When a horror franchise such as Hellraiser or Friday the 13th gets desperate, sometimes it heads to space, although that's never really a good idea. As a long-running movie series struggles to stay relevant with audiences, it's not unusual for such drastic creative moves to be made. This is certainly true of horror franchises, which have done things like bring Freddy Krueger into the real world, or have Michael Myers go one-on-one with Busta Rhymes. Sometimes these unorthodox moves work out, but often that's not the case.
In the 1990s, a particularly odd trend took shape, that of popular horror franchises taking their talents to outer space. Unfortunately, while space may be the final frontier, it's proven to be a less than stellar destination for fright franchises that didn't start out there.
The sad thing is that on paper, 1996's Hellraiser: Bloodline should've been great. Basic weirdness of having Pinhead tear souls apart in space aside, a film chronicling the initial genesis of the Lament Configuration puzzle box and the descendants of its creator is an idea with a ton of potential. Sadly, that potential was wasted by rampant executive meddling, at least if one asks director Kevin Yagher, who ended up being credited as Alan Smithee after Dimension Films demanded the sequel's final cut be significantly altered from his original vision. This included a new happier ending in which protagonist Paul Merchant doesn't sacrifice himself to kill Pinhead and end his cursed bloodline in the process. Yagher's suffering was legendary even in Hollywood.
Of the horror franchises that went to space, Friday the 13th came out looking the best. Jason X has its share of fans, and also contains some brutally cool kills. At the end of the day though, the film is just so unlike anything else in the franchise that it feels like a decidedly odd duck. The plot device used to get Jason into the far future is also quite contrived, and it's clear that Jason X's budget was a lot smaller than its ambitions, as some of the CGI visuals looks dreadfully fake. It was also the second New Line-produced Jason movie in a row to kick dirt at Friday the 13th traditionalists by not spending any time at Camp Crystal Lake and turning Jason into a robot, right after Jason Goes to Hell made Mr. Voorhees a body-hopping demon.
Leprechaun 4: In Space
Leprechaun certainly wins the award for least creative title of this bunch, simply tacking "In Space" on as a subtitle. The thing about the Leprechaun movies, something even most fans will admit, is that none of them are really "good" movies. Their virtues lie in pure entertaining silliness, and watching star Warwick Davis ham it up. Another case of ambition overwhelming a low budget though, Leprechaun 4's visual effects make the ones seen in Jason X look Oscar worthy. The film also doesn't even attempt to explain how the Leprechaun ended up in space in the first place. Those issues could be forgiven if the movie wasn't so boring for most of its running time.
Critters 4 is an odd case in the realm of horror franchises that went to space, as it should really be a natural fit. After all, Krites are aliens to begin with. The biggest problem with Critters 4 is that it takes itself way too seriously. While the prior three Critters films did their best to balance horror and comedy, Critters 4 is almost entirely humorless, which shouldn't be the case when the villains are little fuzzballs with teeth that roll around in a manner akin to Sonic the Hedgehog. The fact that the sequel also inexplicably turns a fan favorite character evil doesn't help. As a final slap in the face, the Krites barely do anything, likely limited by budget.