To round off the Halloween season, which for lack of a fourth October issue of The Hoot is still going strong until Nov. 3, this week’s article, which I am honestly shocked I never wrote before, is a ranking of slasher franchises. These rankings will be primarily based on the quality of the movies in a series, with special consideration also given to goodness of the slasher character, creativity within the series run and my personal vendettas. To be considered for this list, the slasher franchise must have at least four movies, be known, at least in concept, by what I perceive to be the majority of college students and must distinguish itself from torture porn by having some cat and mouse dynamic present (sorry “Saw,” but you are saved from being the lowest ranked on my list).
In “Saw”’s stead is an obvious last choice for anyone who knows me, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (TCM). This is one of two series on the list of which I have not seen every original series entry. But that’s because this series is awful, from start to (presumably) finish. The only movie worth anyone’s time in the series is “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” which is, to quote my past review of a TCM remake, “arguably watchable”. These movies are insufferable displays of excessive human depravity at the expense of women and disabled people. All slashers show people doing horrible things—often to women. The first “Halloween” movie for example has a similar formula of killing men quickly or off-screen while the women die slowly, squirming and screaming. But “Halloween” is also a good movie, where the victims have scenes establishing their personalities and the women aren’t tortured by a group of revolting men over the course of many hours. I hate this series. I respect the original for the important role it played as a very early slasher and a grindhouse film that more than just grindhouse horror fans saw, but I hate this series and that will never change.
Controversially, taking the fourth spot on this list is the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise. Please note that the Elm Street series should not be viewed as only one ranking above TCM, but rather one step below the next ranked franchise with no remaining franchises to fill the massive gap between it and TCM. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a great series when it is great, but unfortunately, most of the time, it isn’t. Of the give-or-take seven original series entries, two are great, one is good and the rest are quite bad. Freddy Krueger is one of the most interesting and creative killers on this list but he is never as funny as Chucky, as creepy as Michael and he doesn’t remain without cheesiness like Jason. The Elm Street series peaked at “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” (which I do highly recommend) but the series got old fast and it never got good again.
Taking the third spot is “Friday the 13th.” A series that began as a “Psycho” ripoff designed to be watched at drive-ins by high schoolers, transformed into a genre-defining cultural centerpiece still meant to be watched by high schoolers at drive-ins. “Friday the 13th” and Elm Street are neck and neck in many ways but the prior eeks ahead because of numbers four through six, “The Final Chapter,” “New Beginning” and “Jason Lives.” The first three “Friday the 13th” movies are fine. They are early 1980s slashers. They are predictable but fun. “Friday the 13th” four through six are genuinely watchable movies. They are exciting, establish an interesting, largely consistent lore for Jason and put simply, they aren’t boring. The later four movies vary in quality. “The New Blood” got censored out of being an incredible gore flick, “Jason Takes Manhattan” is … a movie, “Jason Goes To Hell” is not great but it is full of new ideas and “Jason X” is farce but does not disrespect the rest of the series. Outside of the second and third movies, every “Friday the 13th” movie has something that makes it interesting, despite the fact that they may all look exactly the same. Also, the “Friday the 13th” score is slept on and almost as good as the next franchise’s iconic overture.
In the number two spot, with a disproportionate amount of help from its pilot entry directed by the best director anywhere on this list, John Carpenter, is “Halloween.” The first “Halloween” is a classic for a reason. It is, very arguably, the best slasher present on this list. Even outside of the slasher subgenre, “Halloween” is a monument of horror. It is weird and creepy no matter how many times you have seen it. The actors are great, the plot is so simple and interesting and that theme music—I get chills just thinking about it. The rest of the series has major highs and major lows. The first awful “Halloween” movie (setting aside the ever divisive “Season of the Witch”), is “Halloween 4: The Revenge of Michael Myers.” The series then continued to be bad until the 1998 release, which ignores the lore of “Halloween” two through six and is pretty good. The next film, “Halloween Resurrection” is special to my heart, but that’s just because it is a great funny bad movie. Finally, we arrive at the recent trilogy (which is technically still within the original series). “Halloween (2018)” is weirdly great, “Halloween Kills” is awful, and I did not bother watching “Halloween Ends”.
If your series is so trashy and silly that John Waters appears in it, there is simply no avoiding the top spot. I adore the Chucky/“Child’s Play” series. Every entry, from the seven-part original series, to the “Chucky” TV show to the 2019 remake is worth watching (though the last two do not factor into my ranking). “Child’s Play 3” is the only subpar movie, and while it is quite subpar— it takes place at a military school and wayyy too much of the movie is military school shenanigans—it is still a funny movie that has absolutely no slasher equivalent. That is what makes the “Child’s Play” series so very special. Outside of the first “Child’s Play,” which is genre-defining and thus similar to the many doll horror movies that copied it, each movie is ridiculously strange and original and they only get more so as the series goes on. I recommend watching the original “Child’s Play” and then jumping straight to “Seed of Chucky,” you will be confused in the best way possible.