The Most Confusing Horror Franchise Timelines, Explained

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Vote up the timelines that hurt your brain.

Anytime there's a popular horror movie, it's bound to get a sequel - or two, or three, or nine. With so many franchise installments, many of them produced on the cheap, horror movies aren't exactly known for their rigid continuity. In fact, later movies in a series will often outright contradict earlier ones, while some installments specifically ignoring their predecessors altogether.

As a result, keeping track of just what the heck is going on in your favorite horror franchise can be - frankly put - murder, especially in the age of remakes, reboots, and late-era sequels. Fortunately, we've pulled apart the timelines of some of the most confounding franchises to help walk you through which movies “count” in continuity, which don't, and in what order you need to watch them in to get the whole story - or all the different stories, as the case may be.

Vote up the tangled timelines that left you scratching your head long after you left the theater (or turned off the TV).

  • 1
    55 VOTES

    The first four movies in Clive Barker's Hellraiser franchise tell a narrative that's fairly tightly knit, with the exception of abandoning original plans to make Julia Cotton the series's main villain after the second installment. After 1996's Hellraiser: Bloodline, however, things take a turn.

    Bloodline was the last major series installment to get a theatrical release, and in its wake came a spate of direct-to-video sequels. These sequels had much less to do with the original films' events, instead focusing on largely unrelated individuals who fell afoul of the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration. In fact, at least a few of these direct-to-video sequels were originally spec scripts re-worked to include elements of the Hellraiser mythos.

    While these sequels had very little to do with the original films, they remained part of the same timeline (at least ostensibly) until the 2005 release of Hellworld, the franchise's eighth installment. Hellworld took place in a world in which the previous Hellraiser films all existed as films and gave rise to a popular MMORPG.

    This was followed by two other films, Revelations in 2011 and Judgment in 2018, which followed a similar template to the earlier direct-to-video sequels in having little or no connection to the previous films - except, of course, for the Cenobites. These two late-era sequels were also the first to recast Pinhead, who had, until then, been played by Doug Bradley.

    Finally (at least for the time being), David Bruckner directed a 2022 remake/reboot of Hellraiser, this time starring Jamie Clayton as Pinhead/"the Hell Priest." This film is presumably the start of a whole new timeline for the series.

    55 votes

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  • 2
    76 VOTES

    With the culmination of the recent Halloween trilogy - which includes Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends - the franchise, kickstarted by John Carpenter's original classic all the way back in 1978, boasts one of the most fraught timelines in cinema history.

    Part of this traces back to the fact that Halloween was never intended to be the franchise it became. Instead, John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill envisioned an anthology of unrelated stories, all connected only by their proximity to the eponymous holiday. That said, the runaway success of the 1978 original prompted demand for more of the masked slasher Michael Myers, which in turn brought us to the quagmire of competing timelines the franchise has today.

    Most timelines begin with Carpenter's original. In fact, for decades, there were only two timelines to contend with: The one featuring Michael Myers, which began with the first Halloween and continued through installments 2, 4, 5, and 6, and the odd-duck film that was Halloween 3, a leftover byproduct of the original anthology plan, which remains unconnected to any of the other films.

    The 1998 release of Halloween H20 created a third timeline. This one ignored the intervening sequels and brought back Jamie Lee Curtis but kept Halloween 2's detail that Curtis's Laurie Strode was secretly Myers's sister. This timeline culminated in Halloween: Resurrection four years later.

    Then, there were Rob Zombie's remakes. These jettisoned all other official timelines in favor or remaking the first film with Zombie's own vision, then making a direct sequel for that remake. Finally, 2018 saw the release of a new movie simply called Halloween and, with it, the start of yet another timeline. This one kept Carpenter's original film but not the original sequel, bringing Curtis back once again but abandoning the unpopular twist that made her Michael's sibling.

    76 votes

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  • The original Amityville Horror film from 1979 was adapted from Jay Anson's 1977 book of the same name. Anson's book, in turn, was supposedly based on true events. Because at least some aspects of the Amityville case are purportedly true, this means plenty of other stories over the years have mined them for material, including a whole host of movies with “Amityville” in the name that have no relationship whatsoever to the movie franchise.

