Horror Films are a genre like no other – by combining elements from all other genres, they can strike their audience on a deep level.
We all know how it starts: Sympathetic characters are introduced. They may be young people having a party or a nice family moving into a new home. But something doesn’t seem quite right. Before we know it, the likable characters, that have grown on us over the first part of the movie, fall victim to a crazed murderer, an evil spirit, or the like.
Horror Films are deceiving and may manipulate their audience to expect something pleasant (as opposed to what is actually going to happen). Even once the viewer is aware of what’s to come, it’s still scary. They play on one of the most primal human emotions there is. While putting fear in your audience requires skill, it doesn’t require a lot of money. Not only is horror overtly common among B-movies, but some of the most famous horror movies were shot on a very humble budget. Here are the most lucrative horror films ever:
1. Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli / 2007)
Budget: $ 15,000
Box-Office: $ 193,355,800
One needs not to point out, how ridiculously profitable this movie turned out to be. Not only is this film the most lucrative horror film of all time, but it’s also the most lucrative film of all time, period. The film started as a past-time project of the full-time video game programmer. After he had had the idea for the film, it took him a year to refurbish and fix up his home for the shooting. Since his budget was low, he shot the movie with cheap handheld cameras.
Once it was shot and edited, he had a rather hard time turning a profit with it. That is until a couple of years later a producer picked it up because it had sparked his interest. It made it’s way to none other than Steven Spielberg, who found the film so original, that he started planning a reshoot of the whole film, directed by Oren Peli. Spielberg had the movie screened for a test audience. After people had started leaving early into the showing, Oren Peli started feeling nervous, thinking they didn’t like it. As it turned out, they were leaving, because they found the film too frightening. This led Peli and Spielberg to the conclusion, that they should release the film as it is.
2. The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez / 1999)
Budget: $ 60,000
Box-Office: $ 248,639,099
The fact that The Blair Witch Project is the second most lucrative film of all time, goes to show, that money is not of the essence when it comes to giving your audience a proper scare. In advance, of the release of the film the two film-school students, Myrick and Sanchez spread a lot of wrong information (nowadays: fake news) on the internet. They made up a complex story, dating back hundreds of years, about a witch located somewhere in the abandoned village of Blair, Maryland. With all this background information and the film being shot as “found footage”, Blair Witch Project became a topic of heated discussions about whether it was an actual documentary or “just” a film. While this wasn’t the first use of the found footage format, it was the one that made it widely popular. The shaky camera and the silly yet irresistibly terrifying thought, that the footage could actually be real, seem to be the perfect combination for a good horror film.
3. Night Of The Living Dead (George A. Romero / 1968)
Budget: $ 114,000
Box-Office: $ 30,000,000
Even though this film is only the fifth most lucrative film of all time, one cannot argue with those numbers. Between Night Of The Living Dead and The Blair Witch Project lie merely Mad Max, SuperSizeMe, and El Mariachi. Like the two films above, Night Of The Living Dead was an amateur production. The money came from the people involved and most of them could only work in their free time.
While there had been other movies with/about zombies, Night was the one film that defined the zombie-film genre forever. In previous zombie-films, an evil spirit or a voodoo-shaman would raise the dead. In Night it’s their own sheer willpower that pulls the zombies out of their graves. The film is centered around a group of survivors hiding out in a house, who have yet to find out, that they themselves pose a greater danger to survival than the zombies banging at the entrance door. If you’ve ever seen a zombie-film or -series, this story must sound very familiar to you.
These films are only some examples of the genre, yet they prove that it doesn’t take a huge crew and expensive equipment to make a great horror film. In my eyes, horror is the most vivid and cinematically groundbreaking genre there is. There are no boundaries to creativity and originality when it comes to scaring the shit out of one’s audience.