Often, it's difficult to let go of loved ones. Many times they'd been a part of your formative years, helping shape aspects of who you would become as an adult. They were there when you needed them most, pushing you through difficult moments, bringing you joy, and even helping you come to terms with the hard truths of everyday life.
And most importantly, the very best of them, even when you were running away, would always be there when you turned around. Or, you know...somehow they'd wind up in front of you. With a machete.
Still, sometimes you simply have to say goodbye.
I grew up with Jason Voorhees, experiencing along with the unusually horny campers of Camp Crystal Lake his brutal, relentless variety of revenge killing. Freddy Krueger was a horrifying child murderer that, while unsuccessful in disemboweling me, invaded my dreams all the same like the unfortunate young residents of Springwood, Ohio's Elm Street.
Even though I was a rather logical eight-year-old, and already fully invested in my love of horror cinema, that didn't keep me from performing the occasional running leap into bed at night, lest I get my Achilles slashed walking near the edge of the bed.
Chucky was a dick that way.
From Michael Myers and Scream's Ghostface, to Hellraiser's Cenobites and Pumpkinhead, the late seventies all the way through the nineties was, by and large, a golden age for iconic horror antagonists. If you're in your thirties, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Child's Play? These films and their ghastly characters are most likely a part of the makeup of your youth. It makes sense, then, that we may find it difficult to walk away from what is familiar. He may be eager to impale you with a speargun, but Jason is family.
All the same, I submit it is time to say goodbye. As painful as the prospect may be, it's time to stop robbing the oft-disturbed graves of our favorite horror icons for feel-good relics of our past.
Also, if we're being honest, these guys overstayed their welcome on our behalf years ago; we've simply been looking at these beloved mass-murders through rose-colored glasses.
"You forgot the Power Glove!"
The following scene is from Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, which is an ironic title, being that it was sixth in a series of nine films featuring Krueger.
Fun, right? Freddy is a giant, goofball sociopath that likes to have a little fun while murdering his victims. I admit, it's a part of his charm to me even today, but I can also objectively say this was a growing aspect of his character that muffled what was once a pretty terrifying actualization of Freddy.
He's a child murderer that was burned alive by vengeful parents, who returns to murder teenagers in their dreams. The disparity between Freddy in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Final Nightmare is noteworthy, and it doesn't just end with his films.
That's Freddy with the Fat Boys on their 1988 album, Coming Back Hard Again.
He was also in pizza commercials. C'mon.
The reason I gave Freddy so much latitude as a fan as sequels got progressively more campy was (and is) appreciation for the uniqueness of 's creation. Its familiarity. He was so cool, I was able to forgive Freddy's Revenge and jump right in to Dream Warriors, one of the best films in the franchise.
A testament to that uniqueness is 2010's produced, directed A Nightmare on Elm Street , a relatively faithful but dull nod to the source material. Essentially, Hollywood has been reduced to attempting to recapture what once was, or half-assed pandering to fanboy, fantasy mash-up gimmicks, like 2003's Freddy vs. Jason.
Speaking of the dude in the hockey mask...
Maybe Jason shouldn't have taken Manhattan
Twelve films. Twelve.
's 1980 cult classic, Friday the 13th spawned one of the longest running horror franchises in cinematic history, but again, not so much based on merit of content as simply having a stellar, unique antagonist in Jason Voorhees.
More than perhaps any horror mainstay on this list, Jason may have hit his peak just two films in. His transition from Camp Crystal Lake drowning victim playing second-fiddle to his vengeful mother to massive, hockey mask sporting, walking death machine is, well...it's iconic. His first walk out onto that dock was chilling.
I'm not going to pretend I didn't love a hell of a lot of Jason's kills in later movies, but let's be honest; the Friday the 13th series will never be accused of stellar storytelling. Jason's strength as a memorable killer that fans wanted to see pushed the franchise to a ludicrous number of sequels. It's a testament to his staying power as a character that The Final Chapter was only the fourth film in the series.
