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When Horror Movies Need to Call it Quits with the Sequels
Within nearly every horror movie franchise in recent memories, there has a always been a moment for me in one of the numerous sequels that follow the original where I say "Okay, enough is enough for me, there is simply nothing more to draw me into this world.", or, "What the hell am I watching now?". With movies such as Friday the 13th (10 movies, one crossover, and one reboot) and Halloween (8 movies, one of which was a separate story arc from the rest of the series, one reboot, and one sequel to said reboot), I realized that there is only so many times I can watch moronic characters whom the movie trains us to hate get killed while the "good kids" (often personified by a lack of drinking, drugs, smoking, and sex) are victorious only for the iconic slasher to come back in one last sequence devoid of merit or logic.
It became very obvious that through the flow of time, and a handful of different producers, directors, and actors and actresses, that the main objective of these movies was all about the iconic villains, Michael and Jason, and just how cool, for lack of a better term, their murders can become. It was no longer about the sheer horror of a shape being anywhere within the background ready to attack (Halloween) or the disturbing concept of taking a pure notion such as motherhood and using it as a motive for gruesome murders (Friday the 13th); it was all about the gore, the killer, and the complete lack of story.
Now give or take, there were perhaps one or two sequels that relied a bit more on story, Friday the 13th VII and Halloween 6 comes to mind, but the story is often so convoluted and out of style for the respective series that it tends to make us forget what in the world we are actually watching. It seems as these movies continue, and it is a fact that more often than not the main motive is simply to rank up that box office money with a modest budget, that the mythology of the films is lost along with the factors that made it so scary into something much more lazy and half baked.
The main objective became something much more different than the initial one of getting scared through intense sequences of suspense and disturbing imagery. Now it seems the theme is to disgust the audience with massive amounts of gore and make us root for the killers because the victims are so utterly annoying that we are just counting down the moments till their demise.
I hated seeing my favorite horror icon, Michael Myers, get butchered into a mockery of what he used to be; pure, unrelenting evil. We go from a motiveless killer who stalks random girls to a man who is actually after his family, to a man who cries, to a man who is actually being controlled by a cult of satanic druids (that is the movie in that particular franchise where I just no longer knew what I was watching) until we came full circle and his entire origin story is rewritten into an incredibly cliched one of abuse.
A similar thing happened to Freddy Krueger and, man, what an awesome and fearful villain he used to be; a child murderer who exploits the powers of dream to make children's nightmares come true and use them to violently slaughter them because he simply enjoys it. So what happened to him? Same thing with Michael Myers, if not worse. Not only does he get an incredibly convoluted backstory shared with cliche factors, but his character becomes little more than a bad stand-up comedian that begins killing his victims with something like a "power glove" (if you seen "Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy is Dead", you'll know what I'm talking about and, by the way, he comes back).
It's bad enough that these sequels do not stop until the fans had enough, in which the series simply gets rebooted for more ill fated films, but the legendary icons that used strike fear into the fans are now stained with the images of the ridiculous stories they later play host to. As much as I want to remember Michael Myers as that pure evil villain, I can't shake the image of him crying and actually being controlled out of my head. Add that to the contradicting titles such as, "The Final Friday", and the entire horror franchise simply becomes a joke with an endless array of producers clamoring to make another one to simply make money in a half baked sequel.
In the modern day, this same pattern is now repeating in the Paranormal Activity series; the film is made with such a low budget, that it is almost always guaranteed to make loads more money than what it took to make the actual film. The filmmakers know this and it shows within the final products, specifically the latest one.
Instead of relying on new scare tactics that are still spirited within the franchise and an expansion of the mysteries of the series, the producers show for the fourth time more creaking doors and people being dragged away and only introduce new elements that unravel past plot points that once made perfect sense and barely expand on the mythology of the films. If you just watch the trailer, the best parts are already spoiled because that is simply all there is to the movie.
Oh, and that evil demon that stalked a family for kicks? Now it's called Toby (they really couldn't have come up with a more edgy name?) that is actually being controlled by a cult of....satanist....trying to...sacrifice...wait doesn't this sound familiar? Yup, it's the Michael Myers treatment all over again.
I mean it wouldn't be bad at all to develop a compelling story and would even be a welcome edition within a horror franchise, but this series is not giving enough crucial details to warrant more expansion on the mythology and it is becoming increasingly evident that the demon is becoming a tool commissioned by much less intimidating villains. Plot holes are being shown left and right as well, indicating that the story is literally being made as the movies go along with certain fan theories being ten times better than the story being actually told in the next movies.
Sometimes, studios just need to call it quits with these horror movie sequels and allow the image of their slashers and forces of evil to be preserved within a positive light along with the movie and its mythology itself. Movies such as the Blair Witch Project, a movie with an incredibly well developed story, are so effective because they leave us with an incredibly disturbing and perplexing ending that is never fully explained; we fear the unknown at the most after all.
It stands as a blueprint to me as the perfect horror movie that balanced out a great story, highly disturbing and intense suspense that played out pure horror great and effectively, and a ending that was left at just that, an ending. I would've loved for the Halloween series to receive a similar treatment and just end with the first one, as was the original intention, and stay with this idea that Myers is still out there with supernatural abilites of unknown origins. It's much more haunting to not know where he went, what exactly he is, and what his motive is just as it was more haunting in The Blair Witch Project not to know what the antagonist looked like or what exactly happened to the main characters or how they exactly died as it is strongly implied.
Of course it's extremely tempting for not only producers, but fans as well to crave another film with you're favorite horror premises, but it's been proven countless times that it is, more often than not, best to just leave it alone. Perhaps if the creators had a solid story arc established and planned out across how ever amount of movies before they even started to work on the original, it would work, but that is hardly the case as even the creators themselves don't intend for their movies to get so many sequels or even go past the first one. Before long, the temptation of money or fame soon comes in to create an unworthy sequel or many more.
The same thing is happening to so many horror movies still in modern ages and there is no indication of it stopping anytime soon. It seems filmmakers and studios are incapable of resisting the temptation of making more movies that pale in the comparison to the original and taint the original images of their antagonists because they will make a whole lot of money. It's an unfortunate trend in my opinion that makes any great horror movie in danger of becoming overplayed and tainted.