An Authoritative Ranking of 60 Distinct Horror Franchises, From Halloween to Puppet Master

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An Authoritative Ranking of 60 Distinct Horror Franchises, From <i>Halloween</i> to <i>Puppet Master</i>

Ranking the greatest films in horror history can be a tough assignment. Weighing The Exorcist against The Shining? Psycho against Halloween? These are the stuff of post-movie diner argument legend.

But that difficulty level is nothing in comparison with the punishing task of trying to rank horror franchises against one another. Take The Exorcist, for instance. The original is obviously one of the most frightening and unforgettable horror films ever made—we couldn’t deny it the #1 spot when we put together our own list of the 100 best horror films of all time. But The Exorcist is also part of a five-film franchise; one that includes the likes of Exorcist II: The Heretic, Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist. Given those anchors around its neck, even having the original Exorcist in its fold doesn’t necessarily guarantee the franchise as a whole a high spot on this list.

Think, then, of each franchises’ placement on this list as something of an “average quality” of all entries in the series. Which horror franchise has the most quality films, or the highest average quality? That’s what we’re trying to find out.


Rules of This Ranking

— This is a ranking of horror series with four or more entries. Why four? Well, it feels more or less like the point where a horror franchise first starts to have trouble justifying its existence, beyond “to make a quick buck.”

— By and large, we didn’t include single TV movie entries within what are otherwise theatrical or direct-to-video series.

— An exception was made for film series that are EXCLUSIVELY TV movies, from start to finish, or series that had an initial theatrical film and then became solely TV movies afterward.


60. Silent Night, Deadly Night
First entry: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Latest entry: Silent Night (2012)
Total entries: 6

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The original Silent Night, Deadly Night is a pretty run-of-the-mill slasher film that only really attracted attention at the time of its release for the Christmas setting and for having the gall to put its killer in a Santa Claus costume. From there, the mildly successful original paved the way for countless sequels with absurd names like Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation and Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker, only remaining active because of the built-in holiday marketability. It received a zero-budget semi-remake in 2012 that was just called Silent Night, but its greatest contribution to the internet lexicon is the incredibly bad performances in Part 2, and the “GARBAGE DAY!” scene in particular.


59. Carnosaur
First entry: Carnosaur (1993)
Latest entry: The Eden Formula (2006)
Total entries: 5

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Look, we love Roger Corman to death around here, but if you let Roger Corman produce a straight-to-video Jurassic Park rip-off in the same year that Jurassic Park is released, Carnosaur is the kind of thing you get. This series was just cheap exploitation, even by Cormanesque standards, feeding into such sequels as Carnosaur 3: Primal Species and the fourth, which was just called Raptor. The most galling thing, though? The 2006 Sci Fi Channel film The Eden Formula actually re-used the (terrible even then) effects from 1993’s Carnosaur, 13 years later. Talk about desperation.


58. The Amityville Horror
First entry: The Amityville Horror (1979)
Latest entry: The Amityville Murders (2018)
Total entries: 10

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Few series can boast more pointless and indistinguishable sequels than The Amityville Horror, which has 10 in the main series chronology alone. If we expand that to all of the unauthorized films with “Amityville” in the title? Then it becomes a shocking 21 movies to date. Even the original Amityville Horror in 1979 is barely more than a standard haunted house yarn, more “recognizable name” than classic of the genre. Who are the people continuing to watch films like Amityville: The Awakening, Amityville Prison or Amityville Exorcism, all of which were released in 2017? Do these desperate horror fans really walk among us?


57. Killjoy
First entry: Killjoy (2000)
Latest entry: Killjoy’s Psycho Circus (2016)
Total entries: 5

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If you ever find yourself watching a bad movie on TV and question why you’d even bother with such a piece of trash, you can always comfort yourself by saying “Well, at least I’m not actively seeking out Charles Band horror franchises.” Because when you watch an entire series like Killjoy, it’s only because you’ve run out of literally everything else. Every scene in every entry of the series plays like a high school stage production of Stephen King’s It, and the production values are low—like, we’re talking “Troma low” here. And yet, take note: Even a series as pathetic as this one can still manage to attract a following significant enough that there are actually people leaving angry comments on trailers for Killyjoy sequels, complaining about the switch to a different actor in the title role after the initial entry. There are people in this world who deeply care about Killjoy. We are clearly doomed as a species.


