As of this writing there are five Child's Play films, six Leprechauns, and seven Saws. Pinhead and Freddy have gotten nine films each, and there are ten Halloween entries. Friday the 13th is the big dog, however, with a total of 12 films including Freddy vs. Jason. If you remove franchises (however small) from the tally, there would probably only be half as many horror movies in the world as there are now, as just about all of them have a sequel, even for movies no one cared much about in the first place like The Mangler, which has TWO sequels (!) despite the failure of the original and the fact that it's about a killer laundry machine.
But not every would-be icon gets his second chance. Over the years (particularly in the 80s and 90s) there were several attempts at kick-starting a new franchise to join the Freddys and Jasons of the world, but for one reason or another they never stuck. And you can always tell the ones that had "series" in mind - they have the most eye-catching or gimmick-y killers. Surely no one was thinking about Final Exam 2, when the film's nameless killer was just some guy in a T-shirt and jeans, but these other guys - you can practically hear the producers say "This will be huge at Halloween!"
So without further ado, let us pay tribute to these single film killers who never got to build their mythology and gradually lose sight of what the movie was about in the first place (Halloween being a good example - the simple idea of evil incarnate somehow transformed into a mythology concerning Druid cults). This is not an exhaustive list, so feel free to add your own in the comments!
THE BURNING (Cropsy)
Given the way The Burning is talked about in some horror circles, you'd think Cropsy WAS a franchise hero. Not only does he have a cool name and appearance, but the film was "created and produced by" Harvey Weinstein and brother Bob, who would go on to create Dimension Films, a studio that is so hellbent on creating franchises that they will go out of their way to make sequels to movies that no one liked in the first place (Children of the Corn, for example). But no, ol' Cropsy only got a single film back in 1981. According to Wikipedia, the film grossed less than its meager 1.5 million budget, despite being re-released under different titles (including Cropsy), presumably due to the fact that it was such a ripoff of Friday the 13th* and there was already a sequel to that one (released one week prior to The Burning) to satisfy whatever need the audience had to see a campground under siege by a deformed killer.
SHOCKER (Horace Pinker)
No one made any attempt to hide the fact that Horace Pinker was supposed to be the next Freddy Krueger. Due to some legal issues, Wes Craven saw very little of the dough that was being made on his creation via the yearly sequels and merchandising, and thus decided to start his own new franchise, one that he'd presumably stay involved with for the long haul. And whether it was coincidence or intentional, Shocker wasn't too far removed from Nightmare On Elm Street - the Ohio setting (yet again shot in Los Angeles), the dream sequences, the serial killer who continued doing his thing after he was killed, etc. But Pinker also shared Freddy's penchant for bad puns and wisecracks, even though that was something that the later (Craven-free) sequels came up with. Would Shocker have worked better had Pinker kept his mouth shut more often than not, as Craven's original Krueger did? We will never know. Despite a decent box office take (judging from THIS box office report, it might have done even better if not for five wide releases taking up screens after a few weeks of release - it was holding quite well prior to that), Shocker II never came to pass. But it all turned out OK for Wes - not only did he get his money from Nightmare after all (New Line president Bob Shaye admitted he was wrong and gave Wes "back pay" before the latter agreed to make New Nightmare), but he eventually got the Scream franchise as well.
And we got the amazing Shocker soundtrack!
DR GIGGLES (Doctor Evan Rendell)
One of the last original slasher movies released until Scream re-ignited the sub-genre, Dr. Giggles could/should have been a great series of an insane doctor (the awesome Larry Drake) traveling from town to town and doing his thing, all the while delivering more and more god-awful (read: amazing) jokes as he killed off teens and adults alike using instruments from his apparently bottomless medical bag. It had all of the ingredients - quotable lines ("If you think that's bad, wait until you get my bill," Giggles says after dispatching one victim), a spunky heroine (future Charmed star Holly Marie Combs), and a built-in hook for the killings - just about every murder in the movie was committed with surgical tools or various medical devices (even a liposuction machine!). Hell he even had a unique motive - he wanted to successfully pull off a transplant for Combs' character, who had a weak heart. But alas, no one was biting - despite a release near Halloween in a fairly open market (Candyman was the only other horror film playing in wide release at the time), the movie grossed a paltry 8 million, and Giggles never laughed again.
