11 Horror Franchises That Tried to Re-Invent Themselves
Horror movies have become one of the most popular genres in cinema, the fans will watch any movie in the franchises they love. However, over the years certain franchises have tried something different to add new life to the movies. Some have been good, others haven’t been so good. With Evil Dead Rise coming out this week, it feels like the perfect chance to look at horror franchises that tried to re-invent themselves.
Like always, this is a list of the movie, not a ranking of the movies.
11 Horror Franchises That Tried to Re-Invent Themselves
1 – The Evil Dead
The Evil Dead was first released in 1981 by Sam Raimi. It has an amazing ability to use gore and comedy to make Ash Williams a household horror name. Bruce Campbell has remained attached to the character ever since and become a cult icon to horror fans.
The Evil Dead has gone through a few transformations over the years. First, Evil Dead 2 leaned more heavily into the comedy involved, while keeping the setting the same. However, it was Army of Darkness that took the franchise in a completely different direction. This involved time travelling to medieval times to fight the deadites. Years, after this movie a television spin-off continued the wacky adventures in the modern-day setting.
In 2013 Sam Raimi help produce a reimagination of the Evil Dead. Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez took the directing chair along with an outstanding special effects team. They brought us a much more graphic modernised look at gore, stripping away the comedy that had become such a big part of the franchise. The film was received well by horror fans and critics alike, scoring positive fresh ratings from both on Rotten Tomatoes.
2 – A Nightmare on Elm Street
Wes Craven was one of the greatest minds in horror, he helped bring to life two of the biggest franchises in horror history. A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, the former is the one we are going to talk about most. The original A Nightmare on Elm Street focused on serial killer Freddy Krueger hunting teenagers in their dreams. While Wes was only involved in one other movie in the franchise, the also popular A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. It is New Nightmare that should get the most attention.
In New Nightmare, Wes Craven returned to writing and directing the 7th movie in the franchise. This time Freddy has started haunting the actors who appeared in the original movie. Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund and Wes Craven all play themselves getting hunted down by Freddy. He is trying to escape into the real world, taking Freddy Kruger in a completely different direction. The nightmares moved away from being exclusively around teenagers too and the humour that had become part of the franchise was dropped.
This is a strange one because it was received extremely well and seemed to help usher in the more self-aware horrors. The franchise decided to get caught up in a battle against Jason in Freddy vs Jason, returning to the comedy side of things. Add in a poorly received remake and we don’t hear much about this franchise coming back anymore. However, the debate goes on in the horror community about which is the best sequel.
3 – Child’s Play
Child’s Play is the brainchild of Don Mancini. It follows a serial killer that is trying to move his soul from a good guy doll into a human again. While Child’s Play 1 to 3 are entertaining slashers in their own right, the franchise has been through a few transformations.
Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky gave us a chance to embrace a much more comedic approach, as well as addressing subjects most movies would dare touch. This included Chucky and Tilly having a transgender child. However, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky stepped back into the more serious pure horror side of things. These transformations have kept Don Mancini’s side of the franchise popular for decades and you can hear more of the personal journey through the franchise in Living with Chucky.
As much as the franchise is loved, 2019 saw the studio decided to reboot the franchise. Don Mancini wasn’t involved in the process and the movie decided to take a bold twist. This time Chucky is an A.I. doll that has become evil, going on a killing rampage to defend his owner. While the movie itself isn’t bad, it is one that could have easily been its own movie, without just stealing the original creation.
4 – Alien & Predator
Alien is one of the greatest sci-fi horror movies ever made. The money it made meant it somehow needed a sequel. Step up the Godfather of box office movies, James Cameron. Instead of doing another version of a small crew battling a lone alien, he transformed the concept. Aliens became an action horror sci-fi, seeing a group of mercenaries investigating an abandoned colony. They soon find themselves fighting off countless aliens, as Ripley returns to battle with an Alien Queen.
Alien and Aliens are easily considered two of the greatest horror movies ever made. However, in the years after the franchises dipped in quality. From Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection trying to change the setting. They work with the same formula for the most part.
It was mixing the Alien franchise with Predator that took things in another direction. Here we see the xenomorphs go into battle with the Predators on Earth. It takes things in a more chaotic nature while diving deeper into the lure of both the franchise.
