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Top 10 Horror Franchise Installments That “Jumped the Shark”

“Jumping the Shark” is a term that dates back to the television series Happy Days. The episode where Fonzie jumped over a shark on water skis is widely recognized as the point where the writers started to run out of ideas and started thinking a little too far outside the box.

Almost every long-running horror series has at least one installment that goes completely off the rails and abandons logic, as well as everything that made previous series installments enjoyable.

Some of the films on this list go to space while others simply go to pieces. But the flicks on this list all have one thing in common: They jumped the shark in one way or another. Read on for ten horror sequels that famously, or perhaps infamously, jumped the shark.

Halloween VI

There are a couple of entries in the Halloween franchise that I could argue “jumped the shark” but I think none did so more gloriously than Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers. The film attempted to flesh out Michael Myers’ backstory by tying him to a cult and an ancient Druid curse. I have to give screenwriter Daniel Farrands credit for originality but there’s really no defending this installment. Fortunately, Halloween: H20 retconned the events of Halloween VI (and several other sequels) and gave us what we really wanted: More Jamie Lee Curtis.

Jaws: The Revenge

If Jaws 3-D jumped the shark, Jaws: The Revenge danced on its corpse. The series’ fourth installment brought us a psychic shark storyline and a lot of other half-baked ideas. Nothing about this film works. Each successive entry in the franchise declines after the original and this was the series’ worst installment by a mile. It almost makes sharks set loose in a water park (as they were in Jaws 3-D) seem like a good idea.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

The Next Generation is the Halloween VI of the TCM series. Instead of a Druid cult, you get indications that the Sawyer family has ties to The Illuminati. Subsequent follow-ups have (understandably) ret-conned the Illuminati angle. This film didn’t really take the franchise in a direction that could be easily built upon or added to. But it certainly did its fair share of leaping over a specific predatory sea creature.  

Psycho IV

This made-for-television film abandons almost everything that made the first three series installments successful and scary. The performances are not good and the campy and exaggerated nature of the flick makes what was once frightening subject matter almost comical. The script is full of problems (in spite of being penned by Psycho 1960 scribe Joseph Stefano). The fact that Norman gives a tell-all account of his past while calling into a radio talk show gives the film a melodramatic feel and stifles any potential it might have had. The picture has its fans but for me, this installment went off the rails and left me wondering how the script got greenlit in the first place.

Freddy’s Dead

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare fails because it abandons the more serious tone of earlier films in the franchise and even shoehorns in a ridiculous 3-D sequence that is nearly impossible to differentiate from the parts of the film that are in 2-D. Freddy is full of stale wisecracks and Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold even show up in a truly strange cameo. I am a die-hard Elm Street enthusiast, but the so-called Final Nightmare just veered too far off the beaten path and it was to the flick’s detriment.

Seed of Chucky

I love Don Mancini. He is a genius and someone whose work I will never tire of watching. Unfortunately, Seed of Chucky didn’t quite showcase his best attributes as a director. The flick is very meta and it delivers camp in spades. But trying to make Chucky a family man and a storyline that follows the plight of the Chuckster’s long-lost son didn’t really resonate with fans. At all. This farcical sequel was too big of a departure from what made previous installments in the franchise so enjoyable and a lot of the humor just doesn’t land. One of the film’s more bizarre moments finds Chucky and his son running a Britney Spears lookalike off the road. I appreciate what Mancini was trying to do and what the film could have been but this is definitely the Child’s Play sequel that jumped the shark. Fortunately, Mancini got things back on track with 2013’s Curse of Chucky.

Leprechaun in Space

I could fill an entire article with shenanigans from the Leprechaun series. But that’s another list for another day. This sequel veered off the beaten path in a number of ways. First and foremost, it starts out in the distant future and eventually ends up (as the title implies) in space. And it features a scene depicting the titular character being brought back to life by being peed on and then traveling through a urine stream. And that’s all in the first act.

Return to Sleepaway Camp

There are certain elements that I sort of enjoy about this bizarre sequel. But as a whole, it’s pretty tragic. It’s nice to see a familiar face return but the manner in which said face is reintroduced is ridiculous, even for a Sleepaway Camp film. Nearly everything about Return to Sleepaway Camp is lacking. I would have loved to see the series go out on a high note but this sequel really didn’t do any favors for fans of the franchise.   

Jason X

The Leprechaun may have made it to space first but Jason Voorhees did it in theaters across the country. And along the way, this film proved that space really is the final frontier for a horror franchise. I am a big fan of this entry, in spite of the fact that it’s completely ridiculous. I think it’s a really fun film with a great deal of intentional camp. But even I will admit that the very fact that Jason is in space doesn’t do much in the way of getting anyone to take the flick seriously. 

Gremlins 2

I admire and respect Joe Dante as a director and I love nearly every film he has made. However, Gremlins 2 just doesn’t quite live up to the majority of the director’s work. This flick really threw everything at the wall to find out what would stick and never went through the process of filtering out the less effective ideas. As a result, the picture gives viewers serum-drinking Gremlins that morph into super Gremlins; a Leonard Maltin cameo; and the appearance of Hulk Hogan. The film lampoons Hollywood sequels but sort of derails itself in the process. The commentary on consumerism and cash grab follow up efforts is amusing but the sheer level of camp makes this one a little hard to digest.

Written by Tyler Doupe'

In addition to penning for Dread Central, Tyler Doupe’ also works as the managing editor at Wicked Horror. Additional bylines include: Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, Scream: The Horror Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, SyFy Wire, ComingSoon.Net, and more. He lives in Portland with his husband and their four pets.

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