An article on April 12 by The Associated Press titled “Horror, cheap and in-demand, comes to Hollywood’s rescue” is an example of the utter lack of perspective and depth prevalent in the mainstream media.
Obviously, the article is a reactionary piece to the recent success of A QUIET PLACE. Citing last year’s box office hits, IT and GET OUT, the article states this is the first horror craze since 1999.
In 1999, THE SIXTH SENSE was the No. 2 movie of the year behind STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. Two other horror movies, THE MUMMY and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, were in the top 10 in ticket sales that year, too. Beyond that, 1999 was a typical year for horror films.
The AP article states the obvious (yes, horror is really popular now) and uses quotes from industry experts to support the media’s remarkably astute observation (insert sarcasm emoji here).
First, 1999 wasn’t a craze. That was a coincidence of timing.
Those were three genre movies, which happened to be released in the same year. One had a killer twist ending, which generated more word of mouth than normal. One pioneered the use of the found-footage film, again generating an unusual amount of buzz.
The article actually states: “Like perhaps never before, horror is hot. For an industry that has struggled to find areas of growth outside of the pages of comic books, it’s now hailing slashers as saviors.”
I think the article rubbed me the wrong way because it stated the last horror craze was in 1999 and our “once-ghettoized genre is more mainstream than ever before.”
Ghettoized? Hot like never before?
Are you kidding me?
Horror movies are not ghettoized. They’re released in theaters all over the world all the time and live in our homes on Netflix. Many of them have spawned enduring franchises lasting decades. How’s that ghettoized?
I guess if you were born after the 1980s or never celebrated Halloween, you could think that.
News flash. Horror has always been popular and always will be. In fact, horror has produced some of the best and most popular movies since 1999 (you know, the year of the last horror craze, according to The AP).
Don’t believe me?
I looked at ticket sales for each year of the box office starting in 2000 (when The AP states the horror craze apparently died for a while).
I listed the titles of every horror film from 2000 to 2016 (before the so-called horror craze of 2017-18 hit), according to statistics provided by Box Office Mojo.
Here are my notes in a nutshell. I edited out quite a few movie titles for space, but I tried to hit the highlights, and I listed my own highlight for each year.
- Oddly enough, a horror-comedy literally titled SCARY MOVIE is one of the top 10 movies of the year along with supernatural horror-thriller WHAT LIES BENEATH. The third SCREAM film continues the popular franchise. HOLLOW MAN grosses $73 million domestically. BLAIR WITCH and URBAN LEGEND sequels stall in the $20-millions.
- My highlight: FINAL DESTINATION starts a franchise where Death always finds a way.
- THE MUMMY RETURNS and JURASSIC PARK III are top 10 at the box office. If you say the JURASSIC PARK films are not horror movies, you’re sadly mistaken. They’re the very definition of monster movies. But even if you disagree, 2001 still offers HANNIBAL, THE OTHERS, and a SCARY MOVIE sequel.
- My highlight: The Creeper in JEEPERS CREEPERS.
- SIGNS, an intimate alien invasion film about faith, cracks the top 10. RESIDENT EVIL begins a durable franchise. Hannibal Lector returns in RED DRAGON, a prequel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Wesley Snipes’ BLADE battles for humanity in a sequel. Matthew McConaughey is swallowed by a dragon in REIGN OF FIRE.
- My highlight: THE RING presses all the right buttons for creepy horror.
- A third TERMINATOR, a third SCARY MOVIE, and a second FINAL DESTINATION. Two classic horror icons finally clash in FREDDY VS. JASON. A not-too-shabby remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Kate Beckinsale plays an undead warrior in UNDERWORLD, starting the vampire-werewolf franchise with style.
- My highlight: Danny Boyle delivers an adrenaline-pumped zombie update with 28 DAYS LATER.
- THE VILLAGE is a stunning disappointment. SAW starts its annual torture run. THE GRUDGE is an inferior remake of a Japanese original. A third BLADE and a second RESIDENT EVIL. The crossover ALIEN VS. PREDATOR and a prequel to THE EXORCIST are released. SHAUN OF THE DEAD only grosses $13.5 million but sets a new and high standard for smart horror-comedies.
- My highlight: Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD remains the best remake of a classic horror film in my humble opinion.
- Big-budget remakes of WAR OF THE WORLDS and KING KONG. Sequels to SAW and THE RING. A remake of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. A pair of masterfully animated horror delights in THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT and TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE. Michael Keaton hears WHITE NOISE. Kate Hudson dabbles with voodoo in the Bayou in THE SKELETON KEY. Australian slasher WOLF CREEK gets brutal in the Outback.
