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The Scariest Things Podcast Episode LCXVIII: Ranking the Films in Our Favorite Franchises


By popular demand, The Scariest Crew is breaking down some franchise horror. We decided to pick three series each and rank the movies within the series. We’ll be doing this again because we had so much fun comparing and contrasting the films, and there are SO MANY franchises that we weren’t able to talk about.

It is the unspoken backbone of the horror genre. Horror sequels are more the standard than the exception, and it is part of the horror movie DNA. The nature of horror movies is that they are cheap, and there is a willingness among producers and directors to go right back to the lucrative well and give people more of what they want. Killers who get dispatched at the end of the movie magically come back, because… horror! The same is true for our favorite protagonists, that dramatic and tragic death of your favorite character just might be a “pause” rather than a tragic passing.

And, when that pushes credibility too far… REBOOT!

Horror fans are a forgiving lot, and want to feel the same dreadful magic. It was true from the beginning. Universal did Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman (The inevitable mash-up), until all pretense was lost and they did Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Mike will allude to this in our Podcast, trying to remember how many sequels a franchise has is difficult, as even the merely modestly successful horror franchises can run quite long. Who knew that Children of the Corn had 11 movies?

For those of you counting, here are some of the notable franchise tallies, including sequels, reboots, and foreign conversions:

MINOR SPOILER ALERT!

If you want to hear how we picked our films, jump to the bottom of this link, and skip our selections, then come back to these lists.

What we have decided to do in this Podcast is to each pick three franchises and rank the films WITHIN the franchise, and as it so happened, Eric and Mike collided a couple of times within our franchise picks, which makes for some interesting comparisons. Our rules were, there had to be at least three movies within the franchise. Reboots and re-imaginings count, as well as television variants.With that… here are the movie franchises we picked:

Mike and Eric Pick: The Living Dead (Romero)

Franchise Common Threads: George Romero and Tom Savini, the definitive shambling zombies, the unstoppable pandemic, grim, minimal makeup with extreme gore, headshots kill zombies, no more room in hell, political undertones, and largely unknown cast members.
Canonical Continuity within the series: Loose. Two reboots. No recurring characters. Thematically consistent, but no story connections.
Influenced by: Hershel Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, A Taste of Blood), White Zombie, Roger Corman, The Plague of the Zombies, Richard Matheson (Last Man on Earth/I am Legend)
Direct Influences: ALL zombie movies, Shaun of the Dead, Zombi (Fulci), The Walking Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Shock Waves, City of the Living Dead.

Both Mike and I are 100% in agreement in our list:

  1. Dawn of the Dead (1977)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. Dawn of the Dead (2005) Zach Snyder, dir.
  4. Land of the Dead (2005)
  5. Day of the Dead (1984)
  6. Night of the Living Dead (1990) Tom Savini, dir.
  7. Diary of the Dead (2007)
  8. Survival of the Dead (2009)
  9. Day of the Dead Bloodline (2017)

Perhaps the big surprise here is how much we liked Land of the Dead, and our respect for Zach Snyder’s interpretation of Dawn of the Dead, one of the better reboots in memory. Romero is a go-to favorite for both Mike and Eric.

Liz Picks: The Purge

Franchise Common Threads: Prototype home invasion, politics in horror, class warfare, dystopian near future, chaos in the streets.
Canonical Continuity within the series: Strong, even though the movies hop around the timeline. If linked together chronologically, you get one big story, though the characters don’t continue through. One of the strong suits to the series.
Influenced by: Our current political environment, Black Lives Matter, Attack on Precinct 13, The Warriors, Escape from New York, The Magnificent Seven
Contemporaries: The Strangers, You’re Next, Saw, Funny Games, Doomsday, Aftershock, Vacancy, Hush, Let us Prey, Tooth and Nail

  1. The Purge (2013)
  2. The Purge Election Year (2016)
  3. The Purge Anarchy (2014)
  4. The First Purge (2018)
  5. The Purge (TV) (2018-Now)
Eric Picks: The Evil Dead

