Decade of Horror (2010-2017): What Have We Learned in the Past 7 Years?


As we prepare to ring in the New Year here at Dread Central we just wanted to take this opportunity to get a bit retrospective. What we have for you guys here today is a look back at this past decade of horror.

Below you will find my rundown on the top 3 highest grossing horror movies per year, starting with 2010 and running all the way up to 2017.

In this post, we will go through what the highest-grossing films were (domestically) and then try to figure out what the trends were and how the landscape of horror on film has changed in just these few short years.

All of that said, break out your calculators and your thinking caps and let’s dive into this past Decade of Horror!

2010: Paranormal Activity 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and The Wolfman

Let’s start at the very beginning. In the year 2010 the top grossing horror films were Paranormal Activity 2 ($84.6 million), A Nightmare on Elm Street remake ($63 million), and The Wolfman reboot with Benicio del Toro ($62.1 million).

Here we continue on with the found footage craze that was all the rage in the early years of this decade. More specifically the Paranormal Activity franchise. On top of that, we were winding down on the whole remake craze that swept cinemas for too many years beginning with the 2003 release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.

If anything, 2010 will be remembered as the year that the horror remake died a quiet death. The reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street was so bad it, thankfully, killed (at least) Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes’ desire to produce any further rehashes.

Case in point, we also had the reboot/remake of the classic Universal monster The Wolfman. A worthy effort that Universal should have used as their jumping off point for the Dark Universe. Alas, it would be a few more years before Universal rolled out the Dark Universe on an uncaring audience with Tom Cruise and The Mummy.

2010: R.I.P.: Remakes

2011:  Paranormal Activity 3, Insidious, and Final Destination 5 

Next, we have the year 2011. Here the top three films were Paranormal Activity 3 ($104 million), Insidious ($54 million), and Final Destination 5 ($42.5 million).

What we see here is that, yes, the Paranormal Activity franchise was still killing it at the box-office. And, at least at this point, the continued success of the series made some sense considering Paranormal Activity 3 is the best entry in the series following the first film.

The year also saw the final entry in the Final Destination series (thus far) with the release of Final Destination 5 – which again is arguably the best entry in the series.

But where one hit horror series came to an end, another was just beginning.

What is most interesting about the year 2011 was the resurrection of James Wan. The man had made a name for himself with the 2005 horror-thriller Saw, but after a few flops (Dead Silence and Death Sentence, both released in 2007, earned only $22 million and $17 million, respectively), Wan and his writing partner Leigh Whannell had all but faded out of the horror picture like so many one-hit-wonders before them. But Insidious marked Wan and Whannell as more than accidental horror geniuses. The film changed the trajectory of horror films for years to come.

2011: James Wan Begins (Again).

2012: Paranormal Activity 4, The Devil Inside, and The Possession

Moving on to the year 2012. The top three highest-grossing horror movies were Paranormal Activity 4 ($53.9 million), The Devil Inside ($53.2 million), and The Possession ($49.1 million).

This year was dominated by the rise of the possession film back into the mainstream horror playground. The growing storm that was the return of James Wan took this year off before hitting us with a one-two punch the following year. So it was here in 2012, with the releases of the horrible Paranormal Activity 4 and the (somehow) even worse The Devil Inside that the craze that was found footage was put to slow, shaky-cam’d death. And the era of James Wan was about to hit full-force.

2012: R.I.P.: Found Footage

2013: The Conjuring, Insidious Chapter 2, and Mama

From here we move on to the year 2013 where the top three horror films at the domestic box office were The Conjuring ($137.4 million), Insidious Chapter 2 ($83.5 million), and Mama ($71.6 million).

And boom, just like that James Wan was back yet again in the mainstream horror box-office, this time with not only the sequel to his hit original Insidious film but with an all-new fright flick that would prove to be the beginning of the biggest horror universe Universal and its Dark Universe could have ever hoped to conjure with (natch) The Conjuring.

On top of the massive double whammy that Wan hit us with in the year 2013, we also witnessed the feature debut of one Andres Muschietti. A young filmmaker whose short film caught the eye of Guillermo del Toro and resulted in one of the better PG-13 horror films of the past few years (not directed by James Wan that is). As we all know, Muschietti would mostly lay low himself for the next few years, but when he eventually resurfaced he all but changed the face of horror from here on out. But we’ll get to that in a bit…

2013: James Wan Rises

2014: Annabelle, Ouija, and Deliver Us From Evil 

Then there is the year 2014 where the top-grossing horror flicks were Annabelle ($84.2 million), Ouija ($50.8 million), and Deliver Us From Evil ($30.5 million).

