HORROR FRANCHISE HOLY TRINITY: RANKED

There’s been several horror franchises over the years but none had the weight in the context of the time they were released (and now revered) as these three – Halloween, Friday the 13th and my personal favorite, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Before I got into pretentious Criterion shit, I was an insatiable horror hound from ages nine to thirteen. I remember making my mom take me to a Blockbuster 20 minutes away from our house because it was the closest one that carried A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and 3, the only two I hadn’t seen of the franchise. I loved watching these movies on VHS, the excitement I’d feel rounding the corner to the horror section is almost indescribable. Even the bad entries I watched over and over and over again.

As I grew older I realized most were objectively bad movies, but I didn’t care. I still don’t. I watch all of these movies (the ones released pre-2000) almost annually, gaining absolutely nothing new out of them other than a fresh nostalgia trip, straight up the veins.

This is my definitive ranking of all 32 entries of all three franchises. It’s based partly on me attempting to be objective as well as my weird personal preferences. This may be a polarizing list for some of you loser-ass nerds, so please, if you disagree, let me know as disrespectfully as possible. I can take it and I love to argue.

32. Halloween: Resurrection

2002 / USA / dir. Rick Rosenthal / 89 minutes

cast: Busta Rhymes, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bianca Kajilich, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tyra Banks, Katee Sackhoff, Daisy McCrackin, Luke Kirby, Brad Loree

The worst of the worst, Halloween: Resurrection is one of those rare films that manages to be both completely bizarre and completely dull at the same time. It seems like a bad teen horror movie slasher about this weird new thing they call the internet that Dimension Films sloppily repurposed as a Halloween film. The cast is comprised of a mix of good and bad actors all delivering universally poor and lazy performances and some of the least effective kills of any of these three franchises. In the first ten minutes, they kill off Jamie Lee Curtis‘ Laurie Strode in a way that makes her character seem stupid and weak, a complete slap to the face of the way things were left in Halloween H20, and don’t even get me started on Busta Rhymes. If there was ever a more unnatural performance in a horror film I haven’t seen it, he manages to fuck up every comedic line his character gets and proves absolutely incapable of navigating a genuine moment. His would-be slapstick with Michael Myers also lessens the threat of Myers. There is nothing redeeming about Halloween: Resurrection. (Streaming on AMC+)

31. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

1993 / USA / dir. Adam Marcus / 88 minutes / 90 minutes (Unrated Director’s Cut)

cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Allison Smith, Kane Hodder, Leslie Jordan, Rusty Schwimmer, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Richard Gant

A Friday the 13th movie so miscalculated in regard to what it thinks audiences actually want from these movies, that anything resembling Jason or a hockey mask gets exploded in the first five minutes. After J.V. gets blown to bits, the spirit of the legendary killer hops into the mortician who proceeds to eat Jason’s heart and murder a bunch of guards on his way out the door. He then ties a guy to a table and spreads shaving cream on his face while making out with him while the Jason spirit transfers into the guy’s body. And so on, and so on. John D. Lemay (the lead actor from the Friday the 13th television series) plays a new character here and he’s far and away the most hateable protagonist in this series, a creep so obnoxious that every time he opens his mouth you want to slap it. The character, not the actor, though Lemay‘s performance probably didn’t help. This one is also the most gratuitously violent by a country mile, there’s a scene where two people having sex get ripped in half by a street sign and you see every part of their body separating. Bring the kids! (Streaming on HBOMax)

30. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

1991 / USA / dir. Rachel Talalay / 89 minutes

cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Yaphet Kotto, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Dean, Breckin Meyer, Ricky Dean Logan, Roseanne Barr, Tom Arnold, Johnny Depp

I loved this movie as a child and it’s easy to see why – it’s basically an R-rated Saturday morning cartoon complete with outrageous cameos by Roseanne, Tom Arnold and Johnny Depp, ridiculous deaths and characters they are at least trying to make likeable. Even the filmmakers have admitted, it was trying to be like Twin Peaks meets Elm Street. The one thing it is sorely missing is a threatening Freddy, he’s just a big dumb prop comic in this, equipped with weapons and some of the most cringe inducing one-liners you can imagine. The performances are across the board terrible with Robert Englund turning in his only straight up bad performance of the series. The rest of the cast bombs miserably with the exception of the great and recently departed Yaphet Kotto. He’s the best part of the movie but he’s given almost nothing to do. The third act and subsequent ending is marginally better due to his participation, but disappears behind this weird, terribly rendered 3D sequence and this cheap, tacked-on mythology about how Freddy is an avenging angel from hell because when his human self was dying, he somehow made a deal with a bunch of talking worms from hell for his soul…I dunno, I guess what I’m trying to say is that Divine was originally supposed to be in this. (Streaming on HBOMax)

29. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

1989 / USA / dir. Dominique Othenin-Girard / 97 minutes

cast: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Wendy Kaplan, Tamara Glynn, Don Shanks, Jeffrey Landman, Jonathan Chapin, Matthew Walker

