Marketing a modern horror film doesn’t seem all that difficult. In 30 seconds, someone responsible for a television spot’s creation has to give the viewer a general idea of the plot and atmosphere, briefly tease the supposed villain, and maybe throw in a good jump scare at the end. That general outline could create some excitement, but if possible, it wouldn’t hurt to add some critic or audience Twitter quotes and perhaps some night vision footage of an audience reacting to an unseen scare.
And then, whether the film is a sequel or remake of a highly successful and notable original, it practically markets itself. But, most mainstream horror films don’t find much critical or audience acclaim, so though one may be easy to hype, it may just as easily disappoint. For these features, they just couldn’t quite carry the expectations of the world. These are 15 Horror Movies That Just Couldn’t Live Up to the Hype.
15. Evil Dead (2013)
As bold as their marketing strategies were, those responsible for advertising Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake must have known they were potentially setting themselves up for some form of failure. You can’t just tease how massively bloody it will be with red band teasers and trailers, in addition to a one-sheet with the tagline “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience” plastered all over it, and not expect any backlash.
There is no doubt that Evil Dead delivered on the gore. Not all of the bloody glory was given away in the trailers, and some segments didn’t make it into the final cut. Not to mention the finale which wallows in viscera as blood rains from the sky. Unfortunately, many viewers complained that the film was rather mean-spirited instead of the dementedly goofy fun the trailers suggested, with the final scene being the only reprieve. Also, it’s hard to fulfill on a promise of “The Most Terrifying” movie when it’s all but certain that most of the characters are going to die – and their deaths were teased in the trailers.
14. Paranormal Activity (2009)
Few films, regardless of genre, could ever dream of becoming the phenomenon Paranormal Activity was – and would later try to recreate, but not quite achieve with a bevy of sequels. Paranormal Activity took the world by storm much like The Blair Witch Project had done a decade prior; only this time it was piggybacking off of cinema verité a trend popularized a year earlier by Cloverfield.
The film began with a rather limited run, but as soon as it started to gain critical traction, audiences could go online and demand that the film be shown in their town. Every week, more and more cities were being added, until it was finally given a proper wide release in the middle of October. This continued to feed the impression that the film had to be a real genre landmark to have gain so much notoriety out of complete obscurity. While there may not be anything terribly wrong with Paranormal Activity – depending on whom you ask, at least – not only was it obviously taking advantage of the growing found footage trend, but also its simple setup and scares left many viewers wanting.
13. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane suffered just about the worst fate any filmmaker could think of. Premiering in 2006 and running the festival circuit that year and 2007, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane was divisive amongst most normal critics, but found itself gaining traction in many horror circles as being just a cut above the usual slasher fare; nothing more, nothing less.
Though it had a theatrical run in the U.K. in 2008, elsewhere, it hadn’t seen the light of day outside festival screens, and a full seven years went by after its premiere before it saw any sort of theatrical engagement in the States, thanks to their distributor, Senator Entertainment, going under not too long after picking it up. Additionally, though it received a Region 2 home video release in 2008, a Region 1 release wasn’t available until 2013. After all of this time, and so much hype from the horror press, many of those without the opportunity to see it previously have reasonably felt let down.
12. Hostel (2005)
Perhaps nowadays, the name Eli Roth carries a lot of weight, especially among horror fanatics. Around the mid-2000s, however, he was just getting started, making a name for himself with Cabin Fever and its infamous shaving scene. Any of his next projects was going to be immediately thrown into the spotlight and, lucky enough for him, the trailers for his upcoming splatter film Hostel pimped none other than Quentin Tarantino’s name.
With Saw, Hostel helped usher in what many critics would dub the ‘torture porn’ era of mainstream horror. Along with the big names attached, such recognition, for lack of a better word, was only going to help drive the movie forward into box office glory, and the $80.5 million it grossed globally stacked up handsomely against its modest $4.8 million production budget. What audiences found, however, was something relatively tamer than what had been promised in its advertising. There are certainly some disgusting bits here and there, but otherwise, it’s simply no worse than your average grindhouse flick.
11. Hatchet II (2010)
For fans of ‘80s slasher flicks, Adam Green’s Hatchet was a sight for sore eyes. Introducing a new figure, Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), to the slasher fold, Hatchet provided simple fun with giddy gore and creative kills. The impending Hatchet II promised more of the same, and after Hatchet proved such a success for Anchor Bay Entertainment, Dark Sky Films and AMC worked together to give the sequel, uncut and unrated, a limited theatrical run at select AMC theater locations. Barely a weekend went by before it was eventually pulled from the screens.
