, all of which contain graphic details of violence and murder. Even babies enjoy “jump scare” games like peek-a-boo.
Having fun with fear is an “extremely important tool for learning,” said Mathias Clasen, director of the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University in Denmark. “We learn something about the dangers of the world. We learn something about our own responses: What does it feel like to be afraid? How much fear can I take? I don’t think I’ve yet come across a person who did not enjoy some kind of recreational fear.”
So why do we like it getting scared? It’s not just a weird, misunderstood phenomenon, there is a science behind recreational fear. We get a rush of adrenaline while learning how we would deal with scary situations in a controlled environment. When we feel fear, our endocrine system gives us a rush of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol – all hormones that activate our fight or flight response and prepare our bodies for physical action.
After this adrenaline surge subsides, many people experience positive mood changes. One study examined how 262 adults felt before and after they entered an extreme haunted house. According to researchers, “Fifty percent of people said they felt better after the visit. Brain recordings before and after showed that those whose mood improved had a smaller neural response to subsequent stressors, which is associated with the post-haunt high.”
Franchise films, also known as movie franchises, film series, or movie series, refers to a collection of related films that share the same fictional universe and tell a story with some sort of natural progression. In some cases, the entire series is planned from the beginning, such as the Three Colours series. However, usually it’s the success of the original films that inspires sequels and prequels.
Film series are very popular. As of 2022, 30 movies from the Marvel universe comprise the highest-grossing film series, surpassing J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World (11 films), Star Wars (12 films), Ian Fleming’s James Bond (27 films), and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth (6 films) series. King Kong is the longest-running franchise, with the first movie launched in 1933 with the most recent one made in 2021. Horror movie franchises are newer in comparison, and it’s hard to say how many exist. But like most movie fans, horror fiends enjoy a good movie series too. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites below.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Not sure what it is about Texas Chainsaw – the folksy grit, the way the killer is paradoxically simple yet complex in some ways, the gore, the rural setting – it’s hard to say. But either way, Texas Chainsaw Movies probably make up my absolute favorite horror franchise. I watch at least a couple of the films every year, occasionally, I’ll get the chance to watch them all and drive my family crazy with the sound of chainsaws blaring through the house for a week straight.
The 1974 premiere of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper, achieves unparalleled levels of suspense, making it one of the greatest slasher films of all time. The original film follows five teenagers who travel to rural Texas to visit a gravesite. On their way, they stumble upon a seemingly abandoned home. Little do they know, inside waits an absolute batsh*t crazy clan – The Sawyers – one of whom is a chainsaw-wielding man who wears a mask made of his victim’s skin.
After the 1974 original movie, nine more films followed suit: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990), Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995), the unreleased All American Massacre (2000), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), Leatherface (2017), and the requel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022). There are also some comics, a novel, and a few video game adaptations.
I’m not sure why, but The Exorcist seems to often get left out of the lists of best franchises, although it’s an obvious classic. This horror franchise, spawned from the William Peter Blatty novel and iconic film that follows as detectives and men of the cloth battle with supernatural forces. The original movie, which premiered in 1973, followed a young girl named Reagan, who became possessed by a powerful demon after playing with a Ouija board she found in the basement. Ultimately, the film outlines a family’s struggle to save their daughter’s soul from the grips of evil.
What’s most interesting about this movie, is perhaps all the real-life lore associated with it. There were quite a few creepy occurrences surrounding the Exorcist – for example, 9 deaths happened during filming, most of the set burned down at one point, during a première in Rome, a nearby church was hit by lightning, and the movie ended up getting banned in many regions due to reports that claimed “incidents of hysteria involving young women, which had led to concerns that the film might cause severe emotional problems”.
The Exorcist franchise consists of five, soon to be six, films: The Exorcist (1973), The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Exorcist III (1990), Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), Dominion: Prequal to the Exorcist (2005), and The Exorcist: Believer (2023). That last one is set to launch this upcoming Friday, October 6th, and I, for one, am super excited to see it in theaters.
Rob Zombie’s Trilogy
If you’re big on horror, you know plenty of people have a lot to say about Rob Zombie movies. Honestly, it seems that you either love them or hate them, there’s not a lot of in between. The man certainly has a style and if it appeals to you, like it does me, then you’ll probably find his films entertaining. His trilogy follows the nutty Firefly family, a family of serial killers in the backwoods of Texas. Little-known fact, the Firefly clan is based on the real-life Bender family, who terrorized Cherryvale, Kansas, from 1869-1872.
