Sunday, September 12, 2010

And Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers Makes 30: Ranking the Three Big 1980s Horror Franchises

Last night I watched Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, the very last film in the Halloween franchise that I was yet to see. With that I have now watched every single entry within the three big slasher franchises of the 1980s: Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Yes, the original Halloween was released in 1978 and, yes, all the franchises extended through the 1990s and 2000s, but each remains cultural touchstones in a cinematic movement that peaked in the 1980s.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers was hardly the best way to end such a feat, but it feels like a particularly geeky achievement to have seen all of the big three. Now, being a cinephile who lives online, I felt it was only natural to rank each and every film. Isn't that what we do? Whilst all of the Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street titles are still quite fresh in my mind (I have watched most of them within the last year), the Friday the 13th films are a bit murkier in my mind, having watched them some years earlier. Still, I think I've got the list down pat that represents all 30 titles as best I see them. Friday the 13th leads with 12 films (including one crossover with Elm Street) to Halloween's 10 and Elm Street's 9 (again, with one crossover), but how do they stack up for quality? Let's see...

30. H2 (2009, dir. Rob Zombie)
A disgusting, repellent and altogether abhorrent piece of grimy garbage. The only film on this list that I would truly rate an F. It's got no other reason for existing other than for Rob Zombie to put on a freakshow, but using the mummified corpse of a famous franchise to do so. It's not so much "torture porn" as just "depressing, white trash, ugly, stump-fucking porn".

29. Friday the 13th (2009, dir. Marcus Nispel)
This "remake" is hollow and desperate. Not at all interested with restarted the myths behind Jason Vorhees, director Marcus Nispel (whose Texas Chainsaw Massacre I will defend until the day I day by bloody chainsaw) jumps right into remaking Friday the 13th Part II and just giving audiences more Jason Vorhees, but this time with even less interest, excitement or thrills. The underground cave system was the worst! Hey Mr Nispel, give it up with the underground cave systems!

28. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010, dir. Samuel Beyer)
I find it both apt and completely accidental that the three worst films of this list (and the worst individual film of each subsequent franchse) are modern day remakes/retellings/re-imaginings/refuckoffs. All of them are dirty, oppressive and about as much fun as a punch in the face with razor blades. The world would have been a better place in none of them existed.

27. Halloween: Resurrection (2002, dir. Rick Rosenthal)
To be perfectly blunt, I did not need to see Michael Myers take on the reality TV generation in a film starring Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes. Dialogue like "let the dangertainment begin!", "Fear is what gives us the feeling of being alive!" and "trick or treat, motherfucker!" and that best-left-forgotten desecration of Jamie Lee Curtis' memory make this a terrible viewing experience. Good on Katee Sackhoff for somehow managing a career out of this horrible mess.

26. Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991, dir. Rachel Talalay)
Definitely the weakest of the original Nightmare on Elm Street films, this sixth installment came from the producer of Dream Warriors and The Dream Master so it's baffling to think how they went so wrong. Whether it be the Roseanne Arnold and Alice Cooper cameos, the terrible flashbacks to Freddy's childhood, the tacky 3D or the bizarre Wizard of Oz references, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare is a boring, pale shadow of the series' former best.

25. Halloween (2007, dir. Rob Zombie)
Pretty much the only thing that allows Rob Zombie's first dump on Halloween to rise ever so slightly above the fray is the performance of Sheri Moon Zombie. Call me crazy, but she nearly made my top five contenders for Best Supporting Actress in 2007. I said nearly...

24. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993, dir. Adam Marcus)
Is the Friday the 13th franchise the only one to have two "final" entries. Compare this one to Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter and the distinct drop in quality is monumental. Still, this film leaves the stupidest for last during the scene when Jason gets dragged down into hell by boxy clay monsters. I can't even explain it properly it's so ridiculous. Although it does have...

23. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995, dir. Joe Chappelle)
This one stars a pre-fame Paul Rudd and as humourous as that is for a little while, The Curse of Michael Myers soon collapses into a heap of dull garbage to do with curses and the mystery of Michael's ability to survive anything. This was actually the very first Halloween film I ever saw and it was late at night on the TV and I was captivated by the opening scene. It all went downhill from there and I soon turned it off before returning to it years later. It didn't get any better.