The fact this movie isn’t dead last speaks to how truly awful some of these entries got. I hate Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers because it’s so far up its own ass, it thinks it’s an A24 movie. This is the one with all the weird lighting, the one where Michael Myers takes off his mask to cry and we see a single tear roll down his face, this is the one where Jamie is psychic all of a sudden, this is the one where they kill off a genuinely interesting character from the previous installment ten minutes in, just to replace her with the most obnoxious final girls of the franchise. This is also the one where Dr. Loomis acts like a fucking nutcase for absolutely no reason (in one scene he’s holding up little, twelve year old Jamie as bait to an angry Michael). Also when the “comic relief” cops arrive, they have their own Cirque de Soleil theme music (one of the most bizarre choices of the franchise.) All this might sound interesting, but it’s actioned so poorly and without thought, that somewhere, deep in depths of wherever, Ingmar Bergman is gnashing his teeth into a chalky paste, feeling pure disgust. NOTE – There’s a hilarious behind-the-scenes featurette on this where the cast is all unenthusiastically saying “Get ready, this is gonna be the best one yet!” and you can tell just by the looks in their faces they know what a giant piece of shit it is. (Streaming on SHUDDER and AMC+)

28. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

2010 / USA / dir. Samuel Bayer/ 90 minutes

cast: Rooney Mara, Jackie Earle Haley, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz

One of the most important entries of the franchise because it proves, definitively, you need Robert Englund for A Nightmare on Elm Street to work. It also really speaks to how bad Freddy’s Dead is that this impostor Nightmare is ranked higher. The 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street is a failure from so many different aspects – the shallow writing, the overly-CGI’d aesthetic, the terrible characters played by a mixed bag cast including Rooney Mara, a fantastic actor, giving a surprisingly bad and disconnected performance. Jackie Earle Haley gives a good performance as Freddy, but it’s not even Freddy. It’s dull and subtle in ways that doesn’t jive with the material, and it just isn’t as funny, menacing or as fun as Robert Englund‘s Freddy. This is the worst of the Michael Bay horror remakes of the early 2000s. (Streaming on Peacock)

27. Jason X

2002 / USA / dir. James Issac / 92 minutes

cast: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Melissa Ayde, Peter Menash, Melody Johnson, Jonathan Potts, David Cronenberg

LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR. LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR. LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR. Jason is in space and he’s so amped up and pissed he’s murdering people to Drowning Pool. It’s the year 2503, and these dumb grad students and their money-grubbing professor discover Jason’s frozen body on a space ship or something. They bring him back to thaw him out, when suddenly he comes back to life and murders everyone. This one is filled with awful dialogue, zero logic, your typical underwritten characters inhabited by bad performances, horrendous CGI, a soundtrack that took me back to the worst part of my life and a robot girl with metal nipples. It does feature the very best kill of the franchise involving liquid nitrogen and some lab equipment but that’s really the only thing of note here. (Streaming on HBOMax)

26. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

1989 / USA / dir. Stephen Hopkins / 90 minutes

cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter, Erika Anderson, Danny Hassel, Joe Seely, Whit Hertford, Beatrice Beopple, Nicholas Mele

This is the first Nightmare without any real redeeming qualities. There’s less kills in this one than any other entry, and the MPAA (much like Jason Takes Manhattan, released the same year) slashed the gore effects to ribbons. Although Alice (Lisa Wilcox) is one of the least obnoxious final girls in any of these franchises, the story follows some lame plot about her having a baby with personality-free Dan (Danny Hassell) from Nightmare 4 and like, slumming it with her poorly defined friends after high school ends. Freddy returns but instead of invading Alice’s dreams, he invades her unborn fetus’ dreams. Might be time to phone Planned Parenthood. The acting is not as jarringly bad as it is in Nightmare 4 and 6, and The Reaping helmer, Stephen Hopkins, at least tries to add something new to visual palette of Freddy land. However, this one just feels rushed, unfinished and poorly executed around every corner. It’s a booooyyyyyy! (Streaming on HBOMax)

25. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers

1995 / USA / dir. Joe Chappelle / 88 minutes (theatrical cut) / 96 minutes (producer’s cut)

cast: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagen, Mitchell Ryan, Kim Darby, Mariah O’Brien, Keith Bogart, Bradford English, George P. Wilbur, J.C. Brandy

After Halloween 5 ended things with a massive jailhouse explosion where Michael Myers is rescued by a mysterious cowboy in a black cape, they sure needed to write their way out of a pickle. Enter a stupid script that ties Michael Myers to some Ancient druid cult that use him as a killing machine against their enemies and brutally kills off the only good part about 5Danielle Harris. During production, the director and the studio clashed and what ended up being the theatrical cut excised most of the cult footage and basically delivered a convoluted, nonsensical slasher sequel wrapped around some decent kills. The producer’s cut, now widely available, restores that cult footage and it’s just as bad but for different reasons. Speaking of reasons, there’s two for why this is placed higher than Halloween 5 – 1) Because lead actor Paul Rudd gives a hilariously self-aware performance that trolls every second of this bloated turd and 2) It actually has a certain creep factor for the first time since Halloween II. (Streaming on SHOWTIME and PlutoTV)

24. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

1989 / USA / dir. Rob Hedden / 100 minutes

cast: Jensen Daggett, Scott Reeves, Barbara Bingham, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder, V.C. Dupree, Sharlene Martin, Kelly Hu

Maybe the most bland entry of the franchise with the promise of being so much more. Jason doesn’t take Manhattan until an hour and half into the movie so what we mostly get is Jason hanging out on a shitty cruise ship with teenagers. The teens are just watered down versions of the series’ previous archetypes — the good, studious virgin, the hunky alpha, the manipulative sex-crazed Queen B, the nerd trying to get layed, ect, and Jason, covered in a bunch of goop, looks sillier and less menacing than he did in Part 7. There’s a couple of fun, goofy deaths but most of the kills were cut down by the MPAA, and by this point Jason was starting to become a bit of a punchline. It’s a shame because Kane Hodder is doing some pretty good work that gets overshadowed by the movie’s faults. (Streaming on Peacock)

23. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

1985 / USA / dir. Danny Steinmann / 92 minutes

cast: Melanie Kinnaman, Paul Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Corey Feldman, Richard Lineback, Carol Locatell, Deborah Voorhees, Miguel A. Nunez, Jr., Vernon Washington, Dominick Brascia

Again, it is a testament to how absolutely baby diarrhea shit terrible some of these movies are that the tasteless, mean-spirited, amateur production that was Part 5 is only the 10th worst movie on this list. Helmed by a guy who did porn, Part 5 takes place a couple years or a decade or something after Jason Voorhees was killed in Part 4. The camp is now a shelter for naughty children who frequently misbehave, one of which is Tommy (Corey Feldman from Part 4, now played by some other guy), who’s all grown up and super emotionally damaged from his incident with Jason. After an obese, intellectually disabled teenager is murdered to death by another kid with an axe, over a chocolate bar, the killings begin again and everyone thinks it might be Jason…back from the dead! But it’s not, it ends up being a character we see for 45 seconds in the first quarter of the movie, and that Jason is really dead. I believe this one has the most kills out of any other entry, but all are poorly executed compared to Tom Savini‘s effects in Part 4. It also has the most boobs. (Streaming on Peacock)

22. Freddy vs Jason

2003 / USA / dir. Ronny Yu / 97 minutes

cast: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher, Zach Ward, Kyle Labine, Garry Chalk, Lochlyn Munro, Robert Shaye, Evangeline Lilly

If there was ever a more over-hyped and anticipated horror film, I never heard of it. They were trying to make Freddy vs. Jason for close to fifteen years before they were able to release anything. Even after New Line Cinema acquired the Jason character from Paramount, we still had to suffer through two bad sequels before finally getting it. Once we got it though, we wished we never had. Ronny Yu, who did a damn good job with Bride of Chucky, really makes a mess of things here. He seems to possess no understanding of who these characters are or the pre-established rules for each. Jason is afraid of water for Pete’s sake! Englund was sadly getting a bit too weathered for Freddy at this point and the guy who replaced Kane Hodder just sort of stands there while being tall. There’s no menace to this Jason, but to be fair, there’s no substance to any teen character in this either. Terrible CGI punctuates every death and besides occasionally being so terrible it’s hilarious, there isn’t much about Freddy vs. Jason to recommend. (Streaming on HBOMax)

21. Friday the 13th Part 3D

1982 / USA / dir. Steve Miner / 95 minutes

cast: Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Richard Brooker, Tracie Savage, Larry Zerner, Catherine Parks, Jeffrey Rogers, Rachel Howard

Despite being terrible, this is really middle of the pack Friday. It does however feature the most unlikeable characters of the entire franchise with Shelley the Actor leading the pack with his underwhelming Reno night club act. “I just want people to like me” this fat incel chortles while removing a fake axe from his skull. The lead actress is terrible and has a gratuitously tasteless, even for these movies, sexual assault backstory involving Jason. Is Jason raping her canon? I hope not, I’d rather accept the fan films as canon. One character is also pregnant and keeps telling people, that is before she gets murdered. What a horrible creative choice for a movie that has the emotional complexity of a peanut. Two young parents optimistic about starting a family, completely dismembered by rapist Jason. It was shot for 3D so a lot of the kills are extremely entertaining and Richard Brooker is actually one of the better Jasons. His staggering monster walk is fantastic and has more personality than any other Jason save for Ted White and Kane Daddy Hodder. Also, what the fuck is up with the two forty-year-old stoners that somehow are in their friend group? (Streaming on HULU and Paramount+)