- My highlight: I normally don’t enjoy films or stories told in flashbacks, but THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE unfolds eerily and effectively.
- MONSTER HOUSE is animated horror with a heart. A fourth SCARY MOVIE, a third SAW, a second UNDERWORLD, a third FINAL DESTINATION, and a GRUDGE sequel. Remakes of THE OMEN and WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. A prequel to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
- My highlight: The extreme horror of HOSTEL is awesome (the eyeball scene is classic), but THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake is my favorite horror film of the year.
- Probably the weakest year of horror to me in the 21st century. DISTURBIA and 1408 were the top box office genre films. SWEENEY TODD, A third RESIDENT EVIL, and a second ALIENS VS. PREDATOR. Critically acclaimed ZODIAC was award-worthy but never caught fire at theaters.
- My highlight: The brutal HALLOWEEN remake by Rob Zombie. Of course, you can never top the original.
- Brendan Fraser returns for a third MUMMY. CLOVERFIELD adds a wrinkle to found-footage films. Not much happens in THE HAPPENING. A fifth SAW and a PROM NIGHT remake.
- My highlight: The quiet terror of THE STRANGERS.
- Found-footage film PARANORMAL ACTIVITY tops $100 million in ticket sales and starts a lucrative franchise. ZOMBIELAND is one of the most heartfelt horror-comedies ever. A fourth FINAL DESTINATION and a third UNDERWORLD. Remakes of FRIDAY THE 13th, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT are not half bad. THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT is spooky enough. Sam Raimi returns to horror with a fun DRAG ME TO HELL.
- My highlight: The bold twist in ORPHAN.
- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY remains popular with its first sequel. Remakes of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE WOLFMAN miss the mark, while THE CRAZIES remake is well done. A fourth RESIDENT EVIL, a third PREDATOR, and a seventh SAW. THE LAST EXORCISM is a better-than-average found-footage film.
- My highlight: The American remake of LET ME IN is a surprisingly moving tale about desperation and loneliness bringing two lost souls together.
- SUPER 8 succeeds on the shoulders of Spielberg/E.T. nostalgia. A third PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and a fifth FINAL DESTINATION. INSIDIOUS takes terror to the astral plane.
- My highlight: TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is a hilariously gruesome parody of hillbilly slasher films with a surprising amount of heart.
- Animation enjoys a strong year as HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, PARANORMAN, and FRANKENWEENIE deliver horror with loads of heart. A fourth UNDERWORLD, a fourth PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and a fifth RESIDENT EVIL. Lincoln is a presidential VAMPIRE HUNTER.
- My highlight: CABIN IN THE WOODS injects a subversive twist into horror stereotypes.
- THE CONJURING brings old-fashioned chills to the big screen. PACIFIC RIM, an INSIDIOUS sequel, MAMA, WARM BODIES, and THE PURGE fare well at the box office. CARRIE remake and a 3D TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. A fifth SCARY MOVIE but the laughs are lacking.
- My highlight: EVIL DEAD remake delivers enough gore to not disappoint.
- GODZILLA remake is better than the 1998 remake. Creepy doll scares in atmospheric ANNABELLE. OUIJA is spooky enough. Another PURGE and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.
- My highlight: THE BABADOOK is a slow-burn dark delight for old-school horror fans.
- JURASSIC WORLD (monster movie, hello) tops the box office. HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, INSIDIOUS, SINISTER, and THE WOMAN IN BLACK release sequels. Unnecessary remake of POLTERGEIST. GOOSEBUMPS is a lively romp down Memory Lane. THE VISIT heralds the return of M. Night Shyamalan to horror.
- My highlight: IT FOLLOWS has young adults using casual sex as a means to kill and/or save themselves.
- The GHOSTBUSTERS reboot gets a sex change. THE CONJURING releases a successful sequel. DON’T BREATHE takes a few breaths away. THE PURGE delivers a third installment during the ELECTION YEAR. The not-quite-sequel 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE is Hitchcockian in tone. LIGHTS OUT provides a couple of darkly chilling moments. Period drama THE WITCH gives the genre a watchable art film.
- The highlight: OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL proves to be a superior sequel and a damn good movie in its own right.
All in all, not a bad run for a ghettoized genre.
I know I sound bitchy, but I’m glad news outlets like The AP are writing about the success of horror as opposed to the alternative.
I only wish we could get the mainstream media to write about the top-notch horror fiction books released every year, especially in the extreme horror subgenre.
But if they think horror movies were once ghettoized, then acknowledging horror fiction’s popularity is probably a long shot.
At least for now.
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