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The Six Greatest Horror Franchises

The Setup

The Horror Franchise, like so many burger chains, come and go. To take the ‘franchise’ metaphor too far, some are like Rally Burger, open, then gone, and some are like the perennial McDonalds, they never go away. I don’t know what makes fast food places stick around but I think I know what keeps horror franchises from folding. The characters. The Leprechaun movies came and went because the leprechaun was OK once or twice but then just became incredibly annoying. The Wishmaster’s over the top performance and dialogue was equally annoying if not more so since it wasn’t supposed to be as campy. So those franchises came, some horror fans took brief took notice, and today the movies are occasionally played on cable or satellite TV. The horror franchise graveyard is littered with examples like these two.

Successful franchises are fewer and farther between. Let’s face it, sequels are generally just ‘more of the same’ and the problem with sequels is once you become familiar with a horror character then... Well, you’re familiar with them. Familiarity may breed contempt in some but in horror it breeds "Not Scary Anymore". No character, no matter how well done, can hold up to "Part III" or "Part IV". Yet, despite the familiarity and the continuous cycle of watered down and farther fetched plots, sequels or remakes of certain horror franchises continue to be made. Kids continue to dress up as these characters at Halloween, DVDs of the old movies continue to be bought, and they become part of the horror mythos. (I am not speaking generically here of characters like vampires or zombies.)

This leads me to the greatest franchises. It can be argued, but if you do argue you’ll be wrong, that there are six great franchises in the horror genre. We’ll break them into two "unholy trinities". One from the Golden Age and one from the New Golden Age (have we just left the Newest Golden Age?)

The First Unholy Trinity...

would be Universal Studio’s Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy.

The second Unholy Trinity...

The Mummy’s silent stalking would be remade into the white masked Michael Myers in Halloween. Frankenstein’s brutal power would become Jason Voorhees, and Dracula’s calculating demeanor would become the wise cracking Freddy Krueger.

My Opinion

While the sequels, for the most part, offered watered down versions of the originals, coupled with the aforementioned fact that once you become familiar with a character that character simply can’t have the same visceral impact it originally had on you, the original 6 films (with the possible exception of "Friday the 13th") stand as some of the greatest horror films made. While it is the acting, directing, and writing that made them great, they also wouldn’t have been great without those characters! If you’re truly into horror, then you need to see all 6 of these films, and also a generous helping of their sequels.

Filmography

Dracula
Nosferatu (1922)
Dracula (1931)
Dracula (Spanish Version) (1931)
Dracula's Daughter (1936)
Son of Dracula (1943)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Drakula Istanbul'da (Dracula in Istanbul) (1953)
Dracula (1958; aka Horror of Dracula)
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)
Scars of Dracula (1970)
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
Count Dracula (1970)
Countess Dracula (1970)
Blacula (1972)
Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
Leptirica (1973)
Dracula (1973)
Blood for Dracula (1974) - also released as Andy Warhol's Dracula
Count Dracula (1977)
Lust at First Bite (1978) - (x-rated)
Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (aka Dracula's Dog) (1978)
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
Dracula (1979)
Love At First Bite (1979)
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1991)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Monster Force (1994)
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Dracula 2000 (2000)
Hellsing (2002)
Van Helsing (2004)
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Hellsing Ultimate (2006)
Dracula (2006)

Frankenstein
Frankenstein (1931)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957)
Frankenstein 1970 (1958)
Frankenstein's Daughter (1958)
Frankenstein, el Vampiro y Cia ("Frankenstein, the Vampire and Company") (1961)
The House on Bare Mountain (1962)
Frankenstein Conquers the World (Furankenshutain tai Chitei Kaijû Baragon) (1962)
Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster (1965)
Fanny Hill Meets Dr Erotico (1965)
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966)
War of the Gargantuas (Furankenshutain no Kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira) (1966)
Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)
La Figlia di Frankenstein ("The Daughter of Frankenstein") (1971)
Dracula Contra Frankenstein ("Dracula Vs. Frankenstein") (1972)
The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein 1972)
Frankenstein `80 (1972)
Blackenstein (1973)
Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
Victor Frankenstein (a.k.a. The Terror of Frankenstein) (1976)
Kyofu densetsu: Kaiki! Furankenshutain (1981)
The Bride (1981)
The Monster Squad (1987)
Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)
Van Helsing (1994)
Perfect Woman (2006)
Subject Two (2006)