20. Friday the 13th (1980)

1980 / USA / dir. Sean S. Cunningham / 95 minutes

cast: Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartham, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Walt Gorney

A polarizing ranking, I know, but hear me out. Friday the 13th is one of the most overrated horror movies ever made because unlike its contemporary franchises differently than (Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street), it suffers from never having a stellar original film. Sean S. Cunningham admittedly made this just to ride the Halloween-inspired, late 70s into early 80s slasher craze. None of the characters are interesting and we’re forced to watch them wander around doing and saying nothing memorable for so long before the killing escalates. This is before the time of Jason, so it’s a big who-dun-it since framed around the audience never being able to see the killer’s face. It ends up being Betsy Palmer as a disgruntled parent of a kid (Jason) who drowned, who enters the film for the final fifteen minutes or so to be batshit crazy. She’s good but not good enough to make us forget we’ve just been bored for the majority of this movie. The only reason so many people saw it and became the phenomenon it is today was because Paramount decided to release it like a A-list movie instead of limited release like most low budget horror films of the time. But…it’s a classic and a lot of people like it, and it certainly isn’t the worst in this gosh darn franchise. (Streaming on Peacock)

19. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

1988 / USA / dir. Renny Harlin / 94 minutes

cast: Robert Englund, Tuesday Knight, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Andras Jones, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Brooke Theiss, Toy Newkirk, Brooke Bundy, Nicholas Mele, Linnea Quigley, Robert Shaye

This is one I really loved watching as a kid because of all the flashy and colorful special effects sequences but in later years I have come to mostly just be bored with. Renny Harlin certainly had a vision for Nightmare 4, all visual though, pre-established characters that we grew to love in the previous installment, Dream Warriors, are really treated like shit. Patricia Arquette is replaced with possibly the worst actor of the entire franchise, Tuesday Knight, who doesn’t even care to play the character like Arquette established her. I know that sounds harsh but when I think about all the pain she’s inflicted on people who had to suffer through not only her performance but her lackluster opening credit song, my sympathies lie more with them. We also get a Christian Slater knock-off in the form of Andras Jones, who I thought was the coolest person ever at age 9, as well as a jock with a caring heart, a resourceful lady nerd, a tough, body-building chick and a final girl that actually doesn’t suck (Lisa Wilcox), but isn’t given the material to match her potential. Another solid actor and character, Ken Sagoes as Kincaid returns, but they kill him off almost immediately. This one has one good kill but the rest range from mediocre to worst of the series. (Streaming on HBOMax)

18. Friday the 13th (2009)

2009 / USA / dir. Marcus Nispel / 97 minutes

cast: Jared Paladecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Arlen Escarpeta, Julianna Guill, Jonathan Sadowski, Ben Feldman, Ryan Hansen, Willa Ford, Derek Mears, America Olivo, Nick Mennell

Promising in its brutal cold open, but eventually reverts back to obnoxious, hateable teens being offed in a fairly predictable order in fairly predictable ways. Sort of based on Friday 4 where an older dude (Jared Paladecki of Supernatural stardom) is looking for his younger sister who went missing while camping. He’s convinced she’s still alive and stumbles upon a group of asshole party kids in the woods who aren’t too thrilled about helping him. The acting in this one is certainly a step up from some of these lower budget entries – Party Down‘s Ryan Hansen, Aaron Yoo, Ben Feldman, Jonathan Sadowski – even final girl, Danielle Panabaker, isn’t half bad. The problem is you get sick of this a little more than half way through the runtime and you’re stuck just going through the motions. Still it’s better than the Nightmare remake. (Streaming on HBOMax)

17. Halloween Kills

Michael Myers (aka The Shape) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green

2021 / USA / dir. David Gordon Green / 105 minutes

cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Anthony Michael Hall, Will Patton, James Jude Courtney, Kyle Richards, Robert Longstreet, Thomas Mann, Jim Cummings, Nancy Stephens, Dylan Arnold, Diva Tyler, Lenny Clarke, Omar Dursey, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald

