Finding dependable, bankable box-office hits for anything without a superhero has been a downright scary proposition for Hollywood. The solution, it turns out, is a nightmare, too.
Horror has emerged as one of the most lucrative and in-demand genres in Hollywood, a box-office success story as well as, thanks to a new generation of ambitious genre filmmakers, a creative one.
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 saviours.
It certainly was to Paramount Pictures, the most hit-starved of the major studios. when John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place last weekend blew away expectations to debut with $50.2 million. Despite costing only $17 million to make, the expertly sound-designed suspense film may pass $100 million over this weekend.
For the ascendant genre, this Friday the 13th will be a victory lap. Also opening will be Truth or Dare, the latest from Blumhouse Productions, the horror factory that has done more than any other to lead today’s renaissance.
As the producer of dozens of low-budget, often social provocative horror releases, it has blazed the path for the 21st-century horror film.
Blumhouse, which has a distribution deal with Universal Pictures, was behind two of 2017’s biggest hits. There was Split, by M. Night Shyamalan, a veteran of the last horror craze in 1999 when his The Sixth Sense was released along with The Blair Witch Project.
And, of course, Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a $5 million movie that grossed $255 million worldwide, earned four Oscar nods and stoked more discussion than any other movie in 2017.
While the economics of horror have been appreciated by the movies since at least Frankenstein and Dracula almost a century ago, Blumhouse has reinvigorated the genre by pairing $5 million-or-less budgets with filmmakers eager to push the genre forward.
That’s a drastically different strategy in tentpole-obsessed, risk-adverse Hollywood. The goliath of the industry, the Walt Disney, doesn’t even make horror films, making it one of the few movie realms its intellectual property-backed blockbusters don’t dominate.
In a movie industry where bigger is presumed to be better, low-budget horror has proven an exception. Depending on what you classify as horror, the genre last year accounted for about $800 or $900 million in domestic box office, one of the highest totals in decades if not ever. New Line and Warner Bros.’
It became the highest grossing horror film of all time though 1973’s The Exorcist still has it handily beat when accounting for inflation. A sequel to It will shoot this summer. The success of A Quiet Place confirms that horror is still surging.
That’s good news for upcoming releases like A24’s Sundance sensation Hereditary, The First Purge: The Island, the latest Conjuring spinoff, The Nun, Screen Gems’ Slender Man, David Gordon Green’s Halloween from Blumhouse and the anticipated Suspiria remake from Call Me By Your Name filmmaker Luca Guadagnino.
The once-ghettoised genre is more mainstream than ever before. On TV, Stranger Things, American Horror Story and The Walking Dead have been among the most popular series in recent years.
At the movies, films like Robert Eggers’ The Witch, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows have heralded the breakouts of some of the most promising young filmmakers.
Krasinski, the former Office actor, acknowledges he wasn’t a horror guy before making A Quiet Place, but he promises he’s been converted. Kyle Davies, distribution chief for Paramount, believes the success of A Quiet Place, like Get Out and It before it, has less to do with its genre than its story.
At its core, A Quiet Place is about trying to keep a family together with mysterious, unknowable threats all around. And like comedy, horror movies are overwhelming improved by the communal theatregoing experience.