The three movies in this franchise are House of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), and 3 From Hell (2019). Similar to Texas Chainsaw, the first movie is about a group of teens/young adults traveling through rural Texas on the hunt for creepy sideshow attractions and haunted locations. The stumble on Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen, and that’s where their bloody, gruesome, gory troubles begin.
What’s also fun is hearing Rob Zombie’s songs throughout the movie, as I’m a longtime fan. He’s also made a few other movies including some remakes of other horror classics like Halloween and Halloween II. He also produced Lords of Salem, which was more of a slow burn than the others but still pretty good, as well as 31 about a group of carnival workers held captive the day before Halloween, and an animated film called The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.
The Evil Dead is one of those gory, violent, exaggerated, ostentatious type of horror movies… and I love it! The Evil Dead franchise is one of my favorites, not only because of the horror aspects, but because they always throw in some humor too. Ash Williams (played by Bruce Campbell), the main character from the original movies as well as the TV spinoff Ash vs Evil Dead, is hilarious; and the demons, or Deadites, are known to crack some funny jokes too.
There are 5 movies and one TV show in the franchise: The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), Evil Dead: Army of Darkness (1992), Evil Dead Remake (2013), Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-18), and Evil Dead Rise (2023). Overall, the films have relatively similar plots – a group of young adults battling demons at a secluded cabin in the woods.
They did take some creative liberties with Evil Dead Rise, as it was a family fighting the demons in their skyrise apartment after an earthquake trapped them in the building and released the evil that was contained in the basement. Army of Darkness was also completely different from the others. Nothing in this movie makes a lick of sense with Ash being transported to the Middle Ages and eventually getting abducted by a deadite and becoming “Evil Ash”. But the craziness is what makes this movie (and all the rest of them) so fun and entertaining.
Child’s Play was my first foray into the world of horror. I watched this movie when I was about 4 or 5 years old. Just like Evil Dead, Chucky films have a comedic element to them, which I appreciated more and more when I watched the movies as an adult. Chucky was always the ultimate slasher, bloodthirsty and evil, yet humorous and weirdly likeable. And his wife Tiffany, introduced in later films, was equally violent and hilarious.
It’s no surprise the original Chucky from 1988 sparked a movie franchise, followed by a popular TV show. The franchise has 8 films so far: Child’s Play (1988), Child’s Play 2 (1990), Child’s Play 3 (1991), Bride of Chucky (1998), Seed of Chucky (2004), Curse of Chucky (2013), Cult of Chucky (2017), and the remake, Child’s Play (2019), which modernized the film and showed us a Chucky that was more adapted to our technological world. A TV adaptation was released in 2019, and it’s definitely worth watching also if you’re a Chucky fan.
As wild and outlandish as the movies became over time, one thing we always got from director George Mancini was consistency. He put his heart and soul into his work and always seemed to gather a convincing and committed cast. Even though you ultimately know what’s going to happen, you can’t help but being drawn into the story every time.
Psycho is one of the more underrated horror franchises, and this applies to both the movies and the TV spinoff, Bates Motel. However, the storyline is solid and the cast always delivers. Unlike the other movies on this list whose killers have some unrealistic factors to them, Psycho plays on those very real fears of encountering a deranged, homicidal human in day-to-day life. Norman Bates is a quiet and reserved roadside motel owner with a split personality who murders guests when he turns.
The original movie, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, was released in 1960, followed by Psycho II (1983), which served as a natural progression to the movie, when Norman was released from prison and moved back into his old home behind the motel. The next two movies, Psycho III (1986) and Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) didn’t hit the same as the first two, but they did do a good job of expanding on the complexity of Norman’s character. They also did a remake in 1998 which starred Vince Vaughn. It didn’t get the greatest reviews, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless.
Bates Motel, the TV spinoff that ran 5 seasons between 2013 and 2017, dove even deeper into Norman’s psyche by showing us his teen years, with flashbacks from childhood, to help the audience truly understand how he became that reclusive motel killer. Although I usually lose interest in these TV remakes relatively fast, I have nothing but good things to say about Bates Motel. Everything about the show was amazing, including the cast which starred Freddie Highmore and scream queen Vera Farmiga, who were really able to deliver the tension and chemistry that escalated throughout the show.
This Halloween season make sure to roll up some good weed and check out one or more of the many fun, creepy, and gory horror movie franchises. This is a short list, so check back for part two, and drop us a line in the comment section with your favorite horror movie!
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