THE FINAL CHAPTER: When Horror Franchises Call It Quits
April 15, 2016
On this week’s
Killer POV episode, aptly titled “The Final Chapter,” we delved into a discussion about the final films in various horror franchises. What constitutes the “final” film? FRIDAY THE 13 th, for example, is a curious beast. Technically, they named Part 4 “THE FINAL CHAPTER.” But that was followed up by “A NEW BEGINNING.” And then the 9 th film in the series was titled JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY. It’s got final right there in the title! Again! But technically, JASON X is the last one. On our podcast discussion, we decided that we would exclude remakes, reboots or versus movies. So here’s a handful of final franchise films. And the question for all of these is, did they properly close out their respective series in a satisfactory way? Let’s find out!
WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE
The perfect full circle for the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series would have to be the two films directed by series creator (and Freddy Krueger’s father) Wes Craven. The original 1984 movie was a landmark for horror cinema, especially as it had already grown tired of the “slasher” boom in a short 4 years. The introduction of madman Freddy Krueger and the ambitious aspect of dreams being the hook into how this killer operated completely revitalized horror of the 80’s. So it’s only fitting that the true final film of that franchise would be Wes completely dissecting it. In many ways, I think NEW NIGHTMARE was way ahead of the curve, but also the perfect practicing ground for SCREAM. While it technically doesn’t follow the narrative set off by the first film and followed through in the sequels, it’s a satisfying conclusion as a literal breakdown of what made these movies, and in particular Freddy such a pop culture phenomenon.
Yay or Nay? YAY.
As illustrated in my opening paragraph of this piece, excluding his battle with Freddy and his glossy reboot, the proper conclusion to the original franchise would be JASON X. The 10th FRIDAY THE 13TH film was very much a product of its time. A retort to the sarcastic and self-referential style of horror movies of the late 90’s, inspired in the wake of SCREAM. And while it’s fun, it’s hard to imagine this is the same franchise from the early 80’s. Screenwriter Todd Farmer often says that he wrote it with the serious tone of ALIEN in mind, but again, reflection of the times. I guess if you look at the continuous story from the Paramount years through JASON GOES TO HELL and then shoot several hundred years into the future, this seems like a logical conclusion, even if it’s not exactly satisfying. But hey, David Cronenberg is in the future, so the future can’t be all that bad!
Yay or Nay? NAY.
Man, this is getting depressing already. Really, the only thing in RESURRECTION that closes out the series is the elimination of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character of Laurie Strode. And it’s really, really disappointing that such a strong and pivotal character, not just for the HALLOWEEN series, but for horror films in general, met with such a tasteless and pointless demise. The rest of the movie deals with this whole concept of “live streaming” a walk through the old Myers house, which might be entertaining as a completely separate movie if not for Busta Rhymes. But what can ya do? This was the last HALLOWEEN within the original continuity. Believe it or not, the webcam footage included on the DVD/Blu-Ray as a bonus feature is actually kind of cool and unsettling. But it’s not enough. Jamie Lee’s return to the franchise with H20 saved the HALLOWEEN franchise from becoming a direct-to-video sequel grab, but I’m curious what radical and weird directions the franchise would’ve taken had they done cheapo video sequels. Would it have gotten as bad as the HELLRAISER franchise?
Yay or Nay? NAY.
Only the first 4 films in the HELLRAISER series connect properly as a “series” of films. Everything after is clearly re-doctored scripts for other horror movies that just happen to squeeze Pinhead somewhere into the narrative for 2 minutes so they can get away with calling it a HELLRAISER “sequel.” Does BLOODLINE work as a finale? It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but surprisingly, yes. Had original director Kevin Yager been able to fully realize his vision of the anthology styled HELLRAISER film, who knows how cool it could’ve been? But that said, I like that for this “last” entry, we get to travel through time and space in the HELLRAISER universe. Literally!
Yay or Nay? YAY.
New Decade. New Rules. Or so we hoped. The SCREAM franchise returned after a lengthy 11 year absence from the big screen. Wes Craven was back to direct. Kevin Williamson wrote the initial script, which yet again (like on SCREAM 3) was re-written by Ehren Krueger and we got… well, SCREAM 4. With the MTV show a huge success and now entering its 2nd season, it’s safe to say this is the final SCREAM movie. There’s lot to love about it. The meta-opening sequence is pretty out of control and clever. But it doesn’t pack the punch of the original film’s opening sequence. In fact, by going meta by Part 2, I often felt they painted themselves into a corner. The rest of the film has some great set pieces and thrills, but once you know who the killer(s) are, it doesn’t bode well for repeat viewings. Also, it pretty quickly falls into the tradition “slasher-mocking” formula that the first 3 films had, rather than exploring something new. I thought this killer was going to emulate the SAW movies and “found footage” craze, but there’s only one brief sequence where a web cam is even used. Also, they’ve always been too terrified to kill off any of the primary 3 characters, so there are no stakes. That said, it was good to have them all back, if even for one last go, and it did close the series out on a slightly higher note than 3 did. Yay or Nay? Reluctant Yay.
FINAL DESTINATION 5
I love the first 2 FINAL DESTINATION movies. I think they completely redefined the concept of a “slasher” film in a unique and fun way. Also, the brilliance of the 2nd film is that it tied directly into the first movie in a completely logical and smart way. I really didn’t care for part’s 3 or 4, because they were essentially remakes of the first 2. Part 5 set everything back on track and tied in so beautifully to the original movie, that it makes it the best of the sequels. They also touch upon one idea that I was hoping future installments would emphasize. One of the people in death’s plan starts trying to pick off the other survivors. I always longed for a FD movie that embraced the “slasher” model and turned it on its head. What if a survivor of death was a serial killer? I’ve got your tag line right here, “In order to survive death, you must become death.” Anyways, I digress! I don’t want to spoil what makes FD5 so darned good, but the death sequences are elaborate, the bridge collapse is one of the most beautifully orchestrated disasters of any of the movies and it’s got a whopper of an ending that absolutely makes for a satisfying conclusion to the series. Would love to see more! But if this is it? They went out on a high note!
Yay or Nay? Big Yay!
SAW 3D aka SAW 7
The SAW franchise lost a lot of good will with the general audience after the frustrating entry that was SAW 5. Which is a shame, because the creative team behind SAW 6 crafted one of the best sequels and finales to the entire franchise. There was no need to continue beyond SAW 6! Unless…. well, if they could somehow convince Cary Elwes to return to the franchise as fans have theorized and wondered what the hell happened to Doctor Gordon after he crawled out of that room in the closing moments of the original SAW. And hence, that’s the only real reason SAW 7 exists. To close out that one thread. The rest of the movie, now with Hoffman as the full on Jigsaw is kind of as mean spirited and nasty as it gets. And not in an enjoyable way. (Although I appreciate the multiple Fulci nods.) It’s just punishing at this point. And even Tobin Bell’s very, very brief cameo doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense, so as a conclusion to the franchise? Well… maybe someone can edit the few Cary Elwes scenes into SAW 6 and then that’d be the best closer to a series ever! But alas, this is what we got.
Yay or Nay? Nay.
I can literally go on and on, but I’m exhausted. It’s been more nay than yay! Which final films do you guys consider the best, most satisfying of the bunch? Be sure to sign off on our Facebook page!