The Mummy
La Momie du roi (a.k.a. Mummy of the King Ramsees) (1909)
The Mummy (1911, Urban)
The Mummy (1911, Pathe)
The Mummy (1911, Thanhouser)
Vengeance of Egypt (1912)
The Egyptian Mummy (1913, Kalem)
The Egyptian Mummy (1914, Vitagraph)
The Eyes of the Mummy (1918, German)
The Mummy (1923, Fox, lost)
Mummy Love (1926)
The Mummy (1932, Universal)
Mummy's Boys (1936)
We Want Our Mummy (1938)
The Adventures of Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh (animated)
The Mummy's Hand (1940, Universal)
The Mummy's Tomb (1942, Universal)
The Adventures of Superman: The Mummy Strikes (1943, animated)
The Mummy's Ghost (1944, Universal)
The Mummy's Curse (1944, Universal)
Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955, Universal)
The Aztec Mummy (1957, Mexican)
The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy (1957, Mexican)
The Pharaoh's Curse (1957)
The Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1959, Mexican)
The Mummy (1959, Hammer)
Frankenstein Meets the Mummy (1961)
I Was a Teenage Mummy (1963)
Attack of the Mayan Mummy (1963)
The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1964, Hammer)
The Wrestling Women Vs. The Aztec Mummy (1965, Mexican)
Kiss Me Quick (a.k.a. Dr. Breedlove) (1966)
The Mummy's Shroud (1967, Hammer)
The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals (1967)
Mad Monster Party (1968, stop-motion)
Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971, Hammer)
The Mummy's Revenge (1973)
Being From Another Planet--MST3K Show #405.
Sphinx (1980)
The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (1980)
The Awakening (1980)
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1981)
Dawn of the Mummy (1981)
The Secret of the Mummy (1982)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Mummy Lives (1993)
Under Wraps (1997)
Bram Stoker's The Mummy (1997)
The Mummy (1999)
Tale of the Mummy (1999)
Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy (2000)
The Mummy Returns (2001)
Misty Mundae: Mummy Raider (2001)
Lust in the Mummy's Tomb (2001)

Michael Myers
Halloween October 25, 1978
Halloween II October 30, 1981
Halloween III: Season of the Witch October 22, 1982
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers October 21, 1988
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers October 13, 1989
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers September 29, 1995
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later August 5, 1998
Halloween: Resurrection July 12, 2002
Halloween (2007) August 31, 2007

Jason Voorhees
Friday the 13th May 9, 1980
Friday the 13th Part 2 April 30, 1981
Friday the 13th Part 3 August 13, 1982
The Final Chapter April 13, 1984
A New Beginning March 22, 1985
Jason Lives August 1, 1986
The New Blood May 13, 1988
Jason Takes Manhattan July 28, 1989
Jason Goes to Hell August 13, 1993
Jason X August 26, 2002
Freddy vs. Jason August 15, 2003

Freddy Krueger
A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, 1985
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, 1987
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, 1988
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, 1989
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, 1991
Wes Craven's New Nightmare, 1994
Freddy vs. Jason, 2003

Much of the filmography info from wikipedia.com



My Reviews

Nosferatu (1922)- A lot of times these old movies just get a pass simply because they're old. I tend to do that myself, just give them a higher grade because they are old than I would if they were newer movies. So much was new then and experimental. There was no blue print to go by so I give them the benefit of the doubt. 'Nosferatu' is one movie that, in my opinion, has not suffered from this. It deserves the accolades it gets. A masterpiece in horror, light, shadow, and mood this movie set a high bar very early on. It follows the Dracula story very closely, so closely that the estate of Bram Stoker sued and won. The English courts demanded all copies and negatives burned but luckily the Germans didn't care and kept their copies around. This truly is a masterpiece in cinematography and a milestone horror movie. Yes it's very old, yes it's silent but it's one of those movies that really started it all. A+.

Dracula (1931)- Back in the day I really hated this flick. Old school acting style, very staged feeling. After another recent viewing I have to say maybe I was too quick to judge. Yeah it does suffer from some lack of creativity as far as direction goes and was based too much on the stage play which bogs it down in the middle some, but over-all it is an effective horror movie and telling of the story (Dracula wants to move to England, buys some property from Renfeld, Renfeld sees too much, Dracula moves to England, falls for Lucy, Dr. Van Helsing pursues). The opening sequences are superbly done and it's not until we're in England at Lucy's house do things start slowing down. It's a shame that the creative directing style of the intro for some reason didn't carry over to the body of the movie and we end up with just a filmed stage play. Lugosi is great at the part. People rip on him for being too hammy and staged but when you think of Dracula who comes to mind? That's right, Christopher Lee who copied Lugosi. And Dwight Frye, the ultimate horror sidekick, perfects Renfeld also. B+.

Dracula (Spanish Version) (1931)- I’d heard a lot of things about how much better the Spanish production of "Dracula" was supposed to be. It was filmed at the same time, on the same sets and same schedule (but at night) as the English version, using different actors and a different director. Much of the atmosphere remains in the first act, as does the ‘staginess’ of the second act. Johnathon, Mina, and Lucy’s parts are actually a little better, but I was disappointed in both Van Helsing, and Dracula, which are, needless to say, some important parts! Dracula, played by , was probably more campy and ‘staged’ than Lugosi, which is the main complaint against his performance. And Van Helsing’s cool demeanor and Dutch accent (which goes without saying) are not present in this one. I liked the English version a little better, but this is a good interpretation and actually tells the story a little more coherently. B-.

Frankenstein (1931)- This movie has the expected flaws for one so old. The bad old school acting, the silly 'chase scene' near the end. The story sort of follows Shelley's book, but leaves massive gaps. For instance, it seems the monster 'just happens' to find Dr. Frankenstein's fiancé's room, but we know from the book the monster was smart and planned it all along. But despite its flaws I feel it is the strongest of the original Universal monster movies. The sets are great, especially the lab scenes, which are second to none, and the makeup job on Boris Karloff is probably the best of all time. Plus, despite all the makeup, you realize what a tragedy this is for the Monster. The scenes with Fritz teasing him with the torch and the scene near the lake with the little girl were way ahead of their time, and still very effective. Dr. Frankenstein calling out "Now I know what it feels like to be God" was ahead of its time too. Though it all seems very tame now, this was a controversial flick back in the day. A.