56. Sharknado
First entry: Sharknado (2013)
Latest entry: The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time (2018)
Total entries: 6

People are quick to dump on the Sharknado series, and it does deserve some level of dumping, but these were never films that were making an earnest attempt at greatness. Bad movie geeks deride the series as being “purposefully bad” and thus difficult to enjoy even ironically, and they’re mostly correct—with the important exception of the first entry, which is cheap enough and bungled enough to be legitimately bad (and thus funny) along with purposefully bad. The sequels, though … lord, what a slog they turned into. I ultimately reviewed every single one of them for Paste, so take it from a guy who knows. It wasn’t long before this series was just beating a dead shark.


55. Children of the Corn
First entry: Children of the Corn (1984)
Latest entry: Children of the Corn: Runaway (2018)
Total entries: 10

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I run in some pretty geeky horror circles, and yet I’m fairly certain that I’ve never spoken with anyone who has watched a single film from the back half of the Children of the Corn series’ unbelievable TEN ENTRIES. Who are these people, getting excited about new entries in the series as they dropped in 2001, 2009, 2011 and 2018? Even the original is hardly one of Stephen King’s more interesting or enduring works—you’ve got to wonder how he feels about the fact that his story about wicked children in rural America somehow managed to get adaptations into the double digits. The fact that Children of the Corn got a pretty decent South Park parody was already more than it really deserved. Bonus points, though, for some of the uniquely silly subtitles in this franchise, including Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest and Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return.


54. Resident Evil
First entry: Resident Evil (2002)
Latest entry: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
Total entries: 6

The first Resident Evil merely seemed to represent a paycheck for director Paul W.S. Anderson, as he displayed no interest in accurately adapting the classic survival horror videogame series. The remaining five films? Well, you could argue that they were just made out of pure nepotism, to exist as star vehicles for the not-particularly-in-demand Milla Jovovich, who Anderson married after directing her in the first—he also cast her to star in his ill-fated Three Musketeers in 2011. Regardless, these films are the height of big budget soullessness and entropy, with each chapter ending in the most unsatisfying manner imaginable, or leading directly into the next cash-grabbing installment. Together, they have the continuity of a large wheel of Swiss cheese. Read our much-longer dissection of this permanently undead franchise right here.


53. Underworld
First entry: Underworld (2003)
Latest entry: Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Total entries: 5

It’s fitting that Underworld be cozied up right next to Resident Evil, because these two series have a shocking amount in common. Both exist in the same time frame. Both are very light on true “horror” elements, and are essentially gaudy, style-heavy action movies with a faux horror glaze. Both are cash cow star vehicles for former A-list actresses (Milla Jovovich, Kate Beckinsale) who aren’t getting cast in mainstream film much anymore. Both are filled to the brim with Matrix-era rap-rock and nu metal, and have somehow refused to age or modernize. Both are creatively barren wastes of time, although Underworld deserves special scorn for continuing to influence the fashion choices of Hot Topic customers to this day.


52. Lake Placid
First entry: Lake Placid (1999)
Latest entry: Lake Placid: Legacy (2018)
Total entries: 6

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You always know when you’re looking at a film series with a lot of potential when it has an entry subtitled as “The Final Chapter,” and then several more films afterward. With the Lake Placid series, it’s basically a slide straight down into a pit full of crocodiles. The initial entry is a so-so, competently executed monster film that can boast entertaining appearances from Bill Pullman and Oliver Platt—professional enough that there’s no shame in sitting down to watch it. After the first, however, the series made its jump to TV, into the land of terrible CGI, and it’s been languishing there ever since. Noteworthy for a crossover with the Anaconda franchise in 2015 (we’ll get there in a minute), Lake Placid has been absorbed almost entirely into the modern Asylum-style ultra-cheap monster genre. Meanwhile, if you want to watch a halfway decent killer crocodile movie, check out the 2007 Australian horror film Rogue.


