Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: Ten Horror Franchises That Never Were

July 12, 2018 | Posted by Joseph Lee
My Bloody Valentine A Bloody Good Time

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

It’s amazing the amount of horror movies that get sequels, even when the franchise has long since been dead. Take, for example, Halloween. It’s going to be the third film in the series to be called Halloween, even though it’s not a reboot, and the third to ignore nearly everything that happened before after the remake and H20. Texas Chainsaw did the same with that franchise and even though it’s not horror, Robocop Returns is set to do it with that franchise.

As much as studios love to drag franchise zombies staggering back into theaters for more money, there have been plenty of times where someone has attempted a movie with franchise potential only for it to fail miserably. Either the film just wasn’t good, it bombed at the box office or studio meddling interfered. And really, considering we live in a world with five Sharknado movies, it’s ridiculous that some movies didn’t get another chance to live on.

This week, I’m going to look at ten of those movies, the obvious attempts to create sequels and why they might not have happened. The only rule is that they can’t be existing franchises. For example, we know Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash didn’t happen, but those characters all had more than one movie before that.

#10: Godzilla (1998)

This is kind of bending my rule, but not really. This film is not part of the Toho series and was Sony’s attempt to make a new franchise based around their interpretation of the character. It’s a monster which bares little resemblance to the Godzilla we know and love. But this isn’t so much about why it’s bad, but more about why it didn’t go on to become anything. Or maybe the two were related.

There were plans for an entire trilogy of films based on thie story, but there was a “lack of enthusiasm” from pretty much everyone, including fans, critics, and even theater owners. No one wanted anything to do with this thing, which is surprising given the fact it did perform well at the box office and the marketing campaign was huge. But sometimes a movie is just that bad, and this is one of the more notorious films in Roland Emmerich’s filmography. It did get an animated series that was light years ahead of the film (and more like the Toho Godzilla), so maybe it all worked out for the best.

#9: You’re Next (2013)

This is probably the most modern example of one of these, and probably too soon because there’s always a chance a sequel happens. I don’t think anyone expected a sequel to The Strangers a decade later and we ended up getting one that was better than the original. So there’s still time to pick up the story if Adam Wingard gets bored of playing around with Godzilla and King Kong to try it. I do realize the error of that sentence, but I’ll leave it in. Anyway, it’s hard to say why a sequel never happened, as the film did quite well on its miniscule budget.

The sequel, for those that are interested, would have went with the obvious conclusion after the events of this film. Erin is in prison for killing the entire Davison family. Soon after, the prison she’s at is attacked by a group led by one of the surviving killers, forcing her to team with other prisoners to survive. I don’t know if it would have worked (mainly because I can’t recall any killer surviving). I thought Sharni Vinson was easily the best part of the first film and would love to see her as the star again.

#8: Dr. Giggles (1992)

I have nothing but nostalgic love for Dr. Giggles, although I fully admit it’s not a good movie. I mean, at one point he kills someone with an oversized band-aid. However, this was one of the last real attempts to cash in on the 80s slasher craze, and the fact that it came along in 1992 probably doomed it more than anything else. It had everything those late 80s slashers had, a villain who used puns and quips, a high body count and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. It just came too late for anyone to care.

The movie did have some positives. Larry Drake was clearly enjoying himself as the villain. I guess it’s hard not to when you’re telling bad jokes all the time, but he’s definitely having fun. The movie also has some nasty moments, particularly when it comes to Evan Rendell’s origin story. The scene of an insane child emerging from the corpse of his mother, laughing, is way too good for this movie. This didn’t become anything except a bad joke about 90s horror.

#7: The Burning (1981)

I’m absolutely thrilled that The Burning eventually found its audience but I wish it had done so in 1981 when it came out. Instead it got lost in the shuffle of the slasher boom after Friday the 13th and, since it was set in a camp like so many of them at the time, was basically ignored. It was ready made for a franchise too. It had a burned, disfigured killer (beating out Freddy Krueger by three years) hacking up teens at a camp. He had his own mythology and everything, perfect to set up future films with.

Alas, The Burning just ended up being a really good horror film that never got the success it deserved. It’s remembered now as a minor classic, thanks to a great cast, even better gore (thank you Tom Savini) and a memorable villain. It just suffered from coming out in the middle of a horror boom, in a year that was particularly notable for great horror films (The Howling and An American Werewolf in London both came out in 81, as did The Evil Dead).

Also, I should point out that it does feature Jason Alexander and his character lives. I guess it was actually 1981 that was the summer of George.

#6: My Bloody Valentine (1981) & My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Really you could go with either movie here, because they were both attempts to bring a ready-made horror villain into glory but both didn’t do well enough to see that happen. Harry Warden is a villain with a) his own backstory, b) a unique weapon and c) his own theme song), which was more necessary than you’d think in the 80s. Just be lucky Michael Myers didn’t end up with “The Halloween Shuffle” or something.

