Horror movie sequels, prequels, and remakes are among some of the biggest releases in the genre, but their titles are often misleading and pretty bad. Whether it’s a major franchise like John Carpenter’s Halloween or Wes Craven’s Scream, the movies’ remake titles often aren’t inventive enough to entice long time fans or new generations of viewers. Regardless, they still garner a mass amount of viewership due to being a brand name, but the immense amount of missed opportunities to use a creative title has the ability to turn crowds away from consuming even the most highly anticipated horror flicks.
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On November 18, 2020, the fifth installment in Craven’s Scream franchise announced its official title as simply Scream. Much to the disappointment of fans, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett chose not to title it Scream 5, which could’ve been perfectly stylized as SCREAM5, to be the plural of scream. Every sequel since Scream 2 has included a number at the end. Scream breaks this continuity and, in return, misses the opportunity to have a unique and attention-grabbing title. With the return of several iconic characters such as David Arquette’s Dewey Riley and Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, they may not have been concerned with a title choice, or the directors may anticipate this will be the final installment in the franchise. It is relatively naive to make this assumption due to the fact that slasher franchises tend to reach double digits, however. Scream isn’t a reboot either, which makes the title choice even more bizarre.
Horror movies have a long history of producing sequels, prequels, and remakes with underwhelming and bad titles. Whether they break the continuity they’ve established over a period of time or attempt to reinvigorate the franchise, their disappointing titles typically leave fans wanting more. Scream is only one example of title choices gone bad. There are several other movie franchises that have senseless, meaningless, or confusing titles that follow the success of their original installment.
One of the biggest offenders is John Carpenter’s Halloween. The first three movies could get a pass based on the creators’ intentions behind the original premise of the movie series. Halloween was supposed to be an anthology series, with each installment featuring a different horrifying event that takes place on Halloween. The first two focused on Michael Myers and his story arc with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Halloween III: Season Of The Witch was the first to branch away from Michael and take on a new tale on the days leading up to All Hallows’ Eve. It wasn’t well received, and led to the return of Michael in Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers — a title that actually makes sense. By the sixth installment, the franchise dropped the numbers from its titles.
After the death of Laurie Strode in Halloween 4, the franchise retconned her death by creating an all new timeline that takes place twenty years after the events of Halloween II; Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The choice was made in order to bring back one of the franchise’s most beloved characters for two final movies, but when Rob Zombie remade the series with the same titles as the first and second installment, Curtis’ Laurie was nowhere to be seen. It was then rebooted again in 2018 by David Gordon Green as just Halloween, erasing everything Halloween III through Halloween: Resurrection established for the characters and started from scratch nearly 40 years after Laurie’s battle with Michael in Halloween II.
Ultimately, each title change created several timelines, but didn’t make them abundantly clear to audiences, which caused a wealth of confusion. At this moment, Laurie Strode has lived three different lives with different children, deaths, and battles against her brother (or not brother) Michael. By not altering the titles to fit the intent behind the installment, it has made Halloween one of the most complex franchises in all of slasher history.
Friday The 13th
Friday The 13th is also a major offender in the category of terrible remake titles. Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are two of the most recognizable slasher characters and suffer from the same poor title choices. While the franchise initially operated on a numbering system, it changed in 1984 with Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter. Much to the surprise of fans, it was not, in fact, the final chapter. Jason returned once more less than a year later in Friday The 13th: A New Beginning. It takes place years after the events of the supposed final installment with Tommy Jarvis making a comeback. It is an entirely different story arc that focuses on Tommy’s battle against Jason. By 1993, the franchise attempted to conclude a second time with Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday in 1993.
They didn’t stop there, though. Jason returned in 2002 in Jason X. As it turns out, 1993 was not the last Friday fans would see the slasher character. The original movie was remade in 2009 by Marcus Nispel, titled Friday The 13th. Nearly every slasher franchise utilizes the original movie title for a reboot or remake. While this isn’t necessarily a bad choice, it doesn’t offer anything new, especially when reboots and remakes are rarely as successful.
Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is a cult classic unlike any other, and helped popularize the cabin in the woods sub-genre. The first installment was an unexpected success with its impeccable use of special effects makeup and practical effects on such a small budget. It quickly became regarded as a dark comedy due to its inclusion of several, over the top comedic instances, which spawned Evil Dead 2, and dropped “The” from the title. Evil Dead 2 steered towards the comedy aspects of the original movie, which in turn established it as one of the greatest cult horror comedies of all time.
The third installment was then titled Army Of Darkness, which perfectly surmised what was to come for Bruce Campbell’s Ashley “Ash” Joanna Williams. Ash was to take on an army of the undead in the Middle ages. The third movie strays a lot from the original title, which is cause for confusion. When the soft reboot happened in 2013, it was titled Evil Dead to establish that it was the first in a new series, but never received the sequel treatment it anticipated getting. With Evil Dead Rise, the franchise has shown a specific connotation that the deadites are rising again from all around the world, which serves a greater purpose. Ultimately, the use of Evil Dead as the title in 2013 was intended to create a new storyline, but it’s now considered a standalone movie in the franchise that doesn’t have any greater implications on the story arc. The title choice may have been the right decision at the time, but has not aged well with the abandonment of Mia’s survival against the demons of the Necronomicon.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the highly anticipated third installment in the Ed and Lorraine Warren inspired supernatural horror series. The massively successful The Conjuring universe has benefitted from taking real-life accounts documented by the duo and has spawned several storylines revolving around their most popular cases. They include Annabelle, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona.
The first two installments were titled The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2. When it was announced that the third movie would be titled The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, there was a bit of confusion, as they had never branched out and titled the franchise’s installments differently—outside of numbering—until this instance. If they had titled the movies The Conjuring and then The Conjuring: The Enfield Case – as it is known in the UK and Ireland – it would’ve made far more sense to title the third installment in the way that has been chosen. At the same time, it tells audiences little to nothing about what’s in store for the Warrens. The title alludes to them facing their biggest rival yet, the devil, but it’s actually a callback to the true story that inspired The Conjuring 3 about a man who claimed demonic possession made him commit murder. Titling the movies after each case would be far more appropriate moving forward.
A Nightmare On Elm Street
Out of every horror movie franchise that has done it wrong, A Nightmare On Elm Street titled its remakes, reboots, and sequels appropriately to capture the essence of what was to come in the franchise. Each installment features a sub-heading that explains what will happen in the movie. Its sequel, A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, obviously means that the slasher killer will return to seek revenge against those who have wronged him. The third movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, alludes to the characters using dream powers to attack Freddy Krueger. Each sub-heading of the subsequent sequels serves a greater purpose in the larger franchise.
When Craven released Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, the movie’s title immediately established that there will be something new brought to the franchise that fans may not have seen before. It’s a clearly defined introduction to a new set of horrors. Rather than relying on using the same title to reboot or remake the original movie, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare firmly establishes that it is different. It is, by far, the best reboot, remake, and sequel title choice made by various horror movie franchises, which commonly falter under the use of the same title over and over again. In fact, Craven defying this trend with his Nightmare on Elm Street movies makes Scream 5‘s choice to just be called Scream even more disappointing. Though it’s only a title, franchises can ultimately grow stale over time and weak titling doesn’t do the movies any favors, as they create an immediate comparison between the original and remake, which aren’t normally as good as their predecessors to begin with.
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