That said, as much as I still dig watching Jason harpoon dumb teenagers and punch people's heads off their necks, it becomes painfully clear that mixing metaphor with reality and literally having a child inside Jason is a pretty solid indicator that the franchise jumped a dozen sharks to get to that point.
Once again, we're left with the studio system's desire to wring every last marketable drop out of another unique, '80's horror icon with yet another Michael "Can't keep myself from dragging my butthole all over your childhood" Bay produced feature attempting to recapture Jason's original magic.
2009's Friday the 13th bastardized Jason's origin story, kept the killings rote and relatively unimaginative, and well...it ain't the eighties anymore. I know how this all plays out. I'm happy with what I saw when I was eight.
There are very few avenues, if any, to take Jason down that give him any more vitality as a character than he had in his big screen prime.
Which brings me to an important point.
This isn't the exception, it's the rule
Cenobites are wicked awesome, and the creation of Pinhead is one of many reasons I wish were my real dad. Hellraiser was a beautifully twisted, wholly unique take on the slasher. Pinhead wasn't a stalking, mindless dummy; the guy was intelligent, coercive, and fully aware of what he was doing to his often deserving victims. Hellbound: Hellraiser II was an admirable sequel to a damn near perfect story, but did we really need to drag this universe through twenty-five years and seven additional films?
Why does Hellraiser: Deader exist?
What was wrong with letting practical effects legend Stan Winston's Pumpkinhead stand as a beautiful homage to incredible monster design, fun horror lore, and giving everyone melodramatic crazy-eye?
1994's Pumpkinhead: Blood Wings, whose producers would have benefited from an early-nineties version of Urban Dictionary when settling on that title, wasn't awful...but it was wholly unnecessary.
...as were the next two films that pointlessly added fluff to Stan's more than adequate canon.
Michael Myers has hacked and slashed his way through ten Halloween films, experiencing the same attempt at capturing the gruesome spark that made the original so compelling, and by and large missing that mark.
In two months, Curse Of Chucky goes straight to DVD, which will make it the sixth entry into the series since 1988. While initial reviews are positive, which is certainly never a bad thing, it still begs the question -- why?
Child's Play was a great horror flick. It was unique in its silly premise, but in the best sort of way. A serial killer stuck in the body of a hideous, ginger doll in overalls? Sold. No matter that at some point, someone in the real world would have strapped on some tall boots (good luck slicing my Achilles through leather, ya' little shit), and punted him into the nearest wood-chipper. It was still a clever concept, and blast to watch.
I simply don't need five additional versions of it is all. Chucky did his job. So did Jason, Leatherface, Michael Myers, Freddy, Ghostface from Scream. I'm satisfied with the lasting impression they've left on the landscape of my horror fandom.
Which brings me to my final point...
It's time to let our beloved sociopaths go the way of the dodo
The great thing about film is that you really never have to say goodbye to the characters you love, and the worlds they inhabit. I get to watch the Krites hilariously torture a rural family in small-town America in Critters. I can visit 's Candyman anytime I'd like; he'll always be there for me, being all creepy and full of bees.
The best of what these characters have to offer all of us is in the past, and if there were any group of cinematic figures who are naturally resistant to reinventing the wheel, it's them. It's unnecessary, and more than that, history suggests that more often than not, you can't pump fresh blood into their virulent, evil veins.
So, the natural conclusion is simply not to try. Maybe we'll never see the likes of the horror icons created over that thirty year span from the late seventies to the early nineties. Replace Freddy Krueger? You'd have as much luck finding a new band that could replicate the success and instant recognition of The Rolling Stones.
The odds are not promising.
I absolutely suggest filmmakers try to create new icons, of course, but in the interim, please, let our horror heavyweights of the past remain there. Give them a quiet plot with a nice grave-marker. We'll visit as often as we can, and directors and writers should certainly do so for inspiration, but leave the shovels at home.
It's time to let the iconic film baddies of the past rest in peace.
Don't go in there alone. It'll end poorly.