If you look at October’s release schedule, you’re going to notice something very weird: Namely, that there are precisely three horror movies coming to screens in October. And two of them, Bad Milo! and All The Boys Love Mandy Lane are likely going to be limited releases; the only horror movie getting a wide release in October is Carrie. There are literally more horror movies coming out in January. So what’s going on?
There are two answers to this question, and one is good for horror and one is bad for horror, as a big-screen genre.
The first is pretty simple: Horror movies are now counterprogramming for gigantic summer blockbusters, and they’re counterprogramming that generally works. The Conjuring cost $20 million and made $260 million. The Purge cost $3 million and made $85 million. You’re Next isn’t what you’d call a hit but it’s made $17 million so far and thus has probably made its budget back. And Insidious Chapter 2 might clear $40 million this weekend.
All of the above movies, bar the Insidious sequel, will be on home video in time for Halloween, which is where the real money is. There’s a reason the big horror release of October generally arrives two weeks before the actual holiday; people go to parties or stay at home on Halloween.
The second is also pretty simple, if depressing: Major movie studios don’t produce horror movies anymore. The Purge was basically paid for by Michael Bay; Universal got paid to distribute it. Insidious Chapter 2 was paid for and distributed by a smaller studio called FilmDistrict. You’re Next was from Lionsgate. The Conjuring is in fact the only movie produced by a major studio, and that was because they’ve been trying to make this movie off and on since the ’70s.
Part of this is that they all got burned trying to imitate Paranormal Activity, which has TWO movies coming out next year, by the way. But the other part is that increasingly studios are prone to a go-big-or-go-home mentality. If you get the right “event” film, you can make a billion dollars, and studio executives aren’t hired to make art. Making the cheap genre flicks was generally a job farmed out to subsidiaries, but most of those have been shut down. Carrie only got made because MGM, which owns the rights, is on the verge of collapse and they really need the money.
Don’t worry; there’s going to be plenty of horror on screens sooner or later. These things tend to be cyclical. Still, it’s kind of sad that we’ll be spending Halloween with a remake.