The Mummy (1932)- Karloff again becomes a monster, but this time a much less sympathetic, yet more human looking monster. Ironic. Great makeup and sets and a very well acted and directed movie. Influenced by German Expressionism the look is great and Karloff plays his character with great evil restraint. The story is basically the same one used later by Hammer and still again later by Universal in their big budget remake. An ancient Egyptian priest is busted trying to resurrect his princess lover from the dead and is cursed to spend eternity guarding her tomb. Jump ahead to the 20th Century and Egyptian exploration and oops, the Mummy is back. As luck would have it, his lover from way back in the day has been reincarnated again and he must again have her, this time for eternity. Yeah, it's basically Dracula from Egypt rather than Transylvania, but it still works really well. A+.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)- I've read a lot of reviews that say this film is superior to the first. I think those reviews might be right. Great atmosphere that you expect from these old black and white Universal movies (they had a great way of lighting that took full effect of the huge sets and the dark shadows they cast), great lab scenes, and a good, well directed story. A doctor who has been doing similar experiments as Dr. Frankenstein wants to create a mate for the monster, who survived the fire at the end of the first film. Aside from some silly, dated 'scientific' mumbo-jumbo and some very silly creations made by this other scientist, the movie is very good. (The campy old maid is a little over the top though.) I think the Monster's looks might have been softened a little to make him more sympathetic, but it still works. Colin Clive gets to work in his famous "It's alive... alive!" line again too. Look for a lot of Christ-figure imagery associated with the Monster in this one, amplifying Dr. Frankenstein's roll of God. A+.

Dracula's Daughter (1936)- This movie picks up right where "Dracula" left off, with Dracula being killed. We then learn Dracula had a daughter and she's hoping that with the death of her father she may be free from the curse of being a vampire. She ceremonially burns Dracula's body and looks forward to being free while a love triangle (or maybe love square) develops. Plot-wise it is an interesting approach but I have to admit I hated this one. Dracula's Daughter's assistant is nice and creepy but the rest of the movie pretty much plods along in an uninteresting, slow way. D-.

Son of Frankenstein (1939)- Dr. Frankenstein's son returns to his father's old house, much to the chagrin of the local villagers. He soon finds out that his father's monster is still alive, but not doing so well. Does he destroy the monster and move on, or does he help him and make him a man? Mankind's ego and refusal to accept nature's roll and control are, as always, the theme here. Still, the atmosphere works, the sets are impressive, the acting very good (even a nice performance by the Monster's 'friend' Ygor, played with uncharacteristic restraint by Bela Lugosi). Nice revenge subplot too. Look for the police chief, which seems to me to be where Peter Sellers got his Dr. Strangelove character. Plus, they do a little play on the "It's alive" line made famous in the first two Frankenstein movies. This is the last time Boris Karloff would play the Monster he helped create. A+.

The Mummy's Hand (1940)- Everything that was wrong with a lot of old horror movies is crammed into one movie. And that movie is "The Mummy's Hand". Rotten acting, rotten, 'comedy' relief, silly plot, terrible sets, and "Just mail me my paycheck" directing. Some guys need money, one likes a girl, somebody raises a mummy, attempts at people acting scared, mummy gets girl, guy saves girl, and all is well. All ain't well as Universal was in a tailspin after creating such great horror flicks in the 30s. F.

Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)- Like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees of today, you can't keep a good monster down (and you get to see where many of Jason's resurrections were stolen from). Maybe they should stay down though. Not nearly as strong as the first three Frankenstein movies, Lon Chaney Jr. takes the roll of the monster, and while he's impressive, he lacks the character and tragedy Karloff was able to bring to the role. The plot? Well, Frankenstein's other son finds out that his father's monster is still alive, but not doing so well. Does he destroy the monster and move on, or does he help him and make him a man? Mankind's ego and refusal to accept nature's roll and control are, as always, the theme here. Sound familiar? Too much silly 'scientific explanations' and things like brain transplants for this to really work. Lugosi returns as Ygor though and saves the picture from being total train wreck. C.

Mummy's Tomb, The (1942)- For the first ten minutes or so we are subjected to a flash back to the events from "The Mummy's Hand". I'm not sure when that movie was supposed to have taken place but this one is supposed to be 30 years later which would put it at the very least sometime in the 50s. But Universal, while trying to keep some continuity to their Monster Movies didn't care about much else. The Mummy is just too hard to come up with an original story I guess so they keep telling the same one, which is just a variant of the Dracula story, over and over. Here an Egyptian priest moves the mummy to New England to exact his revenge on those who disturbed the tomb in "The Mummy's Hand". Lon Chaney Jr. takes his turn as the mummy after playing The Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein already. He sucked as the mummy too. Still it was better than "The Mummy's Hand". D-

