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Top 10 Stand-Alone Horror Movies That Should Have Been a Franchise

While some horror movies get way too many sequels (I’m not naming names, but you know who I’m talking about) other potential franchises are squashed before they can even begin. Today’s Top 10 list celebrates outstanding stand-alone movies that could have launched the next enduring horror franchise. Who knows, maybe it’s not too late for some of them!

The Hills Run Red
Directed by Dave Parker

A group of young horror fans go searching for a film that mysteriously vanished years ago but instead find that the demented killer from the movie is real, and he’s thrilled to meet fans who will die gruesomely for his art.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
Not only is The Hills Run Red the best straight-to-video horror movie ever (with a knockout performance by William Sadler), it also laid the groundwork for what could have been a fantastic franchise. Hulking stalker Babyface could go toe-to-toe with the likes of Jason Voorhees or Leatherface any day, and The Hills Run Red even ended with a cliffhanger.

Directed by Christian Alvart

Astronauts Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster) awake in a hypersleep chamber with no memory of who they are or what their mission might be. While Payton stays behind to monitor the radio transmitter, Bower ventures out of the chamber into the seemingly abandoned spaceship. The men quickly realize that they are not alone and that the fate of mankind hinges on what they do next.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
According to IMDB, Pandorum was actually written as the first chapter of a proposed trilogy, but those plans were iced following the film’s poor box office draw. In the years since its release, Pandorum has become a cult classic, a paradigm of horror/sci-fi, with a vast mythology that lends itself to sequels and prequels. Besides, aren’t we all sick of Ridley Scott cannibalizing the Alien franchise? Pandorum could have been an awesome alternative.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Directed by Scott Glosserman

Nice, normal-looking Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) has an obsession with movie-style slashers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. Leslie decides to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, and, ever the self-promoter, invites a documentary filmmaker (Angela Goethals) and her crew to follow him around as he constructs his own grisly legacy.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
While the saga of Leslie Vernon continues in the realm of comic books, we never got the sequel(s) we’ve always wanted. And if ever a film’s ending demanded continuation, it’s Behind the Mask. Leslie Vernon (played by Nathan Baesel) is just as iconic as any upper-echelon slasher (and much more handsome and charming than most). We’d love to see Leslie pursue his “Final Girl” Taylor Gentry (played by Angela Goethals) at least once more.

Directed by James Gunn

Wheelsy is a small town where not much happens and everyone minds his own business. No one notices when evil slips in quietly but, when people find mutilated livestock and a woman goes missing, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) discovers an alien organism that threatens to devour all life on Earth.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
struck at a time when horror-comedies were considered risky and, lacking serious studio support prior to its release, was (technically) a box office bomb. Which is a damn shame, because had it been promoted properly, Slither could have spawned an epic, interstellar horror franchise. There’s even a post-credits “stinger” that laid the foundation for a sequel. Come back, Grant Grant (Michael Rooker)!

Directed by Clive Barker

Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer) is haunted by terrifying nightmares of a city of monsters. He goes to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg), for help. But what Boone doesn’t know is that Decker is really a serial killer. Decker frames Boone to take the fall for his murders, and Boone is killed by the police. But Boone is brought back to life by the monsters of his dreams, the Nightbreed, who in turn join Boone in his quest to stop Decker from killing again.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
While the esoteric, heady Hellraiser got way more sequels than it needed, Clive Barker’s other opus remains a stand-alone. It’s ironic, considering how mainstream many of the Nightbreed’s themes are today, but in the 1990s, the concept of monsters as “good guys” (or at least underdogs) was still a tough pill to swallow. Still, Nightbreed ends with the promise of great adventures to come, and the founding of a new Mecca for “The Tribes of the Moon”. Where are they now? We all want to know.


Trick ‘r Treat
Directed by Michael Dougherty

Interwoven stories demonstrate that some traditions are best not forgotten as the residents (Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker) of a small town face real ghosts and goblins on Halloween. Tales of terror reveal the consequences of extinguishing a Jack-o-Lantern before midnight and a grumpy hermit’s encounter with a sinister trick-or-treater.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
Trick ‘r Treat is widely regarded as the best horror anthology ever made (definitely the best of the 21st Century, so far)—so why wouldn’t there be a sequel? Plus, Trick ‘r Treat writer/director Michael Dougherty has been teasing the possibility of a sequel for the past decade. At this point, he owes us! Still, it may never come to fruition, as Dougherty seems busy with more mainstream projects (ones that have serious studio backing). He’s currently writing for HBO’s upcoming Hellraiser TV series.


Tucker and Dale vs Evil
Directed by Eli Craig

Two scruffy pals’ (Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk) backwoods vacation takes a bloody turn when ignorant college students mistake them for a pair of murderous hillbillies.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
Rumors of a Tucker and Dale vs Evil sequel have been swirling for so long, I don’t think anyone believes them anymore. Another damn shame, as Tucker and Dale (played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine respectively), could have been this generation’s Abbott and Costello. I can imagine the duo bumbling through dozens of madcap, R-rated misadventures—and legions of fans gobbling them up.

Idle Hands
Directed by Rodman Flender

When slacker teen Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) has his right hand possessed by a demonic force, he finds that his life gets a lot more interesting. While Anton himself is an amiable guy, his hand proves to be an appendage of death, killing his two best buddies, Pnub (Elden Henson) and Mick (Seth Green), who return to life as wisecracking zombies. In addition to murdering those closest to him, Anton’s evil hand significantly hinders his chances with lovely neighbor Molly (Jessica Alba).

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
In a recent interview with Dread Central (link below) Idle Hands star Devon Sawa explained how the Columbine massacre (which unfortunately coincided with the film’s release) tanked the movie at the box office and buried any hopes for a sequel. Before the tragedy, producers were actually hoping Idle Hands would be the next Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer. The fact that it didn’t happen is a shame, as the film featured many up-and-comers; Seth Green and Elden Henson were perfect as stoner revenants and an Idle Hands franchise could have played out like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Boys”.


The Host
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho

A monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and begins attacking people. One victim’s loving family does what it can to rescue her from its clutches.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
Before he won Oscars for the taut socio-political thriller Parasite, Bong Joon-Ho made a monster movie and The Host (released in 2006) had massive franchise potential. According to Wikipedia: “In June 2007, it was announced that a 3D film – alternately referred to as a sequel or prequel in news reports – was in progress, with a different director. An FX demo reel debuted at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2010 with the projected release date of summer 2012. However, as of 2020, there have been no further updates on the project and its current status is unknown.”


They Live
Directed by John Carpenter

Nada (Roddy Piper), a wanderer without meaning in his life, discovers a pair of sunglasses capable of showing the world the way it truly is. As he walks the streets of Los Angeles, Nada notices that both the media and the government are comprised of subliminal messages meant to keep the population subdued, and that most of the social elite are skull-faced aliens bent on world domination. With this shocking discovery, Nada fights to free humanity from the mind-controlling aliens.

Why it Should Have Been a Franchise:
Nada may have given his all in the face of aliens attempting to turn humans into mindless, obedient consumers, but the battle was just beginning when They Live ended. Considering the film’s themes have never been more relevant, it’s a wonder They Live didn’t launch an enduring franchise. It’s also a wonder that no one has ever attempted to reboot They Live—although someone is bound to give it a shot eventually. I, for one, would prefer a dedicated sequel. Fingers crossed.

Do you agree that these awesome horror stand alones could have made for epic franchises? What are some other single horror movies that could have been continued? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.

Written by Josh Millican

Josh Millican is the Editor in Chief at Dread Central.

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