First of all, you need to head over the The B Movie Brigade and read my review of Drive Thru, which may have been the most hysterically ridiculous movies that’s ever been put to celluloid. It was made for The Brigade. Check it out here.
So recently, as I was headed to a cabin in the woods for a weekend, I posted a picture from Yahoo movies listing the number of kills each horror movie franchise killer has. Jason wins by a mile, but I was sort of shocked by how few Freddy had. I had to chalk that just to creativity. Because these guys are iconic for a reason. Iconic enough that the movie studios have made remakes of every single one of them, trying to reach a new audience to find them iconic (though the originals are far better in all examples). I thought it was about time to take a look and assess what makes them creepy, scary, and just plain awesome.
Leatherface was the first of the bunch to get a remake. I asked my dear comrades, K and J, as to why they thought this remake was tackled before any of the others and we came up with a few possible reasons. Firstly, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was never really a successful franchise. The original was amazing and a few of the sequels did okay, but nothing like the many sequels to Friday the 13th or Halloween. By the time the remake rolled out there was likely a whole generation of high schoolers that had never deemed to watch the original because of something lame like an aversion to seventies style jean shorts. And, of course, there’s the point of what can and can’t be shown on screen, and it can’t be denied that nowadays there’s not much you can’t show. Horror movies have been moving more and more towards not who can scare the audience the most but rather what can gross them out the most. In the original it was more about what you don’t see than what you do. Friends would disappear and when you thought it was safe because you’d met people that weren’t the chainsaw wielding maniac from down the street and then you’d find out that they were in on it and will just bring you back to the chainsaw wielding maniac from down the street.
And it’s not to say that we lost that in the remake, but we did get a bit too much Leatherface. The point was there was no escape because there was no one you could trust. Leatherface was not clever, that was sort of his thing. He just whacked with a chainsaw until he connected with something. And he had help. Ive never counted his kills, but I think its at least a little bit safe to imagine that unless your car breaks down in nowhere Texas you don’t particularly have to worry. He’s not coming to you.
Out of all the movie franchise serial killers I think it’s safe to say that out of all of them none’s as clever as Freddy Krueger. And that’s probably because he has at least a tiny bit of help from the sub-conscious. In case you live under a rock and have only crawled out to read my amazing words; Freddy was a child murderer who was driven into a local warehouse by the angry parents of Springwood, Ohio after he was acquitted on a technicality. Which they then burned to the ground. Now a supernatural being, Freddy stalks the children of Elm Street through their dreams. And when they die in their dreams they die in the real world.
So the concept of Freddy is probably the most interesting of all the Franchise Killers. He’s got a little something extra over impressive size, hulking around with a sharp weapon. Not that the knives on his gloved fingers aren’t sharp. But he’s also got a few draw backs. For one; people need to be afraid of him in order for him to have any sort of power. They also need to dream. Now, obviously, you can’t stay awake forever, but it’s a noble attempt. Also, he can be pulled into the real world if the dreamer’s holding on when they wake and once in the real word he’s subject to very human vulnerabilities.
Freddy’s remake, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), was the last in the bunch to be released, and while it was fine it didn’t really add much except to switch his penchant for murdering children to molesting them. His revenge is at the kids for telling on him rather than on the parents for killing him. Well, maybe it’s a twofer. Freddy, also, has the distinction of always being played by the same actor, Robert Englund. Until the remake where he was played by Jackie Earl Haley, who is the only choice as far as I’m concerned if you’re not going with Englund. But like Harvey Dent before him the burned makeup was way over the top. I suppose what made the distinction between this remake and all the rest was actually good acting, but acting has never really mattered much in horror movies and in the end it was just sort of generally unnecessary like the rest of them.
I was actually really sort of excited for Rob Zombie’s version of Halloween because Michael Myers used to be my favorite Franchise Killer. Mostly because he was just full on creepy, but also because he’s sort of hilarious. My favorite scene involves a couple getting it on when the guy leaves, is immediately killed, and then Myers takes his place by throwing on a ghost (sheet with holes cut for eyes) costume over his head and the glasses of the deceased over that. It’s just comedy.
