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Horror Film Franchises: They Just Won’t Die

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An enduring staple of the horror film genre is the fact that most horror films become long-lasting (and most of the time unwanted) franchises. While this is seen exponentially nowadays, most people may forget that this trend started back in the 70s and 80s, with films such as HalloweenFriday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. With Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street having eight films in their series, and Friday the 13th having a whopping 12, no one should really be shocked that there are still Paranormal Activity movies being made. Even so, most people just remember the first films of each of these series. Diehard horror fans are probably more familiar with each franchise as a whole, and that might be just because of the franchise’s cult status. So why exactly do some of these franchises last for so long? Is it just to satisfy fans, or because producers really think that Paranormal Activity 57 will do well in theaters?

Particular films are certainly more likely to spark some sort of dedicated fanbase, and most horror films fall into cult fame, especially those from earlier decades. Believe it or not, there are probably several people in the world who have seen all 12 Friday the 13th movies. Having heard that the 10th one takes place in space, it’s a wonder how a series like that spawned so many movies, which didn’t earn that much in their theatrical run. Of course, nowadays most horror movie franchises are able to afford better production quality, which is probably one of the main reasons why there are seven Saw movies. But even with this increase in good production value, it doesn’t always mean that the script for every new movie is going to be at the same level of quality as the first one. And for most horror franchises, each film has the same basic premise as the first, thereby running the risk of becoming slightly tedious by the 10th film. Still, most fans want the series to keep going, despite the decrease in quality. This brings into question what exactly fans are looking for in their horror films.

Times have changed, and most horror franchises have abandoned the campiness of Nightmare on Elm Street in favor of focusing on how much gore they can pack into each of their films (hello Saw and Hostel). The “torture porn” quality that has entered the genre has put into question what really makes a horror movie. While the Saw and Hostel movies have gone in favor of gore, the films in the Paranormal Activity series have tended to lean more towards jump scare territory (which also becomes extremely tedious).

In defense of Saw (I have yet to reach the point in my life in which I feel okay watching Hostel), the first film does have more than just a torture porn element. The gore is there, but the actual story is more important. This, of course, changes with the other Saw movies, in which they lose their sense of story and focus way more on depicting killing people in the worst ways. With Paranormal Activity, it’s all about the jump scares and the creepiness of the idea of ghosts and demons. The movies are quite successful and present a certain spookiness, as opposed to goriness. But there’s still no doubt that the quality has dropped since the first two (let’s not even talk about that extremely bad spinoff film Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones). The series went downhill when it attempted to depict the origin story in the third film, and then whatever they decided to do for the fourth one (that’s how forgettable it was). Both of these horror franchises are proof that dragging out an idea for more than three films may not be the best move. And yet it keeps on happening.

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And now, from the minds of both the Saw and Paranormal Activity movies, we have Insidious. With the first two films being successful and actually quite good and scary, it’s no surprise that Insidious: Chapter 3 is making its way to movie screens this weekend. Despite it only being the third film of the franchise, fans of the Insidious series are probably worried about this third film, since it’s technically a prequel and doesn’t feature the Lambert family from the first two films. This film also claims to be the “origin of the Insidious saga.” Seeing as the first two films explain themselves pretty well, it’s hard to believe that this film will really give anything too new that audiences don’t already know (except maybe the story of the demons that originally haunt the Lambert family’s son in the first film). But even if the film does go in that direction, it doesn’t seem to be the most compelling direction that the series could have gone in. And then if they do make a fourth film, where the heck will the series go next? These are the issues that come about when attempting to make a series last longer than it needs to. It’s time to realize that a horror film franchise doesn’t have to be 10 movies long.

With Insidious: Chapter 3 coming out this Friday, there’s no denying that horror film franchises aren’t going away anytime soon. It’s more the quality of them than the quantity that makes them seem like a very bad idea. The problem is that the focus is on churning these films out as frequently as possible, instead of making them actually decent. Producers just need to realize that they can only take a single concept so far for so long. It hasn’t been confirmed yet whether or not Insidious: Chapter 3 will be the final film of the series. Looking at the trend, it probably won’t be. Unless the makers of these films realize the importance of quality over quantity, we may just have to settle for Insidious: The Never Ending Story.


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