51. Piranha
First entry: Piranha (1978)
Latest entry: Piranha 3DD (2012)
Total entries: 5

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Steven Spielberg  once called Joe Dante’s original Piranha “the best of the Jaws ripoffs,” but that was pretty damn faint praise, considering it was going up against the likes of Grizzly or The Last Shark. The Piranha series is a unique one, in the sense that it gave us several films from well-known directors—1981’s Piranha II: The Spawning being so bad that director James Cameron typically claims his first feature film to have been The Terminator, despite the fact that he made it three years later. The modern Piranha remakes, meanwhile, are on the insufferable side, being theatrical sex comedies for an age when that genre no longer seems at all necessary. You want to see some porn stars? The internet will provide. Not even appearances from (a very sleepy looking) Christopher Lloyd can inject them with a little levity.


50. Anaconda
First entry: Anaconda (1997)
Latest entry: Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (2015)
Total entries: 5

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Oh look, it’s Anaconda, the sexy older sister of Lake Placid. Having one fewer film in the series actually helps it score ever-so-slightly better than the crocodile franchise—plus, don’t anacondas just sound more exotic somehow? The first film—the one with Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson and Jon Voight—is a gloriously stupid little B-movie that somehow managed to get a major studio budget, and it actually might be a bit better than you remember, terrible CGI notwithstanding. The rest of the series dives ever deeper down the cheap CGI hole, reducing a big-budget thriller to half-hearted titillation. It’s only natural that both this series and Lake Placid ultimately ended up in the same bargain bin when they crossed paths in 2015.


49. Species
First entry: Species (1995)
Latest entry: Species: The Awakening (2007)
Total entries: 4

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You can say this for Species—at least the first three films of the series actually feel like a proper trilogy, and maintain a modicum of internal consistency. That’s mostly thanks to star Natasha Henstridge, who appears in all three as first Sil and then Eve, various forms of the same human/alien hybrid. The series was marketed almost entirely on its star’s sex appeal, and it’s a little cringey throughout as a result, but the FX weren’t half bad, at least before the budget went downhill in later installments. Certainly, the alien sex is better than say, Galaxy of Terror. The Species franchise also highlights our point of choosing “four or more entries” as the qualification for this list—the series manages to hold its head up (sort of) through three films, but the fourth is your classic “let’s cash in one last time on this brand” effort, being without Henstridge and having essentially nothing to do with any of the previous movies in the series. It was clearly a potboiler for everyone involved.


48. The Prophecy
First entry: The Prophecy (1995)
Latest entry: The Prophecy: Forsaken (2005)
Total entries: 5

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One can only assume that Christopher Walken must have been having fun (or been very well paid) when he was making The Prophecy movies, because he went on to star in three of them as the fallen archangel Gabriel, ever attempting to stoke the fires of the war between heaven and hell. Are any of these films particularly great? No, not really—the strength of The Prophecy movies tend to be in individual performances rather than narrative coherence. Case in point: Viggo Mortensen, who is absolutely mesmerizing as Lucifer in the first installment, before sadly not continuing into the sequels. Walken eventually gets left behind, and the quality unsurprisingly dips, but there are still individual performances of merit—especially Hellraiser’s own Doug Bradley as the scheming demon Belial in the fourth installment.