Franchise Common Threads: Prototype Cabin in the Woods, Low Budget, Demons, Comedy, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), Gory but fun, Slapstick, Independent, The Necronomicon, and director Sam Raimi.
Canonical Continuity within the Series: Strong, with Bruce Campbell as a constant show anchor (with one exception). Rebooted Twice, as essentially Evil Dead 2 is a more comic version of the First Evil Dead.
Influenced by: The Exorcist, Deliverance, Night of the Living Dead, The Three Stooges.
Contemporaries: Re-Animator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Demons, Night of the Demons, Return of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th
Direct Influences: The Cabin in the Woods, Cabin Fever, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, 30 Days of Night

  1. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
  2. Ash vs. Evil Dead [TV] (2015-2018)
  3. The Evil Dead (2013) Fede Alvarez, dir.
  4. The Evil Dead (1981)
  5. Army of Darkness (1992)

For the record… I like all the Evil Dead movies a lot, and Army of Darkness is a hoot! I just like the other material better, and I find the Alvarez Evil Dead scarier than the first Raimi movie. Hot take!

Mike and Eric Pick: Paranormal Activity

Common Threads:  Found footage, poltergeist, suburbia, subsonic warnings, minimal budgets, mixed-use of stationary home cameras and handheld shots, Digital time stamps. Kids in danger. Katie Featherston (or her kid version). Slow building dread.
Continuity within the Series: Tight, though it does hopscotch around quite a bit in the timeline. Sometimes the flashback sequences (using found footage, of course) can be a bit too on-the-nose.
Influenced by: The Blair Witch Project, Poltergeist, The Haunting
Contemporaries: REC, Insidious
Direct Influences: Grave Encounters, Insidious, Sinister, Creep, Unfriended, V/H/S

Mike’s Picks.

  1. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
  2. Paranormal Activity (2007)
  3. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
  4. Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
  5. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)
  6. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. (2015)

Eric’s Picks shifted things up a bit.

  1. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
  2. Paranormal Activity (2007)
  3. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
  4. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)
  5. Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)
  6. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)

We both believe that the added power of the child and dog in peril made the stakes higher for Paranormal Activity 2, and gave it the top spot. We disagreed on Ghost Dimension, as Eric found the story tighter and more compelling, and Mike found it to be a bit of a drag.

Liz Picks: The Exorcist

Common Threads:  Possession, big-budget studio release, Pazuzu, William Peter Blatty, religious horror, Regan McNeill, Father Merrin, Catholicism.
Continuity within the Series: Father Merrin, even though (Spoiler!) he dies in the first movie, is prominent throughout. Pazuzu is a constant through all the productions.
Influenced by: The Exorcist really is a landmark movie, and there hasn’t been anything really like it before. Rosemary’s Baby proved that you could do a serious movie about the devil and that audiences and critics would both go for it. Apart from that, you have Golden Age films like The 7th Victim and Curse of the Demon, but it is unlikely that they were much of an influence. The Exorcist really took advantage of the changing of the MPAA codes. The book was based on the true exorcism of Roland Doe.
Contemporaries: Abby and Beyond the Door, both of which got sued for the similarity to The Exorcist.
Direct Influences: All Possession Movies, The Evil Dead, The Omen, The Sentinel, The Amityville Horror, Audrey Rose

  1. The Exorcist 3 (1990)
  2. The Exorcist (1973)
  3. The Exorcist [TV] (2016-2017)
  4. Exorcist Dominion (2005)
  5. Exorcist the Beginning (2004)
  6. Exorcist 2 (1977)

Hot take! Liz likes the third installment more than the original. This is a not unreasonable trend. Mike is in agreement with her pick.

