There is no denying that 2022 has thus far been an amazing year for the horror genre and its fans. This year has seen a wave of popular franchises returning like Halloween Ends, Texas Chainsaw, Chucky Season 2, Hulu’s Hellraiser, Scream (2022), Terrifier 2, Orphan First Kill, Prey, among others. As well as a slew of popular non-franchise films like Nope, Black Phone, Fresh, Barbarian, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Smile, The Mean One, and so many more.
And while some of these movies have been divisive (we’re looking at you Halloween Ends and Texas Chainsaw), they’ve certainly been iconic and greatly discussed among fans. So as 2022 comes to a close at the end of this month, we wanted to try and figure out what real world causes may be behind this exciting explosion of blood and guts on the big (and small) screen!
Post Collective Trauma
In just a few months, we will be approaching the 3rd anniversary of when the entire world shut down and went into quarantine. Something as massive and uprooting as that was, there are bound to be long term side effects that we’re only beginning to understand and experience. A record number of people admitted that the initial quarantine had detrimental effects on their mental health.
And with an entire generation sharing a massive collective trauma, horror ironically becomes far more popular. The genre has always been a reflection of the anxieties and fears of society as a whole. It’s the reason we saw so many “monsters created by radiation” movies in the 50’s. It’s the reason that in the Vietnam and Iraq War eras saw a spike is hyper violence and gore. And it’s the reason why so many are turning to horror now.
Watching horror films can be incredibly cathartic, and even therapeutic as it gives us a chance to purge our feelings of fear and anxiety in a safe environment. When the pandemic first began, there was a spike in people renting movies like Outbreak and Contagion, and that wasn’t a coincidence either. Seeing these stories played out in film gave frightened and nervous people a channel to vent those feelings.
The chaos that was 2020 has left a jaded, anxious society that yearns to see horrific things happen on screen. Because in a weird way it’s comforting to know that at least real for us isn’t as bad as what’s happening to the characters on screen.
Forever Changed Industry
Even pre-pandemic, the movie industry had been turned on its head. With streaming becoming ever more dominant, box office dollars are harder and harder to get for anything that isn’t big budget franchises like Marvel, DC, or Star Wars. As a result, studios are much less willing to take risks when it comes to producing movies.
And that’s where horror comes in. It remains the cheapest genre to produce and often yields the highest profit margin. Look no further than movies like Smile (gross $215 million, budget $17 million), Barbarian (gross $45 million, budget $4.5 million), or Terrifier 2 (gross $10 million, budget $250,000). Even something as “mainstream” as Halloween Ends only cost $33 million, roughly 10-20% of what Marvel or DC spends on anything. And even that managed to gross over $100 million, despite having a same day release to streaming on Peacock.
So with so much on the line and studios terrified of losing money, horror remains a safe bet. For the cost of one superhero blockbuster, you can make 10-15 great horror movies, each of which have the potential to completely take off and make back 10x their production budget. And even if a few of them flop, you’ve only lost a few million as opposed to a few hundred million.
Thus, it’s no surprise that once movie and TV production started to come back later in 2020 and 2021, many of the movies being financed were horror. And as a result, we horror fans get to reap the rewards of so much content in one year!
Likewise, horror is a genre that fans are very likely to talk about on social media and boosts its popularity via word of mouth. Fans are much more likely to post a reaction or meme about the latest horror movie they saw than the latest historical or social drama.
Look no further than the example of Terrifier 2. It was only ever supposed to play for one weekend in October. But due to fan demand, it wound up playing for an entire month and grossed way more than anyone expected. And it’s hardly the first horror film to pull this off.
Back when Paranormal Activity was first released, there was a campaign for ordinary fans to call their movie theaters and demand that they show it. So studios understand that fans vote with their dollars, and that horror is a great genre that can benefit from this kind of viral marketing.
Given how well horror has done this year and how many movies there have been, we can hope that this trend will continue. In a world where content is everywhere and no one wants to spend too much for fear of flop, horror is always there!
What are some of your favorite horror movies of 2022? Let us know in the comments!
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