47. Sleepaway Camp
First entry: Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Latest entry: Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)
Total entries: 5

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Who doesn’t love the first Sleepaway Camp? Campy, perverted and occasionally quite gruesome, it’s one of the more colorfully silly entries in the golden age of slashers, capped off by one of the most legitimately shocking slasher endings of all time. Standing alone, it easily made our list of the 50 best slashers of all time. As part of a series, though? Well, suffice to say, the likes of Unhappy Campers aren’t in the same league. The belated sequels in the late ’80s are hurting badly from the absence of Felissa Rose, who played ingenue Angela in the first installment, and also from the decision to push them in a direction that was meant to be satirical of the entire slasher genre—something they don’t do with much success. Still, Rose’s return to the role some 25 years later, in Return to Sleepaway Camp, is good for a laugh. You’re best off just watching the first, though.


46. Wishmaster
First entry: Wishmaster (1997)
Latest entry: Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002)
Total entries: 4

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Ah yes, Wishmaster—the type of film franchise that seemed to simply spawn on the damp shelves of your local Blockbuster Video in the late ’90s, right along with the similarly titled Puppet Master. What to call it, exactly? The Wishmaster films certainly draw from the slasher playbook (and feature many cameos from famous slasher stars), but they’re not quite slashers in the literal sense—they’re more like the Leprechaun series, centered around a magnetic lead villain and a bunch of idiots who all deserve to die for one reason or another. Unfortunately, you can only really recommend the first Wishmaster today, primarily just to see how many recognizable horror faces director Robert Kurtzman had in his rolodex. From Robert Englund to Tony Todd to Kane Hodder, they all seem to be there.


45. Ghoulies
First entry: Ghoulies (1985)
Latest entry: Ghoulies IV (1994)
Total entries: 4

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When you begin and end as a shoestring budget series, it’s a little bit harder to see a degradation over time, isn’t it? That’s something that the likes of Ghoulies has going for it—these films were never “A” productions to begin with, so the drop-off when going direct-to-video is barely noticeable. To look at the first film in the series, you’d think for sure that it was a Gremlins rip off, but the strange truth of the matter is that the two films were actually in production at the same time—Ghoulies just ran short of funding and took longer to finish, which let Joe Dante’s Gremlins reach theaters first. There’s nothing particularly interesting about the series, other than the shlock classic poster and VHS cover with the Ghoulie popping up out of a toilet—a signature Charles Band visual touch if there ever was one. But you’re more likely to laugh than to wretch while watching the likes of Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College, so that earns the series a few points. Bonus: The first entry was actually the feature film debut of longtime Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay.


44. Critters
First entry: Critters (1986)
Latest entry: Critters 4 (1992)
Total entries: 4

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Oh, and speaking of series that gave unexpected first appearances to big names, remember when Leonardo DiCaprio made his feature film debut in Critters 3? If Ghoulies could be described as “not quite” a Gremlins rip off, then Critters qualifies as definitely a Gremlins rip off—perhaps the best of them, which still isn’t saying much. The thing this series had going for it was the silliness of the Critter designs themselves, which made them look like large puff balls covered in spines and sharp teeth—malevolent, toothy versions of the Tribbles from Stark Trek, more or less. There’s a certain joy in watching them be thrown by a stagehand onto unsuspecting extras, but the FX themselves are also quite charming, thanks largely to the work of the Chiodo brothers, who later went on to produce an ’80s FX classic in the form of Killer Klowns From Outer Space.


43. Hatchet
First entry: Hatchet (2007)
Latest entry: Victor Crowley (2017)
Total entries: 4

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Modern homages to classic slasher formula have a tendency to wear their hearts (and influences) on their sleeves a bit too proudly, and that perhaps is what kept Hatchet from being quite as memorable as the films it’s aping. Still, the swampy series about deformed and seemingly indestructible killer Victor Crowley has its moments, from the admittedly great gore effects work in most of the installments, to the casting of former Halloween star Danielle Harris as the lead in Hatchet 2. None of these entries aspire to much; they just want to be mindless entertainment that reminds you of something you saw in the ’80s, probably in a Friday the 13th movie. In that, they’re pretty successful, if not always pretty to look at.


