Have you ever noticed the one thing that all of the biggest horror movie franchises have in common? I’m talking about the big ones: Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm street, and so on.
It just so happens that this weekend we shot our first episode of killerfilm tv. In it, Jon and Donny talk about the Friday the 13th remake, as well as discuss the franchise itself. During the clip Jon brought up an amazing fact that I had not even noticed. The Friday the 13th franchise is now up to twelve movies! I don’t know about you, but I find that literally absurd. Not that I have anything against the movie…I just find it amazing that any movie can have that many sequels and still be alive and kicking.
All it takes is a mask
So…you may be saying, “so what”. I mean who cares how many Friday the 13th sequels there are? Well, you should because the movies themselves contain an interesting phenomenon.
Everyone knows that distributors and Hollywood types only seem to care about “name” actors. The reason is, a name brings in an audience. There is no doubt about it. However, the Friday the 13th movies don’t follow that template. There doesn’t need to be a name.
Why doesn’t there need to be a name? Because, Jason is the name.
Think about it. The reason you go to see a Friday the 13th movie is pretty much all about Jason. You can say the same thing for Freddy, Michael Myers, Pin head, or any other horror staple. These characters are not just villains, they are unstoppable forces. They are the personification of death itself.
So the trick to building a successful horror movie franchise is…
- Create an extremely menacing masked character and chop up a bunch of kids up in a single location.
It’s doesn’t get much easier than that…but as they say in the infomercials: Wait, there’s more!
Actors no longer matter
As I’ve already stated, the biggest benefit of doing a film with a masked villain is that you have a much better chance of getting distribution without needing a name actor to sell the film. But it goes one step further than that.
Let’s call your imaginary horror villain Mackey. Mackey is a gigantic psychotic beast of a man that escaped from a mental institution who for some unknown reason wears a Tweety Bird mask. The actor that plays the Mackey doesn’t matter. He doesn’t really even have to act! In fact, it could be a different person in every shot so long as all the guys playing Mackey are about the same size.
The character becomes larger than the actor himself. It is not a person, it is a metaphor…a force.
The real beauty of this sort of film though is the ease of doing sequels. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get same actor for Mackey…he’s in a mask. Furthermore, the other actors…aka the “kids” at camp…don’t matter either. After all, the majority of them were killed off during the last film right? If some did survive but the actors don’t want to be in the sequel…well maybe this is a story how Mackey attacks some other kids. But maybe you have some actors that want to be in the sequel. Well, Mackey is upset that he didn’t get them last time so he’s stalking them now. Maybe in this film Mackey kills all the same people he killed in the last film in an alternate universe. You can literally have Mackey do anything, anywhere, to anyone…and still retain the same audience of your original Mackey film.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a video camera, ten friends, and find a really scary dude to put in a mask. It’s a cheap ticket to becoming the next big horror filmmaker.