22. / 21.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Goes to Manhattan (1989, dir. Rob Hedden) / Jason X (2002, dir. James Isaac)
The two most out-there concepts for the Friday the 13th franchise produced two of the worst installments. Jason Goes to Manhattan could have been the pinacle of camp fun if Jason actually went to Manhattan for longer than 5 minutes, but seeing Jason ride the subway just didn't have the right verve to it after watching 80 excruciating minutes on a boat (a boat that somehow goes from Crystal Lake to the Hudson River?) Jason X (the "Jason Vorhees in space" movie) is equally preposterous and flat in equal measure. Not even a David Cronenberg cameo, a girl getting her face frozen and then smashed into a million pieces and a recreation of the famous sleeping bag death can turn Jason X into anything more than a wet squib.

20. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989, dir. Dominique Othenin-Girard)
I had heard that this sequel failed to make much out of the success of number 4 and they were right. It limps about its first hour doing not much at all and then when it kicks up a gear it's still not all that exciting. It's overwrought and over-the-top. Series regular Donald Pleasence gives a performance so eye-poppingly bad and Danielle Harris, impressive in the fourth film, gives the film a truly unpleasant vibe (it's essentially Michael chasing a near-defenseless 10-year-old girl for 90 minutes).

19. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985, dir. Danny Steinmann)
This movie doesn't even feature a Vorhees as the villain so any possible good will it had accrued (and there is some, but not as much as in other entries) kinda went out the window.

18. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)
I toyed as to whether to even include Halloween III since everyone is aware the film has no connection whatsoever with the franchise as a whole, but, hey, it made the number of films in the an even 30 so why not? It's not a good Halloween movie, but it's a decent enough episode of The Twilight Zone, I guess.

17. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989, dir. Stephen Hopkins)
A "jumping the shark" moment if ever there was one. Whether it be the novelty rap song on the soundtrack or the "wanna have babies" plot, The Dream Child features some fun deaths (the woman who's forced to eat herself to death), but quickly becomes a grotesque freakshow with no real point. This was the first time that the Elm Street franchise's visuals had gotten ahead of its story, and the first time that said visuals were not interesting.

16. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986, dir. Tom McLoughlin)
The word "serviceable" comes to mind when thinking about Jason Lives. The sixth installment of this franchise provides nothing new, just the same ol' same ol' and while this same ol' is at least better than the same ol' of, say, Jason Takes Manhattan, it's still not terribly exciting either. It works as a perfectly decent Friday the 13th film, but never transcends to be a fun film in its own right.

15. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II: Freddy's Revenge
Clearly the gayest film of the countdown, the first sequel to Wes Craven's masterpiece A Nightmare on Elm Street is drastically different to its predecessor. I can't even truly talk about it without cracking up into hysterics, but Freddy's Revenge feels as much a part of the Elm Street franchise as Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Just watch it and enjoy it, but don't even think of it as an Elm Street film.

14. Freddy Vs Jason (2003, dir. Ronny Yu)
This crossover between the Friday the 13th and Elm Street franchises is very much a mixed bag. There's some truly great stuff in here and it gets points for having the balls to do it at all, but there was something missing in it. A truly cheap 'n' nasty vibe that runs through every earlier installment was gone and replaced by all too modern filmmaking devices like CGI.

13. Friday the 13th Part II (1981, dir. Steve Miner)
The arrival of Jason (albeit in a sack mask) marked the beginning of the end of the beginning. There was no turning back after this point, but at least it remained fun for a good ten years or so. Perhaps my favourite final girl of the 13th series can be found here and it's the last genuine scare you'll find in the entire series, and yet I still don't hold it to quite the same esteem as Friday the 13th Part III, ya know?

12. Halloween II (1981, dir. Rick Rosenthal)
Set the same night as the 1978 original, Rosenthal's first stab at this franchise is much better than his second (Halloween: Resurrection), but after the dramatic power of Halloween, the first of 6 direct sequels isn't quite as immediate. It has some nice set-pieces and the big finale chase sequence is tense, but it lacks a clear visual style and you could see the cracks appearing in the cliches already.

11. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984, dir. Joseph Zito)
The same year that A Nightmare on Elm Street debuted came this film, which was already claiming to be the end of the series. Hardly. Still, even though we know it's not, nor was it ever going to be, the real end of the series, it packs a punch with some inventive kills and provides one of the stronger plot backbones of the entire series (yes, it involves Corey Feldman).

10. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988, dir. John Carl Buechler)
The only film in the franchise second half (parts 7 to 12) that is any good, and (quite obviously) it is one of my favourites and not just because of the sleeping bag death or the scene where a man shields himself from Jason's weapon... by using another human being! No, The New Blood sorta has the vibe of one of the earlier films, knowing what the series is all about and no giving it silly location switches or going off on bizarre over-the-top passages. Plus, hello, Kevin Blair!

9. Friday the 13th (1980, dir. Sean S Cunningham)
The original and... well, not the best, but definitely one of the best! The series was at its most innocent here, sure, but it already felt so assured of what it was and that goes a long way if you ask me. The shock ending is, really, only a shock to those who have grown up always believing "Friday the 13th" mean "Jason Vorhees and nothing else. It's also one of the few films in the series to have actual scares that are as effective in 2010 as they were 30 years ago.

8. / 7.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987, dir. Chuck Russell) / A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988, dir. Renny Harlin)
Many consider Dream Warriors (with Dokken soundtrack, naturally) to be the high point of the non-Wes Craven Nightmare films. As great as it is, and it is "great" actually, I have a very slight preference to the fourth in the series, The Dream Master. Each has one of the all time best Elm Street deaths (the strings and the waterbed death respectively), but where I give The Dream Master the edge is in the scene in which Freddy Krueger, who had definitely began is permanent change into stand-up act rather than scaremonger by this stage) puts its two leads in a never-ending loop as they try to rescue their friend from her own cockroach-infested nightmare. It's some wonderfully inventive stuff at work there, which why I've ranked them so high.

6. Friday the 13th Part III (1982, dir. Steve Miner)
My favourite of the entire franchise is number 3. Yes, it's in ridiculous and crummy 3D, but therein likes a lot of the film's retro charm. It also has a disco soundtrack, a biker gang and every single character cliche you could ever hope to find! That's what makes Part III so good. It's pure, cheap, unadulterated fun and even if it has a scene in which a character drops a yo-yo into the laps of audiences, it also has a scene in which a character's face is squashed and the eyes come flying out at the viewers. This is very amazing. Perhaps I enjoy it too much from a so-bad-it's-good level (you can see the strings attached to the arrow as it flies towards you), but that's as valid an excuse for loving a movie as any other.

5. / 4.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988, dir. Dwight H. Little) / Halloween: H20 (1998, dir. Steve Miner)
To be perfectly honest with you, I could easily see the order of these two titles swapping and I wouldn't care in the slightest. Both are of very fine quality, with The Return of Michael Myers have a very polished, cinematic quality to it that had been missing in the franchise since John Carpenter's original. H20 holds more sentimental value to me since it came out right as I was getting into scary films (thanks to Scream, naturally) and I do still get a bit of a thrill out of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis return to the horror genre. And, hello, Steve Miner, aka director of Friday the 13th Part 3D!

3. Halloween (1978, dir. John Carpenter)
Everybody knows how influential it was, but do people remember how good it actually is? Just watch it again and be amazed by the command of cinema John Carpenter had, the way that even on such a minuscule budget he was able to craft something of such pure cinema. That it was and still is terribly scary is another testament to the skill on display. Yes, it originated many of the cliches that made a lot of the films in the earlier part of this list so bad, but when they're done this well that do not age.

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir. Wes Craven)
The trailer claimed Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street was a "new masterpiece in fantasy terror" and it remains one to this very day. So much inventiveness on screen, so much tension and so many frights. It really puts modern day horror movies to shame and when compared to the 2010 remake? Well, what's the point? Who can forget the first time they ever saw Freddy Krueger's arms extend in the alley? Or the bed gushing blood? Or those three creepy girls playing jump rope? It's a classic.

Of course, typical Wes Craven. He had to go and trump his own movie, didn't he?

1. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994, dir. Wes Craven)
Nearly ten years to the day since his original film premiered, Wes Craven's New Nightmare was released to general yawns from audiences, mild enthusiasm by critics and general hysteria from die hard fans. Someone once described it as "the of horror movies" and I can't deny that, but New Nightmare is more than just a highfalutin take on the franchise, it's an incredibly suspenseful, wickedly inventive and visually spectacular film in its own right. That there's enjoyment to be had in ethical dilemmas like "do I let Robert Englund babysit my child" adds to the film and the way Wes Craven twists, weaves and entangles so many different threads throughout the film makes it a film that grows richer on repeat viewings.


Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes! That's exactly the top three I would have picked. "New Nightmare" is incredibly good and that trailer is one of my favourite trailers of all time - it's a masterpiece in and of itself.

I haven't seen all the remakes, but the Nightmare on Elm St one is truly atrocious. I'm glad to see those newer films down the bottom of your list. Hollywood seems to forget that horror films used to be about the fun of being scared, not the assault of being traumatised.

Great list, Glenn.

Wings said...

Good stuff & great to see your order of the films. It really is an endeavor in personal choice, so comparing my placement to yours wouldn't matter. Still, interesting to see how others take the films. :)

Anthony said...

Halloween 2 and Nightmare on Elmstreet remake deserve to be that low. But the Friday remake, though not very good, is still a lot better than many entries before it. And I honestly really want you to watch Friday Part 6 again. It truly is THE Jason movie for me. Much better than Part 7, which I, and many, think is AWFUL (talk about a movie being ripped apart by the MPAA.) The only good thing about 7 is the sleeping bag death and the last 15 minutes.

Glenn Dunks said...

Well, really, all a Friday the 13th movie needs to be good is at least one great kill and a great final 15 minutes.

Ryan said...

Awesome post! I'm a huge fan of all 3 franchises and it was so much fun to read your rankings;

HALLOWEEN(s): Glad to see "H20" ranked so high and your comments regarding Part 4 were dead-on.

FRIDAY THE 13TH(s): Firstly, love how you singled out Silver's delicious looking ass from "JGTH", yum!. Now I'll admit Part 3 does deliver the goods, however for me Part 6 was the ultimate Friday; atmospheric, gory, just the right amount of tongue-in-check and with a hot guy in the typical 'Last Girl' role.

NIGHTMARE(s): Wish "Dream Warriors" was ranked higher but I'm with you all the way on "New Nightmare" being the finest Freddy film; truly innovative, witty and scary!

Robert said...

Although I disagree on a couple of your choices, you are spot on with the #1 - New Nightmare! Way ahead of its time and still great this day.

I know you've probably seen this link, but here is some of the New Nightmare locations I've visited:

Ryan said...

Oh, and for the hellva it, here’s my rankings (I included the 6 “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” films too):

01. Halloween
02. New Nightmare
03. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
04. Halloween: H20
05. Nightmare on Elm Street 3
06. Nightmare on Elm Street
07. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
08. Friday the 13th P6
09. Friday the 13th
10. Freddy vs. Jason
11. Nightmare on Elm Street 2
12. Friday the 13th P3
13. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (’03)
14. Halloween 2
15. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
16. Friday the 13th P4
17. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
18. Freddy’s Dead
19. Friday the 13th P7
20. Friday the 13th P2
21. Friday the 13th (’09)
22. Jason Goes to Hell
23. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
24. Friday the 13th P8
25. Leatherface: TCM 3
26. Jason X
27. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II
28. Nightmare on Elm Street 5
29. Rob Zombie’s Halloween
30. Friday the 13th P5
31. Nightmare on Elm Street 4
32. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
33. Halloween: Resurrection
34. Nightmare on Elm Street (’10)
35. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
36. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Next Generation

TrG said...

Interesting list. But I'd switch places on Friday 2 and 3 and Friday 7 is, as Anthony pointed out, kind of freakin' awful. Part 6 is far superior. That ass shot has me Netflixin' like a mofo for Jason Goes to Hell....

Joel said...

Epic post!
Think the original Halloween would be number 1 for me, but glad to see the love for New Nightmare.
Also, Halloween 6 was the first Halloween I saw too! A friends brother had it on VHS and it got past around my whole group of friends. Haven't seen it since mind you...

Glenn Dunks said...

Well, as I say at the start it has been a few years since I saw the bulk of the Friday films for their one and only time. While I distinctly remember enjoying #7, I don't remember much of #6 other than the trailer sequence.

