It seems like just last week that a new regular entry into a beloved horror film franchise was the norm. From Nightmare On Elm Street, to Friday the 13th and Halloween, 80’s and 90’s horror fans were certainly spoilt for choice. Yes, it can be said that each entry gradually waned in quality, and that by the sixth or seventh entries the original concept had long ago been lost, but there was still something comforting about the old Hollywood tradition.
So the question is; why did this tradition eventually die out for the most part? Where are the modern equivalents of these franchises? Are we doomed to now live in an age where a franchise can no longer see multiple entries in quick succession?
The Money Machines
What fond memories, heading off to the cinema to see the latest Friday the 13th film. The plot was more or less a given, so much so that you could easily sit and play bingo Canada style on your phone during the opening twenty minutes of the film, after which the killing would get rolling and you could again start paying attention. That is, after all, why everyone was there; the creative kills. It is actually bizarre to think that the real icons were psychotic killers in all these franchises.
But regardless, each entry into the franchise was basically a guaranteed hit. If money were spent making a film starring Jason, or Freddy, audiences would flock to see it, out of nothing more than a love for the killer, and the creative ways in which the killer would dispatch teenagers. But after a time it seemed like these countless iterations gradually seemed to lose steam, and die out entirely.
A Changing Industry
During the 2000s the traditions seemed to finally reach their limits and there were very few rabbits being pulled out of hats. One after the next, each franchise stopped producing an expected sequel, and the surviving 80’s horror legends slowed to a halt. Yes, the reboots came along, some even doing okay in terms of profits, but they really weren’t the same schlock of the previous era. A few replacement efforts were even seen, with franchises like Saw doing extremely well before quickly burning out. So what happened?
Back in the 80’s and 90’s there was hardly a more sure-fire way to make a bit of money than an established horror franchise. Few realise just how low budget most of the horror classics were, with the original Friday the 13th movies made on a shoestring budget, and raking in millions with ease. These horror classics were, importantly, very good investments. As audience attention began to drift, some efforts were made to reinvigorate with slightly higher budget, and outlandish new ideas, such as putting Jason in space, of all places, in the rather bizarre Jason X, released in 2001. But the truth is that the horror franchises simply stopped making money as they once had, and so lost their appeal to production studios.
In the meantime, however, the new Halloween film released in 2018, and once again staring Jamie Lee Curtis, is proof that true horror icons never die. They just undergo facelifts.