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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Leatherface on Netflix?! Why Streaming Could Be an Exciting New Path for Our Favorite Horror Franchises

A surprising move that was announced at the start of this week, the upcoming Fede Alvarez-produced Texas Chainsaw Massacre – a decades-later sequel to Tobe Hooper’s original classic, we’ve been told – is not being released in theaters by Legendary as planned, but rather the film is bringing Leatherface exclusively to Netflix. The streaming service has picked up global rights to the franchise’s return, meaning Leatherface is headed to the small screen soon.

Directed by David Blue Garcia, Texas Chainsaw Massacre will be the franchise’s first film since 2017, with that year’s Leatherface initially premiering exclusively on DirecTV ahead of a limited theatrical rollout. What was once a guaranteed theatrical franchise is now seemingly becoming quite comfortable with premiering at home, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is far from the only major horror franchise that’s adapting to these streaming-heavy times.

While almost everything going on in the movie industry right now can be considered pandemic-fueled anomaly rather than the “new normal,” multiple big time horror franchises are currently planning for streaming debuts in the months and years ahead. The next installment in the Evil Dead franchise, Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise, is expected to go straight to HBO Max sometime next year, while David Bruckner is directing a new Hellraiser movie for the Hulu streaming service. And then we have the Paranormal Activity and Pet Sematary franchises coming back to life soon, both new movies being made for Paramount Plus. Let’s not forget NBCUniversal’s Peacock, reportedly the future home of Rob Zombie’s spin on classic TV series “The Munsters.”

The Alien and Chucky franchises, meanwhile, are spawning television shows for the very first time, further signaling a shift in the way we consume franchise horror entertainment.

All of this begs the question: is streaming the future of our favorite horror franchises? And if so, is that something horror fans should be concerned about? Or quite the opposite?

When it was announced that Evil Dead Rise was going to be an HBO Max movie, many horror fans had the same reaction they had this week when Leatherface’s impending return was announced for Netflix. Understandably, many still view “direct-to-streaming” as a death knell for franchises, as well as a bad sign when it comes to studio faith in the product. But the days of “direct to video” being a dirty term are largely behind us here in 2021, even if horror fans will probably be forever wounded by franchises like Pumpkinhead, Return of the Living Dead and Hellraiser, to name just a few, being completely killed off by low-budget direct-to-video sequels that were never able to even approach the quality of the theatrical offerings. There was a time, indeed, when a franchise taking the direct-to-video approach all but ensured that it just wasn’t a viable property anymore, but can that really be said at a time when some of the best horror movies in any given year are being released not in theaters, but at home?

“Direct-to-streaming,” to be sure, is a whole different world than “direct-to-video,” and as the landscape continues to evolve, it’s only natural that we’re going to have to start looking at things in a different way. With the pandemic still raging in the United States and a large portion of the population refusing to get vaccinated, it makes all the sense in the world for a movie like Texas Chainsaw Massacre to forego a theatrical release right now, and for Legendary to instead sell the finished film off to Netflix for what is surely a hefty sum of money right out of the gate. A bad sign for the quality of the movie, you ask? Let’s not forget that Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street trilogy, originally planned as a theatrical release, instead went direct-to-Netflix earlier this summer. And horror fans, by and large, ate it all up with glee.

While one could argue that horror icons like Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface belong nowhere but the big screen, the reality is that most of them haven’t been found up there in a very long time. The horror movie “remake boom” of the 2000s saw many of our favorite franchises return to the big screen, including A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, Halloween, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The goal with any remake is to generate not just one profitable movie but a string of them, but studios have had a whole lot of trouble with that latter goal over the years. Both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street remakes were indeed profitable back in 2009 and 2010, respectively, but neither franchise has been seen or heard from since. And while it’s true that the Friday franchise’s hands are tied due to messy legal issues, it’s also true that there were many years in the wake of the 2009 remake where sequels could’ve gotten off the ground… but never did. A far cry from the franchise’s past, to say the least, when new sequels were being released every single year.

So what’s going on there and how can streaming blaze a new path for franchises that aren’t exactly lighting up the box office on a regular basis like they used to? Studios often have to spend a lot of money to make a lot of money at the box office, and it seems they often just don’t have much interest in spending a lot of money on the horror franchises that have proven quite successful for them in the past. Aside from the Halloween franchise, most of the big ones have been lying dormant in recent years, or at the very least have changed hands and directions so many times that it’s almost hard to even consider them cohesive franchises anymore – I’m looking at you, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, now on your third direct sequel to the original classic, in the wake of a remake and two different prequels. The days of the horror franchise “Part 7s” and “Part 8s” seem to be largely behind us, with studios constantly having to hit the “refresh” and “reboot” buttons to continue pulling in new audiences and, since it’s their ultimate goal and all, turn a profit with these properties.

But streaming may open another door entirely for horror franchises like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, allowing new movies to be released at a steady clip, free of the risk of the huge production budgets and marketing spends inherent to theatrical releases. Surely Twentieth Century is wishing they didn’t spend well over $100 million on The Predator just a few years ago, but perhaps lessons can be learned from this endless cycle of “too much money, not enough profit.” Maybe the budgets can be lowered and, by extension, more chances taken, with our favorite horror franchises freed up to continue on year after year in much the same way they used to. It’s impossible to imagine the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise being brought back to the big screen and continuing to be profitable to the point that we’d ever reach a fourth, fifth, sixth, or even third installment, but it’s not so hard to imagine Warner Bros. being allowed to play with the franchise within the confines of HBO Max. Do horror icons need to be on the big screen to remain iconic? Well, just ask Charles Lee Ray.

The path the Child’s Play franchise has taken in the wake of big screen release Seed of Chucky has been something special, and if you’re asking me, what Don Mancini has been doing with his pint-sized creation is a blueprint that other horror franchises should be studying. Beginning with Curse of Chucky and continuing with Cult of Chucky and now the upcoming “Chucky” television series, Mancini has been able to take back creative control of the franchise, playing with it in exciting and fresh new ways that aren’t beholden to too many studio mandates or “four quadrant” big screen hopes. Note that Chucky’s return to the big screen took the form of a ground-up Child’s Play remake a couple years back, while Mancini’s sequels continue to be made specifically for the fans of the original franchise. It’s a freedom that could quite frankly only be allowed in the direct-to-video/direct-to-streaming arena these days, making the Chucky franchise the rare property that’s still operating the way horror franchises used to. Chucky’s aforementioned return to the big screen, meanwhile, wasn’t profitable enough to warrant a follow-up movie any time soon. And therein lies the key difference between streaming and theatrical.

If the studios play their cards right, streaming could very well result in a new golden age for franchise horror content. And as more streaming services pop up that need more and more original content that’ll encourage new subscribers to sign up, there’s a good chance that means more and more franchise content is on the way. Just look at Pet Sematary, which is able to take the risk of a streaming exclusive prequel tale that we likely never would’ve gotten on the big screen. Could you even imagine Rob Zombie’s The Munsters playing in theaters? Or the Killer Klowns *maybe* returning in any form other than streaming? That’s the beauty of streaming and its quantity-driven approach, which is providing us with movies that we otherwise would not have. It was once the direct-to-video market that allowed horror franchises to stay alive, and going forward it may very well be the direct-to-streaming market that brings many of them back to life.

Horror icons like Pumpkinhead, Pinhead, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees haven’t been seen on the big screen in many years. Maybe it’s time they give the small screen a try.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3680866/leatherface-netflix-streaming-exciting-new-path-favorite-horror-franchises/

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