This would be known as the year that possession films died… Unless of course, they were from the mind of James Wan. Deliver Us from Evil with its killer pedigree all but proved that audiences were done with the devil and his attacks on the innocent. We had bigger fish to fry. And by bigger fish, I mean creepy dolls and creepy board games.

Okay, maybe not so much the board games. But never underestimate the power of a PG-13 teen horror flick at the box-office. After all, there is a whole world of movie-goers too young to drive themselves anywhere cool and will watch pretty much whatever they are allowed into year in and year out. Hence the surprise hit Ouija.

But the biggest thing 2014 taught us was that horror films didn’t need a number behind the brand to seal in a box-office draw. With Annabelle, we learned that successful films could spawn their own universes. This would be a major turning point in horror.

2014: R.I.P.: Possession Flicks (not directed by James Wan)

2015: Insidious Chapter 3, and Poltergeist, and Unfriended 

Moving right along we have the year 2015. This year the top-grossing fright flicks were Goosebumps ($79.3 million), Insidious Chapter 3 ($52.2 million), and Poltergeist ($47.4 million). Wait, some of you might be saying, Goosebumps isn’t a horror movie! Okay, fair enough. In that case, let’s throw in Unfriended ($32.4 million) as well.

This was a strange year in the way that – other than producing Insidious Chapter 3 – James Wan seemed to be taking the year off. And by “off” I mean he was off directing and producing some of the top horror films of the next few years.

All the same, this year left the door open for horror of the kid-teen variety.

Goosebumps was the highest grossing film, sure, but the PG-13 Insidious Chapter 3 and Poltergeist remake weren’t too far behind. Hell, even Unfriended – while rated R – was mostly a teen affair. Meaning it was aimed at the teens and their (possible) growing fears of social media.

Here was the year that James Wan stepped away for a moment, and guess what filled the hole he left? Yep, remakes and PG-13 horror.  But it’s all good. After all, Wan wasn’t down for the count by any means.

2015: James Wan lies (mostly) dormant and lets kid-teen horror have its day.

2016: The Conjuring 2, Don’t Breathe, and The Purge: Election Year

The following year was good old 2016 where we saw The Conjuring 2 ($102.4 million), Don’t Breathe ($89.2 million), and The Purge: Election Year ($79.0 million) score the top spots at the box-office.

Again, James Wan returned to rule with an iron fist made of jump-scares and pure terror.

However, not far behind was the killer home-invasion thriller Don’t Breathe directed by Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead remake). This film is a slight anachronism in that I feel would have been a major hit any year it came out. Don’t Breathe is one of the few films that feels like a legitimate Hitchcockian thriller, but still keeps such a modern vibe of polished dread.

What is surprising about this year though is it was the first time The Purge films cracked the top three highest grossing horror films of the year. Must have been the Election angle. Guess our country was beginning to feel the need for some political horror, huh? Maybe that will take over in an even greater fashion in the following years.

2016: Political Horror rises?

2017: It, Get Out, and Annabelle: Creation

And all of that brings us up to the year 2017. The year of horror that will stand as one of the best years horror films have had in perhaps of all time. Crazy but true.

This year’s top films were It ($327.3 million), Get Out ($175.4 million), and Split ($138.1 million). Don’t consider Split a horror movie? Okay, then like the 2015 entry above, let’s add in Annabelle: Creation ($102.0 million) for good measure.

And here is the year that I think Political Horror came back in a big way.

Sure It and Annabelle: Creation made some big bucks, but Annabelle Creation was part of the massively successful The Conjuring Universe and Stephen King’s IT would – like the above-mentioned Don’t Breathe – have been a massive success no matter what year the film finally crept out of the sewers and into theaters.

What’s interesting though is Jordan Peele’s Get Out.

The film was not a sequel, a remake, or a remake of a Japanese horror film. The film wasn’t another entry in a popular universe of connected films, and it wasn’t based on a novel by Stephen King.

No, Jordan Peele’s Get Out rose to the top, not only because it is one of the few modern-day masterpieces we have seen in years, but because of the social relevance contained within.

If I had to say, after analyzing this and the previous year’s top horror films, I’d bet social horror will be on the rise more and more over the next few years.


And there you have it. That’s our rundown of this past decade in horror. We showed you guys the top three (and sometimes four) highest-grossing horror movies per year and then we dug into what the trends were as the years progressed.

After all this analysis I think it’s safe to say that horror is on an upward climb, and we can only hope with all the quality young talent hitting the horror scene over the past few years, that the rise of horror will continue. On the big screen as well as the small.

What did you think of our findings and analysis of the Decade of Horror? Make sure to hit us up and let us know in the comments below!



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