Halloween Kills is hands down the most violent Halloween movie outside of the absolutely grotesque Rob Zombie entries, but that doesn’t make it a good movie, that doesn’t even make it a movie. This installment is so convoluted and scattered, without a satisfying beginning, middle or end (and I get it’s the middle part of a trilogy, but let’s be real, The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight absolutely have a beginning, middle and end) it kind of just spouts off for an hour and forty five minutes before just stopping. Some of the kills are good, a lot of the comedy falls flat and even feels like unfunny, deleted scenes from Eastbound & Down (especially with the neck brace guy from The Righteous Gemstones and his lover, Michael McDonald), but I felt constantly disengaged by this one. Just ask the healthy young man sitting next to me who slept through most it. The cold open is easily the best part of the film, a flashback to when Myers was captured by police back in ’78, after disappearing from that balcony he was shot off at the end of the original. It’s fun, suspenseful and feels a little different. We then cut back to modern day with Jamie Lee Curtis in a medically-induced coma, more random homeowners getting killed and Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle, who is some sort of truther leading an angry mob to capture and kill Michael Myers a la Halloween 4. There’s also a bunch of mask references to Halloween III and of course, references to Halloween I & II including the return of Doyle, Nurse Chambers, Sheriff Brackett and even little Lindsey Wallis. It seems like this movie exists mostly to try to contextualize why we love the Halloween franchise, and 80s horror franchises in general, and compulsively re-watch even the shittiest entries. It’s convinced there’s something deeper there than mere nostalgia, but there’s really not. The original Halloween was a (perfectly executed) bare bones genre exercise that had no concern with character development besides the most one-dimensional basic shit they had to do to establish the teens as realistic. It also didn’t mean or try to mean anything in the context of current socio political issues (which is almost surprising given Carpenter’s strong political streak through his filmography). The movie was just about a random psycho chasing you. If these filmmakers love these movies so much and want to pay homage to what Carpenter did, why don’t they just make their own bare-bones genre exercise instead of dump-trucking elaborate mythos nobody asked for into a derivative slasher sequel template. It’s shot really well though. (In Theaters and Streaming on Peacock)

16. Halloween II (1981)

1981 / USA / dir. Rick Rosenthal / 92 minutes

cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Dick Warlock, Dana Carvey

I understand why a lot of fans enjoy this sequel, but I’m really not one of them. It takes all the thrills and suspense out of the original to create something more in keeping with a Friday the 13th movie. Sure, there’s a couple of creepy scenes but Michael Myers moves like a freakin’ robot in this and is not even remotely intimidating. The narrative decision to make Michael, Jamie Lee Curtis‘ brother is so dumb even John Carpenter regrets it. We get a couple of good kills like the hot tub nurse dip or the magical scalpel, and we get a good deal more blood than the original, but the menace is gone. Objectively, this might not even be that worse than the next five or six movies on this list, but I hate it because it set in motion the gore-over-scares template. (Streaming on AMC+)

15. Halloween (2007)

2007 / USA / dir. Rob Zombie / 110 minutes (theatrical) / 121 minutes (director’s cut)

cast: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Danielle Harris, William Forsythe, Brad Dourif, Lew Temple, Bill Moseley, Danny Trejo, Clint Howard, Tom Towles, Udo Kier, Richard Lynch, Leslie Easterbrook, Daeg Faerch, Ken Foree, Dee Wallace, Sybil Danning, Daniel Roebuck, Sid Haig

We’re 18 entries in and we’re not even at a good movie yet. Rob Zombie‘s vicious remake of Halloween is an extremely mixed bag in ways most Zombie films are. Zombie has a clear vision as a director and he knows how to communicate things visually, but the trade-off is that his writing is terrible complete with obnoxious dialogue that makes every character into the same beer-chugging, shit-spewing, potty-mouthed hillbilly he loves to write. He’s a great music supervisor and movies are always competently shot, occasionally beautiful but never in this movie. The cast is a half bag with Malcolm McDowell really hamming it up (in a good way) as Dr. Loomis and Brad Dourif creating an actual human. Then you have Sheri Moon Zombie who is in mind a bit miscast in the role and Scout Taylor-Compton who is absolutely abysmal as Laurie Strode. The director’s cut includes an unnecessary rape scene and violence so brutal it’s uncomfortable to watch. (Streaming on AMC+)

14. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

1988 / USA / dir. Dwight H. Little / 88 minutes

cast: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, George P. Wilbur, Michael Pataki, Beau Starr, Kathleen Kinmont, Sasha Jensen, Carmen Filpi

My favorite Halloween sequel as a child, mostly because the amount of ADVENTURE that’s happening in this one. We get Michael chasing someone on a roof, being involved in a high speed car chase and even getting shot at by Proud Boys with assault rifles. Also, because the protagonist was someone my own age at the time, I instantly related to her more than Jamie Lee Curtis or Tom Atkins. Jamie Lloyd (played terrifically by Danielle Harris) may start out a bit of a scaredy cat but ultimately proves herself t be a strong willed, bad ass 8-year-old. She also has a pretty cool step sister played a good actress named Ellie Cornell. Dazed & Confused‘s Sasha Jensen is also in it. Even with all that, there’s a lot I dislike about this sequel. Mostly, if Halloween II introduces the concept that Michael is basically Jason Voorhees, a supernatural killing machine that can’t be killed, then Halloween 4 solidifies it. This is a shame because it trades actual suspense for ridiculous ways to kill people, and thinks we won’t notice by adding a bunch of explosions (and that admittedly exquisite power line worker death) but really it’s just putting newspaper over spilled milk. Sooner or later…it’s gonna get stinky. (Streaming on AMC+ and SHUDDER)

13. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

1985 / USA / dir. Jack Sholder / 87 minutes

cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Robert Englund, Clu Gulagher, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Sydney Walsh

