DVD Patrol: Our favorite horror franchises

It’s never easy finding a teamup for all of us but when it’s the Halloween season, finding scary concepts is a little easier. Thanks to the team, here we go again – our favorite horror movie franchises. Every idea starts someplace and it can take on a life of its own. Movies like “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Friday the 13th” were a couple of examples on how a franchise gets started. The team and I have managed to pick some you wouldn’t expect. See if these are some you would like.


“The Omen”

When it comes to horror movie villains, you can keep your Freddies, Jasons and Michaels. Me, I prefer the top guy himself – Satan. And that’s exactly who you get in the lead role of the baddie in “The Omen” franchise ... only with the first film in 1976, the Antichrist is just a baby. I think that’s what’s most terrifying about the first film – that the ultimate evil has taken the form of a baby, who grows over the course of the film into a decidedly creepy little boy. You know his name: Damien. It’s one of the many things that’s become iconic about this thriller and its subsequent sequels which follow the charming little tyke through his boarding school adolescence and later his early adult bid for the White House.

The first film, as in most franchises, is undoubtedly the best. How can you not love a film with Gregory Peck as its protagonist? Only an actor of that stature could make you root for the guy about to stab his baby boy with seven holy daggers. The standout role in the original “Omen,” though (aside from that menacing dog) has to be Damien’s supernatural nanny, Mrs. Blaylock (Billie Whitelaw), who proves to be a disciple of the devil and fierce protector of his firstborn.

Of course, Damien lives to see another day in the sequels, always menaced by those pesky holy daggers. But if you want a real scare this Halloween, look for the mark of the beast – 666 – and go with “The Omen.”



I’ll admit that horror movies have never really been in my taste. I was repelled by horror franchises that focused more on the gruesome effects and showing excessive amounts of blood and gore that, for some reason, appealed to movie goers. But I love horror films that emphasize suspense and still have me looking underneath my bed at night. My pick for best horror movie franchise has to be “Halloween.” No, not Rob Zombie’s remake (which I refuse to see). I’m talking about the original 1978 classic.

Obviously, my pick for best movie franchise wasn’t based on the though put into the title or the surreal acting and engaging dialogue (which is hilarious in “I Know What You did Last Summer”). What was truly great about “Halloween” was its lack of gore and the emphasis on the scenes not seen. The fear of the movie is mostly psychological fear that leaves a viewer to create their own image of horror. That’s the kind of suspense I love in horror films. The absence of blood and guts left a lot to my imagination.

Of course I can’t talk about the movie without mentioning the mask that has become part of a Halloween pop culture icon. Yes, there are other recognizable masks in the horror movie realm. “Scream,” “Friday the 13th,” and, my other personal favorite, “The Silence of the Lambs” all have recognizable scenes of a mask that veils the killer’s face but there’s something eerie about the simplicity of the “Halloween” mask that has always stuck with me. What started as a Captain Kirk mask became one of the most tangible images of fear as a result of the movie.

I’m sure there are people who love the gore of a horror film, but movies like “Halloween” are the type that I enjoy. Horror movies should scare, not nauseate.


“Puppet Master”

I’m quite excited about this team-up because it allowed me a trip down memory lane. 

During middle school, it was a tradition with my group of friends to visit one of the three video stores we had in Norwich we had at the time and pick out what looked to be the dumbest, cheesiest looking horror film we could find. We would then sit around and critique/laugh uproariously at the film we had chosen, a la MST3K.

We had many favorites, but few measured up to the “Puppet Master” franchise which kept my friend Ben and I in stitches throughout each film.

The beauty of the “Puppet Master” films, in my opinion, was the realization of the directors/writers that the movies were really not as scary as they were funny, and so made less of an attempt at that genre. Oh, there was still plenty of gore to enjoy: Tunneler with the drilling, Blade with the slashing, Leech Woman with the leeching and Pinhead with the, well, everything else.

The first two movies are directly connected and focus on events at the Bodega Bay Inn and the psychics who are researching the strange events that occur there. In both movies the puppets are controlled for the purpose of evil by different “Puppet Masters” which essentially turn them into slasher flicks. By the end of the movie the puppets turn against their masters either because the master harms one of the puppets or the puppets decide not to be used for evil.

The horror comes from the fact that there is significant blood and gore, as well as some spooky suspense as the dolls skitter-skitter-skitter across the floor. The humor comes from the fact that full grown men and woman are being picked off by dolls no larger than a foot. And the acting. And the dialogue.

Following movies find the puppets playing the good guys but whatever their role, it’s always amusing and a good time. Enjoy!


“Living Dead” 

When George A Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” was released in 1968, it changed the way people viewed zombies – not to mention a possible zombie apocalypse – forever. Twenty years later, it still stands as the definitive walking dead motion picture, precluding one of the greatest horror movie franchises of all time. In addition, it inspired a fantastic remake – directed by special effects genius Tom Savini – and a number of excellent sequels: “Dawn of the Dead,” “Day of the Dead,” “Land of the Dead,” “Diary of the Dead” and “Survival of the Dead.”

I’m not sure just how old I was when I sat down with my stepfather and watched with terrified fascination the first, black-and-white, film. But I do remember it as my introduction to the concept of film mimicking (or even mocking, at times) real life. The film’s protagonists – Judith O’Dea as Barbara (“they’re coming to get you, Barbara”) and Duane Jones as Ben, in particular – were cast perfectly, and you have to give Romero credit for casting an African American as the hero at a time when the civil rights movement was spreading like wildfire across the country.

Needless to say, the film – and its sequels – are solely to blame for my zombie addiction, and some of my favorite, more modern, zombie flicks owe Romero a debt of gratitude for his groundbreaking work (particularly “Shawn of the Dead” and “Zombieland,” both fantastic movies).

As for the 1990 remake, well, it is – in and of itself – a great film all around, despite some minor changes to the characters and script, and comes highly recommended for those of you who can’t get into an old black-and-white classic, which is exactly what Romero created back in 1968 with “Night of the Living Dead.”



There have been a lot of franchises over the years that have come out like “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Friday the 13th” that have a lot of movies to them and have established them as sure things. Movies like these tend to get worse as they go, but I admit I did enjoy “Freddy vs. Jason” when it was released in 2004. In 1996, something original that turned the horror concept fresh and “Scream” was born. Even Wes Craven, the man behind Freddy Krueger, was brought on board to make sure this was done right. With a script by Kevin Williamson ( “The Vampire Diaries” and “Dawson’s Creek” ), we meet Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell).

Sydney is your basic all-American girl trying to balance life and high school. A year earlier, her mother was brutally killed and now a couple of students in Sydney’s class have been killed close to the anniversary of her mother’s death. What makes this so different is this killer is using movie ideas from movies like “The Exorcist” all the way down to “Silence of the Lambs” to keep one step ahead of the police. The killers may have watched too many movies. This kind of thing has never happened to me!

They start to go after Sydney and you’re not sure if she will survive. She shows over the course of the movie that she has the strength to endure what they are trying to do to her and at the same time slowly figure who is behind what’s going on. Can Sydney figure out who it is and stop them?

Like Shawn, I’m more of a fan of something with a lot of suspense than something with a lot of gore. This series has a lot of both. Each sequel shows a bit more and in the third movie, this story really looked like it had an end. “Scream 4” came out this year and some think they can catch lightning twice and it doesn’t always happen. Still, a good series to see.

Some different ones this time around and you can find them all on DVD. Before we go, I would like to dedicate this column to Betty Jenne, a friend of mine who recently lost her battle with cancer. My condolences to her family and she will be sorely missed. More movies on the way for next week. The patrol will be back.

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