Horror fans have watched headline after headline this month as Damien Leone’s gruesome slasher Terrifier 2 has continued to defy box office expectations. Made for only $250,000, the film was only meant to play for a single weekend, but its success kept it going until (at time of writing) it’s now grossed over $8 million, something no one saw coming, unless you were a diehard horror fan.
I actually met writer/director Damien Leone at Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ back in August 2021. I remember asking him when Terrifier 2 would be released, and he jokingly said “sometime in your lifetime”. It’s hard to imagine way back then that this little indie movie he was trying to get distribution for would be such an immense hit.
Terrifier 2 is the perfect example of how and why horror films will always be profitable, and why they’re the last refuge for truly original content…
It’s All About the Budget
Terrifier 2’s $8 million gross means that it amazingly made 32 times its production budget of only $250,000. And while those numbers are impressive, it’s not the only horror film even from this year to pull off a massive profit. Look no further than Barbarian grossing $42.5 million on a $4.5 million budget, or Smile grossing $188 million on a $17 million budget. Both films saw a roughly tenfold return on investment with respect to their production budgets.
You never see those levels of profitability in the superhero genre. Most of those films need to make at least $300-400 million just to be considered profitable due to their massive production/marketing budgets. And even when something like Avengers: Endgame grosses over $2.7 billion, its mere production budget was close to $400 million is only about a 6x return, and that’s not including marketing.
Typically speaking, horror films can be made for much cheaper, and thus they’re a much lower risk to studios, who know now more than ever, box office dollars are at an all time low due to streaming. It’s the reason why, while we live in a landscape filled with remakes and reboots, horror is one of the few genres that still puts out a decent amount of original content.
Yes, Terrifier 2 is technically a sequel (and the first was technically a spinoff of Leone’s previous microbudget film), but for all intents and purposes, it’s still an original film compared to these massive studio movies that only seem to want to remake or reboot previous existing properties of the past.
Other than Clerks (which was nearly 30 years ago), have you ever heard of a microbudget comedy film getting the national attention of something like Terrifier 2? Or an action or sci-fi film? The simple fact is horror is not just the cheapest genre to make, but it’s also the only one that can thrive without the need of expensive visual effects or an A-list name attached to it.
It’s All About the Terror
Have you ever seen an indie movie that featured a bigger star on the cover, and then when you watched it, that actor only got a few minutes of screentime? There’s a reason for that. There needs to be something that gets audiences to go see a film, and in the case of most genres, having a big name can really help for that.
And while horror certainly isn’t immune to this practice, it’s the only genre that can be a massive box office success without it. And the reason for that is that genre itself is the star. Something like Paranormal Activity could be made for only $10,000 and wind up grossing over $100 million because its lack of stars made it seem all the more realistic, and therefore more frightening.
The same could be said for Terrifier 2, whose main star and draw is Art the Clown. People are going to see it either because they were fans of the first film, or due to word of mouth, they heard how absolutely grotesque and nauseatingly gory this movie truly was.
It’s kind of amazing that horror fans have done a lot of the marketing for Terrifier 2, but again it’s not that surprising when you look back at the aforementioned Paranormal Activity. That was another film that grew in popularity after people saw it and couldn’t wait to tell all their friends. Granted, there have always been headlines about horror movies making people physically sick, but those who saw Terrifier 2 knew that it sounded pretty accurate based on just how brutal some of the kills were. It had that anecdotal evidence to back those claims up.
All of this is why I tell every single aspiring filmmaker that making a horror film is the best way to get a film made for a low budget and have it get attention. Terrifier 2 is that perfect example of how a horror film can be made for a tiny budget, not require any major stars to lead it, and due to word of mouth, can wind up grossing more than 8x its production budget. And because of these factors, original horror movies will never die, nor should they ever!
What do you think of Terrifier 2? What are some of your favorite indie horror movies?? Let us know in the comments!