This is the one that inspired this column, as I gave it another look over the weekend. I had seen Brainscan when I was 14 and didn't care for it, but with an Andrew Kevin Walker script and John Flynn directing, I figured it HAD to be better than I remembered - perhaps my 14 year old self just wasn't able to appreciate what these guys had done. But no, the movie just sucks, and part of the problem is that its would-be villain doesn't DO a goddamn thing in the entire movie! If they spent even half the time on fleshing out his actions in the film as they did coming up with his admittedly catchy look (the rocker hair, the long fingernails that he never uses, his Freddy-lite makeup, etc), maybe there would have been more interest in this "killer video game" movie. But instead, the narrative sidelines its biggest asset in favor of about a dozen scenes of Edward Furlong sweating and wondering what he really did while he thought he was playing a game, or endlessly pining over the girl next door. Maybe they figured they shouldn't blow their wad in the first film since Trickster (who is still "alive" at the end of the film) would have plenty of sequels to expand his persona. Sorry guys, no dice.
VALENTINE (identity withheld; it's a whodunit!)
Most slasher films end with the killer being killed, only to open his eye or something in the final frame to let us know that he'll be back as soon as they count the receipts. But Valentine's killer (who anyone should be able to figure out within seconds of his introduction, despite the fact that he looks nothing like the actor playing his younger self) doesn't even get seriously injured, and the movie ends with him and the surviving female embracing. Add that to the fact that he had a great, Halloween-ready costume (a creepy pale Cherub mask and long black coat; going back to Michael Myers style simplicity) and that producers changed what was once a straight up dark romantic thriller into a more typical slasher, and you can safely assume that at least two more sequels would have come along. But it was too late to the party; by the time it hit theaters in 2001, the slasher revival had fizzled once again, and horror fans saved their dough for Hannibal, which hit a week later.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE (Harry Warden)
Poor Harry actually got screwed over twice. In retrospect, the original My Bloody Valentine is top-notch horror fare; atmospheric, fun, and a stealth whodunit to boot, it remains one of the few films of the early 80s boom that holds up to more than just nostalgia. But the MPAA-enforced cuts made it "My BLOODLESS Valentine", and the recent murder of John Lennon had temporarily burned audiences on this sort of thing, so the movie was a bust in theaters. But the title/character lived on, and thus in 2009 Lionsgate released a remake, which told a new story while retaining the whodunit angle as well as the Harry Warden character, making for a film that satisfied both fans of the original AND newcomers (it also helped kick-start the 3D craze). However, despite a HUGE box office take and a treatment for a sequel by the film's creators Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier, Lionsgate opted to move away from it, claiming that the original's success was a fluke more than anything and opting to focus on their Madea movies instead. Yeah, thanks for that one, Lionsgate.
THE HILLS RUN RED (Babyface)
Two of my favorite slasher movie moments in the past decade both occurred in this movie (if you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about; if you haven't, I wouldn't dream of spoiling them). The Hills Run Red was not only a decent slasher but one of the rare horror movies ABOUT horror movies that actually worked for me - I find most of them too obnoxious and "winky". And Babyface was one of the cooler looking new killers in ages, with his doll mask and necklace of broken baby toys, mixed with normal looking clothes like a red jacket. In other words, it would be a fun but relatively easy costume to put together for Halloween - if Warner had enough faith in the flick to pimp it as something a bit more legit than the usual DTV slasher films of today. As with their incredible Trick R' Treat, WB didn't even give it a chance to succeed, and tossed it on DVD (no Blu-ray) with little fanfare. Hell they wouldn't even give us an unrated cut, which is pretty much standard for this sort of thing nowadays. Unsurprisingly, sales weren't strong enough to consider a sequel.
BONUS: STRANGELAND (Captain Howdy)
For over a decade, Dee Snider has been talking up a sequel to Strangeland, and it's even come close to happening once or twice - they were even starting the casting process in early 2010. But does anyone actually WANT a sequel to this movie? Like many of the above, it was not a box office hit - it was released in October of 1998 (over a year after it was shot) and pretty much ignored. But unlike the others, it hasn't exactly found a following. Worse, time hasn't been kind to the film; its silly cyber-killer plot was starting to look dated even when it was released. In other words, it's pretty terrible, with a plot that keeps switching gears every 15 minutes and a shocking lack of action (the body count is less than 5). And Snider bitches about Scream on the commentary track? That movie disemboweled Drew Barrymore in the first ten minutes!
But I assume it must have SOME fans, because Snider isn't just talking to himself and must be being egged on by SOMEONE, right? So to those folks who long for the return of Captain Howdy and his killer 56k modem - this is the only one on the list that could actually happen, so, uh, grats, I guess.
*I know Harvey has claimed the script was written prior to Friday the 13th. Even if it's true, they SHOT the thing after F13 had already come and gone, and given Dimension's history of just trying to copy whatever is popular, I find it highly unlikely that the script-based similarities are a coincidence.