September 30, 2022

The Evolution of Slasher Flick-Based TV Series & Why They Generally Flop

From Jason to Freddy, Mikey Myers to Ghostface, Chucky, Victor Crowley and all else in between, a ton of horror movie icons have come about and evolved from the slasher subgenre in the past few decades. The general rule of thumb is: if a cash cow keeps delivering, then you keep pumping. And that philosophy does not restrain itself solely to the big screen, comics and other merchandise.

Over the years, fans have witnessed the reluctant transitioning of cold-blooded onscreen slasher villains from film to the idiot box. Perhaps the most curious result of this byproduct is the abrupt, rushed and often unfaithful continuation of the same beloved, if at the same time feared, relentless murderers and their universes (universi?). Herein, we will take a step back and analyze the more questionable TV adaptations that have followed these franchises. Another aspect this list aims at is looking at what made them so forgettable and what could’ve been.

1. Friday The 13th: The Series

Friday The 13th The Series

In the late 1980s, once the film franchise itself was well into its run as a cash cow (with eight films released at the time of the show’s debut) and overstaying its welcome, the Friday The 13th series came about. I personally remember going in as a kid and expecting to see the same type of gore-soaked ch-ch ha-ha mayhem that was onscreen during Mama Voorhees’ troubled son’s many bloody misadventures.

However, the first harbinger of doom for my expectations already reared its ugly head early on. One of the first things I noticed was that the masked, two meter-tall murderer was oddly absent. Yep, you guessed it…this was one of THOSE shows. No Jason, no sign of any recurring characters from the previous theatrical flicks, and, most insultingly, no slasher kills. No body count to see or appreciate, either. Turns out this show wasn’t even initially planned as a Friday The 13th series.

Originally named under the working title of The 13th Hour, this mystery thriller of fantastical proportions was only called the former after the fact in order to potentially cash in on the success and name recognition tied to the Hockey-masked serial killer himself and his several adaptations. Alas, all curious audiences who tuned in to the Paramount-distributed Syndicated television series during the late 1980s got was 40 minutes of a bunch of wannabe Scooby Doo/Hardy Boys rejects searching for lost artifacts belonging to an antique store that the group recently inherited.

Well, technically, the antiques weren’t even lost at all; the idiots just gave them away prior to finding out the true powers and cursed qualities of the items. Many of these are exploited by the people who possess them in some way throughout the show. This entry also featured a ton of paranormal elements a la Goosebumps or The X-Files mixed in with some day-time television crime tropes. The content of the show was honestly not the worst, though it was a mistake to laud it as a Jason Voorhees reincarnation of the movies at all.

So thanks a lot for the disappointment and false advertisement, Frank Mancuso, Jr., producer of the actual film series… you cajoled me into tuning in and all I ended up with were Halloween: Season of the Witch vibes, except this time it’s three whole seasons of it. The only cool thing to mention is the stellar performance of John D. LeMay, who would go on to be in Friday The 13th Part 9: Jason Goes To Hell. I know it’s not much, but still more than I could say for the following televised abomination. It all goes downhill from here, folks.

2. Freddy’s Nightmares

Freddy's Nightmares

Next, we come to what is arguably the worst offender when it comes down to these types of horror shows. Yet another syndicated show, this time around produced by New Line Television, Freddy’s Nightmares came about as an anthology series around the same time as the previously discussed Friday The 13th show and featured, unsurprisingly so at this point, none of the main characters we’ve come to know from the main Nightmare On Elm Street film franchise. And, though Freddy Krueger himself did make a few appearances throughout the series at points during certain stories, he generally took a backseat to the few scares, sordid drama and once-in-a-blue-moon unintentional hilarity that came about onscreen during the series’ 44-episode run.

Additionally, as a nod to the famous Tales From The Crypt horror anthology series, Freddy himself would frequently go on to ‘host’ the various stories (two of which intertwined and made up a single episode of the show). Oh and there were also these odd Adult Swim-style bumper segments in which Krueger would make lame jokes or do out-of-place slapstick humor as commentary for what was going on in the stories depicted.

Now you may be asking yourself why I rate this one so lowly? Well, for starters, Freddy doesn’t do much in the form of killing or causing nightmare fuel as within the films. This remains one large strike against the program. Secondly, this series featured a myriad of stars early in their careers like Brad Pitt, Mariska Hargitay and Jeffrey Combs.

However, few of them had anything to do with the horror or slasher genre aside from Bill Moseley. And finally, what the hell was up with the “Safe Sex” episode? Easily the worst thing I’ve seen with Freddy Krueger in it. I won’t spoil much but the name leaves much to be desired…and I’m an actual fanatic of The Final Nightmare!

3. Poltergeist: The Legacy

Poltergeist The Legacy

And now we’ve taken a segue to the late 1990s for our next entry, Poltergeist: The Legacy. The utterly ironic part of this is it entails a ‘legacy’ of a TV series hardly anybody even remembers. To no one’s surprise, this, like the previous slasher serial continuations, has little to no ties to the eponymous films. Likewise and also equally unsurprisingly, not a single character makes a comeback either. I think we’re really beginning to see a pattern here. The only slightly familiar concept linking this show to the legendary 80s flick is the recurring theme of “the legacy”; a force of nature of sorts that aided the family in getting their daughter Carol Ann back from the other side towards the end of the original Poltergeist.

