Monday, September 12, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 21: Best Horror Franchise

Best horror franchise? What defines a franchise? Is it just having a shit-ton of crappy sequels that degrade a little further each time and prove the laws of diminishing returns? Or is it one that has an overall arching theme and plot line?
I could literally give a dozen or more examples of the former that would qualify here. But there are a mere handful of the latter that I would hold up to the spotlight. The first that comes to mind is the Hellraiser series, but it always felt like there wasn't any real cohesion beyond the tangential "Ooh look, a box. What happens if I open it?"
Hint: It ain't pretty.
To me there's only been one series that consistently ties itself back and has a cohesive storyline, a killer that survives multiple films, and still manages to innovate and throw surprises at its audience, drawing them into their little game.
Of course, I'm talking about the Saw franchise.
When I first heard about the original series, I expected just another gorefest, schlocky, horror-by-the-numbers movie. Of course, I was along for the ride. Those films can be enjoyable in their own right, but Saw delivered something else.
From the visceral fear of waking up in a bad situation that the audience feels as keenly as the protagonists do, to the mystery surrounding the serial killer only known as Jigsaw. He offers people who have forgotten their reasons for living a chance to redeem themselves, but it's going to cost them. It makes you ask yourself what you'd be willing to do to survive.
No spoilers, but the many twists and turns continue to build and surprise from start to finish. It boasts, perhaps, one of the greatest endings of any movie in any genre. As jaw-dropping as the Sixth Sense or Psycho or any Charlie Chan movie ever was. It still manages to shock, even once you've seen it.
And what makes the series so special, is that as you watch each consecutive film, the nuances of the previous ones are shone in a different light and you have to pick your jaw up just so you can drop it again.
The only objection I have, and it's one I gladly overlook because I understand the necessity of it, is that they had to consistently up the gore factor in favor of cleverness. The traps become gorier, and less survivable, even goofy in a few cases. And they feel the need to add additional circumstances outside the web of the central plot to feed the audience more deaths.
All that aside, Tobin Bell is note perfect, and almost made the short list for yesterday's favorite horror character challenge.
I give the first movie an absolute 10 out of 10. Each movie thereafter suffers for not meeting the same intelligence level, but none goes below a 7 for me.

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