Son of Dracula (1943)- Lon Chaney Jr. plays Dracula this time out. Lon Chaney Jr. shouldn't play Dracula. I think the director knew that because he's not in the film much at all. Dracula moves to America at the request of a woman who is into the occult. It starts out slow and then slows down more, but if you hang in there we find out why she invited the good Count to begin with and the plot turns out to be pretty good. The effects are pretty good in this one too, considering the age of course, and some scenes have that elusive atmosphere. C+.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)- I know what you're thinking; why the Hell would I even watch a movie called "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man"? Wouldn't it be everything that I hate about modern horror movie sequels? Bad acting, bad effects, silly plot, rehashed original story in a watered down sequel? Well yes and no. I have a weakness for those old horror flicks, especially the Universal Monsters, which is what this is. This time Bela Lugosi is Frankenstein's monster (he played a were-wolf in The Wolf Man and of course Dracula so he's done the Big Three) and Lon Cheney Jr. returns as the Wolf-Man. He needs to visit Dr. Frankenstein to help him with his little full moon problem; instead of finding the Dr. he finds the castle in ruins and the monster stuck in the basement. Yeah it's silly, but it's also good stuff for those that like this sort of thing. The acting is actually pretty good (Lugosi is an over-the-top Monster, as should be expected though) and the effects, especially the lab scenes are great (of course the wolf transformation leaves a lot to be desired after seeing An American Werewolf In London and The Howling, but hey, it was the 40s). If you like the genre you'll like this, if not you probably won't. I give it a D+.

Return of the Vampire (1944)- Lugosi's first part as a 'real' vampire since 1931'2 Dracula. For the most part this movie works (it was supposed to be basically a sequel to Dracula but Columbia couldn't get the rights to the name from Universal). Professor Armand Tesla who many years before studied vampirism and then became one after death. He is killed in 1918 and staked down but a German bomb during a WWII London blitz uncovers his grave and some workers remove the stake, thinking it is shrapnel, and Tesla returns to exact his revenge on the family of the woman who helped stake him years before. There is some good atmosphere created here and the plot is fairly original and I think I liked this one more than most reviews I've read. There are a few problems but it is a classic old school vampire flick. One problem, Tesla's 'familiar' is some sort of slave werewolf which is silly. I guess Columbia was chasing the success Universal had had combining there monsters in movies like "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man", which also starred Bela as The Monster. B+.

Mummy's Ghost, The (1944)- Same movie different title. Egyptian priest wants mummy, mummy rises, finds reincarnated princes, kidnaps her etc. Over, and sometimes under acted this movie pretty much sucks. These mummy movies are just plain bad. It is amazing how quickly they dropped off too. The first one is great but the rest were all bad. I will give this one a slightly higher mark as it didn't end the way I expected. C-.

Mummy's Curse, The (1944)- OK, this movie is a direct sequel to "The Mummy Ghost" and supposedly takes place 25 years later, which I figure would put it at the very least in 1975. They didn't even bother to try and make it look like it was in the future but that's probably a good thing. They would've had people flying around with jet packs and a colony on the moon if they would've. Nope, it's 25 years after the last movie, which was a sequel to "The Mummy's Tomb" which supposedly took place 30 years after "The Mummy's Hand". Anyway, some government engineers decide to drain the swamp the mummy disappeared into at the end of the last movie and that brings around an archeologist and his Egyptian assistant. They want to find the body of the mummy, but alas, the Egyptian really wants to wake the mummy and let him wreak a little havoc while looking for his princess, who has already risen sans tana leaves. Another weak and barely coherent entry into the mummy saga, thankfully it is the last. I'll give it a D+ since I'm feeling generous today.

House of Frankenstein (1944)- Universal Horror was fast becoming a caricature of itself by this point. Formula plots, silly excuses to bring the monsters back, and working in characters from the other franchises. And yet, at least for fans of the studios horror films, it works on some level. Boris Karloff returns not as the Monster, but as a mad scientist bent on continuing Dr. Frankenstein's work, and of course getting in some revenge along the way. A nice idea having Karloff resurrect the monster and some nice irony at the end. The actors took the material serious enough to make it work and the plot moves along nicely. The lab scenes were a little disappointing after the great lab scene from "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman." Another thing about these Universal Monster movies is the attention to continuity they observe. All the details from the previous movies are there and worked in (except one example, at the end of "The Ghost of Frankenstein", the monster becomes blind, and he's blind in "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman", however here he isn't). Other than that, for the most part each movie picks right up where the last one left off. Glenn Strange plays the Monster in this film and, although I'm not sure, it seems Herman Munster may have been fashioned from his version. It deserves a D+ but I'll give this one a C+ because I liked Karloff's character.

House of Dracula (1945)- Let's see. Genius doctor thinks he can help all the Monsters (Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster). He comes up with a plan, implements said plan, and things go awry. So much for Universal's continuity. I was wondering how they'd get around some of the events from "House of Frankenstein", they must have wondered to because they didn't bother trying. Having said all that, this flick was actually fairly strong. John Carradine returns as Dracula and has a good performance, Lon Chaney Jr. is again the Wolfman and is his usual 'not bad not great' self. Glenn Strange returns as the Monster. He must not have been good because the two times he plays the Monster he only shows up in the last 2 or 3 minutes to reek a little havoc. Still, over all not a bad ending for the classic Universal Monsters (although they would later appear in the lamentable "Abbott and Costello Meet..." series). C+.