Even after the battles with the Predators, Alien continued to try and get reinvented. Prometheus looked to dive deeper into the origins of the xenomorphs in the search for mankind’s origin. While certain parts are similar, we get to move into an alien home planet to learn even more about their past.
Predator saw a group of soldiers coming up against an unknown hunter in the jungle. A Predator starts hunting them down with its advanced weaponry and technology in a battle to see who is worthy of winning. On the surface, it keeps things action-packed and helped in the continuing rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger. While Predator 2 moved things to the concrete jungle, it tended to follow the same formula. However, it did get to hint at a joint universe.
We have previously mentioned the Alien vs Predator movies. However, on the Predator side of things, we get to see a level of mutual respect between the hunters as the movie unfolds. This paints them as more of a respectful group that wants to find species worthy of joining their fight.
As we return to the solo Predator movies, we do see the added involvement of military/governments wanting to learn about their technology. This has been in the franchise since the start. With this in mind, The Predator commits fully to this experience and added different types of Predators to the battle.
Where the Predator franchise moved in the best direction though. Was in 2022 when Prey reversed the concept back to the basics, taking us to a Comanche Nation going into battle with a Predator. A series of skilled hunters without modern technologies going into battle with a Predator with all the advantages. By returning to its roots, the franchise feels reborn and ready for more.
5 – Wrong Turn
When Rob Schmidt’s Wrong Turn first got released, I doubt many people expect it to turn into a seven-movie franchise. It follows a group of friends that get lost in the middle of the woods as they get picked off by cannibals. While the franchise started to lean more into the identity of the cannibals, they kept the basic formula the same throughout the years. This included prequels and sequels along with world-building.
In 2021, the original writer Alan B McElroy returned with a new vision. While things start out the same, a group of friends meet a strange group in the wood, known as The Foundation. The community is more operational, they welcome people in and kill outsiders. This does bring us one of the most disturbing sequences, as we see the people in a place known as ‘The Dark’. Most importantly, this moved away from blood-hungry cannibals to a more sophisticated group surviving in the woods via cannibalism.
6 – The Purge
In 2013 James DeMonaco’s The Purge came out with a great concept for a horror movie. All crimes are legal for 12 hours and we follow a family trying to shelter in their own home. We get to see how they survive the situation with home security, while the chaos goes on outside, with a group trying to get into the house.
One year later, DeMonaco returned with The Purge: Anarchy. In this movie, we get to see things from the outside looking in. Meaning, we get to see how different people approach the night, some with enjoyment, others with vengeance. This was just the beginning of the changes the franchise undertook. It steps into a purer action world, as well as adding in the political motivation for the night to be a thing. In The First Purge, we even get to see an early test of the concept in a contained environment. While in The Forever Purge, we see how people would start breaking the rules to continue the chaotic freedom.
All this started with a simple home invasion movie during the time, before it became a political action horror. One that still gets to share the message through each of the movies we see.
7 – I Know What You Did Last Summer
I Know What You Did Last Summer and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer are very similar movies. They both see a group of friends trying to hide the truth about an incident from the summer before. The movies are both slashers loosely adapted from a novel. For slasher movies, they are both fine, they will keep the horror movies happy along the way.
However, in 2006 Sylvain White decided to use the name to bring a fresh story to the table, with I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. In this movie, we get to see a group of friends that witnessed a friend die in a prank accident. One year later they start getting picked off. Everything seems fine here, another cash-in sequel, nothing to be concerned about. Sadly, this movie does something very dramatic with the change. It makes the villain a spirit tracking them down, instead of a human enemy. This change completely killed the franchise and it is only recently that they have even considered rebooting it with a remake.
8 – Halloween
In 1978 one of the greatest horror movie directors gave us a little slasher movie called Halloween. It has since gone on to be considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time. However, with great success, a franchise is born, one that has more reboots, twists and turns than any other on the list.
It starts with Halloween 3 Season of the Witch. This happened because of the original idea behind the name ‘Halloween’. John Carpenter wanted to bring a different story to life each year and after being forced into making Halloween 2, he killed everyone off. Season of the Witch is his idea’s first and last chapter, bringing a fresh movie with no connection to the first two. At its core, it has become a cult favourite.