42. Pumpkinhead
First entry: Pumpkinhead (1988)
Latest entry: Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud (2007)
Total entries: 4

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The first Pumpkinhead can boast a few interesting distinctions. First, it’s one of the few films to actually be directed by legendary FX technician and designer Stan Winston, so the creature design and costume look pretty amazing as a result. Second, it happened to star Lance Henriksen, back at a time when that could reasonably be described as a “feature” in a film, only two years removed from Aliens. Several of the other installments in the series also feature Henriksen, but … it’s a lot like saying that you have Malcolm McDowell in your movie, when the year is after 2000—it just means you could scrape together his fee to appear on set for a few days. Likewise, the effects in the later Pumpkinhead films never approach the sublime design of the first.


41. Night of the Demons
First entry: Night of the Demons (1988)
Latest entry: Night of the Demons (2009)
Total entries: 4

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Well, when you have one entry that is a classic of the genre, and a bunch of garbage cluttering up the rest of your franchise resume, I guess this is about where you end up on the list. The original NIght of the Demons is a classic of tacky ’80s schlock, like Return of the Living Dead without the great soundtrack (but plenty of Linnea Quigley). It’s your basic “teens go to a haunted house and everything goes to hell” premise, full of gratuitous nudity and awesome demon FX as the kids get picked off one by one. The first two sequels continue the story to much less effect, while the last entry is a half-hearted reboot with none of the original’s visual flair—it’s a spiritual cousin to the equally lazy Black Christmas remake. Still, you could throw most of these films on during a Halloween party and they would at least look the part.


40. “Blind Dead” series
First entry: Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)
Latest entry: Night of the Seagulls (1975)
Total entries: 4

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Not to be outdone by the American originals or their Italian imitators, Spanish horror directors also took a crack at zombie cinema in the ’70s, and the so-called “blind dead” series by Amando de Ossorio is by far the most notable. The title is quite literal—the zombies in this series are all blind, reanimated knights Templar, who had their eyes pecked out by birds centuries ago on the gallows. Grisly, right? Heavy on atmosphere but uniformly languid in terms of pace, these are films for zombie purists and few else, with more than a little in common with the zombie-related works of Lucio Fulci. Nice makeup effects mask a general lack of story in any of the films in the series, but if you’re a zombie completist, you need to see at least a few.


39. Hellraiser
First entry: Hellraiser (1987)
Latest entry: Hellraiser: Judgement (2018)
Total entries: 10

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Goddamn, Hellraiser. Few entries on this list are more difficult to objectively rank than this one, a franchise that has two very good entries (the first two, naturally) and then a flood of direct-to-video garbage that never seems to be satiated, with each subtitle more generic than the one that preceded it. Best one? Hellraiser: Deader. Seriously, every time you think the Hellraiser series has finally run out of gas, someone scrapes together enough funding to produce another fraught, troubled, ultimately disappointing passion project, almost invariably revolving around hard-boiled detectives investigating Cenobite murders. Just look at the Wikipedia entry for this year’s Hellraiser: Judgement, which reads like it was written by the incensed director himself. And yet, Clive Barker’s original remains a hauntingly effective vision of the director’s personal obsessions with dualities such as pleasure and pain. In that sense, I guess it’s only appropriate that the Hellraiser franchise be a duality itself, between “horror classics” and “hot garbage.”


38. Universal Mummy series
First entry: The Mummy (1932)
Latest entry: Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
Total entries: 6

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First, let’s get things straight: We’re talking only about the original Universal Monster movies featuring The Mummy here, not the Brendan Fraser remakes or the Tom Cruise remake, both of which are action-adventure films with a horror veneer. This is another case of “one great film,” followed by a bunch of lesser progeny. The original 1932 Mummy is a classic of the genre and a significantly different film from what a casual observer might expect, in the sense that it’s not a movie about a shambling, wrapped mummy strangling people, but rather a tragic love story about a doomed romance that persists across the centuries. The sequels? Those movies are definitely about shambling, wrapped mummies strangling people, and lord does that get old quickly. It’s certainly not enough to sustain four consecutive sequels with titles like The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Tomb and The Mummy’s Ghost, all of which are practically indistinguishable from one another. At least the Universal films featuring Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man have a little variety. Mummy pictures are the most formulaic of the bunch, and he’s probably the least-loved of the classic monsters as a result.


