Has the box office suddenly become 'Hostel' towards horror?

Hostel_lHere’s something scary for you, PopWatchers: The horror genre is dead! So say both The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, at least. Specifically at issue is Hostel Part II‘s frighteningly poor $8.7 million opening this past weekend — way below the $19.6 mil debut of Hostel a year and a half ago.

How big a problem is this? Good question; glad you asked. The Timeses would have you believe that it’s a giant one. After all, fright flicks have been a dependable profit stream for Hollywood since Scream scored $103 mil 10 years ago. They’re cheap to make and market, and they steadily draw a young crowd eager for an excuse to cuddle and cringe in a dark room. But the genre has been bleeding lately: Even while the Saw series has banked a bundle, the last blockbuster horror hit was The Grudge, which earned $110.4 mil (on a reported budget of $10 mil) back in 2004. And check out this year’s death toll: Thr3e, Primeval, The Hitcher, Dead Silence, Vacancy, The Invisible, The Hills Have Eyes 2, The Reaping, et slashera.

addCredit(“Hostel Part II: Rico Torres”)

Then again, as my colleague Gary Susman wonders: Isn’t this wholething cyclical? Wasn’t there a big horror boom in the 1980s, followedby a fallow period in the early 1990s, followed by a boom again?Perhaps we’re just on the down side now, and things will pick up againshortly. What’s more, maybe the problem is oversaturation (this year, The L.A. Timessays, there will be 42 horror releases) — and, for that matter,oversaturation of substandard movies. As EW’s Jeff Jensen (yes, he’salso a Doctor of Box Office Letters) argued in an impassioned e-mail tome this weekend, a piece of crapola like The Reaping was never going to be a hit, no matter how many double Academy Award winners they threw in there. And Hostel Part II — well, audiences gave it a poisonous CinemaScore grade of C. Maybe it just wasn’t good.

Then again, maybe it was too violent: The so-called "torture porn" sub-genre that the Hostelflicks belong to has become de rigueur for filmmakers catering to acrowd apparently seeking more and more extreme thrills. But perhapsaudiences have grown tired of the excess. Perhaps, if this downwardtrend continues, we’ll start seeing more watered-down horror flicks. Ordo you think the slasher slump will subside only after filmmakers ampup the blood-and-guts quotient even more? I shudder to think aboutwhat’s on your mind.

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  • Marilyn Gonzalez

    I used to love horror flicks.
    But, these new movies are just horrible, who wants to see people being tortured on vacation?
    Scare me ,don’t gross me out

  • professor74

    You also have to look at the timing. The other movies didn’t open in summer. Most of those hits opened around Halloween. I don’t know of any horror movies that opened well during the summer as opposed to Octobor or say, February.

  • nay-lo

    I’ve never been a huge fan of horror flicks so my opinion is biased anyway. But this latest trend in horror films is so over the top gory that I can’t even stand to look at the screen. At least movies like Scream were as funny and witty as they were “frightening”. The gore genre isn’t even frightening so much as disturbing. I am hoping that this is a sign of oversaturation and I’ll be glad when this trend is over and done with.

  • Gringo

    It’s cyclical. There are just too many horror movies flooding the market (none of which are particularly good), and we’ve all had our fill. Think of it as eating way too much. If you take another bite, you may just explode and the thought of more food becomes a turn off. Well, we are at that point. It’s time for the studios to sit back and let it settle. We’ll be ready for some more mayhem soon enough.

  • t3hdow

    I was about to mention the cyclical thing. After The Ring’s surprise success, the box office started getting filled with Japanese based horror film adaptions. Nowadays, it’s a rarity at best. The original Saw IMO was a pretty cool film with a bone chilling concept. Not too many films made my heart race hours after the initial viewing.
    Still, as much as I enjoyed the Saw films, the torture porn direction has overstayed its welcome. Although I couldn’t get enough of them before, I’ve had my fill at this point. If Hostel 2’s dud of a B.O. proved (which could also be contributed to the kid/teen friendly summer season, making it a bad time to release the film), audiences antion wide are getting sick of it too.
    Still, this doesn’t mean horror is gone for good. If Scream, The Ring and Saw prove anything, once an original concept for horror films stops by, it’ll start booming again. That is until that concept gets bled dry and then starts the process over again…

  • Ep Sato

    We were all commenting on this when folks were saying Saw III’s goriness would keep people away, and then we stated it’s the law of diminishing returns.
    the Torture porn trend, just like Japanese remakes trend, the zombie trend that came before and during the remake trend, the Sixth Sense immitators and cynical takes on the genre before they were copied a dozen times. It was a lame rehashing of the same holiday themes that killed off all the Halloween impersonators (and later it’s own sequels).
    The only series to consistently make money seems to be the Jason movies, and that’s because he gets sent to kill in a different setting (manhattan, space, peoples’ dreams against Freddie,etc).
    There’ll be a new scary genre that’ll be fresh in a few years, probably after horror is declared “dead”. Then, like a badazz zombie from hell, the genre will show us there’s people with even sicker minds than even Eli Roth.

  • Baby G

    The problem isn’t the horror genre—it’s the films & the filmmakers themselves. Certainly people like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth have lots of crazed fans, but there’s still a whole other lot of horror fans who don’t like them or their crappy movies. They, like me, want to see some original scripts and ideas. Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan, but at least he’s been doing ORIGINAL movies, and from scripts that he did from scratch. He’s not doing any remakes, he’s not following any trends, and unlike Zombie & Roth, he doesn’t pretend to be the official spokesperson for horror fans. Listening to Rob Zombie discuss things about the original Halloween that ‘bothered’ him just makes me wanna slap him and say, Good for you! It ain’t your movie, so shut up already! But no, he’s doing Halloween as Devil’s Rejects part 2 and Mr. Roth is only going for shock value. So many screenwriters out there like myself who have original concepts and it’s disgusting to see these losers w/ zero talent.

  • Phil

    I haven’t read either of the TIMESES articles, but I have had problems from the beginning with some of these extreme torture movies being even classified as horror films. The ONLY reason in my opinion that the 1st SAW classified as a horror film was because the one murderer, even if he was being blackmailed, was running around thru most of the movie in a scary mask. That might only classify as a slasher film in some people’s minds, but to me, that is a horror film. After seeing SAW III last Fall I was one of the few people who disliked it & didn’t even think it belonged in the trilogy. I will still argue this. HOSTEL II’s slow debut doesn’t surprise me. If the movie opened in the winter like the 1st one, it would have done MUCH better. & as per all these other posts, yes, many of these “horror” films being released are crap. I personally don’t like Rob Zombie, but his take on Halloween will ultimately determine whether the horror genre is dead, or just playing possum like Jason Vorhees

  • Heather

    Horror has always been cyclical and I know the remakes have been just tossed at us repeatedly the last couple of years but I have to say, as a horror purist, I am still excited with Zombie’s remake of Halloween- mostly because the sequels made the series so humorous and ridiculous by the end- I just want the concept of a kid who kills his sister and wants to kill others to actually be frightening again. And I think of anyone out there, Zombie has it in very capable hands. I wasn’t immediately impressed with House of 1000 Corpses but I rewatched it a few times to see what I missed and it finally clicked and frankly I found The Devil’s Rejects to the one of the most disturbingly raw movies I had seen in a while. Personally, I saw Hostel and thought it was okay (it wasn’t as gory as I thought it would be) but I just felt like I could wait to rent the sequel. It just didn’t feel necessary.

  • Stephanie Travitsky

    The thing is that a lot of what is being shown has been done, overdone, and incinerated. The first Hostel looked like a super gross version of An American Werewolf in London with a hot Icelandic guy. The second Hostel is supposed to be a lot more grotesque than the first but with women and with the same exact plot. The bottom line is that the scripts need to be solid because there is no way that slasher film writers are going to do more than what they can do without getting an NC17 rating. If they want to do more,just send the film direct to DVD.

  • Jess B.

    I agree with the whole “stop making crappy horror movies” argument. The problem now seems to be that horror movies just go for the cheap shock of blood and gore, rather than focusing on good storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, blood and gore can be necessary (hello, Pan’s Labyrinth) — but it shouldn’t be the ONLY thing there. Horror as a genre doesn’t have to suck. It’s just afflicted with the same problem as romantic comedies — too much of the genre is formulaic, lazy, and just plain bad.
    Hollywood should try making horror movies with original ideas, good storytelling, and three-dimensional characters who aren’t just there to die in really ugly ways. Then we’ll talk.
    Also — so glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t hate Shyamalan. I can’t hate anyone who gave us The Sixth Sense and Signs.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s wait and see how “Saw 4″ does before declairing the genre DOA.

  • Sarah

    I hate, HATE, when this happens. THESE movies suck, and that is the sole reason they did not turn a profit. Movies like Hostel, Scream, and SAW are far superior to what Hollywood is churning out these days. For Gods sake, isn’t the Messengers, the Grudge, They, etc. all the SAME movie. You can make a horror movie on low profits, but it has to be good. What makes me so peeved when I read things like a “downward cycle” is the fact that there are barely (sans the Descent) where we have a solid horror movie that should have done better at the box office, but didn’t. These are the only examples we should look at to determine what viewers want or do not want. Because we will never what sucky movies!

  • Dysthymia83

    horror is cyclical, with the downs coming after oversaturation. boom in the 80s with slashers, then too many slashers, dead til 1996 with “scream”. a few years of “scream” rip offs, dead until 2002 with “saw” (pg-13 horror films are not REAL horror films, so i discount “grudge” or “ring” in any assessment). now oversaturation should lead to a lull w occasional horror hits, with the lull being approx 2 years. the only chances to reverse the trend this calendar year are rob zombie’s “halloween” remake in august and “saw 4″ in october. if those bomb, or even just under-perform, horror will be dormant. but it’s not like “hostel part II” bombed, it will turn a healthy profit, it just wasn’t a cross-over (non-horror-fan-hit) that part 1 and the 3 “saw” films have been so far.

  • george

    There are just 2 many bad horror films, and after being burned a few times by either another crummy remake or a poorly made original people are going to be reluctant to to take the chance. The studios treat audiences like suckers by cranking out crap.As for Hostels low take , maybe a good buncj that saw the first found it too repellant. Not me thou I loved it, then again I’m one of those weirdos that go more for the make-up effects.

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