For those rock dwellers again Halloween begins in flashback when ten year old Michael Myers puts on a Halloween mask and stabs his sister, Judith, to death with a kitchen knife. His parents come home and are horrified to discover the youngster in the front yard holding a bloody knife. Fifteen or so years later Laurie Strode is stalked by the same man freshly escaped from a mental institution.
As for the remake, the problem I had with Zombie’s version of John Carpenter’s story was just that I never wanted to see a reasonable explanation as to why this kid was evil, it was much creepier when no one knew why. He was supposed to be this regular suburban kid who just up-it and killed his sister, but instead he was transfered into a kid from a broken home, his mom a stripper and an abusive stepfather. More… just like every real killer in the world. Way less creepy. The thing that was always so wonderful about Michael Myers was his calm stoicism. He never reacted or ran or pretty much anything. He just really wants to kill people with a knife. You’re unsure of his motivation because one is never really established after ten movies. Except it’s always his family members he’s after. Sisters at first and then eventually cousins. Basically he Myers’ need to stop procreating. He’s also one of those killers who can’t be killed. Shot, stabbed, drowned, and eventually beheaded (although apparently he’d already switched places with a wounded paramedic, don’t ask) he still comes back for more. That’s a way to get someone’s attention.
As much as I always loved Myers, a couple years ago my affections were unceremoniously transfered to Jason Voorhees. Jason has the most kills, by far, also the most movies, but that’s not what makes him the best Franchise Killer in my opinion. The reason I enjoyed Michael Myers was because he was pretty funny in his taunting of the characters he was about to kill. But the circumstances surrounding pretty much everything that occurs in a Friday the 13th movie is downright completely amazing. In a nutshell the story is this; some counselors at a camp were distracted by getting it on and let a poor little deformed and mentally handicapped kid die. The kid’s name is Jason and his mother also worked at the camp. When they go to re-open Camp Crystal Lake Mrs. Voorhees kills everyone and then gets her head chopped off with an axe. Oh yeah, that was a spoiler. Post-spoiler warning. Then, I guess, it turns out that Jason didn’t die and has instead been squatting in the woods for the past twenty or so years. He then proceeds to kill his way from Crystal Lake to Manhattan and then all the way to Hell and back.
Jason’s weapon of choice is the machete. Which is full on rad, really. But he also has a bit of penchant for using a harpoon. Which I’m fine with because awesome. They’re both formidable weapons, the machete’s good for hacking and slashing like the best of them, and the harpoon has a bit of an impressive range. My dream Friday the 13th death involves me getting harpooned through the chest then my head macheted off. After he’d Jasoned through a wall of course, because Jason never bothers to use paltry things like the door knob, he just busts through the door. It saves time.
My favorite kill of Jason’s goes a little something like this: For some reason there’s some sort of a school trip from Crystal Lake (which… well, we don’t know where Crystal Lake is supposed to be) to Manhattan. On a boat. A boat. So Jason ends up on the boat and kills a few people on the way (read: the majority of the cast) and then continues his rampage through the mean streets of New York City. The streets of which are really mean, by the way, according to this movie there’s not an inch of the Big Apple that’s not infested with slime, rats, and raping gangs just aching to shoot you up with heroin. Anyway, somehow he’s on a roof with one of the characters who’s a boxer. Boxer Boy takes a few swings with Jason just standing there stoically before taking a swing himself. A swing that hits Boxer Boy square on the ear, takes his head clean off, and sends it careening to the feet of his screaming compadres below. Pure amazing hilarity.
And like Michael Myers, Jason can’t really die. Or, well, he has died. In movies two through four Jason’s like a regular guy. Machete wielding and pretty damned strong but sort of regular. And then he dies, is buried, and then comes back to life when he’s electrocuted back into existence when a former victim stabs his corpse with some sort of giant candelabra… thing which is then struck by lightning. And you’re wondering why I adore these movies so? After that he’s sort of a dead, zombiesque… whatever, he’s hilarious. And once you get past the second or third movie, that’s all I’m asking for.