Our editor-in-chief Nate Yapp is proud to have contributed to the new book Hidden Horror: A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks, edited by Aaron Christensen. Another contributors include Anthony Timpone, B.J. Colangelo, Dave Alexander, Classic-Horror.com's own Robert C. Ring and John W. Bowen. Pick up a copy today from Amazon.com!
Homogenized Horror Part IV
Friday the 13th inspired, if that is the word, clones from all over the world and introduced the term "Franchise Horror" into the mainstream. Paramount was quick to capitalise on its new "star" Jason Voorhees and brought him back time and again. Nobody noticed, or cared, that it was virtually the same plot over and over again just so long as the murders were gory. The studio clearly was hoping the censors were looking the other way part of the time. Meanwhile others were copying the "knife wielding assassin in the woods" theme in movies like The Final Terror, Just Before Dawn, Mother's Day, The Forest, Forest Prime Evil, and Lisa Lisa. Even Rugerro Deodato, was (in)famous for such films as The Last Survivor and Cannibal Holocaust got into the act with Campino Del Terrore (a.k.a. Body Count). Concerning this film he once told an interviewer: "I did not take the subject matter seriously. After all how could you? Approach a plot like this seriously and it will be terrible! I directed it with a light hearted approach and that is the way it must be viewed. Otherwise people will see how ludicrous it really is." You tell 'em Rugerro!
A Yugoslavian film company even tried to join the bandwagon, a trifle late one must admit, the product was not released until 1991, but they added Happy Hell Night to an already long list. Filmed in Canada it involves a mad killer stalking a frateernity house where an all night party of sex and drugs seems to be going on. The trick this time is the killer is really a demon from Hell and one of the heroes sacrifices himself to send the creature back at the end. Otherwise this is basically the same plot we have seen before with gory effects borrowed from Lucio Fulci's film House by the Cemetery. The Friday series was supposed to end with Chapter Four which was titled (perhaps woith wishful thinking on Paramount's part) The Final Chapter. Tom Savini, who had done effects for the first film came back to do this sequel only because he sincerely believed it would be the end. Ah, but the public thought differently. Thinking it would be their last chance to see Jason at work they jammed theatres and pumped millions of dollars into Paramount's bank account. Money can prove the most successful element in reviving monsters and within a year Friday the 13th, Part V: Jason Lives was unspooling in cinemas all over the country.
Likewise Halloween had many clones. Girls Nite Out offered a killer stalking a high school in a bear costume (!) with steak knives for claws (!!). You could also suffer through things like The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Girl's School Screamers, The House on Sorority Row and Shadows Run Black. A really decent Australian thriller called Snapshot about a mad ice cream delivery man (a what?!) stalking a fashion model was released in this country with the misleading title The Day After Halloween. Audiences walked out en masse when they found out they had been tricked and the movie, despite being well paced and convincingly acted, vanished without a trace in less than a month.
Other movies which have been franchised but that nobody talks about are The Howling and Witchcraft. Since Howling 4, all the sequels have been released direct to cable and/or video. Witchcraft was even less lucky, everything after W2 went straight to home video. Why? Possibly because these movies are poorly made offering bad effects, predictable plots and a parade of silicon enhanced Barbie dolls pretending tobe actresses. Wait, was I just describing the Witchcraft series of Friday the 13th? Oh well, the only real difference is that one got major studio distribution and one did not.