Sometimes your franchise just fizzles out and you need to revitalize it. Sometimes you run out of directions and think “Hell, why not go to space?”, and other times what starts as a joke ends up as a direct-to-DVD movie doomed to clutter a Walmart bargain bin for eternity alongside copies of The Game Plan and S Darko.
These horror icons started on earth, but something along the way blasted them off into the far reaches of the galaxy, or lower orbit, depending on the movie.
Leprechaun 4: In Space
The perfect example of meme-ing too close to the sun and having it work out. Leprechaun was already a pretty niche and low-budget horror franchise, barely scraping by as it was when Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks was announced, and a poster released in accordance with it. An executive for Trigate saw the poster and thought it would be funny if they replaced Tom Hanks with the Leprechaun, immediately getting a new poster made.
He greenlit the production from there and history was made. The movie was awful, absolutely low budget, not great acting, and everything was off-kilter. In turn though it was hilarious, leading to cult status for both the Leprechaun and an ongoing future for horror icons to be sent to space.
This one is full-stop terrible. It’s not even a sequel necessarily since the character has been public domain for so long anyone can use it, but the attempt to follow up on Dracula 2000 from a few years earlier didn’t even work because that movie wasn’t great either.
Starring such heavy hitters as Casper Van Diem, Erika Eleniak, and Coolio (RIP) was just the tip of the iceberg for the movie about a ship captained by, I kid you not, Captain Abraham Van Hellsing. Naturally, the crew comes across a derelict transport ship, finds Dracula, and death ensues. Everything is hilariously done for the dumbest reasons like the captain insisting they take the derelict ship full of corpses for salvage.
Oh, and Coolio is the first of the crew to die and become a vampire, turning on his friends. That’s two tropes for the price of one.
Probably the most well-known and (not really) well-regarded movie on this list, Jason X was a strange attempt to revive the warmed-over (or extra toasty, according to Jason Goes to Hell) Voorhees boy took the idea of a distant future Camp Crystal Lake and decided to see what happened.
The result is a mixed bag, with bad writing that’s certainly not the worst out of the slasher’s outings but not the best, and mostly a switch to digital effects which at the time were… not advanced. The acting was camp, David Cronenberg was there for some reason, and Jason didn’t actually get his cool suit and mask upgrade until the final twenty minutes or so of the movie.
It was fun, though! The little meta jokes about Jason’s traits as a killer, the simulation deck being a standout for the ridiculous kill, as well as others that were pretty inventive uses of the future setting. Was it going to win awards? Absolutely not. The movie crashed hard at the box office and looked like the end before DVD sales suddenly made back triple the production budget. Seriously, try to find an interstate gas station without a copy of Jason X on a discount rack for some god-forsaken reason.
Amityville in Space
Why? Because anyone can use the Amityville name and slap it on their movie. No trademark means the old Amityville house where one guy killed his entire family in one night is open season for whoever wants to shoot a movie about it. This is what happens.
It’s about everything that you would expect. Little to no script, bad lighting, special effects made in what looks like 2003… it’s not great. This is the director’s niche though, making microbudget horror films off of mashup premises that nobody asked for and didn’t necessarily need to be seen. Good on him for realizing his dreams though.
Seriously, this isn’t even the first time the guy’s visited the Amityville setting in a movie. He did Amityville Island a couple of years before which follows a survivor of just one of many Amityville house tragedies who brings the curse with her to a beach. There’s a shark for some reason too, because why not? The director had to do something with those assets from Sharkula.
Doug Bradley really has to be given credit for everything he’s been through as Pinhead over the years. While the original three outings of the Cenobites are at least tolerable, Bloodlines began an unfortunate trend that only got worse as the series dragged on. Said trend involved taking other scripts coming in at the time from lesser-known directors and retooling them to fit the Hellraiser universe, usually just by adding the Cenobites here and there.
Bloodlines is at least enjoyable, with decent set design and Doug Bradley, as usual, giving maximum effort as the Hell Priest. There’s also a very noticeable appearance by a young Adam Scott, over a decade before the defining roles he would get in Step Brothers and Parks and Rec.
That said the movie is kind of a wreck, with so many cuts made behind the director’s back that he’s even disowned the film himself, stating it’s nowhere near his original vision. Unfortunately, the film seems doomed to wither away in the vault of forgotten director’s cuts.
The Cloverfield Paradox
It’s not necessarily that Cloverfield went to space, but that it was a jumbled mess of a movie that did The Cloverfield Paradox in. Yet another film that didn’t start out as an intentional sequel but a separate sci-fi thriller called God Particle which involved a space station dealing with the fact that earth has suddenly disappeared.
While we applaud the effort, the ingredients that made 10 Cloverfield Lane a sleeper success, unfortunately, didn’t have the same synergy here. The film doesn’t even revolve around the Cloverfield monster in any meaningful way, but the massive creature from the deep still manages to make an appearance at the very end, even if she is far larger than previously seen.
With any luck, the new Cloverfield development in production from the original team promises to bring the terror back to earth and the classic kaiju with it, so fingers crossed.
Space is still unexplored territory for a lot of horror franchises, and most of these movies make a good case for it to stay that way. Just like setting an Aliens movie on earth, taking a grounded and earthbound creature or slasher doesn’t always turn out well when launched into the silent void of space. Still hope Evil Dead in Space makes it one day, though.