So why did this attempt fail on two separate occasions? In the 80s, you can chalk it up to the same reasons as The Burning. It was cut down by the MPAA and released at a time when there was a glut of slashers. The censorship was particularly bad in this case, as a total of nine minutes were cut from the film. As for the remake, I couldn’t possibly tell you. It did extremely well at the box office and was actually somewhat liked by critics. And it even ends with sequel bait so you know they were at least thinking about it. This is one that is very confusing to me.

#5: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Believe it or not, this is one that over the years I’ve come to accept as a film that doesn’t need a sequel. I kind of like it as a standalone and think that Bubba Nosferatu would likely just end up as a bad sequel. Plus it makes no sense today with Bruce Campbell being older and the film meant to happen in the days when Elvis was still relatively young. Paul Giamatti as Colonel Tom Parker was an inspired choice, however.

Ultimately the film works by itself because it’s one last adventure for the King, getting to kick some undead ass before he passes on. It’s a great, absurd little horror-comedy that is fondly remembered by fans. The sequel didn’t happen because it’s a low-budget movie and it just never came together like anyone wanted to. Sometimes that happens, a movie just can’t get the funding or the creative team just can’t get a story they really like. I think that’s a lot of what happened here.

#4: Shocker (1989)

This is one of the more obvious choices on this list because Universal had it made with the sole intention of giving them their own Nightmare on Elm Street. Who better to do that than Wes Craven, the man who invented Freddy Krueger? As a result we get Shocker, a movie with Mitch Pileggi hamming it up like the MTV-era Freddy without all the work necessary to make him scary first. Horace Pinker could have been a scary villain, but he’s more or less a walking punchline. Yeah, I’ve never really liked Shocker. It’s too goofy to be scary and changes its own rules as it goes along, even if it is quite inventive.

This movie was built from the ground-up to be a franchise. You had the killer with the big backstory, a supernatural event to make him basically immortal (and thus around for more sequels) and an interesting idea that you could milk in future films. And just like Harry Warden, he even got his own theme song, courtesy of the Dudes of Wrath. That song is so great it justifies the film’s existence by itself.

As for why the franchise never happened, blame the box office. The movie did well, but apparently not well enough to move forward for another one. The fact that critics felt it was too derivative of Nightmare might have hurt it, although considering that’s what Universal wanted I have no idea why.

#3: Brainscan (1994)

Remember how I said Dr. Giggles came along too late? Well the same could be said, and probably has, for The Trickster, a villain that could have been for the 90s what Freddy was to the 80s, but felt too much like an 80s villain. But he’s what we get in Brainscan. The Trickster is the character of a video game that may or may not be real, depending on how you interpret the film’s climax. It was in that weird time where the 90s thought it knew what virtual reality was and really didn’t. The biggest game of 1994 was probably Super Metroid and no one thought they were living inside it.

90s attitudes about video games aside, I always felt Brainscan was more than a little underrated. It has a solid cast and honestly, you’d expect someone like The Trickster to be hammy but he’s really not so much. He has a unique look and a more understated performance than say, Mitch Pileggi or Larry Drake before him. He was clearly set up to be a franchise character but since the movie didn’t do well critically or financially, he’s mostly forgotten. Now someone remake this movie so we can give him another chance.

#2: Nightbreed (1990)

We here at ABGT (and by we, I mean me, since I’m the only one who writes it) love Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. I love all the originality of it, from the character designs to the mythology to the story it’s based on. Clive Barker has said in interviews (most recently in the press release for the rebooted TV series) that he originally intended for Nightbreed to be the kind of Star Wars of horror films. A big budget franchise full of unique creatures and a rich mythology. Sounds good in theory, but Morgan Creek had no idea what to do with it at the time.

Nightbreed was notoriously butchered in the editing room, with several scenes being reshot, others being removed entirely and the tone of the film getting drastically altered to make it seem more like a slasher movie. Decker gets more screen time (and a resurrection) as a result and while I enjoy David Cronenberg in the role, the movie’s not really about him. So in addition to sending a chopped up, essentially remade version of the movie to theaters, they also had no idea how to market it. As a result, Nightbreed was a huge flop. It was only through cable and home video that it found an audience. Now with the release of the director’s cut, we can appreciate it as it was intended.

Can you imagine a franchise based off this? It would have been great. Instead, a new Children of the Corn limped its way into video stores this year to sit on the the shelf and get forgotten. Life’s not fair.

#1: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Thanks to Scream Factory giving this a special edition release, I got to enjoy this movie once again earlier this year. It still holds up as one of the smartest horror films in the last twenty years. And yet, we’re 12 years removed and the closest we’ll get to a sequel is a comic book. There have been rumblings off and on of getting everyone back together (with a table read photo posted not too long ago) but I think if Before the Mask were going to happen it would have.

The failure of this sequel to happen is basically down to funding. Various attempts have been made over the years, even a Kickstarter that I contributed to, but they never panned out. The Kickstarter in particular didn’t reach its goal and everyone got their money back. It’s a shame, and I wish someone with some passion in this project would give it just enough money to get going again. I mean, we’re getting Tales From the Hood 2 this year. I enjoyed the first one, I’m just saying. If that can get a sequel after all this time, someone should do something with this.

Ending Notes:

That’s it for me. Leave some comments here, on my Twitter or my Facebook.

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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