Not only was that a major letdown for those who would have wanted to see it in theaters and had to wait for the home video release, but also it berthed the notion that it wasn’t good enough, or even financially viable enough to remain in its already limited run. Add to that a mean streak unseen in the original film, and many viewers were left with a sour taste.
10. Scream 3 (2000)
It wasn’t a good sign for Scream 3’s fortunes that Kevin Williamson, screenwriter for the highly successful first two, simply wasn’t available to write the script, and instead could only supply an outline of the story, which Ehren Kruger would have to expand upon. Still, Wes Craven remained at the helm, and the primary cast in Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette were all returning, so it didn’t seem there was too much reason for worry.
The premise seemed decent enough, with murders taking place on the set of the latest Stab film, but without Williamson, Scream 3 didn’t have that meta edge, aside for one scene involving a posthumous Randy appearance, that made the first two films so revered as horror genre subversions, and in fact fell victim to the same conventions the earlier films skewered so accurately. The final reveal of the single killer was quite underwhelming, as well. The film performed well at the box office, but the sour note the trilogy ended on certainly contributed in some minor part to how long it took for Scream 4 to be made.
9. Annabelle (2014)
James Wan’s The Conjuring was one of the best surprises of 2013. Wan crafted a loving homage to classic supernatural frights of the 1970s, and further showed off his pedigree by making it genuinely terrifying and, arguably, his best directorial feature. The film somehow managed to gross nearly $320 million globally right in the thick of the summer box office, so naturally, sequels were to follow, as well as a spinoff about the origins of the creepy, vaguely important doll Annabelle.
With Wan attached as a producer, Warner Bros./New Line believed they could just walk to the bank come opening day, and they certainly used his name recognition in the trailer. The film’s budget was curiously lower than The Conjuring’s – by about $13.5 million, to be exact – and just as Warner Bros. would have hoped, the film came away with over $256 million in box office totals. Though that may have been the case, many found the film substandard compared to The Conjuring. It’s undisputed that The Conjuring wasn’t an original concept, but its intent was to pay respects to the past. The filmmakers of Annabelle held no such intentions, and thus created a film over-reliant on genre clichés and the scare power of its title character.
8. Event Horizon (1997)
No other movie on this list bombed like Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon. Considering the producer-exhibitor relationship for revenue, for a producer, it must hurt to know that one of your biggest films couldn’t even make back what you spent for its production. Anderson’s film may have found its audience in recent years, and a handful of them have stuck by it since its premiere, but when it premiered, there was no saving it from the critical buzz saw.
Almost everything about Event Horizon’s production was a mess. Thanks to a previously set release date, there was a time crunch for shooting and post-production, which isn’t what you want to hear about a big-budget sci-fi film, or rather any film. Additionally, even the film has later since appealed to the gore-hounds thirsty for the excised footage on par with any Hellraiser film, initial test screenings suggested the gore was too much for some, and Paramount forced Anderson to cut much of these sequences. The list of problems only gets lengthier from there.
7. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Before the ‘will they, or won’t they’ surrounding Batman vs. Superman, there was similar language regarding Freddy vs. Jason. Though the combined Batman and Superman symbols in 2007’s I Am Legend was a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ type of moment, Freddy Krueger’s glove and arm reaching out from underneath the ground and dragging Jason’s mask under in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday was a little more overt.
By the time Jason Goes to Hell came out in 1993, Freddy was long since dead, and even a mock funeral for Robert Englund’s demon monster was held. But, neither of them were dead and buried, with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Jason X released in 1994 and 2002, respectively. Talks for a crossover film went as far back as 1987, when both slashers were in their prime, but nothing ever gained traction, and so the project was stuck in development hell for the better part of two decades. When Freddy vs. Jason finally came around, the studios went as far as to create a mock pro-wrestling weigh-in. Unfortunately, what audiences received was a silly action film where Freddy only kills one person and Jason winds up as the anti-hero.
6. Friday the 13th (2009)
Who needs advertising when you have a following? Jason Voorhees is arguably the most popular of the big four slashers, and his film franchise has taken him everywhere from Manhattan to space. The promise of the 2009 remake was that Jason would not only be brought back to his rightful home of Crystal Lake, but also we’d see a return to the classic Friday the 13th feel, all while upgrading Jason to a running, cunning human killer. The promises made were many, but the fulfillment was little.
