There are many legendary icons of horror. Freddy Krueger. Jason Voorhees. Jigsaw. But how did they attain such status in our pop-culture? Of course, mainly thanks to their signature and usually initial movies becoming financial and critical smashes at the box-office. Another would be the fact that these characters have appeared in several movies each over the years! It’s easy to forget there was a time when horror franchises would release sequels every other year, if not every year. And stretching out these stories would lead to some… interesting places. Recently, one of my favorite local horror movie screening series, Friday Night Frights hosted by Josh Miller and Sebastan O’Brien, ran an entirely Part 6 based marathon to celebrate their 6(66)th anniversary in showing awesome horror movies at Cinefamily. Needless to say, I jumped on the opportunity, and was given the chance to analyze these franchises when they went beyond the amount of sequels thought possible.
CURSE OF THE PUPPET MASTER
Of all the films played, this one was perhaps the biggest surprise. The 6th entry in the long running Full Moon Pictures puppet based franchise, and a stand-alone film at that. The story follows tourist trap owner and amateur mad scientist Dr. Magrew, who acquired the puppets in an auction as he attempts to recreate Andre Toulon’s magical animated puppets… to disastrous results. He takes in gifted woodcutter and gas station attendant Tank to craft the perfect puppet, who takes a fancy to Magrew’s daughter Jane. The Magrews become accosted by the local sheriff because of the disappearance of the good doctor’s last apprentice and by some local drunk hooligans… because they’re local drunk hooligans. Lots of puppet oriented mayhem ensues and people are stabbed or drilled. As it turns out, PUPPET MASTER 5: THE FINAL CHAPTER was meant to be the finale of the series, so this was bringing the franchise back to life. Starting entirely from a clean slate. It was also directed by Full Moon mainstay, David DeCoteau under the alias of Victoria Sloan.
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (Producer’s Cut)
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the evening was the screening of the rare and coveted Producer’s Cut version of the 6th HALLOWEEN film in 35mm. The audience was also treated to a short introduction by the film’s writer, Daniel Farrands, who went over his history with the sequel and the hows and whys for the changes. The film follow several years after THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS, as an older Jamie Lloyd is held captive by a strange cult and gives birth. Going on the run with her child as Michael gives chase. Ending up entangling with previous franchise characters such as Dr. Sam Loomis and and adult Tommy Doyle (Played by Paul Rudd!) as she’s stalked by Michael, the cult, and the mysterious Man In Black… The changes between this cut and the theatrical version are numerous and make for different movies all together. The main catches being Paul Rudd’s performance as Tommy Doyle is played far more seriously, a total restructuring of the narrative, and an entirely different ending.
JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13th PART VI
One of the strongest entries in the long-running slasher franchise made for one hell of a time! The audience was treated to yet another guest introduction, with JASON LIVES director/writer Tom McLoughlin. Discussing the task of bringing Jason back to life, his inspirations from Universal Horror classics, and how history looks kindly on this entry. The movie completes the “Tommy Jarvis Trilogy” within the franchise. As Tommy returns to Crystal Lake (Now Forest Green to distance itself away from the murders) to make sure Jason is dead and buried for good… only to accidentally bring the masked slasher back to life and more powerful than ever thanks to the wrought iron pole he impales his corpse with acting as a lightning rod. Now Jason is on the hunt for Tommy and ready to slaughter gravediggers, horny couples, corporate paintballers, and anyone who gets in his way! This movie stands out in particular, and proves to be one of the strongest “revival” Part 6 movies. Injecting some fresh blood and adrenaline back into the series.
AMITYVILLE 1992: IT’S ABOUT TIME
At this point in the night, the audience was given a choice as to which Part 6 from which franchise to watch next. Despite some serious competition from the likes of CHILD’S PLAY, HELLRAISER, LEPRECHAUN, and even THE HOWLING, AMITYVILLE came out on top. Probably in no small part thanks to the trailer’s highlighting of actress Megan Ward “From Disney’s ENCINO MAN!” And it was a wild ride that helped keep the viewers going! This AMITYVILLE entry in the go-go 90’s follows the Sterling family in Burlwood, CA as suburban developer Jacob brings back an antique clock from an old house in Amityville and things get haunted as the clock alters minds and time itself. If you can’t go to Amityville, I guess you can take it to your home! The clock does crazy things like creating hallucinations, altering people’s perceptions of time, and even creating black goo traps to suck people into the house. It was directed by Tony Randel of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2 and it kind of had that vibe. Especially with gore coupled by sex scenes!
The most recent entry in the marathon, and from perhaps the biggest horror franchise of the 2000’s, SAW. At this point, there was a SAW film coming out every year, and it featured a linear narrative from movie to movie, mainly dealing with the legacy of the Jigsaw Killer(s). Specifically, an insurance executive named William Easton finds himself in a series of traps where he must decide which of his business associates gets to live or die in an indictment of his callous insurance policies and the healthcare industry in general. All while a struggle ensues between the disciples of Jigsaw and the investigation into their identities heating up. Unlike many of the other Part 6 entries that had huge gaps between productions, SAW was concurrent and so stays far more consistent than other franchises. Some of the overarching mythology dragged a bit, but the traps always kept heads turned. Highlights including predatory lenders having to give a literal pound of flesh, a razor-wire noose trap, and a shotgun carousel.
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (In 3D)
And what better way to cap off the Part 6 marathon than with the infamous sixth entry in the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films that tried to kill off Freddy Krueger for good! And in 3D, no less! The then meant to be finale for Freddy took place in 1999 where Freddy had managed to kill all but one child/teenager in Springwood, Ohio and was looking for a way to spread his nightmare induced mayhem globally. As the last teenager, known only as “John Doe” escapes and ends up in the care of a shelter for troubled teens, he’s taken back to Springwood by Dr. Maggie Burroughs along with some wayward runaways. As they investigate his origins, they discover that Freddy had a long lost child, and they may be key in defeating him once and for all! While arguably the most cartoonish of a franchise that was becoming increasingly silly (Freddy using the slasher power glove for instance), it was certainly entertaining to watch with a crowd. And the 3D at the end was unique, but definitely a strain on the eyes with just the red/blue effect. Fortunately, this didn’t turn out to be end for Freddy, coming back in the meta WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE.
So, as we walked into dawn’s light after the maniacal marathon, it was interesting to reflect on the trends and traits of these 6 part 6 entries of these 6 horror franchises. Some brought back their icons like Jason, while others tried to kill them like Freddy. Some were stand-alone like PUPPET MASTEr and AMITYVILLE while others were part of a greater mythos like HALLOWEEN and SAW. I suppose what it comes down to is that horror, for all its characters and sequels, will never die!
And if you live around L.A. check out Friday Night Frights at Cinefamily for more late night terror!