In entertainment, sports or whatever category you want, the phrase “The Mount Rushmore of (insert topic)” has been used for years to be a measuring stick of the four best or most iconic figures in that category.
Today we will look at what I consider to be The Mount Rushmore of Horror Franchises. These four franchises followed similar concepts and narratives over numerous films, along with one or more characters from the original. These stand out above the rest due to their legacy, longevity, box office success and, most importantly, just my personal freakin preference.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre- A franchise with a stellar original with the sequels and remakes never really coming close to its quality. It would give us Leatherface as an iconic masked chainsaw-wielding killer. Four years before Halloween, it would provide numerous elements to the slasher genre that would be re-used in the coming years. The sequel would be tonally different, and not that successful at first, but would gain a strong cult following. The rest of the franchise wouldn’t make much impact.
Saw- This franchise never had a great film, but was a box office juggernaut for the horror genre. At $415.9 million after 7 films makes it one of the highest-grossing franchises with some of the best kills and a memorable villain in Jigsaw.
Scream- Re-energized the slasher genre by turning it on its head with the original Scream and solid box office success, makes this a solid franchise. However, only having 4 films with none of the sequels being that special and a failed (yet fun) TV show that didn’t even use the famous Ghost face mask, it only gets an honorable mention.
The Exorcist- I am not a fan of The Exorcist but when you talk about the greatest horror movies of all time it is a given that the original is brought up. However, when you think of the overall franchise there is a lot left to be desired.
Psycho- Almost makes the list on the merits of the original alone. Being one of the all-time best and the impact it made going forward is enough to compete with any franchise. In the end, there just isn’t enough substance to make the overall franchise a success or that memorable outside of the original.
FACES ON THE MOUNT:
The “Dead” Franchise– (Too many to name. Check out the franchise road map)
Legacy: Before Night of the Living Dead, zombies were relegated to mindless slaves to perpetuate racial stereotypes. However, George A. Romero would breathe new life into zombies by giving them a purpose. NOTLD, as well as other sequels, would tackle the social issues of their time mainly dealing with a society ravaged by chaos in one way or another. It also gave us one of the first black hero characters in horror and film with Daune Jones as Ben. It would go onto to create its own sub-genre while spawning unofficially 28 sequels and sub-series. To date, there have been over 400 zombie/infection type movies, also including TV shows, comics and graphics novels, books and the endless amounts of merchandise that are all inspired by this franchise. All of this from a movie that had a budget of $114,000.
Longevity: Spanning 50 years. First film in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead. Last film in 2018 with Day of the Dead: Bloodline.
Box Office: It’s complicated (See franchise map above)
Favorite Films: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978 and 2004), Return of the Living Dead (1985)
My Personal Freakin Preference: If not for the original Night of the Living Dead then I wouldn’t have Trash’s naked graveyard dancing in The Return of the Living Dead. So yeah, it automatically makes the list. Honestly, this series created a sub-genre that has dominated horror for 50 years. Without the original NOLTD and the franchise it spawned, I wouldn’t have some of my all-time favorite movies in Train to Busan, 28 Days Later, Night of the Comet and Zombieland just to name a few. Not to mention personal favorites like The Walking Dead TV series and graphic novel and the Resident Evil video game series.
Friday the 13th– (Friday the 13th Parts 1-8, Jason Goes to Hell, Jason X, Freddy vs. Jason, 2009 Remake)
Legacy: Jason freakin Voorhees! Easily one of the most recognizable and well-known horror icons in history. Even though it wasn’t an original concept, it would capture the slasher genre momentum and capitalize on it with one of the best box office successes of horror franchises. It would perfect and beat to death the concept of a group of young people being brutally murdered due to their bad choices of doing drugs, drinking and having the coitus. Jason’s iconic hockey mask wouldn’t be seen till the 3rd film but it would instantly take the world by storm crossing over into mainstream media while helping spawn similar characters, merchandise, tv shows, video games, comics, fan films, etc. The 1980 original would capture the audience’s attention by picking off teenagers with some brutal kills utilizing fantastic practical effects for that time and keeping the killer a mystery for most of the movie. Jason would burst onto the scene the next year in the follow up with 11 films where he would be the main killer. Jason would unofficially account for 146 deaths on screen making him one of the deadliest characters in cinema history.
Longevity: 12 films spanning 29 years. First film in 1980 with Friday the 13th. Last film in 2009 with Friday the 13th.
