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November 27, 2012

Big Three Slasher Series Bonanza! The Halloween/Elm Street/Friday the 13th Countdown

Cool image stolen from this dude because it's cool.
So it was October a bit ago and I was like "YEAAAAAAAHHHHH, HORROR!" like I was Slim Pickens riding a bomb to the DVD store. And then it ended, and things around FMWL got a little too quiet for my tastes.  And then I was like "Oh yeah, that's because I need to come up with things to write about."

And so it came to pass that I started thinking back to October and realized how often I popped in a film from one of three slasher franchises.  You know, those franchises with Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees* and/or Freddy Kreuger in them.  And then I realized that, sometimes, it wasn't even because I liked the movies.  It was just that these three killers and their films have become such a comfortable place for me to go when I'm looking for a dose of slashy horror.
* signifies the possibility of Jason Voorhees not always being Jason Voorhees.

Now, don't get me wrong - there are tons of other slashers that are better than many of these films and there are tons of franchises with iconic dudes - like Leatherface and Pinhead, to name two - that are just as awesome as some of these dudes.  But these three franchises have always been "the big three" to me, based on a) the longevity of their reigns and the multitude of films in each series, and b) the fact that they kind of feel like the three killers that are most accessible to both fanatical and casual horror fans.

So now that I was thinking about these movies, I figured I'd do that thing I do when I got nothing else to do - MAKE A LIST. With no further ado, here's The Mike's official countdown of how much he loves/respects/hates all 30 films/remakes/cross-overs in these three beloved - for better or worse - bunches of horrory good(or bad)ness.
The Worst of The Worst
30. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers - Rushed into production with a star who wanted too much money (Ellie Cornell, whose assets from part 4 were disposed of quickly) and a poorly written replacement for her (the annoying Tina Williams, the worst character in the history of movies), Halloween 5 is among the five or ten movies that I hate more than any movie ever. And don't talk to me about what they did to Michael. *tear*

29. Halloween 2 - Rob Zombie's sequel to his remake of Halloween is one of the most maddening films I've ever seen.  I can't talk about how much Zombie crapped all over everything I love about Halloween without wanting to punch kittens. And I gosh darn love kittens.

28. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare - It wasn't actually the FINAL nightmare - a trend that will continue on this list - but it was Freddy at his low point. There are more awful (and now outdated) pop culture jokes than scares in this film.
27. Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday - Also not FINAL, despite being the second Final in its own series. Jason becomes a shape shifter, and things get weird and stupid. Only ranked this high(?) because it's got Erin Gray (from Buck Rodgers!) and that teasing ending.
The Very, Very Bad
26. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - The tamest Jason film doesn't have enough of everything I enjoy about this series. And only about 15 minutes take place in Manhattan, which makes me just wish it was Jason at sea with a better director.
25. Halloween: Resurrection - Most notable for the opening sequence with a returning Jamie Lee Curtis, this film was a) years ahead of its time and b) the only film in any of these franchises to rely on Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes. And, despite all that, it's still incredibly silly and boring.
24. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Master - I just saw this one for the first time during October, and the opening sequence really had me hooked for a few minutes.  Then it became an average Freddy sequel, thanks to bad jokes and annoying characters, and I lost all interest.
23. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) - A pointless remake that wastes a good cast and some decent dream sequences.  The fact that Robert Englund was replaced by Jackie Earle Haley has been lamented by many fans, but the awful CGI kills are what really lost my interest.
The Just Simply Bad
22. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge - This might be the most bizarre film on this list, and there are a few moments that are kind of great.  But the decline of Freddy was visible with every joke and one-liner, and the whole film ends up weird in a bad way.
(RANDOM TANGENT: I used to complain that the Friday the 13th movies were so repetitive and that I couldn't remember which was which when they all basically did the same things. I still believe that to an extent, but they have nothing on the Elm Street sequels. You could show me images from any of them (save 3, which we'll get to in a bit) and I'd probably guess wrong about what movie it was.  If you've seen Freddy pop out of one item and say something stupid before killing someone, you don't really need to watch anything after Part 3.)

21. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers - I've always really wanted to like the sixth film in the Halloween series. Many dismiss it because it tries to explain away Michael Myers in an unconventional way, but I love the fact that it's trying. The "Producer's Cut", which has become a thing of legend to Halloweenaholics like myself, could have been a fresh new twist on the series if given a proper release. But even that version can't overcome some neutering by new distributor Dimension Films, who didn't have their Scream-based swagger yet.

20. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood - This is the most forgettable film on this list. I've watched it a bunch of times, and I never hate it when I watch it, but then it's just gone. It's like lettuce. There's no benefit from eating, but at least it doesn't do any harm.
The Enigma
19. Halloween (2007) - I don't hate Rob Zombie's Halloween! But, at the same time - I REALLY HATE ROB ZOMBIE'S HALLOWEEN! I know I don't like Rob Zombie's Halloween. But I kind of feel like I could like Rob Zombie's Halloween. Except that it's called Halloween. And it shows no interest in representing what I love about Halloween. And that drives me absolutely crazy. But, if it wasn't called Halloween, I might kind of like it. Then again, maybe I wouldn't.
My brain hurts.
The Average Ones
18. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master - This one gets a slight bump because it's directed by the amazing Renny Harlin. It's a little less annoying than the two films that would follow it and not as ridiculous as Part 2, and the teen cast is actually pretty good.
17. Friday the 13th Part III - The mask! The mask! We finally get the mask!  Aside from that, this one and I go either way. At some points in time, I've said it was my favorite F13. At other points in time, I've thought it was excruciatingly dull. It is one of the better F13 movies for party viewing, if only for the 3D gimmick.
(RANDOM TANGENT: There's no debate on one thing - the Friday the 13th series plays better with a group than the Halloween or Elm Street films do. There's less plot and less ambition, and lots and lots of silliness with kills and sex. You can not lose with Jason at a horror movie party.)
16. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later - An attempt to reboot the series after Scream's success (which ignores the events of Halloweens 4-6, creating what I like to view as alternate timelines for Michael Myers (which I also sometimes argue can be branched back together). The return of Jamie Lee Curtis is welcome, but the mood isn't right - partially because the guy they got to play Michael never watched a Halloween movie and partially because it just doesn't work as well without Donald Pleasence as "the Ahab".
15. Wes Craven's New Nightmare - Wes Craven is a major league slugger when he directs horror movies - meaning that he usually hits a home run or swings and misses wildly. New Nightmare is basically a fly ball that gets caught a few feet before it crosses the fence. Bringing Freddy to the "real world" could have worked - but the film runs about a half hour too long and features a terrible child performance. What could have been.
14. Friday the 13th (2009) - I'm not gonna lie. I almost ranked this one ahead of the original. I thought it was a lot of fun, even if it took liberties with the material and featured incredibly bouts of dumbness.  Heck, I might watch this one again before I watch the original again.  Then again....
13. Friday the 13th - The original "shocker" has never been one of my favorite movies, and I often have to be reminded that I do think there are good things about it. There are some good sequences, but there's so much about the film that is just plain average. I think people like this movie more than they should because they like the sequels, which are often better. There, I said it.
The Ones I Always Have Fun With
12. Freddy vs. Jason - The 2003 crossover hit had been talked about since Jason went to hell, and I've always been pleased with the end result.  There's a ton of self-aware comedy, but there aren't sharp contrasts in tone like their were in many late Freddy films. Jason gets to do his Jason thing, and the joke never gets old.
11. Friday the 13th Part 2 - Amy Steel, you guys. There's no way I'm saying this isn't better than the original when Amy Steel is running point. Final girl extraordinaire, you guys.
10. Jason X - Yes, I love it. I know it's terrible. But it's one of the funniest movies ever. Never. Gets. Old.
9. Halloween II - Rick Rosenthal's sequel makes a lot of mistakes and I always get really annoyed by that one twist that changed the series forever. But there are some great moments, and Michael Myers is as creepy as he was in the original - even when he hides underneath the camera waiting to pounce.
8. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning -  When the topic is F13, I go straight to the Tommy Jarvis trilogy. This one gets the short straw tonight, but it's still got some of the better surprises in the series.
7. Halloween III: Season of the Witch - The outlier in the Halloween series is a love-it-or-hate-it horror film. I've done both in my life, but this one of a kind horror story has grown on me over the years.  It's got Tom Atkins and that ending, so once you get past the fact that there's no Michael Myers you'll probably have fun too.
The Darn Good Ones
6. Jason Lives! Friday the 13th Part VI - A reanimated Jason and a 20-something Tommy Jarvis (played by the great Thom Mathews) square off in the most interesting F13 film.  There's a strong focus on the story behind the battle and Tommy's quest to find peace, and the pace is fantastic.
5. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter - My favorite F13 film today. Is it just because of the nostalgia value of Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover? Nah. It's because of Banana Girl.
4. Halloween 4: The Curse of Michael Myers - I've lauded this as one of my favorite sequels ever for a long, long time. Heck, I used it for a lecture in a college course once. Pleasence gives a fantastically hammy performance, and Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris are great additions to the series.  Myers would never be this scary again.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street - Search this blog for mentions of this movie and you'll find out how mad I get about the ending. I just hate it. It's so bad. I can't forgive it. You've got 80 minutes of a truly great horror movie...and then THAT. Boo.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors - DOKKEN! OK, it's not all about Dokken. But man, there are few horror movies from the 1980s that scream 1980s like this one. It's the perfect balance of comedy and horror that Freddy would never match again, and the kills are fantastic.
The Great One
1. Halloween - Doesn't even belong on the same list as the rest of these movies. They range from terrible to fun, but it's my favorite horror movie ever.
Here endeth the list. Agree? Disagree? Hit up the comments! In the meantime, I'm gonna watch a horror movie. Adios!


