We’re back again with another bunch of examples when horror franchises didn’t follow the rules, with mixed results. In our last edition we looked at horror franchises that changed the bad guys and ones that recycled unrelated scripts. It’s all down hill from here folks…
Taking the Holiday Out of the Horror
Holiday themed horror movies have one very easy rule to follow: Make sure it takes place on the holiday in question. Pretty simple right? Black Christmas takes place at Christmas, Thanks-Killing takes place on Thanksgiving, April Fool’s Day takes place on (you guessed it) April Fool’s Day. Even Happy Birthday to Me took place on someone’s birthday. See? Hard rule to break. Yet some filmmakers just can’t resist a challenge…
Exhibit A: Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night was an infamous horror film about a killer going around dressed up like Santa Claus. It sparked an outrage among parent groups and theaters refused to screen it. Even noted child actor Mickey Rooney wrote a letter of protest about the film (more on that later). Still, it was popular enough to spawn four sequels.
The second movie is mostly a recap of the original movie as told by the killer’s brother. The narrative of the movie doesn’t take place at Christmas time, but I’ll let it squeak by on a technicality because of this scene:
The third film got back on track when the Santa killer from the first movie (now played by Bill Moseley) goes on another rampage, and also has telepathic powers… because reasons? It’s not that great a movie, to be honest, but by this point, you’d be pretty hard to screw up a horror movie about a guy in a Santa suit, but….
The Rule Breaker:
Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation is to Christmas horror movies as to saying “Happy Holidays” is to not saying “Merry Christmas”. It tosses out the whole killer Santa motif and decides to tell the story about a hardboiled reporter investigating a strange cult. It’s not your typical Kool-Aid drinking, ATF resisting cult either, it’s a cult of witches. How does it qualify as a Silent Night, Deadly Night movie?
Well, it just happens to take place around Christmas, but other than that, not a whole lot. It does have a lot of gruesome special effects and if you ever wanted to know what it’s like to have Clint Howard invade your personal space this is the movie for you. The fact that it’s actually a quite decent film makes it easy to forget that it’s completely off base from its source material.
Still, when it came to making the 5th film, The Toy Maker, they decided to go back to the Christmas theme. Ironically enough, it stars Mickey Rooney, who must have needed a paycheque pretty desperately to star in a franchise he originally condemned, especially playing the role of the unfortunately named Joe Pedo.
Exhibit B: Jack Frost
.. But close! This Jack Frost film was about a killer named Jack Frost (seriously) who ends up turning into a killer snowman after acid fuses his genetic material to snow. He terrorizes the town of Snowmonton until the killer is brought low thanks to some inventive use of anti-freeze. It starred Shannon Elizabeth in a role more demeaning than American Pie if you could believe that. I’d say this movie would make you never look at carrots the same way again, but you have the internet, so I know better.
The Rule Breaker:
Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman doesn’t even take place at Christmas and changes the setting to a tropical resort. Remember that Simpsons episode where Troy McClure says you might remember him from such films as Christmas Ape and Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp? We Jack Frost 2 is pretty much Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp. Only instead of a delightful holiday themed primate, you have a killer snowman that can also give birth to baby snowballs? Yeah, this movie… goes to some weird places.
Sadly, this franchise didn’t last past the second film, however, there is talk about a remake. I think we can all agree that Hollywood has officially run out of ideas.
“Let’s Capitalize on the Urban Demographic!”
When it comes to diversity, horror films have a lot of makeup for. Usually, the token ethnic person is the first to get killed. Thankfully, horror movies are usually outside of the mainstream so there are films that appeal to every demographic. There are some great urban themed horror films. Tales From the Hood, Candyman, and The People Under the Stairs immediately come to mind. However, some (for lack of a better term) enterprising filmmakers try to make urban installments of previously established horror franchises. Usually, they take the whitest franchises and plunk them into the middle of urban America. The result? Well…
Exhibit A: Children of the Corn
Based on a short story by Stephen King, Children of the Corn is about Amish children whose hobbies include religious fanaticism, corn, and sacrificing grown ups to a demonic creature that loves stalking around corn fields. Not one of King’s best stories, but the film adaptation was not that bad. Despite what little material there was to work with, the story has spawned a franchise with 8 sequels and a remake.
One constant to these films is they all take place in rural Nebraska. All of them except….
The Rule Breaker:
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, which finds two of the Children of the Corn adopted by a family in Chicago. The movie would probably have been better titled as Amish Kids Vs. Inner City Kids, if not for the corn demon.
The writers of this film insert basketball, corny (!!) characters named T-Lock, among other urban stereotypes. Credit where credit is due, the villain of the picture — a kid named Eli — manages to ship his corn around the world. Say what you will about his twisted corn religion, the kid is quite the young entrepreneur!
Exhibit B: Leprechaun
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The Leprechaun films are pretty self-explanatory: Actor Warwick Davis plays the titular character who goes to some murderous lengths to make sure his gold remains out of the hands of people who are not him. It came from an era where horror films were trying to copy the commercial success of the later Nightmare on Elm Street sequels by creating an iconic villain who dispenses bad puns to go along with the ridiculous deaths. The original film is remembered for starring a pre-famous Jennifer Aniston as well as a unique rendition of “This Old Man” involving a pogo-stick and a pawnshop brokers lungs.
After two generic sequels and a movie in (ugh) space. Anyway, when most people think “Irish folklore” they don’t tend to think “African-American stereotypes” but here we are…
The Rule Breakers:
Leprechaun has the distinction of using the “urban” gimmick not once, but twice in Leprechaun in the Hood and Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood. To be fair, at least these movies own how obvious a cash in they were.
In Leprechaun In The Hood, we learn that the Leprechaun was originally trapped by a record producer named Mac Daddy O’Nassas (played by Ice-T!) . That is until he’s accidentally released by aspiring rapper Postmaster P. This movie is absurd. There’s a cross-dressing sub-plot (which hasn’t aged well), marijuana laced with clovers (that make you the Leprechaun’s slave), and of course Warwick Davis raps. It also features the Fly Girls, because apparently dated In Living Color cameos were popular in the early 2000s?
Not to be undone Back 2 tha Hood repackages the same tropes from the previous offering. From four-leaf clover laced marijuana, drug dealing gang bangers, and a guy being impaled with a bong. Certainly not as insane as the first Hood movie, but it has… um… You know what, I don’t know what it has.
They probably would have made a third In the Hood film but instead, they jumped on the reboot bandwagon with Leprechaun: Origins.
So far we’ve gone through some pretty bad rule breakers of the horror genre. I guarantee you this is not even the zenith of these oft horrible films. In fact, in there is a literal void of the most egregious rule-breakers yet to come! Stay tuned!