While Poltergeist: The Legacy originally debuted on the Showtime channel in 1996, it was later syndicated before finally being cancelled by the MGM & Showtime production companies, though a fourth season later aired via the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) TV channel. In this series, Derek de Lint, a real-life Dutchman, portrays a fictional Dutchman by the name of Dr. Derek Rayne. Rayne is a literary scholar and Legacy House member in San Francisco Bay who, like his father, possesses supernatural powers. Dr. Rayne’s main power is ultimately ‘Sight’ AKA the power of perception and precognition.

Following the untimely demise of Rayne’s father, Dr. Rayne himself seeks to control the Legacy Houses and protect the world from any and all evil and dangers. That entails the Occultist black magic that comes from different types of spells, runes, forces, etc. The Legacy has origins within 9th century England but spread around the world since, kind of like tea and biscuits. The members of the Legacy Houses also carry these little rings around with them like they’re in Mordor.

Anyway, the primary issue with this particular show, aside from having nearly no connection to the movies, has to be the lack of substance and storytelling continuity. Likewise, the overall tone here seems to be horror with an emphasis on the Occult. Be that as it may, could it have killed the writers and producers to create more suspense and less filler? Almost feels like watching a bad anime at times.

4. Scream MTV/VH1 Series

Scream The Series

Uh yeah, so the latest and not-so-greatest offering within the Ghostface lore is this dramatic type of series. And one that was broadcast on MTV and VH1, no less.

Getting down to brass tacks, the acting is fairly lame and tame, even when it comes to TV high schoolers. The writing is equally lazy and piss-poor as all hell. All signs point to the new Scream television show presenting itself as a lackluster continuation of an already played out, though fun franchise.

But why is it one of the stronger entries on this list? For one thing, the anthology format for this slasher series works in its favor. It accomplishes exactly this by throwing in the bloody pizzaz of Kevin Williamson and the late Wes Craven. The show then mixes it up with various shooting locales, stories with halfway decent concepts and some impressive guest appearances. However, the primary issue here lies in the lack of meaningful plot points and memorable death scenes.

While the humor of the oldschool late 1990s/early 2000s movies is heavily on display here with a keen influence on piquing the nostalgic interests of many a slasher fanatic, the weakness in overall development grinds this episodic masquerade to a snail’s pace. Now, though it never really slows to a complete halt, despite nearing trainwreck vibes at certain points, the MTV Scream series and its finale(s) leave quite some untapped potential in its fairly middle-of-the-road storytelling throughout the three seasons that the show encompassed.

5. Chucky TV Series

Chucky The Series

I have to say, thank God this is almost over. Last but not least (or is it least, since this show might be the overall worst of the bunch and does virtually nothing right), Chucky’s first and hopefully final foray into the TV world comes in the form of a SyFY channel show by Don Mancini, writer and producer of many of the previous Chucky flicks, as well as the director of all the crappy ones that came out post-Child’s Play 3.

The recent show stars Brad Dourif, once more, as the now-ever-so-raspy-and-dry voice of the eponymous killer Good Guy doll of his own TV show, as well as the return of Alex Vincent AKA the OG Andy Barclay from the first three flicks as well as the surprising reprisal of Kyle by the same actress from Child’s Play 2, Christine Elise, who was Andy’s foster sister in that particular movie. And, yet again, Chucky returns in full form (and in more ways than one, I might add) following the deus ex machination finale of 2017’s Cult of Chucky.

You’ve also got some other no-names playing superfluously idiosyncratic characters that are frequently akin to real-world stereotypes seemingly created for the sake of fulfilling a coming-of-age, Wonder Years type of vibe that juxtaposes with the comedically awkward, if sometimes overtly vulgar and once in a while bloody for television, slasher tropes of the 1980s.

With that, I’ve said all of the worthwhile things there are in regards to this new series. The plot is full of more holes than a certain central European delicacy. Many of the character developments also felt cliche and often forced throughout the first eight-episode season of this show. The presence of Nica from the previous films also seems wasted in terms of both promise and performance. In spite of this, the acting talents of Dourif’s offspring are adequate at best. Furthermore, the kills are few and far in between, though I did have fun with some of the campier scenes. A few instances include the Halloween house party bit in episode two and the theatre sequence within the season finale.

The appearance of the shy underdog, the gender-swapped love interest, the class clown and the popular kid as well as his ditzy girlfriend sets up one of those annoying school dramas that you’ve seen done millions of times beforehand. And, with that said, all of the good stuff here doesn’t quite pass muster and do enough to save the Chucky TV Series from the all-too-common feeling of formulaic storytelling and paint by numbers plot points. Despite actually having the killer, setting this TV continuation aside from some others before it, that hardly saves the show. This is especially when the main baddies’ presence and performance is engulfed in gallons of whack tropes. Tropes that include bad writing, overdone cliches and late 90s Saturday morning cartoon excrement.

Slasher Villains

All in all, there’s much to say about the wacky world of horror and slasher shows on the boob tube. Some display a hint of promise and originality in their own right while most others only have mainly ineptitude. Lack of continuity and endless slaps to the faces of the IP icons and their creators are also common. All there are now are, for the most part, televised mediocrities and lackluster efforts.

Alas, there will always be the films themselves to watch and enjoy in all their gory glory. The hopeful masterpiece of a television series to come into our world and forever embellish and honor the bloodiness and thrills of the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and co. is yet to arrive. But hopefully when it does it won’t be another G-Damn anthology series!

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