The horror franchises dying to scare up a storm in your home cinema this Halloween
Everyone loves a good horror movie. Well, maybe not everyone, but the longevity of the genre suggests there are plenty of us who enjoy being frightened as we fumble for our popcorn. And whether you get your thrills from haunted houses, masked stalkers, shuffling zombies or cursed videotapes, there are plenty of flicks to choose from when it comes to planning your Halloween home cinema entertainment.
But why watch just one chiller on October 31st when there are entire franchises to savour? Here's our handy guide to the horror films – and their sequels – that are guaranteed to scare you silly...
The Bates Motel makes Fawlty Towers look like a nice place to stay
Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic, based upon Robert Bloch's novel, proved that cinema audiences were ready for the genre to reach new heights in terms of violence, terror and cross-dressing killers, but fans of Norman Bates' weird take on the hospitality industry had to wait 22 years for Psycho II. The success of this sequel, handled with care by Hitchcock alumnus Richard Franklin, meant we'd be checking back into the murderous motel twice more, once for a continuation of the story (Psycho III) and again for a prequel/sequel (Psycho IV: The Beginning). Both are worth a shufti, although the law of diminishing returns does kick in. Completists can also check out the 2013 Bates Motel TV series, 1987 Bates Motel TV pilot and, if they're feeling brave, Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot 1998 Psycho remake.
Pick of the pack: Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition (All-region BD, Universal Pictures)
Don't watch these if you love to eat pea soup
It may have been a major studio blockbuster that was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, but that didn't stop William Freidkin's 1973 shocker (about the battle between God and the Devil in the body of a 12-year-old girl) from effectively being banned on video in the UK until 1999. Curiously, by this time its two sequels – John Boorman's hilariously awful Exorcist II: The Heretic and William Peter Blatty's intriguing (but hampered by studio interference) The Exorcist III – had already been available for some time. Production of a prequel in the Noughties was so troubled (director Paul Schrader was eventually removed by the studio and Renny Harlin brought in to spice things up/dumb things down) that two distinct versions of the same story were eventually released – Harlin's Exorcist: The Beginning and Schrader's Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist.
Pick of the pack: The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut & Original Theatrical Cut (All-region BD, Warner Home Video)
'They're coming to get you Barbara'
Anybody who claims that politics has no place in the horror genre has clearly never watched any of George Romero's six …of the Dead movies. The first film, 1968's taboo-busting Night of the Living Dead, stripped the zombie of its Voodoo origins and transformed it into a flesh-eating ghoul. Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2005) brought the socio-political subtext to the fore, openly riffing on ideas such as consumerism and post-9/11 America. Romero then rebooted the series with the audience-splitting Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009).
Pick of the pack: Dawn of the Dead (All-region BD, Arrow Video)
There's plenty of buzz surrounding these films
Tobe Hooper secured his place in the horror movie hall of fame with 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. A simple tale of a group of friends who fall victim to a family of cannibals (including the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface), it was banned in the UK until 1999 – and even led to a ban on the word 'chainsaw' in film titles. Three increasingly bizarre sequels followed (as did a high profile 2003 remake with its own prequel), prior to this year's Texas Chainsaw 3D, which ignores all of the others and purports to be a direct sequel to the original.
Pick of the pack: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: Seriously Ultimate Edition (All-region BD, Second Sight)
For some devilish children, an ASBO just won't cut the mustard
The horror genre has always got plenty of mileage out of spooky kids, but none were ever quite as memorable as The Omen's Damien Thorn. The actual Antichrist, this creepy little moppet could kill with just one look and even when he wasn't around, Satanic forces made sure to do-in anybody who might get in the way of his rise to power. Two sequels followed – Damien: Omen II and Omen III: The Final Conflict – charting his growth to adulthood, with the military academy-set Damien… proving to be more freaky and inventive than the first when it came to the all-important death scenes. A dreadful TV movie, Omen IV: The Awakening, arrived in 1991 (and was forgotten almost instantly). A remake was released in 2006, but failed to live up to the original.
Pick of the pack: Damien: Omen II (Region B BD, 20th Century Fox – The Omen Trilogy boxset)
The gore the merrier in Raimi's splatstick series
As they're both instinctive, visceral experiences, horror and comedy have quite a lot in common. Which makes it all the more surprising that so few filmmakers succeed in bringing the two together. Sam Raimi is one of the few exceptions, with his Evil Dead trilogy mixing gags and gore in equal measure to remarkable effect. Spurred on by a love of The Three Stooges and his own madcap creativity, Raimi pioneered the splatstick genre and gave us the pinnacle of the form to date with 1987's Evil Dead II. Along the way he also delivered one of the most beloved (and put upon) heroes in the history of the genre: Bruce Campbell's Ashley J Williams. 1992's goofy Ray Harryhausen-inspired Army of Darkness marked Ash's last film adventure to date, but the franchise lives on in this year's reboot/loose sequel.
Pick of the pack: Evil Dead 2: Special Edition (Region B BD, StudioCanal)
The unluckiest day of the year? You betcha!
Reviled by critics but loved by fans, the Friday the 13th franchise has to date spanned ten original films, a crossover with another horror legend (see p38) and a reboot. In that time Jason Voorhees has been the deformed child whose death spurred his mother to take revenge, a murderous wildman with a penchant for hockey masks, a zombie, a body-hopping demon and even a cyborg (following a trip into space in 2001's Jason X). But no matter what he is, the setup is essentially always the same – the films point him in the general direction of some drug-smoking, alcohol-drinking, misbehaving teens and let the slaughter commence…
Pick of the pack: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (US Import, All-region BD, Warner Home Video – Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection boxset)
Tricks and treats as terror takes Shape
It's been 35 years since the daddy of all slasher films first hacked and slashed its way to box office gold – and over the intervening years this landmark classic has lost none of its power to chill. The success of John Carpenter's film ensured that Michael Myers/The Shape would be back, carving up the denizens of Haddonfield in six direct sequels (he sat out the unconnected Halloween III: Season of the Witch), only to be seemingly laid to rest by Rob Zombie's dire 2007 remake and its follow-up.
Pick of the pack: Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition (Region B BD, Anchor Bay)
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson lampoon the genre – but don't forget the scares
Only two years after he confounded fans with Wes Craven's New Nightmare, the director was back in the saddle to helm an even more post-modern fright flick. Scream, written by horror fanatic Kevin Williamson, mercilessly pokes fun at Hollywood's slasher flicks but remains itself a superior example of the genre, with terrifying set-pieces, buckets of blood and a Scooby Doo-style whodunnit attitude – smile knowingly at the sight gags and references while hiding behind your cushion. Scream 2 has fun with the concept of sequels and 2011's Scream 4 explores Hollywood's fascination with rebooting a franchise. It's only the lacklustre Scream 3 that you might want to fast-forward through. An MTV TV series, scheduled for 2014, is now in pre-production.
Pick of the pack: Scream (Region B BD, Lionsgate)
Japan unleashes the ultimate video nasty
Japan has a rich history of ghost stories, but it was Hideo Nakata's 1998 screen adaptation of Koji Suzuki's spooky novel that opened the door to a global audience. This low-fi chiller about a cursed videotape was unlike anything most Western viewers had ever seen and boasts a shocking climax that sticks in the brain and refuses to leave. Two sequels quickly followed – the first (Rasen) an adaptation of Suzuki's own literary sequel, followed by Nakata's direct sequel to his own film (Ring 2). A prequel titled Ring 0: Birthday arrived in 2000. Ring was also remade in Korea (The Ring Virus) and Hollywood (The Ring), with the latter also getting its own distinct sequel. Yet another Japanese film, Sadako 3D, was released in 2012 and Sadako 3D 2 followed earlier this year.
Pick of the pack: Ring (R0 DVD, Palisades Tartan – The Ring Trilogy boxset)
The Jigsaw Killer takes on-screen sadism to a whole new level
With yet another increasingly elaborate and unflinchingly gory sequel appearing every Halloween for six consecutive years, it's no wonder that the ongoing adventures of 'The Jigsaw Killer' and his apprentices became the definitive horror franchise of the Noughties. As such, people frequently forget that the series began in a much more modest (yet electrifying) style with the story of two men, chained up in a bathroom, one of whom is told to kill the other if he wants to save his family. Unable to repeat this trick, the filmmakers opted for bigger and more violent (and eventually 3D) sequels, packed with increasingly complex traps – but kept the awesome score.
Pick of the pack: Saw: Special Edition (Region B BD, Entertainment in Video)
Bad-skinned child killer Freddy Krueger wreaks havoc in suburbia – even though he's dead…
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street draws upon the slasher film tropes established by Halloween and Friday the 13th, but uses frequent dream sequences (where knife-gloved nutter Freddy claims his victims) to add a level of downright weirdness; heads burst out of TVs, sheep clatter along corridors, people get turned into cockroaches... It’s a blood-soaked and at times brilliant franchise, although the standout entries are, unsurprisingly, the three movies with Craven's input (the original plus A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors and the post-modern Wes Craven's New Nightmare). The 2010 remake is best treated as a bad dream.
Pick of the pack: A Nightmare on Elm Street (All-region BD, Warner Home Video)
Teens cheat Death, so Death offs teens in a series of freaky accidents
The slickly-produced and refreshingly original Final Destination made a killing at the box office, so sequels were to be expected – four of them so far. Thankfully, the latter entries maintain the dark humour and gore of the franchise starter, with Final Destination 2 being the best of the series, and even the 3D fifth movie showing the producers haven't yet run out of steam. Yes, the characters are essentially corpses waiting to happen, but the real star of the franchise is the Grim Reaper himself, whose playful (and fatal) pranks will ensure you'll never want to go on a sunbed again.
Pick of the pack: Final Destination 2 (Region B BD, Entertainment in Video)
Definitely not your typical home movies
Shot in 2007, Oren Peli's $15,000 found footage ghost story generated a healthy buzz on the festival circuit and was snatched up by Paramount. While the film didn't hit cinemas until 2009, two years' worth of hype, plus a canny viral marketing campaign, helped propel it to over $107 million at the US box office. Three similarly successful sequels (and countless spoofs – always a good barometer of success) followed, as did an unofficial Japanese film – Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night! Paranormal Activity 5 is due to scare up more business next year.
Pick of the pack: Paranormal Activity (Region B BD, Icon Home Entertainment)
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