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)- Hammer's first foray into horror and already they got it right. Peter Cushing is the overly ambitious Victor Frankenstein who inherits a fortune at a young age and hires a tutor who eventually becomes his lab assistant. They dabble in resurrecting the dead and then come across a way to make it work. And of course, Frankenstein goes too far and Christopher Lee as the Monster is created. Ego, edginess, science, and insanity are explored in this effective rewrite of the story. Hammer also set the standard for use of color, great sets, costumes, directing, writing, and acting in horror movies with this flick. If you like the Frankenstein story and dig Hammer films and haven't seen this one then it is a must see. Plain great old school story telling. A+.

The Horror of Dracula (1958)- By modern horror movie standards this is a slow mover but remove genre tags and look at this as just the telling of a story (which we should do with all movies anyway), and I think you have a really good one. Apart from the battle between Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula (good and evil) this movie follows little of Stoker's original novel. It's not a retelling but a rewriting of it and it comes across as being a very original and fresh interpretation of the story. Jonathan Harker goes to Castle Dracula as a librarian, there to sort and check Count Dracula's massive collection of books, or so we are told. We soon realize that Harker is undercover and knows who, or what, Dracula really is. When his plans go awry and Dracula begins looking for revenge, Dr. Van Helsing enters the fray. This was one of Hammer's early horror movies and it again showcases the great Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who were both on their way to horror movie infamy. Hammer proved that you could have a great story, great direction, great sets, and great acting, all on a budget. A-.

Return of Dracula, The (1958)- This is more or less a remake of Hitchcock’s ‘Shadow of Doubt’. A somewhat bored family is excited when a cousin from the Balkans comes to stay. Little do they know that cousin was killed and his identity taken by none other than Dracula, who the authorities have been hunting for many years. This is an early attempt at putting the Dracula mythos into modern times and it sort of works. It is hokey at times and while he did a good job, I felt the guy playing Dracula wasn’t well cast. Really nothing is added to the story so we really just get a retelling of Dracula set in 1950s America. Hammer would cement Dracula back in his own times and in the process make a much better movie at about the same time. But this is short and paced pretty well so I’ll give it a C+ for being ‘quaint’ and very much a product of its times.

Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)- Classic sequel to Hammer’s "Curse of Frankenstein", here we find the good doctor about to be executed. Of course he has made a deal with one of the executioner and heads off to continue his work under the name Dr. Stein. He helps the poor (for spare parts of course), and takes a young eager doctor in as his assistant. The man who helped him escape needs a new body, and he gets one as the doc won’t back out of a deal, but the man’s eagerness to try out his new digs gets everyone in trouble. Peter Cushing is great again as Frankenstein, sitting somewhere between evil and sympathetic he pushes the doctor’s ambition to new lengths, and Hammer’s original take on the story works really well. The look and feel of these Hammer flicks is just great. Some of the lab scenes are goofy, like the eyes floating in the aquarium (check it out to see what I mean), but I’m pretty sure that was done tongue in cheek anyway. A

The Mummy (1959)- In the late 50s Hammer was making a name for itself redoing Universal Monster movies from the 30s. They weren't just re-filming them though they were rewriting them as well. After a pretty creative take on Dracula and a very creative remake of Frankenstein they tackled The Mummy. Christopher Lee was again the monster and Peter Cushing again the hero, and despite this it didn't feel formulaic. The indoor sets and the color of these early Hammer films is second to none (the 'outdoor' sets leave a little to be desired except maybe the swamp scene) and again the story is very creative. An Egyptian priest is having an affair with a princess; when she dies during a journey he ignores protocol and has her buried where she died rather than where she reigned. He is then caught attempting to revive her and is sentenced to be buried alive with her and protect her for eternity. 4000 years later English archeologists have the unfortunate luck of finding her tomb and being the first to disturb it. Lee and Cushing always take their roles very seriously and deliver whatever dialogue is asked with them like the professionals they are. If you like Mummy movies, and I don't, you'll like this one. B.

Brides of Dracula, The (1960)- Pretty classic Hammer material; Great sets, great acting, great use of vivid color, Hammer didn't skimp in those days. Dracula was killed... several times, and is still dead (not undead) throughout this movie (in other words Christopher Lee said "No") so the plot has Cushing's Van Helsing pursuing a vampire who has been chained up in his room by his own mother and kept alive by the blood of young traveling woman, and now has escaped thanks to one of those women. The vampire is so happy that he's asked her to marry him. It's a fairly original take on the legend and it works for the most part. The fight scenes are poorly staged and apparently flying bat special effects technology went nowhere from the 1930s to the 1960s but those are small issues. B-

Evil of Frankenstein, The (1964)- Hammer did make Frankenstein out to be one evil cat except in The Evil of Frankenstein where he's suddenly a misunderstood scientist. Frankenstein is again run out of town so this time he returns to the original town he was run out of to start his experiments again in his own castle, which has been looted but good by the locals. Luckily he stumbles across his old monster (this movie has no continuity with the older Hammer Frankenstein movies). This movie has the usual good Hammer productions and Peter Cushing does his usual professional work as the Dr. but it ends up being a let down. The monster is a pale copy of Jack Pierce's Universal make up and never really produces any feelings of horror or sympathy. The Frankenstein mythos is just so much harder to work with than the Dracula/Vampire mythos. C-.

Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)- Hammer revisits the mummy legend, this time without Cushing or Lee. It’s basically the same story as pretty much every other mummy story, Egyptologists find a tomb, disturb it, are cursed, die at the hands of a mummy. This time out an American is funding the research. Once the tomb is found he plans on taking the artifacts out on tour with his circus, which doesn’t sit too well with the Egyptians, or the archeologists either. Of course we know that the mummy won’t be having any of that anyway. The twist at the end was a nice change in the story, even though you’ll know pretty early on who the ‘bad guy’ is. This wasn’t a bad entry in the Hammer cycle, a little slow starting and the mummy makeup was effective, but I still kept feeling like I’d seen it all before, which I more or less had since all mummy movies are more or less the same. C

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)- The villagers still won't go to church and why? Because Dracula's Castle's shadow falls on their church in the evening. But Dracula has been killed everyone knows that. Well the monsignor will have no more of this. He forces the local village priest to go with him up to the castle to bless it and place a large cross on the door. Man does that plan backfire. As the title suggests, Dracula rises from the grave and is pretty pissed to find that big cross on his front door. The monsignor must pay for that one. And what better way to do it than take his eye candy niece? Pretty effective Dracula story and Christopher Lee hits his stride as Dracula. B.

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)- The good doctor keeps having his experiments messed up by people and now the police are hot on his trail again. He takes on another alias and moves in a boarding house to lay low, but ego and good fortune (or other's misfortune) get him again and open the door for more experiments. This time he must save a colleague, who was into the same experiments, from insanity and the insane asylum. He must do this by performing a brain transplant. A very original and well-acted extension of the Frankenstein story. It goes without saying that the monster is actually Frankenstein, not, well, The Monster, which isn't in this one anyway. If you like Hammer films you'll really like this one. A.

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)- Some old pretend to be pious rich guys are getting tired of the limited thrills visits to the local whore house can afford them. They want some real thrills so they enlist the help of the local disowned ex-royal brat who is known to run with some devil worshipping types. He comes up with a great plan, raise the Prince of Darkness himself, Dracula, from the dead. He knows how to do it too. With the help of some stuff from the last movie in the franchise (nice tie in). The old pretend to be pious rich guys bale before the ceremony is completed and the local disowned ex-royal brat dies. Dracula does come back though in a pretty effective scene and is pretty pissed that those guys left his servant to die. How to get back at them. Hhmmm... How about taking their eye candy daughters. That should do it. Actually I thought this was one of the more effective Dracula/Hammer films. Despite the material the participants take their parts very seriously and it all just works for me. Nice Hammer color and sets too. A-.

Horror of Frankenstein, The (1970)- Hammer was trying to restart the Frankenstein series here with a new Frankenstein, a new monster, and a new approach. The camp was quite a bit higher in this one and Frankenstein was a young rebel who liked to surround himself with pretty girls, and wasn’t above getting them ‘in trouble’. He was also a single minded brilliant sadist/scientist. His father refuses to allow him to go to university, so he kills his father and heads off to school, where he gets in some trouble, but also learns enough to move back home and continue his anatomy experiments. Paying highly for fresh body parts from the local grave robber, shacking up with the help, and trying to stay above the slowly building pile of bodies is how he fills his time until he eventually makes his monster, complete with damaged brain (remember Whale’s original?), an almost uncontrollable Hulk-like beast. This is a fun take on the story and kept me interested. It is a tad slow moving at times and we don’t really get a monster until the end and when he does arrive there’s not much development there. Still, the good acting, camp, and black humor worked for me as did the almost goofy ending. B+

Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)- Lon Chaney Jr’s final film, I was never a big Lon Chaney Jr. fan but still, I hate to see someone go out like this! This is a total train wreck... But to be fair it is a good train wreck. Make that a GREAT train wreck! This is one of the best worst films I’ve seen in a long time. Dracula needs a serum to make him stronger, he hunts down Dr. Frankenstein, who is hiding out and conducting his experiments under the cover of a carnival sideshow manager. His runs a pretty crummy, and tiny show, which gives him time to pump serums he derives from frightened girls who have been decapitated and reanimated into his assistant Bruno. Dracula, who in keeping with the times has grown his hair out into a nice jewfro and sports a goatee, needs some of that, but the sister of one of the doctor’s victims aims to find out what is going on. I don’t know even where to begin, the unhip hippies, the crazed bikers, Dracula’s very odd reverberating voice, his lightning shooting death ring, the soundtrack, the drug induced scenes, the parts that were obviously just spliced in here and there. If you love them bad then this is a must see! A+ on the craptacular scale.

