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The Weird, Unspoken Double Standard of Horror Movies

A Nightmare on Elm Street - The Weird Unspoken Double Standard of Horror Movies

We live in a time when Hollywood is completely and totally defined by Intellectual Property. We have more IP-based features than ever. Absolutely everything made at the studio is a franchise and if it’s not a franchise, someone is trying to figure out a way to turn it into one. And while we may get occasionally exhausted, we eat it up. We can’t not. Everyone wants to line up to see the next Marvel film. Even the next from DC. Whatever comic book movie comes out, we line up for it. Whatever action sequel, Jason Bourne or James Bond sequel, we go rabid for it. Did we need a second Independence Day? Absolutely not, but you know people are going to line up to see it when it hits.

People love a franchise. They love a long term investment, something they know they can rely on. Unless it’s a horror movie, that is. Then, they simply could not give it less of a chance.

That’s widespread across the board. While most franchises see tons of excitement and some negative comments, every single horror sequel that gets announced sees a huge backlash of negativity and the occasional comment of excitement. And even then, it’s mild excitement. What really gets to me, though, is the very specific nature of these comments.

Sure, some of these sequels that get announced don’t sound good. Obviously. But some of them actually do, and even then they don’t get much of a chance. I think the recent Halloween announcement is a perfect example. The news surrounding the upcoming Blumhouse & Carpenter produced Halloween could not be better, especially for the fact that that franchise was in limbo until Blumhouse snatched it up and was in danger of possibly never seeing another entry.

Halloween 78

But as soon as the news was concrete, the reaction was the same, “Why would you make another Halloween movie?” People have always asked that of every franchise, every time a sequel is announced, and they don’t ask it of franchises in any other genre. When a new X-Men film is announced, the response is either “They should give the rights back to Marvel” or “I hope it’s better than the last one.” But even people who hate them rarely think “These need to stop.”

And most moviegoers will claim the difference between that response and the way they react to the news of another Nightmare on Elm Street is that the Elm Street franchise has gone on for way too long. But here’s the thing: All together, the X-Men series and the Nightmare on Elm Street series contain the exact same number of films. Nobody ever thinks about that.

Then you have the classic line that “Most horror sequels suck.” I happen to love a lot of sequels, but when you look at the bottom line, I suppose it’s inarguable because there are so many. Of course most of them would suck. But here’s the thing: Most sequels don’t live up to the original, no matter the genre. It’s not remotely limited to horror. Robocop is a pinnacle achievement of science-fiction/action filmmaking. But the Robocop sequels are bad. Even Fred Dekker couldn’t save Robocop 3. 

Old habits die hard in Dream WarriorsThere are plenty of bad sequels in just about every franchise. Most of the Terminator sequels after 2 are pretty dicey, but people keep thinking they can crack that code and fans keep getting their hopes up. And I don’t blame them whatsoever, because all they’re doing is hoping on the off chance that we could some day get another Terminator that’s as good as Judgment Day. I love that idea. All I’m saying is that I also wish it was applied to our genre as well. I wish fans heard news of a new Nightmare on Elm Street and hoped we could someday get another entry as good as Dream Warriors. 

The big genre franchises were especially criticized toward the end of the last decade for making up for the previous, campy missteps of the early 2000s with much harder-edged gritty reboots even though the James Bond franchise did the exact same thing. They drove themselves into a corner with Die Another Day, so they went back to ground zero for Casino Royale and it proved to be a hit. Dimension felt the Halloween series had nowhere to go after Resurrection, so Rob Zombie came in and offered his overly-gritty take and that too was a success.

On some level, the widespread cultural opinion that horror sequels are of lesser quality is simply a fragment of the even larger belief that horror is somehow a lesser quality genre. Even if we ourselves don’t believe it, many of us do not come from horror-loving households. We’re so used to hearing them described as crap that it becomes almost natural for us to say it too. That may be why you’ll sometimes run into hardcore horror fans who will say something like “Horror sequels suck” while wearing a Halloween III T-shirt. It may not reflect what we truly believe when we think about it on a deeper level, but it sure sounds right. I know I’ve been guilty of that, too.

Friday the 13th Part ViHell, fans will generalize franchises as being generally terrible even though most of us list a couple of sequels in our favorites of all time. Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead 2, Aliens, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, there are so many that we hold in such high regard that it’s kind of insane we still haven’t learned to give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, of course, they’re made for the profit. Yes, they’re churned out so the studio can make a buck. But that’s how capitalism works.

The Marvel flicks are churned out so that the studio can make a billion bucks. That’s the only real difference. It doesn’t mean that someone working within that system can’t actually make an interesting and artistic cinematic experience.

There will always be series with nothing but diminishing returns. The Hellraiser franchise has been on a downward spiral for a very long while, but that doesn’t mean I never want to never see another Hellraiser film. Because that mythology is huge and fascinating. There are so many people who could do the job right. And even though those people may not get the job anytime soon, I still remain hopeful. Hellraiser: Judgment has a lot stacked against it, but I know the director has a deep understanding and love of the mythos, so you never know what could happen.

When you look at the big four franchises, I think every single one of them contains a great movie past the fourth entry. Hell, the most well made Friday the 13th is the sixth one. Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street both have remarkable, somewhat game-changing seventh entries. There’s a lot of benefit to letting these franchises go on and find new ways to reinvent themselves. That’s what they should still be doing.

InsidiousAnd even if you ignore the so-called classic franchises and just look at the series we’ve been building since the mid-2000s, we’re doing pretty well. The Saw franchise arguably only contains a couple of bad entries, which is somewhat of a miracle considering that that concept really didn’t feel designed to last. Insidious hasn’t made a bad chapter yet. As much crap as Paranormal Activity gets from the fans, those movies built a larger story that wove the individual entries together in an interesting way. The Conjuring is shaping up to be something amazing, maybe the biggest franchise to come around in a long while.

On that, we’ll just have to wait and see. You never know how these things are going to go. Any series could either hit its stride or take a nose dive with any given entry, you just have to hope for the best. That’s all I’d really like to see out of the genre: a little bit of hope. Because as much as many will shout to the contrary, this is a very good time to be a fan. One of the best we’ve ever had.

But if we could get Jason, Freddy and Michael back in cinemas, it would only get better. Not worse.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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