37. Puppet Master
First entry: Puppet Master (1989)
Latest entry: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)
Total entries: 13 (!!!)

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If Charles Band is essentially the patron saint of neverending low-budget horror franchises, then the Puppet Master series is the man’s magnum opus. Honestly, it’s the first thing you think of when someone says “long-running, direct-to-video horror series.” And lord, has the Puppet Master series had its ups and downs along the way. It’s been through revisions, reboots and “re-imaginings,” but somehow the core has remained intact, from the iconic puppets like “Blade” and “Jester” to Band himself, who personally returned to direct installments in 2012 and 2017. Do the stories make any kind of sense when you try to piece them together? They sure as hell don’t, but Puppet Master fans don’t seem terribly demanding as far as internal consistency is concerned. The series has seemed more or less dead at various points since 1989, but with the release of this year’s (actually well-reviewed) The Littlest Reich, fresh life has been breathed into this warhorse of a franchise once again. We can probably expect the puppets to add at least one or two more notches to their belt before all is said and done.


36. Paranormal Activity
First entry: Paranormal Activity (2007)
Latest entry: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)
Total entries: 6

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The Paranormal Activity franchise is a classic victim of its own success—as is the reputation of the most important film in that franchise, which is obviously the first. Put simply, the original Paranormal Activity is a low-budget masterpiece, a $15,000 found-footage sensation that proved considerably more effective than studio movies with 500 times more funding to work with. It’s a beautifully constructed thriller that slowly but surely ramps up the dreadful sense that anything could happen to its hapless protagonists at any moment. The sequels, on the other hand, suffered from the very studio slickness (and convoluted attempts at mythology) that the first installment never needed. They each have individually effective moments—the cacophonous kitchen scene in Paranormal Activity 3 comes to mind—but by the time that entries like The Marked Ones are trying to thread their story back into the original like the 1955 segments of Back to the Future Part II, the entire franchise ends up disappearing up its own navel. The greatest shame of it is how badly the sequels, and their huge financial success, ended up hurting modern appraisal of the original.


35. Return of the Living Dead
First entry: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Latest entry: Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005)
Total entries: 5

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The original Return of the Living Dead is my favorite zombie movie of all time, so I can’t help but wish this franchise could claim a higher final ranking. Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 original was the decade’s most vital reimagining of the Romero zombie formula, benefiting from its tangential connection to the original (via John Russo), nigh-indestructible, brain-munching zombies, killer ’80s metal soundtrack, great practical effects and broad satire of 1980s teen culture. It’s an incredibly entertaining film to this day, but the ROTLD sequels just can’t measure up to the classic original. The first sequel comes closest, bringing back the recently departed James Karen as a key player, but some element of the first film’s charm is absent. Things only continue downhill from there, as ROTLD 3 plays more like a romantic drama than a proper zombie film, while the fourth and fifth entries dispense with most of the rules and continuity established in the originals and become all the more generic in the process. The dual entries in 2005 hurt this franchise’s ranking the most, coming off as uninspired cash grabs that simply wanted to prey on ’80s nostalgia.


34. The Hills Have Eyes
First entry: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Latest entry: The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)
Total entries: 4 (or 5?)