The new Jason is certainly a more terrifying one, and Derek Mears puts in a strong performance as the hockey-masked psychopath. He can only cover up so many of the film’s cracks, however. Mostly forgettable characters, painful writing and a lack of creative kills were only a few of the issues raised with viewers, and especially fans. A new reboot has long been in the cards, and is slated for release next year, but the release date has pushed back a few times, and it’s a wonder what’s caused the development hell.
5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Paranormal Activity took advantage of a growing trend in film. On the other hand, The Blair Witch Project took advantage of a populous willing to believe its primary stars were ‘missing’ – or, at least they tried to, and succeeded with some, but not all. Writer/directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick even went so far as to create fake news clippings about the missing students and ask those attending screenings to come forward if they had any information on their whereabouts.
It was hard not to get caught up in the hype for The Blair Witch Project. Even if you were understandably skeptical about the filmmakers’ tactics, surely it must have made you that if they were confident enough to obviously fabricate all of these stories about the film’s making, then surely they had faith in what they were selling. Upon viewing, however, many may find frustration with its slow pace and thoroughly unlikeable characters.
4. The Purge (2013)
Original concepts are something to hold in high regard concerning modern horror, which makes the disappointment hurt that much more when the end product can’t quite live up to its own promises. Now, we might regard The Purge trilogy as one of our favorite guilty pleasures, but everything we received in Anarchy and this year’s Election Year was everything we would have hoped to see in the original film.
Everyone knows the premise of the Purge films by now, so it bears repeating. In addition to some demented thrills, writer/director James DeMonaco’s first film in the series promised some heavy-hitting social allegory, such as how the Purge might effect different economic and social classes to varying degrees. While the first film slightly touches on that thought, being located in a well-to-do gated community, it never takes us outside of those confines to give us the full taste – which it would do in the later films, though. It was light on allegory and heavy on home invasion clichés, thereby driving viewer excitement into the ground.
3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
After the highly successful “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” Seth Grahame-Smith must have needed another smash to prove it wasn’t a fluke, and fortunately, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” was a worthy follow-up, containing the same biting humor – pun intended – in his previous novel. With its being published in 2010, it didn’t take long before a film adaptation was greenlit, and an adaptation of the same name saw the light of day only two years later.
Curiously, however, unlike Grahame-Smith’s novel, his own screenplay for the film lacked the same comedy that had made his novel a success, and in fact, perhaps took itself too seriously; a hard criticism given the tone of the material and the film’s heavy reliance on CGI. Audiences communicated their not being impressed with the film, as it could only gross just under $116.5 million against its $69 million budget, thereby making it one of the biggest, and perhaps most surprising bombs of the year.
2. The Human Centipede (2009)
Tom Six’s The Human Centipede seemed to have everything going for it. Prior to its release, the film was drawing people in for allegedly being “100% Medically Accurate.” Director Tom Six even went on to suggest that others were calling it “the most horrific film ever made.” Though those claims couldn’t be verified, it must have latched on people’s minds, especially in an era of horror then-dominated by torture porn and in the midst of New French Extremity. Six even alleged that some viewers were even vomiting in the aisles during screenings.
Ultimately, the build-up to The Human Centipede was nothing more than a combination of hearsay, misinformation and generally ineffective claims. For those who had seen the film, that was never more apparent until the final frame. Aside from the bowel movement sequence, many felt there wasn’t much else to find so offensive, other than the premise itself. And by the time the sequel came around, Six was adamant the original was meant to test the waters and prepare audiences for the sequel.
1. Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
If there are any horror films that most define the genre from the New Hollywood era to the present, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist has to be included in that conversation. Not only was it haunting, and frequently disturbing tale of demonic possession and crisis of faith, but also it defined what the New Hollywood era was about: exploring the boundaries of taste and curiously approaching what couldn’t be previously presented through celluloid. Even if Exorcist II: The Heretic weren’t a heaping dumpster fire, it would’ve had a tough time living up that stature.
Considering how much of a seriously minded film The Exorcist was, it’s baffling to witness how silly and unintentionally campy the execution of Exorcist II was. Friedkin and William Peter Blatty, author of the original novel and screenwriter of the first film, were both reported to have laughed hysterically while viewing cuts of John Boorman’s sequel. To go from one of the most revered horror films of all time to one of the worst films of all time was an understated, if perhaps unintentional masterstroke for the franchise.
What other horror movies didn’t live up to your expectations? Let us know in the comments!
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