Certain genres go in and out of fashion, but there’s been a perennial love for the horror genre and stories that leave their audience scared and shaken. Horror is a genre where a strong idea can be enough to elevate a low-budget project to impressive heights.
Horror is also a genre that loves to release endless sequels and turn hits into franchises. There’s a high chance for horror content to divide its audience, which means that certain titles crash and burn rather than set the box office ablaze. That being said, horror films are constantly being reappraised. Scary films that initially bombed have since been reclaimed as genre masterpieces.
The Thing Remains A Horror And Sci-Fi Classic By One Of The Genre’s Greatest
John Carpenter is one of the most prolific filmmakers of the 1970s and ‘80s, directing such totemic titles as Halloween, Big Trouble in Little China, and the sci-fi masterpiece, The Thing. A remake of Christian Nyby’s The Thing From Another World, Carpenter’s 1981 update is a claustrophobic tale of a research team who contend with a shapeshifting extraterrestrial in a remote Antarctic cabin.
The practical effects in The Thing remain impressive more than 40 years later, yet the movie was dragged by critics for being too nihilistic and disgusting. The Thing barely made back its $15 million budget, even though it now routinely sells out anniversary screenings.
Event Horizon Turns A Space Mission Into A Terrifying Trip
Event Horizon is a particularly brutal endeavor that caught audiences off guard back in 1997. The movie comes across as a mix of Alien, Hellraiser, and Apocalypse Now. In the film, a salvage crew investigates an abandoned ship and a foreboding black hole that might be a gateway to hell.
Event Horizon’s director, Paul W.S. Anderson, has become a box office champion with his Resident Evil series, but Event Horizon barely cleared half of its $20 million budget upon its release. Now, there’s a very vocal group of fans who are desperate to see the movie as it was originally intended, before substantial edits.
Possession Is A Surreal Character Study That Doesn’t Give Out Easy Answers
Andrzej Å»uÅawski’s Possession is a draining psychological horror film that has only recently become readily available. At its core, the film explores the messy dissolution of a marriage. As Sam Neill’s character digs deeper into his wife’s unsettling behavior, he’s left with unexplainable realizations.
Isabelle Adjani’s phenomenal performance is in a league of its own and the film is now praised as a lost gem of the 1980s. Possession suffered upon its initial release after first getting banned in the United Kingdom. Then, a heavily edited version was released in North America, resulting in a paltry box office of barely $1 million against its $2.4 million budget.
Halloween III Forges A New Path That Would Take Decades To Be Appreciated
John Carpenter had planned to turn his seasonal slasher series into an anthology effort following the events of Halloween II. Season of the Witch is the lone wolf of the franchise, and it focuses on the supernatural, witchcraft, and haunted masks. Curiously, Halloween III made money with a domestic box office of more than $14 million with a $2.5 million budget.
However, this was a $10 million drop-off from Halloween II and less than a quarter of what the original movie brought in. Halloween III‘s poor critical reception led to Michael Myers’ return in Halloween 4, but Season of the Witch is now praised among the slasher franchise’s copious continuations.
Annihilation’s Limited Release Window Hurt The Innovative Genre Picture
Alex Garland has fearlessly staked his claim on the film industry through moody and thought-provoking films like Ex Machina, Men, and Annihilation. Annihilation teases terrifying doppelgängers and looks at humanity’s compulsion to control and make sense of its surroundings. A terrifying mutation takes hold that blurs the lines between human and animal.
Annihilation is an intelligent and original movie that suffered from an unfair release strategy. Questionable test screenings turned Annihilation into a Netflix release for international audiences outside the United States, Canada, and China. This tiny theatrical window crushed the film’s box office numbers and it was barely able to top its modest $40 million budget.
Slither Is An Ode To Sci-Fi B-Movie Mayhem Of Yesteryear
James Gunn currently doesn’t need to worry much about the box office after he’s become a vital player for both Marvel and DC’s cinematic universes. Gunn cut his teeth with the low-budget schlocky horror productions of Troma. His debut feature, Slither, is the most in line with his crude origins.
Slither is a body horror alien story that boasts stunning effects and a talented cast. Slither is exactly the type of movie that Gunn now knows how to sell. At the time of its release, however, audiences were less receptive to this genre hybrid. Its domestic box office fell several million short of its $15 million budget.
The Excess Of Grindhouse Is Exactly What Held It Back
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are two passionate filmmakers who hold endless reverence for retro cinema. Grindhouse was designed to be a love letter to the low-budget exploitation filmmaking that came out of the 1970s. Grindhouse gave audiences two movies for the price of one, with Death Proof and Planet Terror both leaning into different extremes.
Audiences weren’t appreciative of this passion project and the $53-67 million double-header made just over $25 million, causing the movies to get separately released outside of North America. It’s a shame that this bold idea didn’t work, but Grindhouse has since found a crowd, both in its original state and as two separate movies.
Audiences Weren’t Ready For In The Mouth Of Madness’ Look Into Cosmic Horror
John Carpenter’s acclaim started to decline in the 1990s and In the Mouth of Madness is largely considered to be the director’s last truly good film. The movie is a surreal ode to the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, and it’s considered to be one of the most terrifying depictions of hopelessness to ever be on-screen.
In the Mouth of Madness is now viewed as a great example of Carpenter’s talents, but critics weren’t impressed back in 1995. The film opened at number four at the box office. Its budget was reported to only be between $8 and 14 million, but it couldn’t even bring in $9 million at the domestic box office.
Phantom Of The Paradise Is Deeply Stylized And Endlessly Original
Phantom of the Paradise retells the tragic tale of Faust, albeit through a heightened rock opera with heavy horror elements. One of Brian De Palma’s earlier movies, the 1974 film only had a budget of $1.3 million. Phantom of the Paradise is a classic example of a midnight movie that slowly gains a dedicated following over time, but its small theatrical window only brought in $250,000 over the course of two months.
Phantom of the Paradise is not nearly as popular as its contemporary, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Nevertheless, it’s now properly appreciated and has been cited as an inspiration to other musicals, like Leos Carax’s Annette.
Jennifer’s Body Muddled Its Message Through Messy Marketing
Confused marketing can doom a movie. Karyn Kusama and Diablo Cody’s Jennifer’s Body is a self-aware horror movie that’s only recently been acknowledged for its brilliance. Jennifer’s Body deals with a demonically possessed teenager, but this is all an allegory for female empowerment and friendship.
The marketing for Jennifer’s Body completely missed the point of the film and capitalized on the sexuality of its stars, Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Jennifer’s Body still made more than $30 million at the box office and turned a profit, but critics savaged the movie, it connected with the wrong audience, and a steep drop-off sealed its fate.