For decades, notably from the 70s to the 90s, one of the headlining sub-genres in horror was the “Slasher”. This sub-genre never really disappeared, more so that the genre sort of lost the attention of mainstream moviegoers and the big studios. However, the success of recent films like Happy Death Day, the rebooted Halloween franchise, and the latest installment in the continually entertaining Scream series is beginning to indicate a sort of change in the wind. Additionally, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, a slasher film based on his fake trailer from the memorably fun Grindhouse film, premiers on November 17 being distributed wide by TriStar. So the question arises: Are Slasher films back?
Well in short… no. We mean no in that the genre will never reach its previous peaks. This is not a harp on the genre getting less effective in some way, more so that they lack the means of success that was previously available to them in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and even the early 2000s. Back then, a slasher could drop in a theater, or possibly a drive-in (remember those? We should bring back those.) where it could make a good chunk of change, usually surpassing its very minimal budget. Now as we got more into the home video era, slashers really took off, being a beloved rental option for horror fans. Here a horror film could drop into a theater, make a decent payout, and then make a strong profit in the home video market through a mix of word of mouth and genuine curiosity from video store shoppers. This was the bread and butter of the slasher genre, where you could make a mildly unique concept of a film at a meager budget and make a majority of your profit from a home video market, whether it be buying those films or renting them from a Blockbuster or whatever rental service one would use. However, in the modern day, this type of income is no longer available. Many of these films that would make their profit through home video, now have to rely on VDO (Video on demand) rentals or streaming which does not have the same payout as home video. In general, slasher films will never reach the highs of their previous champions. All that being said, in the last few years they have made a pretty penny via the box office.
So let’s talk about the modern-day box office. So horror films continue to be the champion of low investment and high profit. Thus, many horror films usually under the guidance and funding of Blumhouse, have been able to continually make a big profit through releasing low-budget films that general audiences are usually willing to check out. Additionally, Blumhouse built the Conjuring universe, where many of their independent horror films are connected by through recurring characters like the Warrens played by Patrick Wilson and Mia Farmiga, or horror icons like Annabelle or The Nun. This creation of a connected universe helps cultivate a community of fans who are always speculating on how the films are connected and get more excited to watch each sequel. Even without the fans who are dedicated to the extensive lore, these are still fun horror films that most random people are willing to take a shot at because they simply enjoy horror films. So honestly, horror has two strong factors that are, in some way, revitalizing the genre’s box office power, franchise potential, and financial reliability in an ever-inflating budget vs box office conflict.
Slasher’s already has a strong tie to franchise filmmaking. Friday the 13th, which features one of the most iconic slashers of all time in Jason Vorhees, currently has 12 films and has been in rumored to return to the silver screen many times. Aside from Vorhees, his contemporaries have made big returns to the modern day, with the recent Halloween trilogy grossing nearly half a billion dollars. People were excited to see the return of Michael Myers and his return to pursuing Jamie Lee Curtis. Speaking of returns, Scream made a fun comeback as well, with two films each grossing $138 and $168 million respectively. General audiences seem to be interested in seeing these horror icons return, especially in the slasher variety. Additionally, all of these films had much smaller budgets when compared to other franchise film contemporaries, with the highest budget of the previous examples being Scream VI with a $35 million dollar budget. All of this to say, these films are getting attention for being franchise films, but other slashers are also getting praise and box office success without having to be a sequel, remake, or reboot.
One of the stranger success stories in the horror realm has to be the box office success of a small slasher film called, Terrifer 2. This sequel to a 2018 indie film had a budget of $250 thousand dollars and through a mixture of word of mouth and genuine audience curiosity, grossed $15 million in its theatrical run. This might be the most obvious example of why this sub-genre is so appeal to studios. With Terrifer 2 in mind, the film made 61.5 times its production budget at the box office, making it a huge success. Now, no individual person became a millionaire from this, but a small studio was able to get a pretty decent payday and can continue to make films like this that people want to see. Similar to this, A24, the recent gold standard in indie film production success stories, released two slasher films in 2022 Ti West’s X and Pearl. Both of these films cost roughly 1 million to film and made north of $10 million at the box office. All of these were examples of unique slasher films that caught the attention of a niche audience and were able to capitalize on that financially in a way few other genres can.
With all this in mind, Thanksgiving looks to fit into this mold of success. With its bonkers premise, there as to at least a few curious horror fans out there who are willing to give it a shot. And honestly, that’s all it needs. Truly, Thanksgiving is in the perfect genre to be a potential financial success in 2023 and is joining in a wave of resurrection for that sub-genre.