This went from my least favorite Nightmare on Elm Street sequel to #13 on this list. That doesn’t mean this is a good movie, because it’s not, it just means that this is more fascinating than most of the sequels on here and it’s also wonderfully gay, even though it claims not to be. Basically, it completely throws out Wes Craven‘s established rules and we have a Freddy who can possess people while they aren’t dreaming, and even kill people outside of the dream world. Freddy picks a “straight” teenager, Jesse (Mark Patton, a step up from Langenkamp, at least in the original) who is “totally in love” with this girl at school and certainly not his best friend, who pulls his pants down at baseball practice. Freddy taunts Jesse and uses his body to commit murders and he eventually beats Freddy and Freddy goes away until the next sequel. Nightmare 2 is probably the most cheap-looking of all the sequels, with a couple of special effects that are well, really special. Freddy’s makeup looks good though, really quite disturbing, and Englund is wonderfully menacing throughout, sporting a much bigger role than he had in the original. There’s a little naughty bedroom dance about halfway through the movie that is one of the most ridiculous, hilarious and wonderfully campy things I’ve seen in any of these movies. (Streaming on HBOMax)

12. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

1988 / USA / dir. John Carl Buechler / 88 minutes

cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Kane Hodder, Kevin Spirtas, Terry Kiser, Susan Blu, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, John Otrin, Elizabeth Kaitan, Heidi Kozak, William Butler, Staci Greason, Diana Barrows, Debora Kessler, Diane Almeida, Craig Thomas, Jennifer Banko

Even though the MPAA took a blow torch to it, Part 7 is one of the most entertaining and satisfying entries of the Friday the 13th series because it gives us something different – a discount Carrie named Tina (Lar Park Lincoln). She’s a telekinetic teenager whose dumb mom (Susan Blu) and jackal psychiatrist (Terry Kiser – Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s) take her out to the lake where she accidentally killed her father as a child to try and stir up this telekinesis. Unfortunately, Jason is also in these here woods, dead-set on killing the horny teenagers next door. Basically this all devolves into an achingly stupid but shamefully entertaining battle of will between a psychic and Jason, and mama, I am here for it. This entry introduces the great Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees, who adds an eerily human dimension to this unstoppable murder beast. (Streaming on Peacock)

11. Halloween II (2009)

2009 / USA / dir. Rob Zombie / 105 minutes (theatrical cut) / 119 minutes (director’s cut)

cast: Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, Weird Al Yankovic, Brea Grant, Octavia Spencer, Daniel Roebuck, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Richard Brake, Dayton Callie, Bill Fagerbakke, Mary Birdsong, Sylvia Jeffries, Margot Kidder, Richard Riehle, Mark Boone Junior, Chris Hardwick

Has the distinct honor of being both the most graphically violent Halloween movie and the most avant-garde Halloween movie. Rob Zombie‘s uneven, obtuse and barely conscious follow-up to his bland remake is actually a bit of a step up. The writing and dialogue for these characters is still terrible and the potty-mouth trucker prose is amped up even louder than it was in his previous movie. It’s not even that the language is foul, it’s that the language paints such a vividly raunchy picture you can almost taste it. It’s like a 14-year-old trying to shock you to the point of saying something. The visuals on the other hand are frequently impressive and emotive, this is art house Halloween and part of me admires Zombie going so far off the deep end to make this his own. It’s packed with a mixed bag of performances – Malcolm McDowell is not as good as he was in the previous one, his Loomis inexplicably has become a sociopathic, fame slut celebrity after publishing a book on Myers. Scout Taylor-Compton reaches new levels of grating in what is maybe the most off-putting acting of the entire franchise but she’s somewhat supported by a conveyer belt of solid character actors in bit parts. It’s no surprise Brad Dourif and Danielle Harris steal the show as Sheriff and Annie Brackett, two well drawn characters that belong in a better, more sensitive film. All in all this is a mess, but there’s some diamonds in the rough here. (Streaming on AMC+)

10. Halloween (2018)

2018 / USA / dir. David Gordon Green / 106 minutes

cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Toby Huss, Drew Scheid, Miles Robbins, Dylan Arnold, Haluk Bilginer, Rhian Rhees, Jefferson Hall, James Jude Courtney, Jibrail Nantambu, Omar J. Dorsey

Frustrating because ultimately this movie does so much right that the stuff it gets wrong, and it’s some major stuff, really bugs you. First of all, David Gordon Green wisely ditches the whole Cult of Thorn bullshit that plagued 4, 5 and 6, what came in Halloween H20 and Halloween: Resurrection, and even Halloween II‘s the brother/sister contrivance. It simply takes place in a universe where only the first film happened, forty years later when Michael escapes his psychiatric prison and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) plagued with PTSD, has become a paranoid survivalist. Michael comes back to Haddonfield to terrorize the town once again including Laurie’s estranged daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak). James Jude Courtney gives us the best Michael Myers and the movie focuses on his creepy movements just as much as the gore. Halloween 2018 gives us more suspense than pretty much any of the sequels, but a lot of the suspense is undercut by the awkward humor. It’s a distracting mix of laughs and chills that ultimately dulls its edge. We also get a completely unnecessary evil psychiatrist character the film’s overloaded narrative just can’t support. The teen characters are solid but show promise of being just a tad more interesting. It sucks this doesn’t live up to its full potential. ($3.99 rental on Amazon Prime)

9. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI

1986 / USA / dir. Tom McLoughlin / 86 minutes

cast: Thom Matthews, Jennifer Cook, David Kagen, Kerry Noonan, Renee Jones, Tom Fridley, Tony Goldwyn, C.J. Graham, Darcy DeMoss

Frequently cited as the best of the franchise, Jason Lives breathes new life into the franchise after the dreadful and misogynistic Part 5. The film has the added benefit of a singular vision from writer/director Tom McLoughlin who infuses classic gothic horror and goofball humor. Not all the jokes hit but this is a fun and tight entry even if it lacks in suspense. There’s some solid character actor performances from McLoughlin‘s mime company buddies. The kills are pretty solid too but much more on the campy, monster movie side of things than the viciousness most of the other entries are known for. (Streaming on Peacock)

8. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

1998 / USA / dir. Steve Miner / 86 minutes

cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lynn Keefe, Janet Leigh, Chris Durand

I’m probably the biggest Halloween H20 defender I know. I can’t help it, I just really enjoy this movie. First of all, it’s not a great movie, but it’s a fairly good one and compared to the most of the other sequels, it’s prime rib. Most of this is due to Jamie Lee Curtis‘ franchise best performance as Laurie. It’s a surprisingly realistic portrait of a middle aged woman handling trauma. She’s not an extreme survivalist like in Halloween 2018, she’s a successful private boarding school dean who has distracted herself from the trauma with work. It makes sense she’s a teacher, because she’s a natural protector, it’s in her nature. This one keeps what happens in Halloween II but negates all the Cult of Thorn crap. When Michael Myers, who were supposed to believe was just hanging around after the big fire of Halloween II, returns to find Laurie, he sets his sights on her newly 18-year-old son (Josh Hartnett) and his girlfriend, Michelle Williams. There isn’t much suspense in this movie and while it’s one of the least scary entries in the series, it’s actually inhabited by realistic characters, decent performances and one hell of a satisfying ending that’s Laurie Strode’s biggest badass moment. (Streaming on AMC+)

7. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

1982 / USA / dir. Tommy Lee Wallace / 98 minutes

cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Michael Currie, Ralph Strait, Jadeen Barbor, Brad Schacter, Garn Stephens, Nancy Kyes, Dick Warlock

I make no apologies for loving this movie, because it knows exactly what it is. It’s not high art, it’s not logical in any way and it’s not even really a Halloween sequel, not in the traditional sense. It’s a fun, dumb, very creative and technically well-polished campy 80s horror movie that’s unfairly maligned by fans. They feel it has no business existing because it doesn’t feature Michael Myers or even follow a slasher movie template. I’d argue that perhaps this is the only Halloween sequel that has any business existing in the first place because it explores something entirely new – both a new narrative and new themes that are ultimately more in keeping with Carpenter‘s anti-fascist sentiments. Basically the plot follows an evil toy company trying to murder America’s children on Halloween because the CEO (Robocop‘s Dan O’Herlihy) is this evil Irish wizard who resents American children for being spoiled. He uses a stolen piece of Stonehenge to magically power this machine that activates microchips in kids’ halloween masks, making their heads explode into snakes and bugs, killing them quite painfully and ridiculously. It’s out there but it’s a fun, low-stakes movie with a solid leading performance by Tom Atkins‘ naked ass. (Streaming on AMC+)

6. Friday the 13th Part 2

1981 / USA / dir. Steve Miner / 87 minutes

cast: Amy Steel, Adrienne King, John Furey, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Warrington Gillette, Walt Gorney, Marta Kober, Tom McBride, Bill Randolph, Lauren Marie-Taylor, Russell Todd

Easily the most underrated entry of the franchise, Part 2 belongs on the same pedestal as fan favorites Part 4 and 6 seeing as though it’s one of the most suspenseful entries of the franchise, it features some of the harshest but effective kills, it features one of the strongest casts with the absolute best final girl of the series in Ginny (Amy Steele) and of course, it introduced Jason as we know him…almost. The hockey mask wouldn’t show up till Part 3, but this Jason has a bag over his head which makes him look like a deranged backwoods Klan member. That’s really scary! (Streaming on Peacock)

5. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

1994 / USA / dir. Wes Craven / 112 minutes

cast: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Miko Hughes, David Newsom, Wes Craven, Tracy Middendorf, John Saxon, Jeff Davis, Matt Winston, Robb Lavelle, Tuesday Knight, Jsu Garcia, Lin Shaye, Robert Shaye, W. Earl Brown, Sara Risher, Amanda Wyss

