(Photo by ©New Line Cinema, @ Dimension Films)
Like the monsters that drive them forward, horror franchises simply refuse to die. The Conjuring franchise – sorry, universe — continues apace with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson signing on for Annabelle 3, while, at the box office this month, the return of Michael Myers after 11 years away from the big screen is showing that even franchises thought to be down and out can still twitch a little, start to move their fingers, and stiffly rise from the seeming dead.
The success of the new Halloween, and the general creepiness of the season, got us thinking about horror franchises: Which is the best? Which is the worst? And what trends might we find if we took the most popular franchises and examined them through the lens of the Tomatometer. And so, we pulled together 34 horror franchises (a total of 196 movies), marked their scores, and got investigating.
For something to qualify as a franchise, it had to have at least four entries (sequels, prequels, remakes, spin-offs all counted), and the full series had to have Tomatometer scores, so we could do a deep dive into their expansive worlds. Those stipulations meant some favorites weren’t included in our data set: The Descent and Wolf Creek series only have two entries (sorry Commonwealthers), while Sleepaway Camp was not included because the most recent film in that series has too few reviews for a Tomatometer score.
Now, let’s get into the horror franchise data!
Hail to the king, baby! Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (95%), Evil Dead 2 (98%), Army of Darkness (72%), and Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake (61%) collectively have the highest Tomatometer average of all the horror franchises. The 82% average is stellar, and if we added in TV’s Ash vs. the Evil Dead’s 99% overall series score, the average would jump to 86%.
The 50% Tomatometer average of the The Nightmare on Elm Street (NOES) franchise isn’t Fresh, but it’s enough to make it the highest-rated of the four major slasher franchises, which have released a combined 37 films since 1974. (Note, we are not counting this month’s Halloween in the mix.) The NOES series’ 50% average outperforms The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (33.3%), Halloween (31%), and Friday the 13th (28.25%) franchises. Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface must hate it when Freddy invades their dreams and gloats about his Tomatometer supremacy.
George Romero’s Dead franchise has stayed alive since 1968 with a combination of Fresh sequels like Dawn of the Dead (93%), Day of the Dead (83%), Land of the Dead (73%), and Diary of the Dead (61%), and remakes such as Night of the Living Dead (68%) and 2004’s Certified Fresh Dawn of the Dead (75%). If it weren’t for the subpar Survival of the Dead (29%) and two Day of the Dead “remakes” (14% and 0%), the Dead series would be challenging the Evil Dead series for franchise supremacy.
That’s a total of 139 stinkers. To be fair, the creators of Jason X and Jaws: The Revenge weren’t thinking about Academy Awards when they sent Jason Voorhees to space or gave psychic abilities to a vengeful Great White. For every successful horror franchise launch (26 of the 34 first franchise entries in this set of movies have Fresh Tomatometer scores), there are up to 10 sequels and/or remakes that statistically decline in quality. The numbers are so bad that only 30 sequels, remakes, or prequels in our data set have Fresh Tomatometer scores.
First films have a 73% Tomatometer average, which is not surprising considering the set includes classics like Jaws (97%), Alien (97%), Frankenstein (100%), and Night of the Living Dead (96%). However, after the first film, the Tomatometer scores fall faster than the decapitated head of the guy who tried to fistfight Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. With the second film, the Tomatometer average drops to an average of 47%; once franchises hit their fourth sequel, the Tomatometer average doesn’t go above 40%. This stat makes later-franchise movies like Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (52%), Alien: Covenant (67%), Land of the Dead (73%), and Final Destination 5 (62%) stand out.
Kudos to the Evil Dead (82%), Frankenstein (74%), [Rec] (69%), Scream (64%), the Hannibal Lecter movies (62%), Psycho (62%), and Dracula (60%) franchises for becoming the “final slashers” of the horror franchise world. These defiers of murderous mediocrity stayed strong and they stayed Fresh.
The Leprechaun should’ve been hunting for better scripts instead of gold. As well as taking the title of overall Rottenest franchise, Leprechaun is also the only series to have four movies with a 0% Tomatometer score. The highest-rated entries are Leprechaun in the Hood and its follow-up, Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, which both have 25% Tomatometer scores and feature an unhinged Warwick Davis at the zenith of his Leprechaun rhyming skills.