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974)- Hammer’s last foray into the Frankenstein character and they bring it to a close on a pretty strong note. Here we find the baron living nicely in an insane asylum. There are plenty of test subjects in a place like that, and luckily, a bright new assistant too. The baron has some dirt on the asylum’s director so he pretty much has the run of the place and has been building a new man, with his usual ‘science first’ completely emotionless approach. Peter Cushing had perfected this part and plays it perfectly straight here for the last time. B+

Satanic Rites of Dracula, The (1974)- I've read so much bad about these later Hammer flicks that my expectations were really low, so naturally I liked it. I think this is an underrated movie. Yeah, the plot is convoluted espionage 70s James Bond hokum and the terribly dated music reflects that angle but it still worked pretty well. Yeah, it is an excuse to get some damsels in distress and for another face off between Dracula and Van Helsing so at the end of the day there is nothing really new but it is an OK take on the characters. Dracula has enlisted the help of some scientists as he has decided to destroy the world with a new and more deadly strain of the black plague. But won't that kill Dracula too since there will be no food? Van Helsing thinks that just may be Dracula's plan. There are some odd senseless devil worshipping scenes complete with naked lady alter, probably to generate some controversy and free hype thrown in for good 70s measure. And another thing you really notice from these Hammer vampire stories. These vampires have a TON of weaknesses. I mean really all you have to do is pick up a couple twigs and hold them up in a cross and DON'T DROP THEM! Or have some silver, or garlic, or sunlight, or holy water, or ... A B+ may be generous but that's what I'm giving it since I expected total crap and got a decent story.

Halloween (1978)- I caught this on Scifi awhile back so it was edited for content but I've seen both versions several times. I can't add anything that hasn't been said about this movie. Simply put it is a classic and, in my opinion, the best slasher flick I've seen. Michael kills his sister when he is very young and is put in an institution. Several years later he escapes and Dr. Loomis pursues because he knows Michael is really the embodiment of evil. Michael returns home to terrorize his old neighborhood. Everything about this movie works from the acting, to the directing, to the scares, to the music. A+.

Nosferatu: The Vampyre (1979)- Remake of the classic silent flick, this is a slowly paced moody flick to be sure. If you want action, gore, and fast pace then this might not be for you, but if you are looking for a really heavy and strange atmosphere with your horror then look no further! It is a fairly straight retelling of the Dracula story and I really dug it. Yeah some of the artsy surreal shots got a little long in the tooth as it went (not sorry) but if you like weird, slowly paced, atmospheric Euro-horror then check this one out! A+.

Dracula (1979): This film sits between Lugosi's 1932 Dracula and Oldman's 1992 Dracula both chronologically and thematically. It is a very good, albeit at times dated, variation on the theme. It follows the book closely and the acting, sets, and atmosphere work pretty well. There are some 70s effects and 70s looks here and there but over all a pretty faithful adaptation of the story. The acting from Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasance, and others is good and believable, Dracula's acting is good also but he had kind of a 'disco era' feel to him, which didn't help, overall a strong B.

Halloween II (1981)- Although it doesn’t compare to the fall off between "The Exorcist" and "The Exorcist II", there is still a fairly big fall off between this and the original. Michael Myers is still an effective character and hasn’t become the cartoon he would eventually become and there are some effective moments but it all seems to be rehash of the original but without the intense suspense. Once we know a character like Michael Myers the surprise is gone and the overall effectiveness is lost, so we wind up with gore replacing suspense (despite its reputation there is virtually no gore in "Halloween"). Plot-wise we pick right up where "Halloween" left off. The bodies are discovered, Lori is whisked off to the hospital, cops quell the masses, and Michael kills more folks as he heads off to try and finish the job on Lori. There is some unintentional humor in spots like the boy being run over by the police car, which also lessons the overall horror of the movie. The subplot of Michael and Lori being brother and sister is revealed and an unnecessary and unexplored pagan element is added with Michael’s writing "Samhain" on the black board of a school he’s broken into. Not a bad effort, especially when compared to the terrible slasher flicks which followed closely on its heels, but still nowhere near as effective as the first. B.

Halloween III (1982)- Halloween III wasn't actually part of the "Halloween" franchise.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)- It doesn’t take too long (sequel wise) for a genuinely effective character and story line to go down the tubes. Michael Myers here becomes more of a punch line than a legit horror character as he escapes, yet again, the day before Halloween, yet again, kills some folks, yet again, and heads off to Haddonfield, yet again. This time though he’s hunting a little girl who happens to be his niece. Michael hates his family! Dr. Loomis shows up talking about the embodiment of evil again, rednecks go on the hunt, kids play pranks, seen it all before. This movie fails to create any atmosphere or convincing scares and even Michael Myers comes off as kind of a cartoon character with his bright white ineffective new mask. The only thing is some of the acting actually isn’t bad. Still, I give this an F.

Friday the 13th (1980)- Move the town-with-a-secret movie to a campground and you have a whole new movie to make. Jason was a freak and the camp counselors made fun of him. Then he drowned in the lake and they closed Camp Crystal Lake. Then, some time later, they reopened Camp Crystal Lake and sure enough, revenge is exacted on kids that had nothing to do with the Camp Crystal Lake back in the day. This was an OK movie, but not very original. The twist at the end got me the first time I watched it but I was pretty young so I don't know if it would work on me now (if I hadn't seen it before). Jason is a pretty good horror movie character but (PLOT SPOILER AHEAD) he isn't actually even in this movie and I'm pretty sure this one is responsible for more terrible sequels than any horror movie franchise, but I can't blame this one movie for all those train wrecks. Aside from creating a great character this franchise has little to offer. C.

