While some franchises thrive, others just can’t seem to get a break. In keeping with the current vogue for reboots, remakes, revivals and sequels, we’ve gotten three major franchise sequels/remakes/reboots in October—Cult of Chucky and Leatherface both came out October 20th, while Jigsaw debuted a week later on the 27th. Meanwhile, there’s and an ongoing rights battle over the future of the Friday the 13th series, one that—once resolved—will probably lead to another entry in that series; a new Hellraiser film—Judgment—in the can and awaiting a release date; John Carpenter is producing a new Halloween movie; and, as of July 1st of 2017, a new Nightmare on Elm Street film was in development at New Line. I’m not going to say whether this is necessarily good news or bad news. I’m ambivalent about Leatherface because I think the character works best when we know as little about him as possible. On the other hand, I’m an unapologetic Saw fan, whatever that says about me, so I’ll be sitting right there in the middle row on opening night to see what insane, soap opera twist they’ve come up with this time to keep the story going. While Hollywood is busy keeping the big bads going, though, I’d like for them to consider giving a second life to some of the also-rans of the past twenty years—the franchises that never quite made it off the ground but had something special to offer. Here are a few series I’d like to see enjoy a second life:
Candyman should’ve been something in the 90s. The sole black slasher among a sea of white faces (sort of—Freddy’s more of an umber, and Jason varies from grey to green), he was theoretically the perfect villain to grow out of the decade’s concern for political correctness and attempts to tackle and reconcile America’s long and ugly history with race relations. Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten any better since the hook-handed mirror menace first started opening up throats in the Chicago projects; fortunately, the recent success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out demonstrated that the climate is ripe for intelligent, socially relevant horror stories. By combining the ruthlessness of the character from the first film and the tragic backstory presented in the second, a new Candyman could be a frightening yet sympathetic slasher for the Trump age. Granted, Tony Todd is probably a bit too old to play the role now, but it’d be a fantastic opportunity for an up-and-coming young black actor to make his mark and turn the role into his own.
Horror often fails by trying to take itself too seriously, or not taking itself seriously enough. The folks behind the Leprechaun movies understood the wisdom in not taking yourself seriously at all, and that’s where the charm of the franchise lay. Beyond the first film—arguably one of the weaker entries in the series— and the WWE’s reboot (which completely missed the point), the Leprechaun films never tried to be anything more than what it was: completely bonkers. Generations of people who’ve grown up on the idea of leprechauns as benign drunkards with overblown accents were never going to take one seriously as a threat, so, why not amp up the camp factor and just go for it? The results were some of the most off-the-wall horror comedies ever committed to film—in what other franchise are you going to get Ice T pulling a gun on some inner city kids and demanding, in all sincerity, “give me back my motherfucking flute”? While irony and smug self-referential humor currently dominate the horror comedy market, a revival of Leprechaun could show other filmmakers how it’s done right.
Like the Leprechaun films, the Wishmaster series was at its best when it knew just how seriously to take itself and when to have a little fun. More dire in tone, it was always closer to a straight horror franchise than horror-comedy, but it also clearly had fun creating its own insane, internal world that functioned by a clear set of laws, as off-the-wall as those laws may have been. It was a franchise that rewarded its fans—we actually get to see what happens when the Djinn wins for once, and Mazda finally pops up—and showed some occasional flashes of intelligence in the character department—not exactly supernatural slashers’ stock in trade. It was a horror series as written by the Dynasty writer’s room on crack, and it was awesome in all of the right ways. With Andrew Divoff telling Bloody Disgusting back in April that he wants to return for a fifth installment, my hopes are up that this one might actually come to fruition.
How about you, readers? What’re some lesser-known franchises you’d like to see get a second chance?