In the glitzy world of film, where box office revenue is the equivalent of high school popularity, some masterpieces are the proverbial “late bloomers.” They’re the ones who get their braces off after graduation and become prom kings and queens ….at the reunion, twenty years later. These horror gems, initially overshadowed by the cruel jests of critics or the cold shoulder from box office numbers, have risen like zombies from their graves to claim their rightful place in the pantheon of cult classics.
Let’s uncover these once-buried treasures of horror cinema!
John Carpenter’s frosty extraterrestrial nightmare, The Thing, got the cold shoulder at the box office, scraping up just $19.6 million against its $15 million budget [source]. Critics weren’t kind either; the New York Times called it “instant junk”. Yet, this tale of Antarctic researchers battling shapeshifting aliens has since melted the hearts of horror buffs, proving that first impressions can be as changeable as Carpenter’s creepy creature.
Event Horizon might have been lost in space initially, managing to recoup only $26.7 million of its $60 million budget [source]. But this eerie blend of sci-fi and horror found its gravitational pull among fans, lauded for its spine-chilling visuals and Lovecraftian dread. Talk about a film that was lightyears ahead of its time!
Marrying demonic possession with high school drama, Jennifer’s Body didn’t quite charm its way to box office success, netting $31.6 million and some “meh” reviews, including one from The Hollywood Reporter that called it “unfunny”, and “unscary”. But this darkly comedic take on female friendship and empowerment has since risen from the ashes, reminding us that teen angst and demons can be a killer combo.
Would you believe that the now-iconic The Rocky Horror Picture Show didn’t initially set the world on fire? Despite its eventual earnings of $112.8 million [source], its initial release was more of a whimper than a bang. But thanks to midnight screenings and fans who just can’t resist doing the Time Warp again, it’s become the stuff of legend.
Trick ‘r Treat might have been treated to a direct-to-DVD release, but this Halloween anthology has since carved out a place in the hearts of horror aficionados. While its box office earnings were a mere $27,909 [source], its tales of Halloween mischief have become an October viewing essential. Who knew a film that started in the bargain bin would become a holiday tradition? [answer: every horror fan ever]
Following in the daunting footsteps of its iconic predecessor, The Exorcist III faced a lukewarm reception, both critically and at the box office. The Washington Post said it had “more giggles than goose bumps”. Yet, over time, this chilling sequel, with its unique blend of psychological horror and theological musings, has garnered a devout following. It’s a divine reminder that sometimes, the third time’s the charm.
In 2007, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up for an ambitious double feature, Grindhouse. Despite their combined genius, the film bombed, earning just over $25 million domestically against a hefty production budget of at least $53 million [source]. Critics and audiences alike were puzzled by its homage to ’70s exploitation films. However, with time, this cinematic experiment has found its audience, proving that sometimes, a film’s true value isn’t realized until it’s aged like a fine wine chartreuse.
In a world where box office gold often overshadows true cinematic gems, these horror classics have risen from the depths to claim their rightful place in the spotlight. (Finally.) From Antarctic aliens to high school hellions, these films remind us that true cinematic value isn’t always reflected in opening weekend numbers. It’s in the power to captivate, terrify, and leave an indelible mark on audiences. So, fellow fiends, continue to dive deep into those discount bins, and scour the VHS shelves at your local thrift store. Who knows what ghoulish gold you might stumble upon?
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