A spooky study in haunted movie success


Sydney Smith, Reporter

The 12th Halloween franchise film, a Netflix horror trilogy and the reboot of a hook-wielding, bee-swarming killer. Oh my! 

Halloween movies and horror films alike have slashed their way back into theatres in all their thrilling and terrifying glory just in time for the haunted season, but what is it about this genre that makes it so successful?

To be frank, some horror movies are way cheaper to make than other films. According to Box Office Mojo, the 1978 original “Halloween” movie cost $325,000 total to make and brought in $41.2 million worldwide. 

“Halloween Kills” burst through the box office with a $50.4 million debut weekend total against a $20 million budget. It was quite successful despite also being released on the streaming service Peacock and facing opponents in James Bond and Venom. 

Though it didn’t fare quite as well in the box office or approval ratings as the first film in the reboot trilogy —”Halloween Kills” has a 38% score on Rotten Tomatoes compared to “Halloween’s” 79%— the series and horror genre, like Michael Myers, has proven to be never-ending. 

And that’s thanks to the consistent release of new horror flicks and constant reimagining of what it means to be terrifying. Movie creators have given audiences different subgenres of the classic ‘scary movie’ with slashers, thrillers or psychological horror movies.

“Many people love to be scared or surprised and even sometimes shocked in a relatively safe environment,” said Frank Robertson, an instructor of a film studies class at SDSU. “It’s why so many people are willing to stand in long lines at amusement parks to spend just a few minutes being scared.” 

Robertson said that though scary movies provide that safe environment to be scared, this genre doesn’t have to be gory to give the shock factor, proven through the different sub genres like psychological or science fiction horror. 

“A good scary movie will have genuine surprises, compelling characters and legitimately dangerous and compelling antagonists,” Robertson said. “Some of the best scary movies are those that aren’t terribly scary in the moment of watching it, but burrow into the back of your mind, scaring you later in the quiet and darkness.”

Examples include “The Silence of the Lambs,” one of the most notable films ever made and the first and only horror film to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture. According to Box Office Mojo, blockbuster psychological hit “Get Out” made a total of $255 million worldwide in the box office and was nominated for multiple Oscars at the 2018 Academy Awards.

“I am in no way a horror or scary movie fan, but I was forced to watch ‘Get Out’ once in high school,” said Hannah Jensen, a junior English education major from Sioux Falls. “Though it definitely did spook me and was a bit messed up, I did think it was actually pretty good.”

So, with all the horror film subgenres and options available, what are some of the best movies to check out this Halloween season? 

“Of the two newer films, I’ve seen this month that fall into this category. I’d recommend ‘Malignant’ and ‘Halloween Kills’—but ‘Malignant’ is the far superior film,” Robertson said. “‘Malignant,’ while paying homage to the classic elements of the genre, manages to genuinely surprise and shock.”

“Although, I have not watched a new Halloween movie that has come out this year, one of my all-time favorites would be ‘Split,’ starring James McAvoy,” Esther Michael said, a junior film studies minor from Sioux Falls. 

Michael said that ‘Split,’ though more of a psychological horror film, has various cinematic turning points throughout that make it an “exciting and creepy story that leaves you wanting more.”

But not all movies watched during the Halloween season are terrifying, thought-provoking films. 

“The most iconic Halloween film would have to be ‘Hocus Pocus,’” Michael said. “It’s a huge classic that Disney has created for families and children to enjoy.”

Despite flopping in the box office with total earnings of $39 million domestically with a 38% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a star-studded trio of leading witches, the 1993 film has continued to serve as a Halloween pinnacle for kids and adults alike. 

“I want absolutely nothing to do with Michael Myers and scary movies,” Jensen said, “but I will gladly stick with the best Halloween movie to exist … ‘Hocus Pocus.’”