Some horror movies deserve a sequel, some deserve a prequel, and some even deserve their own TV series, but what about reboots? What about when you don’t just want to revisit a story, but when you want to build the foundation of an all-new franchise, and you don’t have quite enough material to warrant a television series?
Yup, that’s what a reboot is. Some folks have trouble telling reboots and remakes apart, so just in case you’re wondering, here’s a quick terminology guide:
Sequel: The events of the film follow the events of another film. [e.g. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR]
Prequel: The events of the film precede the events of another film. [e.g. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE]
Remake: The film tells the same story as another film, with minor differences. [e.g. THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016), THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016)]
Reimagining: The film tells the same story as another film, with major differences. [e.g. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), PETE’S DRAGON (2016)]
Reboot: The film tells the same story as a pre-existing franchise, setting up future sequels with a new creative vision, ignoring the previous continuity. [e.g. BATMAN BEGINS, CASINO ROYALE (2006)]
Soft Reboot: The film tells the same story as a pre-existing franchise, setting up future sequels with a new creative vision, while honoring the previous continuity. [e.g. STAR TREK (2009), TERMINATOR GENISYS]
Spin-Off: The film tells a story that takes place in the same continuity as a pre-existing film, but focusing on different characters or entities. [e.g. MINIONS, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM]
Are we all clear now? Then let’s take a look at five horror movie franchises that still have great ideas, but are either forgotten, sullied by inferior sequels, or just never really all that good in the first place, and which deserve a whole new start at the multiplex.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN
Stephen King stories are big business in Hollywood, spawning hit films, popular television series, and a whole bunch of bombs. But few Stephen King properties have been exploited as prolifically as CHILDREN OF THE CORN, a 1977 short story published in PENTHOUSE, about an isolated community of farmers in which all of the adults have been murdered by their children. The original CHILDREN OF THE CORN feature film spawned eight sequels, including the upcoming CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNAWAY, as well as a TV remake in 2009.
And while the franchise has its fans, it’s fair to say when you watch all of these movies today that the series flew off the rails pretty quickly, straying from the original shocking concept into strange directions that diminished the value of CHILDREN OF THE CORN as both a story and as a pop culture entity. Everyone agrees that there’s good stuff in the original 1984 film, but hardly anybody likes where the franchise actually went from there (such as at least one “urban harvest” and, bizarrely, an elaborate car chase that used leftover footage from BAD BOYS II).
CHILDREN OF THE CORN warrants a proper reboot, because the original story still works and because the ramifications of that storyline leave plenty of room for sequels if there’s a plan in place from the beginning. The initial drama of a young couple encountering a community of murderous children is one thing, but the idea of a cult that spreads like wildfire to children everywhere – all over America, all over the world – could be a smart and eery set-up for future sequels that take advantage of our collective anxieties about parenthood, generational gaps, and the overall creepiness of children.
Popular in the 1980s, then gradually falling into relative obscurity, the four CRITTERS movies are still a hoot and a half. The franchise is about a race of small, carnivorous alien creatures who land on Earth and cause havoc in a small town. But it’s also about a team of shapeshifting bounty hunters who travel from planet to planet, impersonating the locals while exterminating dangerous alien threats. Those are two kooky tastes that taste great together.
The CRITTERS sequels wisely focused most of their energies on the bounty hunters instead of the aliens themselves, especially after they pick up a human co-worker at the end of the first movie. And that’s a solid foundation for a franchise that, in this day and age, could go in even more interesting directions than before. The first CRITTERS series pit the bounty hunters against the same alien species for four whole films, but why not introduce a different group of monsters in every sequel? And once you create your new monsters, they could spawn their own sequels, like the entities in all the CONJURING movies?
Heck, if the series was a hit, you could even go completely nuts and incorporate pre-existing movie monsters into the CRITTERS franchise, pitting the bounty hunters against beasts from films like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and XTRO. That’s a pretty cool idea, and nobody’s really tapped into it yet.
GHOULIES is a franchise that’s famous for just one thing, that image of a little green monster in a toilet bowl, which scarred children for life when it debuted as a poster and VHS cover art. If you were a little kid when the first GHOULIES came out there is a very good chance that this image kept you from completing your toilet training for at least a few extra months, and not a single person in the world could blame you.
That’s a big cultural footprint for a franchise that, frankly, most people don’t remember all too fondly. The GHOULIES movies were about a group of small, demonic monsters who emerge from an occult ritual and kill just about everybody they can find. It’s simple concept that leaves a lot of room for reinterpretation, since there are relatively few die-hard GHOULIES fans who would boycott the new franchise if it changed anything. So long as the monsters are diminutive killer demons that look more-or-less like the originals, a GHOULIES reboot would be able to capitalize on a familiar name while still giving a new filmmaker a lot of creative freedom.
Oh yeah, and you’d have to include the toilet thing. That’s still just as scary as ever.
There haven’t been many successful video game movies, and that’s because – let’s be honest here – filmmakers keep screwing them up. Even the better movies based on video games have a frustrating tendency to miss the point entirely, or make arbitrary alterations that ruin the intended effect of an already decent story. Like the first SILENT HILL movie, which used the iconography of the game SILENT HILL 2 – all of which represented the frustrated libido of a male protagonist grieving the death of his wife, like curvaceous monster nurses and a hyper-masculine murderer with a giant penetrative sword – and used it to tell a story of a happily married woman who’s worried about her adoptive daughter. (And let’s just say that the less said about SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D the better, and leave it at that.)
But the better SILENT HILL games are still just as scary as ever, and tell fascinating and haunting tales of madness and loss. Even all that nightmarish imagery still works if you know what it’s actually supposed to represent, so it can be re-used in a rebooted movie series without seeming too repetitious. More-or-less faithfully retelling the story of SILENT HILL 2, which stands on its own, could result in a terrifying motion picture, spawning a series of sequels with a consistent vision of how the SILENT HILL universe works… as opposed to the current, but seemingly inert movie franchise, which had to rewrite the rules within just two films.
If the upcoming TOMB RAIDER reboot is a hit, Hollywood might take another look at the various video game movies they completely screwed up in the first place, and maybe – just maybe – we’ll finally get the SILENT HILL reboot that the fans deserve.
Back in 1997, while everyone else was living in the post-ironic post-SCREAM era, a clever monster movie called WISHMASTER managed to become popular enough to spawn three sequels. The franchise, produced by Wes Craven, was about an all-powerful djinn who can only use his powers if he grants wishes to mortals, so he always twists their words to murderous ends. A prisoner wishes he could just walk out of jail, but he doesn’t go into more detail, so he walks through the bars, crushing his bones and organs in the process. An art collector wishes he could throw a party that would be talked about for centuries, opening the floodgates to unthinkable supernatural slaughter.
It’s still a clever idea for horror franchise, and it’s a little perplexing that nobody is doing anything with it at the moment. And considering how every word that everyone says and writes is being overanalyzed nowadays, WISHMASTER’s dedication to clever wordplay might even be somewhat relevant to the way we communicate in the 21st century.
Or maybe it’s just a cool idea for a horror franchise that deserves another shot at finding an audience. Isn’t that enough?