    That would be confusing enough, but the original franchise's consistency (or lack thereof) doesn't help matters. Besides a 2005 remake, the original movie produced 10 sequels, many of which boast, shall we say, loose continuity. Amityville 2 is a prequel to the first movie, but the third film makes no mention of the events in the second.

    Starting with Amityville 4, the stories become even less connected, as they don't follow the house from the first movie, but objects from that house that make their way to other places, carrying hauntings and curses with them. This continues through the series's next few movies before the 2005 remake finally breaks the chain.

    Since then, two new “official” Amityville movies have been produced, both of which diverge from previous continuity. Amityville: The Awakening, released in 2017, takes place in a world in which all of the series's previous films exist as films and The Awakening itself is the only “real” story; meanwhile, 2018's The Amityville Murders attempt to tell the “true” story  of the real-life DeFeo family, whose tragedy underpins all of the Amityville narratives.

    32 votes

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  • 4
    33 VOTES

    With nine films out and another in the works, the Saw franchise is one of the most successful horror film series in history. What's more, its lore doesn't seem all that confounding, at least at first glance.

    Unlike virtually every other franchise to tuck even remotely as many films under its belt, the Saw movies all take place within one continuous timeline, despite half a dozen different directors and nearly as many writers.

    This doesn't mean the Saw films are precisely straightforward, however. After all, the main villain dies in the third movie, to be replaced by a parade of accomplices and apprentices, even though he continues making appearances in flashbacks and fake-outs.

    This “who is the villain” approach means the films can get extremely confusing, even before later sequels start incorporating tricky elements that play with the audience's sense of time and red herrings suggesting Jigsaw is still alive and kicking.

    33 votes

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  • 5
    61 VOTES

    The five-film Insidious franchise may only have a single timeline, but good luck keeping it straight. The first film in the series, released in 2010, is its own fairly straightforward ghost story, even as it introduces some intriguing aspects from the series's past. The 2013 sequel, however, really begins to mess things up.

    Like a traditional sequel, Insidious: Chapter 2 takes place almost immediately after the events of the first film; however, the characters entering “the Further,” a liminal space that acts as a spirit-world purgatory, stretches the limits of time, meaning that actions they undertake in the film's present can affect the past - namely, causing some of the unexplained events in the first film.

    This gets even more confusing with Insidious: Chapter 3, which is a prequel rather than a sequel. This film shows events from several years before the first two movies and stars Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, a medium who is deceased in the earlier films' continuity.

    The Last Key, bridges the time gap between Chapter 3 and the first film while also revealing more about Elise's history. Plus, there are more time-bending shenanigans, as events that take place in The Last Key affect future events that took place in the first film.

    Released fully five years after The Last Key, The Red Door - the fifth and (supposedly) final installment of the Insidious franchise - picks back up with the Lambert family, some nine years after the events of the first two movies. At the end of Chapter 2, Josh Lambert and his son Dalton had their memories of the film's events erased, in the hopes that it would spare them the trauma they had experienced and prevent them from astrally projecting into the Further anymore.

    However, the suppression had an unforeseen side effect, leaving them both foggy and distant, and driving the family apart. As Dalton heads off to college and his father struggles to regain control of his life, the two have to confront their demons - even if they don't remember them.

    61 votes

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  • Like many popular slasher franchises of the ‘80s, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre has seen more than its fair share of remakes, reboots, and confusing timeline shenanigans - let's try to untangle them.

    For starters, there's the 1974 original. Like John Carpenter's Halloween a few years later, this is not only the germinal point of the series, it's also the first installment in most of the timelines, with the exception of the 2003 remake, which also got its own sequel.

    Following the 1974 original, there were three sequels, between 1986 and 1995, which all more or less followed the same timeline, as well as a 2017 prequel simply called Leatherface; however, there are also two other films that used the '74 original as a jumping-off point to tell their own story.

    The first was Texas Chainsaw 3D, released in 2012 as a direct sequel to the original film. The next was the 2022 Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Netflix, which was also presented as a direct sequel to the original and pulled a Halloween (2018) by bringing back the Sally Hardesty character from the original film (albeit played by a different actress because Marilyn Burns, who originated the role, had since passed away).

    53 votes

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