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The Hills Have Eyes sort of operates like an inverse to that old rule about Star Trek sequels and relative quality: In this case, it’s the odd-numbered entries that are the quality ones, rather than the evens. Director Wes Craven’s original is a mean, misanthropic little movie that picks apart the unreality of suburban blandness, when a group of those hapless suburbanites are thrown into a life-and-death struggle against a family of desert-dwelling cannibals. The sequel to that film, although also directed by Craven, is far from the director’s best work—a movie made for a paycheck, which Craven largely disavowed. The series then got itself a quasi sequel in the form of the made-for-TV Mind Ripper, which was in some places titled The Hills Have Eyes 3, but other than being set in a desert and produced by Craven, there’s no actual connection. Finally, the pair of modern Hills Have Eyes reboot films follow a curiously similar progression as Craven’s originals: A fairly tense, very gory initial chapter that faithfully adapted Craven’s subtext, followed by an uninspired retread with less interesting characters. All in all, there are two films here of merit, and they’re both just titled The Hills Have Eyes.


33. The Purge
First entry: The Purge (2013)
Latest entry: The First Purge (2018)
Total entries: 4

The main thing that makes it difficult to evaluate The Purge is how recent the franchise still is, but it’s clear that there’s a quality gradient in its films, even as it wraps up its middling first season as a TV horror drama. It certainly gets credit for the initial concept of The Purge, a plot device so deliciously open ended and full of potential that it sounds like something Paul Verhoeven would have written in the ’80s. Its first installment sort of squanders that premise by writing a home invasion thriller that hardly needed the framework of The Purge at all to exist, while the sequels concern themselves with the sociopolitical ramifications (and roots) of The Purge to varying effect. It earns some points with the chaotic street action of The Purge: Anarchy, but by the time we get to The First Purge, the politicization of the series has become rather heavy handed and guileless, as if the writers don’t trust their audience to put two and two together.


32. Texas Chain Saw Massacre
First entry: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Latest entry: Leatherface (2017)
Total entries: 8

Lord, how did there get to be eight films in the Texas Chain Saw franchise? Of all the entries on this list, this is perhaps the series that least needed any kind of follow-up after Tobe Hooper’s iconic original. The final images in 1974’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre are sights seared into the mind of any horror fan—a screaming, howling Sally being driven away from the scene of the massacre while Leatherface revels and rages in the road with his chainsaw, greeting the sunset. It’s a beautiful tableaux, which is exactly the kind of thing you can’t say about any of the Texas Chain Saw sequels. That isn’t to say that some of them don’t have their merits, but they’re all very different films—even Tobe Hooper’s direct follow-up in 1986, which is more of a camp gore classic in the vein of Dead Alive than it is a true horror film, and divisive as a result. But once you get into the dregs, whether it’s Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation or the entirety of the gimmick-laden Texas Chainsaw 3D, you’re about as far removed as you can get from the lo-fi vision of the original. If there was one thing we didn’t need, it was a childhood exploration of how Leatherface became Leatherface, any more than we needed to see the same thing in Rob Zombie’s Halloween.


31. Universal Dracula series
First entry: Dracula (1931)
Latest entry: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Total entries: 5 (6 if you count the Spanish language Dracula)

It pains me to not have Dracula, the “original” Universal Monster (he was really preceded by The Phantom of the Opera, but whatever) be higher on this list, but if you’ve seen the other installments in this series after the original 1931 Dracula, you’d be a lot more likely to understand why it’s here. For the record, the likes of Bram Stoker’s Dracula do not count here—only the Universal-produced films.

In terms of evaluating the series, a few things are clear. First of all, the original Dracula is obviously a classic, cemented by Bela Lugosi’s hypnotic, charming, exotic performance as the Count, as well as classic supporting roles from Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan. The great shame is that Lugosi wasn’t asked to reprise the character, having it handed down to first Lon Chaney Jr. and then John Carradine in Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula—quality actors, but wrong for the part that Lugosi had made so iconic. Those films, likewise, lack the focus and atmosphere of Universal’s initial run of monster movies, being released in a time when the real-life horrors of World War II had put anything the monsters might conjure to shame. Only Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein manage to reclaim a little bit of Dracula’s dignity, but by the time Lugosi made his return to the character in 1948, he seemed like a shell of his former self. Lugosi should have gotten a proper sequel in the mid-’30s, but Universal was more focused on its crown jewel franchise, Frankenstein.

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