Box Office: $380.6 million
Favorite Films: F13 Part 4: The Final Chapter (1984), F13 Part 6: Jason Lives (1986), Jason X (2001), Friday the 13th (2009)
My Personal Freakin Preference: As a big of a fan as I am of F13 and with it being my favorite franchise, I can admit that it doesn’t have one single great film but damn if you can’t help but love that big old lug Jason and his many ways of being badass. My main reason for watching these films is to see Jason murder people in cool and brutal ways. He does just that with the series having some of the best all-time kills in horror history. Jason easily has one of the best looks of any slasher from his Mongoloid human deformity in the early films to his rotting zombie look in the later films. Every actor would bring something special to the character, but Kane Hodder would be my childhood favorite because of his menacing brutality. As a wee lad, my first experience with Jason would be with part 4 which was just gritty and raw. Everything about that film would hook me and make me the horror nut that you see today.
Halloween– (Halloween 1-6, Halloween H20, Halloween: Resurrection, Rob Zombie’s Halloween I & II, Halloween (2018))
Legacy: A masked or shadowy figure killing people was nothing new, but John Carpenter’s Halloween would take horror to new heights and define the formula that would be the calling card for the slasher genre going forward. The suspense, storytelling, and Carpenter’s iconic score of the original would grab the audience by the throat and create many imitators including fellow Mount Rushmore franchise, Friday the 13th. Without Michael Myers, I wouldn’t have Jason Voorhees, so I give thanks and recognition where it is deserved. Halloween is an undeniable classic and game-changer. The sequels would not hold up as well as other franchises with mediocre box office results until the 2018 sequel, Halloween, would become one of the highest-grossing horror films in history. Halloween would not only give us an iconic killer and score but also one of the most famous and greatest final girls in history. Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie would set the prototype for future final girls and guy (looking at you Ash).
Longevity: 11 films spanning 40 years. First film in 1978 with Halloween. Last film in 2018 with Halloween.
Box Office: $467 million
Favorite films: Halloween (1978), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween 2 (2009)
My Personal Freakin Preference: So I am not the biggest Halloween and Michael Myers fan. However, I can recognize their significance to horror. I’m one of the few weirdos that love Season of the Witch. Yes, the one about the evil Halloween masks that doesn’t have Michael Myers in it. Also, I thoroughly enjoy the Rob Zombie versions especially his 2009 sequel. As I said earlier, the sequels to the original are pretty weak with the mythos of Michael being changed with psychic links, cults and Busta Rhymes. The franchise makes the Mount Rushmore mainly on the merit of the original, an iconic killer and the box office success of the latest entry.
A Nightmare on Elm Street– (A Nightmare on Elm Street 1-6, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Freddy vs. Jason, 2010 Remake)
Legacy: Simply put this was a game-changer for the slashers when the genre started to feel stale. Ever since Halloween opened the dam for numerous inspirations and low-grade rip-offs in 1978, horror was filled with some variation of a masked killer eliminating a group of teens. That was until 1984 where that same concept would be altered where the boogeyman would kill his group of teens in their dreams. Wes Craven’s NOES and Freddy Krueger would be a hit with audiences. It would give us surrealistic nightmare settings, innovative kills, Johnny Depp, and another fantastic final girl in Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy. However, the biggest treat of all was the horror world receiving the wise-cracking crispy fried Freddy Krueger. Krueger’s glove with knives as fingernails, raggedy sweater and fedora would become as iconic as Jason’s hockey mask. Freddy would be one of the most successful horror characters to cross over into pop culture. Krueger would get his own TV show, guest spots on other shows and talk shows, music videos, video games, merchandise and so much more.
Longevity: 9 films spanning 26 years. First film in 1984 with A Nightmare on Elm Street. Last film in 2010 with A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Box Office: $370.5 million
Favorite Films: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
My Personal Freakin Preference: The original Nightmare on Elm Street just blew me away as a kid. A terrifying killer, crazy cool kills with practical effects and kids who weren’t completely annoying. The bed kill is one of the greatest kills in the history of cinema and the scene where Freddy begins to protrude through the wall above a sleeping Nancy is the stuff of, well, nightmares. Freddy would morph into a sarcastic wise-ass toying with his prey before he would slice and dice ‘em. The kills would become more thematic and imaginative as the rules of the NOES world would expand. Only two (Freddy’s Dead and the remake) of the nine films are unwatchable to me with the others being comparable to each other.
Be on the lookout tomorrow for what I feel laid the foundation for these Mount Rushmore Horror Franchise picks and the sturdy rock of which they were built upon.
Please share below what four horror franchises you believe would make your Mount Rushmore.