Thanks for all the great feedback, guys!

Ryan, I would have included TCM franchise if I had seen Leatherface, but that one is tricky to find.

TrG said...

OK, Glenn and Ryan, you've inspired me...

01. Halloween
02. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The original, baby!)
03. Nightmare on Elm Street
04. Friday the 13th (Creepy build with a campy finish)
05. Friday the 13th P6 (The most fun anyone had with the franchise since the original)
06. Friday the 13th P2 (Ginny rocks!)
07. Halloween: H20 (Love seeing JLC take her power back.)
08. New Nightmare
09. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Watched this so many times in college. Underrated IMHO.)
10. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (Love the gay overtones. Back when Freddy still was scary).
11. Halloween 2
12. Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (Starting to get a little jokey there, Freddy, but some clever kills and Nancy is back...Yay!)
13. Nightmare on Elm Street 4
14. Friday the 13th P3 (Because Shelley rules the universe of prankster virgin loser victims)
15. Jason X (Don't know why I like this, but it just knows how bad it is and that makes it enjoyable)
16. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (This one doesn't hold up very well. But better than any that followed ... save for H20)
17. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (I have a perverse love of this film and the insane Silver shamrock theme ... it's beyond bad ... but it's an original)
18. Friday the 13th (’09) (Yeah, it sucked. But Jason was really good.)
19. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (Yeah, it sucked. But Michael was really good.)
20. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (This one is better than the '03 remake, but that isn't saying much. The boys are yummy. Mmmm Bomer).
21. Freddy vs. Jason (Dumb, but fun and it is what it is)
22. Friday the 13th P4 (Not as big a fan as everyone else seems to be, but it had its moments)
23. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (Ultimately a big fat failure, but I thought the stuff with Laurie's PTSD was interesting ... too bad it never paid off and it went in such a dipshit direction).

The rest are a tie for worst. I have no use for these. I wish them into the cornfield...
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (The man in black? Really?)
Nightmare on Elm Street 5 (Enough with the standup routine, Freddy)
Friday the 13th P5 (The boy who got molested on Different Strokes was the highlight)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (’03) (My dislike for this one grows each time I re-view. )
Halloween: Resurrection (Originally subtitled ... enough said)
Nightmare on Elm Street (’10) (A lot of wasted talent on screen.)
Jason Goes to Hell (Jason as a body jumping worm?)
Friday the 13th P8 (Toxic waste turns Jason back into an adolescent?)
Leatherface: TCM 3
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (The Curse of Thorn?)
Freddy’s Dead
Friday the 13th P7 (No one retrieved Tina's Dad from the lake? Really?)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Next Generation (Leatherface does his best drag in this one, but it is all for naught).

Dempsey Sanders said...

For me, the worst out of this list was Jason X, hated it so much. I also loved Wes cravens new nightmare, but for me Halloween would rank number 1. This post was really interesting and surprising. Glad to see H20 ranked so high too, loved that. Really good post, enjoyed your opinions

Anonymous said...

friday 7 ..telekinesis..jason gets of the obviosly didnt grow up with the series..i was 5 or 6 years old watching these in the dark...freddies dead? suck ending..epic was the closest thing to revealing the true freddie...human freddie...halloween damn witch craft movie ever made..trully frightening..true carpenter mood..great story..remakes are ok..rob zombies redneck injection kinda works..danny trejo...thumbs up..danielle harris from halloween 4,5 still has my heart..the man in black totally makes sense..nightmare 2..still one of the scariest..and that scene where hes all like daaad the scene where hes cleaning his room and dancing to touch me...and a gay coach? nightmare was pretty good but i wouldnt put it at the top...friday remake was kinda hollow but the reference to the third film where jasons reaching unfocused...awesome..nightmare remake is a masterpiece..truly exposing freddy as the sinister character people seem to forget he was..also the micro nap theory is awesome..adds a reality to it all..jason with a pillowcase on his head was the most terrifying jason besides zombie jason...friday 5 was very entertaining even though no jason...loved miguel nunez as demon ...ill never forget the outhouse scene...ooh baby oooh baby..also lots of but kickings by tommys character..ill leave u with a famous quote..welcome to primetime b!@ch...