In honor of Halloween our staff is going to be posting a series of articles listing some of our favorite Halloween and horror themed movies, shows, and more. ‘Nerdophiles Picks’ is a new sort of ‘top ten list’ feature for the blog though we won’t force ourselves to meet any sort of numerical requirement. In our first installment, I’m going to be walking you all through some of my favorite horror franchises and a few that I think you really ought to check out.
As always, at the end feel free to sound off in the comments about what you think should be added to this list! Once all the Halloween themed Nerdophiles Picks posts are up maybe we’ll even do a post with all our readers’ comments and top picks! But we can’t do that unless you participate!
Anyway, without further ado… here are my picks.
I know I said there is no particular order to this list but if I had to put a #1 on any franchise it would be Scream. The series was a great twist on the classic slasher film and brought the genre into the modern age by uniquely recognizing the appeal of slasher films in pop culture. Sidney Prescott was a likeable enough heroine who in the end managed to outsmart the killers with the help of a fairly solid cast of friends who helped carry the series through the original trilogy and even into the much later fourth installment. Besides, they are just a lot of freakin’ fun.
The Evil Dead Trilogy
Yeah, when I say ‘The Evil Dead Trilogy’ I am so not talking about the remake. The remake was just… lame. Granted the original trilogy is nothing but campy Bruce Campbell and ridiculousness but that’s what makes it great. The remake took itself way too seriously. Obviously, in my opinion, the real highlight of this series isn’t the Evil Dead or Evil Dead II but Army of Darkness. I don’t think I’m alone in that belief because c’mon. “THIS IS MY BOOM STICK” is just classic. Classic! Plus Army of Darkness has led to some pretty epic comic book crossovers including one with the Marvel Zombies series.
A close contender for a top spot if we numbered this list at all, Child’s Play took the idea of creepy dolls coming to life in the middle of the night and ran with it straight into your nightmares. I don’t think as a kid I was every even terrified of dolls coming to life or even thought about that until this series and, well, let’s just say I’m weary to get my kids baby dolls at all now in the future when I have them. I mean, c’mon. The doll could always be the vessel for a creepy ass, crazy serial killer determined to possess some innocent child so he can go on murdering. But seriously, this is a really great series when it comes to the first three films and the most recent one which I reviewed not too long ago. The fourth and fith ones were pretty meh but hey.
Night of the Living Dead Series, Sequels, and Remakes
George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead remains one of the greatest zombie movies of all time – if not THE greatest. The subsequent sequels and even some of the remakes followed through, too, in epic form – particularly Dawn of the Dead and the Zack Snyder remake. Though there are number of movies featuring ‘Of the Dead’ in the title, original series officially includes: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead. Those six films exist in the same cinematic universe. Meanwhile the Dawn of the Dead remake, Day of the Dead… whatever the hell it was, and 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake are all considered standalone films. The Return of the Living Dead series is also considered a sort of spin-off of Night of the Living Dead but… you’ll note I didn’t mention spin-offs in the title to this entry. (Though they are actually a lot of fun to watch because they are so terribly ridiculous.)
Hannibal Lecter Series
Should we really consider the Hannibal Lecter series a horror series? I don’t know. Generally I would say no but every other blog and news source out there seems to lump them into this genre so whatever. I love them and I’ll take any opportunity I can to talk about them. I don’t think anyone doubts that after how fervently I covered the Hannibal TV series through season one so… yeah. Whether we’re talking the original Manhunter, the Anthony Hopkins films and Hannibal Rising, or the television series you’re not going to be disappointed with a retelling of Hannibal Lecter’s crimes and post-incarceration shenanigans. Silence of the Lambs is a classic but Red Dragon remains my favorite of the films. Who can deny Ed Norton, Ralph Fiennes, and Anthony Hopkins?
Friday the 13th
Growing up as a horror fanatic, I loved the Friday the 13th series. They remained pretty solid up through the first like six films and the progression of the story from the first to third films and the interconnected plots of the fourth through sixth films were all pretty great. Subsequent films lost track of any sort of plot basis and turned Jason Vorhees into little more than immortal slasher and the remake didn’t do the series any favors either. But the first six are fantastic. And the first movie had Kevin Bacon. Everything is better with Bacon.
Nightmare on Elm Street
Much like the Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street is great… up to a point. But then it gets great again with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare which brings the nightmare stalker into the real world to haunt the real actors and actresses from the series during the mock production of a film sequel. If you’re only going to watch one of these movies then Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is the one to watch. Though, the first one is obviously worth watching, too. Plus, you know, it comes complete with Johnny Depp! And, actually, the remake of this one wasn’t too bad. (And it had Kyle Gallner!)
Okay, so, after Final Destination 2 who doesn’t get freaked out when driving behind lumber semi-trucks or when Rocky Mountain High comes on the radio? It’s scary! The plot behind Final Destination gave us the idea that death is not escapable. It’s predetermined and if someone is meant to die but somehow escapes death (usually due to some psychic friend or stranger) ultimately they will in some freakish way. Always creative in the way people are killed off, it’s just fun to watch. They movies manage pretty decent character development for the most part considering the short amount of time we spend with the characters and it’s hard to call any of these films ‘bad’ when the franchise itself doesn’t take itself too seriously and tells a pretty decent story. The Final Destination has a great tie-in to the original, too, that was a pretty nice little surprise.
I know, I know. Maybe I shouldn’t have included this one. The pay off in the latter films are generally just given to you but it’s really hard to disregard the effect this franchise has had on the horror genre. Produced on a bootstring budget, the unreleased original ending to the first film remains the best one ever. However, since it killed any opportunity for a sequel, it was rewritten and re-released. Since then every subsequent installment has told the story of the same haunted family. We’ve gone from a simple household haunting, to realizing there are demons, to discovering cults and shit. But through it all the series has offered up the same great jumpy scares and the handheld camera, shakey cam sort of style has inspired numerous rip-offs and even some pretty cool films in the same vein.
I’m including this franchise for two reasons: Therese loves them and I love James Purefoy in the first one. Well, really, I just love James Purefoy. And, honestly, the first two movies are really good. Even the third one wasn’t bad. Based on the classic video game series, the films have mostly taken their inspiration from the the games and then powered through on their own. No matter what you think about the films, too, you can’t really deny their staying power.
The first Saw film is phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. It was crazy and the ending was pretty much insane. It blew me away entirely. The second film, too, upped the stakes and actually started to develop the Jigsaw character and his motivations. The third one, though, is where it started to sort of peter out. After that the characters sort of all started to run together and the gore just didn’t carry the story enough. It became a bit excessive though latter films made some pretty great connections to the earlier films that make them worth watching at least once.
And what celebratory Halloween list is complete without, you know, Halloween? Michael Myers is one of the most prevalent slasher antagonists out there and Jamie Lee Curtis is the classic, virginal survivor. Much like most horror series, later entries in the franchise generally fail to live up to the original but the remakes actually aren’t so bad at all. I think my opinion of the remakes is skewed, though, by my love of Malcolm McDowell so… I’m a bit biased.
The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Hellraiser, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and the Ring all get honorable mentions. I’d include them in this list but either due to my own lack of knowledge about them or their lackluster sequels they’ve been left off. Granted, most of the franchises above petered out by the third or fourth film but they had at least one or two pretty good sequels come after. Some of these ones I’m sure had fairly solid sequels (except for maybe Psycho and the Ring) but I just don’t know much about them so feel free to sound off in the comments about them or any other franchise I may have left out!