Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post

Photo by Tre Spencer

Kat Tracks: Horror movies have recently been unsuccessful and here's why

Horror movies used to be one of the most successful genres, especially at their peak in the 1970s. That decade left audiences enamored with the horror genre, bringing about a cult-like following.

The Exorcist (1973) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) began the decade strong, earning the domestic box office more than $250 million. In the mid-decade, Jaws (1975) had a global gross of over $470 million and is still third on the list of highest-grossing horror movies to date. Ending the ‘70s with Halloween (1978) and Amityville Horror (1979) ensured the success of the genre for the following decade.

The 1980s widely popularized horror movies as content became more accessible, fan bases grew and the VCR was mass-marketed. That decade brought about successful horror films like The Shining (1980), Poltergeist (1982) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The top 10 highest-grossing films of the ‘80s raked in over $970 million domestically.

In the 1990s, the genre suffered. The ‘90s and 2000s tried to save it by giving rise to franchises such as Scream, IT, The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity, each bringing in hundreds of millions to a couple billion dollars.

Without the help of franchises, individual horror movies often flopped. On websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, critics and audiences are often harsh on the horror genre. In a survey of the most popular movie genres in 2018, horror came in dead last with only 52% having a favorable impression of the genre. 

Here are the four reasons why horror movies have recently been unsuccessful.

Low budget

Although the ‘70s and ‘80s were known for their successful low-budget films, modern generations cannot stand low quality. Many people find old horror films laughable due to the outdated technology and CGI. 

Horror movie budgets have also decreased drastically within the past years from a peak of $36 million from 2000 to 2005 to just $13 million from 2015 to present. The budgets for horror movies have also lagged while other genres have skyrocketed.

Horror movies are often low budget from lack of major stars, limited filming locations and unseasoned writers and directors. 

Recent successful movies such as It (2017) and A Quiet Place II (2020) had budgets of $35 million and $61 million, respectively, equating to higher quality and scarier content. Each of those films proved highly successful.

Lazy writing

Focus on jumpscares to carry frightening aspects of the movies annoys the audience. That leads to reliance on special effects and takes away from the quality of the script and plot. 

First-time writers often tackle horror films as an introduction into the industry, which leads to inexperienced writers producing bad or lazy scripts. That often leads to the inclusion of cliches that more experienced writers stay away from.

Great writing is vital to a movie’s success. One of the few recent horror films that gained success was Get Out (2017). Writer/Director Jordan Peele won various awards (including the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay) and his script was named “the greatest script of the 21st century” by the Writers Guild of America.

Marketing problems

Many horror movies are often overlooked or under-advertised. It often takes research to find films that audiences simply never heard of due to bad marketing.

Many trailers often depict the scariest scenes of the movie to get audiences hooked. By doing so, trailers often ruin the suspense of the film or misrepresent the film itself. People often feel tricked and let down by issues within the marketing of a film. That often leads to more people willing to leave bad reviews as audiences feel that the actual film is less creative than the marketing strategy itself.

They have been done to death

Most modern horror movies steal from the classics. However, copying themes, scenes and suspense from popular films results in angry audiences.

When modern horror movies attempt to copy aspects of popular classics, the film becomes predictable. Predictability often causes horror movies to flop these days. To put it simply, if the “scary” parts of a movie are predictable, then it loses its scare factor. With most modern horror movies portraying stories that have been done before, it’s no wonder why the horror genre is currently unsuccessful.

Katie Trott is a junior studying creative writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Katie by emailing her at

Katie Trott

Opinion Columnist

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2023 The Post, Athens OH