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1984)- SD and I snuck into the theatre to catch this one. Those were the days! Freddie is pissed; some neighborhood parents killed him for some goings on in the boiler room. He's determined to get at their kids somehow, so he invades their dreams (and pretty much everything else too), and wreaks more havoc in the neighborhood than he could have otherwise. Yeah it's more teens in trouble fluff but it is an original take on the genre and has some genuine scares. Not as good as Halloween but better than Friday the 13th. A-.

Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge, A (1985)- I went into this expecting total crap and, for the first few minutes, that’s exactly what I got. But once this one got going I was pleasantly surprised. Freddy comes off as a very serious and sinister character in this one. The refreshing original take on the slasher subgenre from the first Elm Street is gone and sure the plot, Freddy uses the new kid who just moved into ‘the house on Elm Street’ as a way to get back into the physical world and kill more kids, is fairly weak, as is some of the acting and low budget effects, but over all this isn’t a bad entry in the franchise, strange homoerotic overtones notwithstanding. B-.

Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors (1987)- Nightmare on Elm Street II was a pretty weak entry after the breakout of the first one, here a little redemption was shot for, and they came fairly close to the mark. We learn a little more about Freddie (the offspring of a thousand maniacs), and a little more supernatural element is added. The premise is a group of kids who are related to the parents who killed Freddie are under attack in their dreams and put in an asylum to work through their various problems since no one believes the boogeyman is out to get them. There are few if any true scares in this one, it’s basically the stuff you’d expect and as I’ve said before once a figure like Freddie becomes ‘known’ he’s just not scary anymore so instead he becomes an odd anti-hero. Still, I liked this one OK for what it is. B-

Nightmare on Elm Street 5: Dream Child (1989)- You gotta give’em credit for trying anyway. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was one of my favorite horror movies and it introduced such a great character in Freddie, but the sequels, while not horrible, still just don’t really hold up to the original. Freddie just kind of became a cartoon character, but all in all that’s OK I guess. This is really just more or less a remake of the original anyway, with a girl, this time with a former alcoholic for a dad, and a bunch of other dysfunctional teens, fighting Freddie. Throw in a pregnancy angle and more references to Freddie’s origins and you have the whole movie. Freddie just seems to get more and more insanely powerful in these sequels too. Anyway, I didn’t hate it, but when you see a ‘5’ in the title you pretty much know what to expect. C+.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)- Some people really hate this movie. To them I say "Screw You!" maybe the sexual angle was over played a little, or then again, maybe it wasn't. It depends on your interpretation of the Dracula story. All said and done this movie follows the book pretty closely and, in my humble opinion, works. The acting is great (except Keanu who damn near ruins it with his terrible attempt at an English accent) and the directing is brilliant. (Man, hardcore critics will hate me for this one I bet.) I love the minimalist sets and the frequent nods to the Browning/Lugosi "Dracula". It is after all, really just "Romeo and Juliet" in the horror mold. A+.

Halloween (2007)- "Why oh why" comes to mind when considering a remake of one of my favorite horror films. But I gave "Dawn of the Dead" a shot and ended up really liking it so maybe that would happen again. So did it? Well, this story more or less follows Carpenter’s "Halloween" pretty closely. The body count is higher, the graphic violence more brutal, and the gore more prevalent (the original, despite its reputation contained very little gore). You should know what you’re getting at a Rob Zombie movie, and aren’t all of his movies basically remakes... or re-imaginings ("House of 1000 Corpses" is basically "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Devil’s Rejects" is basically "The Hills Have Eyes") so at least you do know this time. The movie delves much more deeply into Michael Myers’ background as a youth, how disturbed he was and what helped push him over the edge. He has an abusive step dad, abusive bully classmates, a stripper mom who loves him but who he is embarrassed of, and a sister who treats him like crap. He takes his feelings of helplessness out on animals, which triggers a red flag with his school and they call in child psychologist Dr. Loomis. Too late. Michael beats a bully classmate to death (we assume) then later that night kills his step dad (or mother’s boyfriend, whatever), sister, and sister’s boyfriend. He’s placed in the asylum under the care of Dr. Loomis, and each day gets more and more distant, until, as an adult... Well, you probably know the rest, and from here it follows Carpenter very closely. To make up for the longer act 1, act 2 is compressed, which is sad as we’re left with no character development, despite some pretty good, albeit stereotypical, character development in act 1. Sure, if you’re a fan you already know the characters, but it would be good to get to know them ‘now’. And then, by the final act everything starts to unravel as we’re thrown into "The night He came home" with little or no preparation and all the suspense that had been built up throughout the early part of the movie falls kind of flat and we’re subjected to yet another modern horror movie chase scene which seems to last way too long. So the bottom-line? Those into the Michael mythos should really like the treatment of it throughout the first 2/3rds of the movie; it worked really well for me. But maybe it should have just ended there. After we go back to Haddonfield the movie just looses steam and can’t hold up to the atmosphere and suspense that made the original so damned good. I’ll give it a B- because it was well done until the final act and the use of much of the original music was great as was the same use of old movies like "The Thing" and a little "White Zombie" being watched as well.


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