Meet the films that terrify producers far more than they ever scared audiences. These movies all bombed at the box office, and today we are here to look at the reasons why. What may come as a shock is that some of these films are actually quite good! So what happened?
Horror films rely on mystery and suspense to create tension. Sometimes writers and directors can’t tread the line between plot subtlety and an incoherent narrative. The Bye Bye Man is a clear example of a director being unable to salvage a messy script. The monster is ever-present, but moves at a glacial pace, meaning the plot simply tramps through old clichés, losing the audience along the way.
Just Not Scary
Some horror movies, like the infamous Troll 2, are bad because they simply can’t scare us. When films fail to maintain suspense, through either poor staging or a lacklustre score, it is difficult to provide the thrills audiences are looking for. Despite this movie bungling its way into cult classic status by being “so-bad-it’s-good”, this happened too late to convince people to spend money in theatres.
Occasionally, a marketing campaign can skew the public’s perception of a film pre-release. 1997’s Event Horizon was marketed as a dark sci-fi thriller, with trailers focusing on space exploration and action set pieces. Audiences were sold a sinister Star Trek, when the actual film was much closer in tone to Alien. Moviegoers weren’t prepared for the brutal effects that have since drawn praise from hard-core horror fans.
So much of horror is about selling the realism of on-screen terror. Effects and cinematography are essential in immersing audiences in a world wherein they can be scared. The Thing, a 2011 prequel to John Carpenter’s masterpiece, suffered from studio-enforced CGI effects, which paled in comparison to the practical effects of its predecessor. They were so jarring in fact that it derailed a film of strong performances and continuity with the 1982 version.
Critics panned Smiley, a 2012 Internet-slasher that spoiled an interesting concept with appalling acting, lazy writing and half-hearted direction. Instead of engaging with an intriguing theme about Anonymous, the movie gimmicks the folk-legend monster, derivative of the far superior Candyman. It stood no chance in the box office, and producers knew it. It was confined to streaming after a limited theatrical release.
Audiences can turn on good horrors if they contain controversial or ambiguous material. In the age of the Internet, non-conforming films, such as mother!, which Martin Scorsese defended, can be discarded before an audience has time to understand them.
If horror films become franchises, it becomes harder to bring something new to the table with each installment. This is particularly true of films in the slasher sub-genre, which tend to be especially formulaic. Friday the 13th Part VII – The New Blood came out only eight years after the original, flogging a horse that had been dead for four movies.