8 Horror Movies that Shouldn’t Have Bombed at the Box Office

Some films find their audience straight away. But for a variety of reasons, others fail to connect with viewers upon their initial theatrical exhibition. This can be due to bad timing, an ineffective marketing campaign, or any number of other unpredictable factors. Whatever the reason, some films don’t initially connect with a large audience. So, with that in mind, we are taking a look back at eight horror films that shouldn’t have bombed at the box office but did just that. 

Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof

This double bill is a loving throwback to the exploitation era that failed to recoup production costs during a wide theatrical exhibition. Made for an estimated budget of $53 million, the films only grossed a little more than $25 million domestically. Both features are solid and lovingly recapture the magic of the drive-in days of yesteryear. Based on the quality of both films and the reputation of the respective directors, this well-intentioned throwback should have been a winning success. Alas, the features weren’t widely seen until each was released to home video. At that point, both films began the process of finding their audience and have developed a sizeable following since.  

Grindhouse horror

Event Horizon

My best guess as to why Event Horizon didn’t find it fanbase sooner than it did is due to a less-than-enthusiastic critical response. Bad reviews can be box office poison. And with the film recouping less than half of its estimated budget of $60 million during its theatrical exhibition, Event Horizon went down as a certified box office flop. However, this is a case where viewers would have benefited from checking the film out for themselves, rather than listening to the critics. In spite of a somewhat troubled production, Event Horizon is a slick and scary feature that gives Alien vibes while doing its own thing. The flick features an impressive ensemble cast, great set design, and ample scares. It’s a tragedy the film didn’t connect with more viewers upon its theatrical exhibition as I think the property has franchise potential. 


The Thing

John Carpenter is a legendary horror director with a massive cult following. But for whatever reason, many of his films have taken a little extra time to find their audience. And The Thing is one such example. The film did make back slightly more than its estimated $15 million budget in box office sales. But when stopping to consider that theaters take a cut of that and that marketing costs aren’t normally included in a feature’s estimated budget, bringing in a little less than $20 million isn’t a success, by any stretch of the imagination. Fortunately, home video saw the film finding its audience and being celebrated as the thrilling effects bonanza that it is. 

The Thing horror


Before he was a Marvel darling, James Gunn gifted audiences with a completely bonkers love letter to the B-cinema of yesteryear. Slither is goopy, over-the-top, and a helluva lot of fun. But you wouldn’t know that from its box office yield. The picture was shot for an estimated budget of $15 million but only returned about half of that domestically. Even with international ticket sales factored in, the film failed to recoup the entirety of its budget. Fortunately, fans have caught on to what a great time the film is and Gunn has continued to gift audiences with his unique brand of cinema (and managed to reach a much broader audience).  


The Monster Squad 

Anyone that grew up watching The Monster Squad on VHS (or any format for that matter) can likely speak to its collective merits. But the film didn’t even crack $4 million at the domestic box office with an estimated budget of $12 million. Thankfully, the flick has amassed a sizable cult following. In spite of not making much of a splash at the box office, The Monster Squad remains a nostalgic classic for an entire generation of ‘80s kids.  


Jennifer’s Body

I think Jennifer’s Body failed to find its audience, in part, because it was ahead of its time. The horror film is witty, funny, and fiercely feminist. But for one reason or another, audiences weren’t quite ready for it in 2009. Further complicating matters, the picture’s marketing efforts were a little misleading and didn’t quite capture the true essence of the flick, thereby pissing off viewers that were expecting something different. However, the film continues to win over new fans years after an unimpressive domestic showing that saw the picture narrowly recouping its $16 million estimated budget. International ticket sales helped increase the flick’s take. But the picture still underperformed by almost every measure. 

In the Mouth of Madness

This marks yet another instance of theatrical viewers failing to turn out for a phenomenal John Carpenter project. In the Mouth of Madness is a strange, meta horror film that really didn’t find its audience until home video. The flick recouped slightly more than its $8 Million dollar budget via ticket sales. But that’s still a fairly abysmal showing. Hopefully Carpenter feels vindicated knowing that some of his films were ahead of their time and the world wasn’t quite ready for them. But that’s not anything for which the visionary director can be faulted. 

What are some of your favorite horror films that failed to yield impressive returns? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter