Nolte: 5 Halloween Horror Franchises You Might Have Missed

Alta Vista Productions

During Halloween, there’s a lot of crap out there. I love Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees — but Chucky, Freddy, Pinhead, Jigsaw, and on and on and on, not so much. So here are some franchises you might have missed.

  1. Hammer’s Dracula Series

There are nine movies in this franchise, but only seven of them count, (no pun intended) because only seven of them star the Mighty Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.

The first installment, 1958’s Dracula, is not just a wonderful, G-rated retelling of Bram Stoker’s novel; it’s a perfect introduction to the world of Hammer Horror: the bright colors, the gorgeous outdoor photography, the beautiful maidens (and their beautiful cleavage), drawing rooms, and the echoey sounds of horse-drawn carriages. Like the early black and white Universal horror films (which are still the best), Hammer was a master at creating a signature mood and ambiance.

Eight years later, Lee returned for the first sequel, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, and five more would follow until the final chapter, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, in 1973.

Each chapter picks up where the previous one left off and becomes more gore and sex-filled.

My favorite is 1970’s Taste the Blood of Dracula, which is still one of the most powerful stories ever told about selling your soul.

  1. Universal’s Wolf Man Series

Lon Chaney Jr. holds a very special place in the Universal Horror Franchise.

First, he’s the only actor to have portrayed Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Mummy, and the Wolf Man. But he’s also the only actor to see a monster all the way through. Over all five films, only Chaney played Larry Talbot, the doomed Wolf Man, including in the classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

It really is Chaney who makes this series work as well as it does. You can see why he was never replaced. In the first chapter, 1940’s The Wolf Man, a character says of Talbot, “There’s something very tragic about that man, and I’m sure that nothing but harm will come to you through him.” That’s what Chaney and only Chaney brought to the role (and all his roles), an unspoken sense of melancholy and doom.

Chaney’s Wolf Man is not only terrifying, it’s also heartbreaking. Even when co-starring with Abbott and Costello, he breaks your heart.

Lon Chaney Jr. is one of the most underappreciated actors of his era.

  1. Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Franchise

Roger Corman’s name will forever be associated with B-movies and schlock, but between 1960 and 1964, he directed one of the all-time great horror franchises: what’s known as the Corman-Poe Series.

Starring The Mighty Vincent Price, these adaptations are nothing short of stunning. Each is beautifully directed, shot, and performed, all of them in color with an unmistakable look and feel.

I watch these every year, all eight of them. The only entry not officially based on Poe is The Haunted Palace. The title comes from Poe, but the story is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which was also adapted in 1991 as The Resurrected—one of the most underrated movies of all time.

  1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise

Believe it or not, there are eight titles in this series and one more coming, another remake of the original.

Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original is, of course, an outright horror masterpiece. His 1986 follow-up is a near-masterpiece, a hoot-and-a-half starring The Mighty Dennis Hopper. The 2003 remake is excellent. And thanks to R. Lee Ermey and Jordana Brewster, 2006’s The Beginning is superb with a genuinely shocking ending.

The rest are okay. The only one you should skip outright is 1995’s The Next Generation, which stars Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger. It’s lazy trash that gets progressively worse until it becomes unwatchable.

  1. Romero’s Dead Franchise

For whatever reason, George Romero’s Dead franchise is always missing from the conversation about Halloween films.

Well, that might be a compliment. Truth be told, thanks to their craftsmanship and thematic heft, the Dead movies rise above standard horror. Nevertheless, they are still scary as hell, and the first five films in this six-chapter series are straight-up masterpieces.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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