The story doesn’t end there though, Carpenter sold the rights to the Michael Myers characters and Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers was released. This saw Dr Loomis and Michael Myers return and a story about a cult raising Michael were unleashed. Three movies of this followed a traditional slasher formula. Sadly, Donald Pleasence’s real death ended this version of the franchise.
This didn’t end things though, one of the first legacy sequels happened, Halloween, H20 saw Jamie Lee Curtis return as Laurie Strode. Now, she has her own family and Michael has found her. While this is a perfectly passable slasher movie, it once again went with the kill of Michael off in a way it he couldn’t just return. Sadly, Halloween Resurrection happens and the franchise quickly died, for now.
This wasn’t the end of the franchise, in a time when remakes were massive, violent director Rob Zombie was given the franchise to mould. His vision was to dive deeper into Michael’s past and try and understand the early signs of his violence. However, this turns into one of the most violent horror movies to date sparking wild debate among the horror community.
Amazingly that wasn’t the end of this franchise going through different ideas. The first official legacy sequel happened with 2018’s Halloween. Here, the franchise has been erased and this is a direct sequel to Halloween 1978. It follows Laurie as she has lived a life filled with fear Michael will escape and return for her. This trilogy was originally meant to happen over one night, which would have been a bold and great idea. However, in Halloween Ends, we see Michael gaining the ability to possess someone to continue his killing ways as he rebuilds his strength.
The 2018 version got massive praise and was a financial masterstroke. But due to the change in the release model, the follow-ups struggled and Halloween Ends created massive debate in the horror community. The constant tinkering with this franchise has caused many people to lose patience with the franchise, hoping we don’t have to go through another one for a long time now.
9 – Urban Legend
Urban Legend is another small trilogy of horror movies. It looked to grab the slasher sub-genre which in the late 90s was one of the hottest most watched series of films in horror. The concept started offs simply enough, following a group of students being picked off by different Urban Legends. While this isn’t about the quality of the movies, the first two kept the formula together very well.
1989’s Pet Sematary’s Mary Lambert brought us the third movie in the trilogy, Urban Legends Bloody Mary. This is another movie that took a fun little slasher genre and turned it into a supernatural movie that doesn’t click as well.
10 – Leprechaun
Leprechaun started out with a small family discovering a pot of gold that summons an evil Leprechaun. What followed was a series of movies getting more outlandish. First, we got to see Leprechaun 4 In Space, which has long gone on to become the running joke about horror film franchises. This did follow in the footsteps of Critters 4, which also went to space, but due to the fact they were from space, we didn’t include that. We saw this most notably with Jason X in the Friday the 13th franchise.
However, Leprechaun didn’t finish there, he went and returned to Earth with Leprechaun in the Hood. This time the Leprechaun went into battle with pimps and gangsters completely falling into the comedy elements. It wasn’t until Leprechaun Returns that we headed back to the original location. This tried to grab the popular legacy sequels going around, giving the franchise an attempted restart.
11 – Saw
James Wan’s Saw is a movie that took a massive shock to the audience with a concept about learning to want to live. Jigsaw puts victims in traps they must escape with an element of punishment along the way. This is designed to teach victims a lesson in life. While Saw kept a lot contained, Saw 2 started to open the world, once we knew who the real Jigsaw was.
Over the franchise, we get to learn about apprentices that work with John Kramer the original Jigsaw. However, they don’t seem to understand the rules completely, getting enjoyment out of making people suffer. It isn’t until Saw The Final Chapter that the franchised felt complete. Along the way, we see how the ‘games’ turned into somebody else’s choice, which goes against everything John wanted.
Where the movie truly went in its different direction was with Jigsaw and Spiral From the Book of Saw. first, Jigsaw shows us how the serial killer became worshipped and others look to continue the teaching off their own backs. Meanwhile, Spiral From the Book of Saw looked to get back to the investigation from the police side of things. Using the city’s past to create a new killer. This also brought in the biggest cast with Chris Rock and Samuel L Jackson stepping into the franchise.
Those are the 11 Horror Franchises That Tried to Re-Invent Themselves.
What other franchises do you think tried to re-invent themselves for better or worse?