Eric Picks: Predator

Franchise Common Threads: Action Horror, Alien hunter with terrific camouflage technology, mano-e-mano, macho posing, lots of gunplay, Night vision, Schwarzenegger touchstone, a motley crew of interesting characters who all die, Snappy dialogue.
Canonical Continuity within the Series: loose, no returning characters. With each successive movie, the predators get tweaked and variants are seen. The weaponry and tech are consistent throughout the series.
Influenced by: Alien, The Most Dangerous Game, The Terminator
Contemporaries: Aliens, Platoon, Rambo, Universal Soldier
Direct Influences: Blade, John Carpenter’s Vampires, Pitch Black, 13 Assassins, Starship Troopers, Species, Dog Soldiers

  1. Predator (1987)
  2. Predators (2010)
  3. Predator 2 (1990)
  4. The Predator (2018)
  5. Aliens vs. Predator (2004)
  6. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

The top four movies for me are all pretty good action horror movies. The AvP movies are throwaways, but the rest of them are consistently entertaining. They don’t achieve horror greatness, necessarily, but they all entertain.

Liz Picks: Hannibal Lecter

Franchise Common Threads: Hannibal Lecter (of course), Anthony Hopkins (for the most part), thriller, police procedural, mind games and manipulation, cannibalism, gore as the series evolves.
Canonical Continuity within the Series: The Silence of the Lambs was really Clarice Starling’s movie, but Hannibal Lecter proved to be the lasting attraction, and the series all revolved around him. Even when the movies didn’t star Hopkins, they were certainly about Lecter.
Influenced by: Blue Velvet
Contemporaries: Seven, The Sixth Sense, The Bone Collector, Misery
Direct Influences: Zodiac, Kiss the Girls, Prisoners, I Saw the Devil

  1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  2. Hannibal the Series (2013-2015)
  3. Manhunter (1986)
  4. Red Dragon (2002)
  5. Hannibal (2001)
  6. Hannibal Rising (2006)

You can’t possibly not pick the multi-Oscar winning landmark movie to be #1, but Liz shows here affinity for TV horror with the Mads Mikkelsen starring series.

Mike Picks: Halloween

Now THIS… is a franchise!

Franchise Common Threads: Serial Killer, The Killer who can’t be killed, Final Girl, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Myers, Killing by the numbers, Dead Teenagers, cutlery, babysitting
Canonical Continuity within the Series: With one notable exception, the series features one bad man… Michael Myers. In several of them, Laurie Strode, Jamie Lee Curtis, is also featured. But this is a series where theme means more than actual plot. The plots begin to blend together a bit. The reboot has re-set the canon, to carve out all of the dead weight of the franchise.
Influenced by: Psycho, Last House on the Left, Black Christmas, When a Stranger Calls, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Contemporaries: Friday the 13th, Happy Birthday to Me, My Bloody Valentine, Slumber Party Massacre, Terror Train, A Nightmare on Elm Street
Direct Influences: Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Hush, Child’s Play, Candyman, Shocker

  1. Halloween (1978) John Carpenter, Dir.
  2. Halloween (2018) David Gordon Green, Dir.
  3. Halloween II (1981)
  4. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
  5. The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
  6. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
  7. Halloween (1997) Rob Zombie, Dir.
  8. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
  9. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
  10. Halloween 8: Resurrection (2002)
  11. Halloween II (2009) Rob Zombie, Dir.

Remember when horror franchises would produce a movie sequel every other year? (Or in the case of Friday the 13th… every year for ten years.) The diminishing returns become apparent. BUT! That doesn’t mean that with the right effort and care, a quality reboot can’t re-charge the series as is the case with the current Halloween situation. Two more movies are coming, Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends both produced by Blumhouse. If history tells us anything, “Ends” is a relative term. We’ll see Michael back in some form, I’m sure.

END MINOR PODCAST SPOILERS

To get more insight on our picks, listen to the Podcast! Is there a franchise that you are dying to have us rank? Let us know, we’ll be doing this again, for certain.

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