The series just managed Freshness with Friday the 13th, which kickstarted the franchise in 1982 with a score of 61%. Since then, only Friday the 13th, Part V: Jason Lives (52%) and Freddy vs. Jason (41%) have accrued respectable Tomatometer averages, while the other nine entries – including the 2009 remake – have a 20.8% average. Maybe that’s why the franchise has been sitting in a penalty box for nearly a decade.
Fresh horror remakes such as The Ring, Fright Night, Let Me In, The Thing, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers – none of which are part of our franchise data set – prove it’s possible to capture the magic of an original horror film. However, when remaking a long-running franchise starter, the odds of having a Fresh Tomatometer score are very low. Only the Evil Dead 2 (1987) – technically it’s a “requel” – Evil Dead (2013), Night of the Living Dead (1990), and Dawn of the Dead (2004) boast fresh Tomatometer scores amongst the franchises included. The average for the Halloween, Psycho, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, The Omen, and The Nightmare on Elm Street remakes is a Rotten 28%.
The reason we included this statistic is so we could honor a 0% film that is 100% amazing. Jaws: The Revenge tells the story of a vengeful shark battling Ellen Brody, the widow of Martin Brody, who killed its relatives in Jaws and Jaws 2. We don’t know why or how the shark is able to track Ellen from Amity Island to the Bahamas, but, we do know the movie is certifiably bonkers and it is one of the rare 0% movies worth watching. Also, we love how Jaws: The Revenge totally retconned Jaws 3D, which statistically is the better movie with an impressive-in-comparison 11% Tomatometer score.
Aliens (99%), The Bride of Frankenstein (100%), Evil Dead 2 (98%), and The Silence of the Lambs (95%) – a kind of sequel to Manhunter – are classics that managed to top their Fresh predecessors (you might also include The Wolf Man, at 94%, which followed on from Werewolf in London). However, we wanted to throw some special props towards Scream 2, with a Tomatometer of 81%, up 2% from Scream‘s 79%. It had the daunting task of going from script-to-screen in one year, and had to undergo rewrites and reshoots when the script was leaked to the public in 1997.
We’d become so disheartened with underwhelming sequels, that it was a breath of Fresh air when we realized all Purge sequels have a higher Tomatometer score than the first Purge movie, which has a 38% Tomatometer score. None of the sequels may be Fresh (56%, 54%, 53% in chronological order), but it’s nice to see a horror series get better and remain consistent.
The 20% Tomatometer average for Saw 3D, Jaws 3D, Amityville 3-D, Texas Chainsaw 3D, and Piranha 3D suggests that putting 3D in the title is rarely a successful gimmick. The Alexandre Aja-directed Piranha 3D is a beacon of light in the murky world of 3D. The movie, sitting at 73% on the Tomatometer, uses its three dimensions beautifully, gleefully showering the audience with blood, dead fish, and Jerry O’Connell’s body parts. Without its conclusion, the average for 3D franchise movies would be just 10.5%.
We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into horror franchises! Comment below and let us know which franchise is your favorite.
The franchises: Nightmare on Elm Street (9), Friday the 13th (12), Halloween (10), Evil Dead (4), Alien (8), Frankenstein (5), Dracula (7), Poltergeist (4), Amityville Horror (5), Jaws (4), Child’s Play (7), Purge (4), Leprechaun (7), Hatchet (4), [REC] (6), Scream (4), The Omen (4), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (8), Hannibal Lecter movies (5), Piranha (4), Psycho (4), Saw (8), Final Destination (5), Underworld (5), Resident Evil (6), Predator (5), Paranormal Activity (6), Exorcist (4), Insidious (4), Conjuring (5), The Hills Have Eyes (4), The Mummy (9), The Dead (10), Wolf Man and Werewolf in London (5)
All data/Tomatomer scores accurate as of October 10, 2018
* Featured image: The Evil Dead, 1981, @ New Line Cinema