When BLAIR WITCH disappointed with its box office results, I happened upon an article or two with the author claiming that horror is dead. My response?? Are you freaking crazy?? This of course is nothing new. Oftentimes a genre flick will fail to live up to expectation and people cry that nobody wants to see scary movies anymore. Certainly we’ve had years where you wonder if something meant to terrify audiences will ever make its way into the theatre again, but this year? The 2016 sequel to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was far from the hit that the original happened to be. But let’s be fair, this $5 million dollar budget feature managed to scare up nearly $40 million dollars worldwide. That is far from a bomb. It’s also a safe bet that it will see a pretty solid return on home video.
For all of those viewers complaining that our beloved genre has lost its audience, I’m not sure where they’ve been hiding. In fact, 2016 is arguably the best year in horror since the 80’s. This is not simply box office numbers, this is critical success as well - although BLAIR WITCH didn’t inspire critical acclaim aside from myself and a handful of others. In fact, with Halloween only a couple of weeks away, there is a very good chance that we will see yet another spook show grabbing the sweet number one position. That’s right, while many were disappointed with the original OUIJA, it still managed to earn a beyond impressive $103 million dollars worldwide. And yes, that was also with a $5 million dollar price tag. With OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL - a far better film than the first thanks to the talented writer/director Mike Flanagan - it’s very likely that we have another sequel earning $100 million or more.
This year started off strong. THE WITCH cast a spell on movie fans, even if some did not appreciate the slow burn of a supernatural thriller. The reviews were certainly terrific, and there are enough horror fans that entertained in the adventures of a witch and a goat named Black Phillip. I was one. You have to give major props to filmmaker Robert Eggers for crafting such an ambitious and historically accurate portrayal of a family facing an evil witch - much of the dialogue was based on actual stories from that period. And once again, the feature had an incredibly small budget and it managed to cast enough of a spell on moviegoers with a not too shabby $40 million worldwide. There is a clear pattern here. With a minimal budget mixed with a few good frights, it’s very bloody likely that fans will respond.
That’s not all, this year we had 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, which earned over $108 million worldwide. And while it wasn’t a huge financial hit, critics dug Patrick Stewart in GREEN ROOM. We were once again afraid to go in the water with the crazy entertaining THE SHALLOWS. Blake Lively versus a killer shark scored over $119 million worldwide. THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR had enough votes to gather an impressive $117 million worldwide. And while the third in the series was slightly more expensive then THE WITCH or LIGHTS OUT, a $10 million budget with that kind of earning is pretty damn impressive as well. The third PURGE didn’t live up to the critical acclaim of other films mentioned here but at least fans enjoyed the politically charged bit of gruesome goodness.
The biggest non-surprise of the year was just how great James Wan’s THE CONJURING 2 was. The supernatural tale once again followed Ed and Lorraine Warren and their investigation of a haunting in Enfield. Not only did it earn solid reviews, fans flocked to the feature earning the film a whooping $320 million worldwide. Thankfully Wan gave us a terrific sequel that once again featured fantastic performances from both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. And speaking of huge box office, we can’t overlook the impressive filmmaker, Fede Alvarez, who took our breath away with DON’T BREATHE. On a budget of $9.9 million, the home invasion with a twist earned a frightfully good $147 million worldwide. And this doesn’t include a number of other cool flicks that managed to do justice to the genre including HUSH, THE NEON DEMON, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR, THE INVITATION and perhaps a few more.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but stop saying horror is dead. There have certainly been a few years where that comment may appear valid. Yet even still, the scares always find their way back to the cinema. But this year? Not even close. While big budget summer blockbusters were generally a massive disappointment, shocks that make you scream managed to entertain the hell out of fans. And the year isn’t even over! Here is hoping that this trend in solid genre will only continue in 2017, and from the looks of it, there is a good chance we’ll at least have a few treats to look forward to. Horror is not dead, and even when we fall into a creative lull when it comes to freaky flicks, they always manage to rise from the ashes to frighten us all over again. And now, I will retreat to my television to once again entertain in some of the fine features we’ve had in 2016. I can’t wait for Halloween!