Enbrethiliel said...


Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween are The Big Three for me as well. =)

I recently caught Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and actually really liked it. You're right that it's tame and that it doesn't have enough New York scenes to merit its title . . . but I found it really thoughtful, all the same. As yet another chapter in an endless Voorhees killing spree, it's indeed lackluster; but as a kind of meditation on what the franchise had become at that point in movie history, it's pretty keen.

Shameless plug time . . . I explain more of my thoughts on this in my review on my blog. ;-)

I'd also have to disagree about the images from F13 versus the images from A Nightmare on Elm Street. While I agree that Freddy's Dead was freaking awful, I almost shed tears of nostalgia when watching the montage of kills from all six ANOES movies that was shown during the end credits--and more importantly, I was able to call out which film featured which kill. My ability to do that really scared my mother. LOL!!! =P

Which is my long winded way of saying that it's the F13 kills I can't tell apart. Except, that is, for the Jason Takes Manhattan kills. I'd know those if we met on Mars! ;-)

The Mike said...

I think my trouble with Jason Takes Manhattan is that I found it back when I was a younger, more bloodthirsty Mike - and it just didn't do the job. I've watched it a couple of times since, and I've never gotten past the initial disappointment. (And why haven't I seen your post on it yet? Bad Mike! I'll be there soonest.)

I gotta say, I figured you'd be mad at me for bumping Part VI down a notch in my F13 rankings. It's too close to call between it and Final Chapter for me on most days.

I did kind of love that montage from the end of Freddy's Dead. Forgot about that when making this. Good stuff.

As always, thanks for the feedback!

Enbrethiliel said...


The fun of lists is that they're really personal. If I don't "like" yours, then I get to make my own just to show you what's what. ;-)

But for the record, I do like yours! =)

Two general points I agree with are the superiority of Friday the 13th, Part 2 to the first movie--and the utter averageness of the first movie, in the first place. You're totally right that if its sequels hadn't been such a phenomenon, we'd barely even remember it. (I recall watching it for the first time two years ago, really excited about getting to see The Movie That Started It All at last . . . and thinking, "That's it???")

I'm on the fence about the 2009 reboot, though. I felt kind of cheated that Jason's record-breaking "character arc" (LOL!) got nipped in the bud so that the filmmakers could start over, while also having their cake and eating it too--because their rebooted Jason is totally coasting on the hard work of the first eleven movies. The 2009 movie does have a few excellent moments, but I feel that the whole thing took the lazy way out, storytelling-wise.

I may not like the ANOES reboot, either, but I give it credit for trying something new with Freddy. I was kind of hoping that they would find out, in the end, that Freddy had been mistakenly accused and that all the killings were the pure twisted revenge of a wronged man rather than an extension of his own sick sins. In which case, the kids would have a legitimate share of the guilt, you know? But no . . .