Basically the prototype for Scream, Wes Craven‘s super meta New Nightmare is about what would happen if Freddy Krueger was willed into existence IRL. The movie follows Heather Langenkamp as herself, she’s married to some special effects guy and has a young, impressionable child. Wes Craven and producer Robert Shaye (both playing themselves), try to convince her to do another Nightmare sequel and while she’s mulling it over, the script starts dictating what happens IRL. IRL Freddy (Robert Englund) emerges, darker and sans any sense of humor, and Heather must take him down for real this time. This movie has a lot of good ideas but the only thing holding me back from truly loving it is that it doesn’t go far enough. We need a Freddy Krueger vs. the real Robert Englund fight scene, we need a grittier representation of Craven himself, we need to explore Shaye and Craven‘s original grievances with each other over the character and movie becoming a franchise. Overall it needed more of a Scream attitude, but I can’t complain too much abut what we got. It is vastly superior to every sequel except Dream Warriors. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

4. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

1984 / USA / dir. Joseph Zito / 91 minutes

cast: Corey Feldman, Kimberly Beck, Crispin Glover, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton, Erich Anderson, Ted White, Joan Freeman, Lisa Freeman

It’s been said so many times before – if you were to distill everything people love about this series together you’d end up with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. The fourth entry that was supposed to conclude the series (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) brings back violence magician, Tom Savini, to send off Jason in a blaze of machete-sliding head gore. While Part 2 has an overall stronger cast and a better final girl, this one features a wonderfully entertaining performance by Crispin Glover and a unlikely but well developed protagonist in young Corey Feldman. This one has overall the best collection of kills I think, with the corkscrew shenanigans and what happens to Jason in the end really sticking out. Besides Kane Hodder, I think Ted White is the best Jason of the series, I just hate that he runs. (Streaming on HULU and Parmount+)

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

1987 / USA / dir. Chuck Russell / 96 minutes

cast: Patricia Arquette, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wasson, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin, Bradley Gregg, Ira Haiden, Laurence Fishburne, Penelope Sudrow, Priscilla Pointer, John Saxon, Brooke Bundy, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor

While I acknowledge that it objectively isn’t great cinema, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is one of my favorite horror movies. I watch it every year, sometimes twice a year, maybe even three times a year. It’s one of the best horror sequels ever made because unlike its predecessor, Nightmare 2, it doesn’t disregard anything Wes Craven created in the original but it also manages to expand the world, introduce new concepts and really take advantage of the fantasy element of Freddy’s dream world. This is all helped by the fact we get Heather Langenkamp returning as Nancy as well as the brilliant Patricia Arquette in the lead teenager role. Rounding out the cast is probably the strongest group of actors out of any of these sequels including a young Laurence Fishburne. And of course there’s Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, delivering maybe his best performance across the entire franchise, delicately balancing humor and nastiness before becoming a complete cartoon in the later sequels. Bottom line, with a great Freddy and all these interesting new characters, you just get more invested with everyone, not to mention, the kills. Most creative death sequences of the franchise, even more than the original. (Streaming on HBOMax)

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

1984 / USA / dir. Wes Craven / 92 minutes

cast: Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Robert Englund, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Johnny Depp, Lin Shaye, Charles Fleischer, Joseph Whipp

This is like the ultimate DIY, made something from nothing 80s low budget horror film. It shouldn’t have worked given their small budget and ambitious ideas, and while some of it reads a tad goofy, that only lends to the charm. The acting is a little bit ehhh in places, especially with Langenkamp, who would eventually return in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare to deliver a really good performance. Amanda Wyss anchors the teen cast before she gets sliced and diced, and the film introduces you to Johnny Depp with his debut role. Freddy is terrifying in this one, most of all because Robert Englund does so much with such limited screen time. I really have no idea what else to say about this one, it pivoted what slashers could be and made people afraid of sleeping. (Streaming on HBOMax)

1. Halloween (1978)

1978 / USA / dir. John Carpenter / 90 minutes

cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Kyes, P.J. Soles, Nick Castle, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, Nancy Stephens

If A Nightmare on Elm Street is the ultimate, DIY do-it-yourself horror movie, than Halloween is a certified miracle. It’s really just the result of putting a highly skilled technician who is intelligent enough to know exactly his limitations. With a budget of only $300,000, Carpenter saves a bunch by not having to rely on special gore effects because there’s really no blood or carnage to the kills. Halloween is all about the lead up to the kill, the stalking dance of a mysterious evil force. It also helps that none of the female characters seem inauthentic, they’re obviously written by a woman (producer/co-writer Debra Hill) and that lends to the terrifying realism. This is about as simple as movies get but it takes a genius to realize simple executed perfectly is more effective than a movie drowning in a sea of its own ambitions. (Streaming on AMC+ and SHUDDER)

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