There’s never a bad time to watch horror movies, but the anticipation of Halloween makes October a great month to binge watch them. As long as you’re spending this month watching horror movies, why not make your way through entire series? Horror franchises made it into the double digits long before Star Wars and Marvel did.
Here are some of the biggest horror movie franchises you should consider for your Halloween movie watching. Each series takes a unique approach to continuing the story while still delivering the scares and violence fans expect. We’ll go in alphabetical order so as not to show favoritism.
Invite Chucky over for Halloween
There are seven actual Chucky movies all written by Don Mancini. The first three are called Child’s Play. Then it’s Bride, Seed, Curse and Cult of Chucky. A movie called Child’s Play came out this year but it is not part of this series. The real Chucky is getting his own TV show.
Chucky the killer doll always had funny one liners but Bride and Seed are the most comedic films in the series. They still have gory kills though. Whether being self-referential or playing it straight, each Chucky movie adds a new layer to Chucky’s mythology too so it’s worth watching the entire series to see which favorite characters pop up again..
‘Critters’ includes a streaming series and TV movie now
The Critters franchise has had an interesting life. The original Critters was a fun Gremlins knock-off that spawned a theatrical sequel. The sequel bombed so the Crites went straight to video in the early ‘90s. Straight to video meant cheap back then, but Critters 3 has a young Leonardo DiCaprio and 4 has Angela Bassett, and also was an early adopter of sending a horror franchise into space.
The Crites took a few decades off but just this year they came back twice. Shudder released the digital series Critters: A New Binge. Meanwhile, Critters Attack! Will air on Syfy but is now available on home video first! Critters Attack brings back Dee Wallace, while A New Binge is more comedic.
Anything goes in ‘Final Destination’
There are five Final Destination films and they’re all great. The premise is infinitely creative. Someone has a vision of a deadly disaster and saves their friends from it. But death still comes for them using elaborate chain reactions In normal environments to kill them.
Each Final Destination is full of clever and terrifying set pieces that will make you paranoid in your own home and everywhere you go. Two are directed by the late great David R. Ellis too.
The old standby ‘Friday the 13th’
At one point Friday the 13th series led the pack with the most sequels. Even having two Final Chapters couldn’t stop it. The series is currently stalled after the remake, which is the 12th film featuring Jason Vorhees. If you think every Friday the 13th movie is the same, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by some of the nuance in the sequels.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives has a sly sense of humor and Jason X is almost a spoof. V: The New Blood was the first sequel to follow a “Final Chapter” and made a valiant effort which not all fans approved. Even the straightforward slasher entries each make creative use of the scenario of a killer stalking people in the woods (or on a boat or a spaceship.)
Halloween is going to outpace Friday the 13th when Jamie Lee Curtis finishes Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. The Halloween series probably tried the most diverse approaches after the original to try to make it work and you can see all the attempts now.
Halloween II was a straight continuation with Jamie Lee Curtis. III was a separate standalone. 4-6 are a trilogy they tried to make when Curtis wasn’t doing horror anymore, and they finally go off the rails with 6.
H2O is the one where Curtis came back after becoming a huge blockbuster star. It’s more of a summer movie event than a horror movie. She came back for one more cameo in Halloween Resurrection which I’m in the minority for liking. Any movie that gives us Busta Rhymes kickboxing Michael Myers is all right in my book.
Rob Zombie remade Halloween and then made a sequel to it. Then Curtis came back again to start this new trilogy.
Less than half of the ‘Hellraiser’ franchise is worth watching
If you’re going to watch Hellraiser I recommend sticking to the four theatrical releases. Sometimes straight to video sequels can be fun and creative but the Hellraiser sequels were really just random stories where Pinhead (Doug Bradley)) showed up once or twice.
Pinhead and the cenobites were a possible heir to Freddy and Jason’s throne, but they never quite inherited it. The first two films are very Clive Barker exploring the horror of sexual pleasure and pain, and literally ripping the flesh off bodies. If you solve the Lament Configuration puzzle box, chains hook into your skin and Pinhead takes you to hell.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth explores more of Pinhead’s backstory and invents brand new cenobites. Hellraiser: Bloodline is more ambitious than effective but I can’t help loving a movie that ties in the Lament Configuration’s creator in the past with a spaceship in the future.
Have an Irish Halloween with ‘Leprechaun’
There were six Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis. Each one brought the Leprechaun to a new location so he had fun with those venues. He went to The Hood twice but that’s still five different locations. 2 is my favorite because it’s LA.
There’s also a reboot Leprechaun Origins and the latest, Leprechaun Returns ties back in to the original series.
Stay up on Halloween night watching ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’
Wes Craven creates a brilliant monster in Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a killer who haunts your dreams and uses your worst fears against you. Each sequel added a bit to Freddy’s mythology but the heart of a Freddy movie is that a group of teenagers have to face their greatest fears, and the ones who are brave enough to survive aren’t the ones you might think. The martial artist and wizard can’t beat Freddy, but the shy girl you never paid attention to has the strength to win.
And yet, Freddy always comes back. That’s also a relatable fact of life. You can overcome your fears once, but there will either be new ones or the old ones will come back stronger. I never minded the funny Freddy movies. I think the concept of dreams that kill you is outrageous so they can be macabre, or even cartoonish. Yet Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is a poignant meditation on the importance of our fears and monsters, and I think Englund is his most theatrical in Freddy vs. Jason.
The surprise hit that became the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise
There are six Pararnomal Activity films you could watch this Halloween. The original was an exercise in minimalism. How scary could you make home video footage where you don’t see any monsters? Pretty darn scary it turns out.
Each sequel tried interesting new things with the format and the timeline. Two took place before 1 and 3 before 2. 3 has the most impressive paranormal tricks in a single take of security footage.
Explore the depths of the ‘Saw’ story
The Saw franchise could have easily cranked out sequels with more traps and kills. It’s admirable that way one always continued the morality of Jigsaw, continued the mystery and still had a twist in the end. VI and VII are a stretch but they still tried. They never phoned it in.
Watching all eight Saw movies in a row might make it easier to follow the timeline. There are plentiful flashbacks and some sequels take place entirety before their predecessors. Or maybe you’ll find out they don’t really add up but it’s still be fun.
Have a ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ for Halloween
There are technically eight Texas Chainsaw movies if you count the remake and it’s prequel, and the latest Leatherface. The original is the classic of course. It changed what a horror movie could be. Tobe Hooper returned for the first sequel, a more polished but wilder and more absurd follow-up.
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III was the big studio version that’s sort of watered down, especially the ending. Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre aka Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation has Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger but don’t get your hopes up. It’s no fun.
The remake and its sequel are the grimy, gritty versions. That’s where horror was in the ‘00s. Texas Chainsaw 3D brings the franchise back to the original timeline, and it’s solid. It has a good ending. I never saw the new Leatherface.
The biggest horror franchise of all, the Universal Monsters
If you watched one Universal Monster movie a day you would have had to start on October 1 because there are over 30 of them. Fortunately, two or more a night is doable because most of them are really short, some barely over an hour.
You’ve got several entries from each monster to choose from: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, The Mummy and even a Phantom of the Opera. There are the classics like Bride of Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, but it’s interesting to see how Universal cranked out new angles on their lucrative characters.
You even get to see some of the big actors switch roles. Lon Chaney, Jr. played both The Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster. Bela Lugosi played Dracula and Ygor. Boris Karloff played the monster and Dr. Jekyll.
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