Yesterday, an article was posted on The Wrap about the current state of horror at the box office, in the wake of The Quiet Ones pulling in very little money over the weekend. Titled ‘What the Hell is Wrong With Horror Movies at the Box Office?‘ the article was written by Todd Cunningham, and in it he pondered why horror movies have been doing so poorly this year, as opposed to how well they did last year.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Oculus, Devil’s Due and now The Quiet Ones are the big theatrical horror releases thus far this year, and all of them have underperformed at the box office, failing to top the charts the way that last year’s films like Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw 3D and The Conjuring did. Granted, they were all made on fairly low budgets, so they can hardly be considered bombs, but there’s no denying that horror movies haven’t been doing so well this year.
And the reason why is pretty simple, if you’re asking me.
No, it’s not that moviegoers are no longer interested in horror movies and it’s certainly not that the horror genre is dead. Both of these are dramatic statements that movie websites like to toss around whenever any given horror movie fails to top the box office charts, and they’re both completely ludicrous things to even suggest.
So what the hell is wrong with horror movies at the box office? It’s simple. They’re all the same. If you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all. And why the hell would anyone in their right mind continue to pay to see the same movies over and over again?
Especially when it comes to horror movies, there’s this tendency for filmmakers and studios to run successful ideas into the ground, and milk them for all they’re worth. Ever since Paranormal Activity made a killing at the box office, everyone and their mother has been scrambling to capitalize on its success, and the landscape of the genre has been absolutely flooded with found footage knockoffs and generic paranormal possession flicks, for several years now.
The problem here is that nearly every single theatrical horror film that has come along in the wake of Paranormal Activity looks exactly the same as the last one, to the point that even a hardcore fan like myself is starting to have trouble differentiating them. And if people like ourselves are having those issues, then imagine how hard it must be for the average moviegoer to keep track of these endless carbon copies. Is it really any surprise that they’ve stopped caring, and stopped supporting horror movies?
The reality is that studios have become way too lazy in recent years, and that right there is what’s wrong with horror at the box office. They’ve gotten too comfortable churning out the same movies and playing around with the same ideas, and it seems audiences have finally grown tired with being fed slight variations on those overplayed ideas.
Now don’t me wrong here. I actually enjoyed The Quiet Ones – half of it, at least – and felt it was one of the better movies of the sort to come along in recent years. But at the same time, I’m not at all surprised that it wasn’t a hit at the box office. Based on the trailers, it looked to be the exact same movie that we’ve already seen many times before, only with a different title, and so it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that audiences didn’t flock to see it. Our economy is in the shitter at the moment, and when people are struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their head, dropping $12 on a movie they’ve already seen isn’t exactly a top priority.
It’s fairly ironic because looking back, last year’s roster of theatrical horror was a whole lot more original and exciting than this year’s has thus far proven to be, which is interesting because two of last year’s big box office toppers – Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw 3D – were remakes/reboots. And there’s something seriously wrong with the genre, when remakes feel more fresh and original than ‘original’ horror movies. Sorry, but you can’t exactly call films like Devil’s Due, Oculus and The Quiet Ones original, even though they aren’t directly based on movies from the past.
What do studios need to do, in order to bring horror back to the top of the charts? They need to start thinking outside the box and doing different things. It’s not that people aren’t interested in the genre, it’s just a simple case of audiences not being interested in unoriginal and uninspired cinema. Most people decide whether or not to see a new movie based on the trailers, and until trailers for upcoming horror movies start looking a little bit different, I see no reason why the trend of diminishing box office returns won’t continue.
Enough is enough and it’s time for a change. You can only milk a cow for so long, before it runs dry and keels over. And this cow is about as dry as a nun’s nether regions. You’ve gotten all you can out of her, studio heads, and it’s time to move on to a different cow.
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