Horror at the Australian Box Office in 2010 - 4th March 2011


Once again the year was dominated by the excruciatingly awful Twilight franchise, this time in the form of the worse episode yet Eclipse, as Hoyts kept pumping the movies out in quick succession to stay ahead of an aging demographic. Once these chicks hit sixteen they are either going to put away childish things or turn pod like into Twilight Moms, a sort of modern zombie like state where anything by Stephenie Meyers is viewed as high art, regardless of what more level headed people think. Thankfully only two movies to come, unfortunately for anyone who has to review the rubbish even less is going to happen in the next editions. Seems there's a built in market for Twilight that isn't going to be affected by how bad the next movie is going to be, or how much the Studio decides not to spend on it. Welcome to a female-centric event movie, surprisingly a refreshing change from the male fanbois bollocks of Transformers et al. Oh wait both are poo stains on the undies of modern cinema.

Overall we got twenty seven movies showing up at our cinemas that could arguably belong to the dark genre. Along with the remakes, sequels, reboots, and partridges in a pear tree, we did actually get some fine horror, although that didn't tend to do so well at the box office as Boredwood continues to out market everyone else in their ultimate evil plan to turn punters' brains into mush. Might already be happening and might explain the Twilight thing don't you think? A handful of local movies made the scene, but really nothing troubled the scorers over all as punters preferred their horror from the safe hands of Boredwood rather than the gonzo approach of our own film makers. The regions didn't even bother taking Australian or New Zealand horror movies as it might have taken space from the latest brain dead yank offering. Well okay the regions did take Daybreakers, but that was advertised heavily as a Yank movie.

In this article I'll have a look at the top ten grossing movies at the Australian box office, breakdown any trends that might have surfaced, and highlight local efforts. If anything 2010 was the year of the Independents trying to mix it with the big boys.

Start of July and Hoyts launched their big dark genre franchise's latest edition with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse opening to a sensational $13 million on it's way to what must have been a disappointing $32 million. Clearly the pent up market for the further meanderings of Edward and Bella was pretty much front end with the multiplier not matching the hype from the fanatics who can't get enough of this rubbish. Notably Eclipse's final figure was well down from previous instalment New Moon which made $38.2 million. Arguably the movies aren't being pumped out quick enough to stay in touch with demographics moving out of their tweens and into better fare. Or it could simply be that Eclipse didn't work so well in the mid year time slot. With two movies left in their Twilight arsenal Hoyts don't care as they continue to sneak dollars out of patrons' wallets.

The Crew got through about half of New Moon, with people dropping out to watch paint dry along the way, we were even less impressed with Eclipse. The overall verdict was “how bad are these things going to get”, and a quick vote put the latest Twitard fiasco into top spot as worse dark genre movie of 2010. We should have like a razzie award down under for horror, that would be cool, though Twilight movies would tend to win each year. Can we have one with Justin Bieber starring as Edward? - that would get my vote as worse dark genre movie ever conceived.

Back in mid February Paramount unleashed the Gothic looking Shutter Island, anyone not get what the twist was going to be? - in a clear indication they didn't know what to do with the movie. The opening weekend take of $2.8 million didn't prepare anyone for the eventual $10.2 million total gross that indicated excellent word of mouth had got behind the movie. A 3.6 multiplier underlined the fact that Aussie punters were digging Leo's latest excursion into serious movie making. An excellent result and Paramount deserve all the the accolades they received for a well judged marketing campaign.

We all loved the look and feel of the movie, though some of us thought the similarities to Gothika were too close for comfort. A high passing mark from the team, not sure if the movie has anything like a re-watch value, though am quite likely to try it out one Friday if nothing else is on offer.

Paramount also took out third spot with Paranormal Activity 2, the sequel to 2009's shock hit for Icon Paranormal Activity. Demonstratively the mockumentary is here to stay for a while, as two movies in the sub-genre did well at the box office in 2010, the other being The Last Exorcism. PA2 opened in late October to a solid $2.66 million, going on to gross $6.9 million on a strong 2.6 multiplier. Notably last year the original movie made $8.4 million, perhaps indicating there is a law of diminishing returns for horror sequels, and in some cases I've got my fingers crossed that is the case.

Those that didn't like the first movie didn't bother with the second. Those of us that did noted there wasn't the same festive nature to the sequel. We thought it was a decent enough sequel, with some note worthy scenes and some embarrassing ones, and the background details to both movies was well received. High fives for the next movie in the series, though the friendship could wear pretty thin very quickly if they don't up the anti, and show something different next time at bat. Anyone want to bet against it being a prequel?

In July Fox tried once again to reboot one of their core franchises with the market somewhat sceptical after the AvP disasters of previous years. This time we got Predators, an attempt to kick start the franchise of the same name. The movie opened to a very solid $2.68 million and on the back of a reasonable 2.3 multiplier managed a $6.68 total gross figure. That's a result for the dark genre right there and we can expect some more Predator action in the coming years no doubt.

Once again the whole team didn't show up for this one but those of us that did, all two of us from memory, had a ripping time. We thought Predators did it right by hitting the flavour and atmosphere of the original Predator movie and liked the added bonus of something of a twist toward the end of the flick, the Predator dogs, and the two different Predator species. We did both groan at the misogynistic line early in the movie, that should have been edited out, and Fox should be ashamed at leaving it in simply for the titillation of teenage boys. Interestingly enough the movie went over the head of some patrons with one bogan overheard as saying she didn't get the whole Doctor thing. Stick to Twilight in the future, it's more your speed yo! Any-wise yeah we both dug the whole thing and are amped for another instalment, hopefully in 2012.

Warner Brothers, proving you can't keep a good franchise down, settled into fifth spot in mid October with Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth movie in the post apocalyptic zombie world of the evil Umbrella corporation. Alice still has her fans, $1.88 on opening weekend multiplying by 2.4 for a total gross of $4.5, but the number would seem to be dropping as punters get slightly tired of the increasingly far featured RE world. The Bros pushed themselves on the advertising, using all the money shots in the movie, but couldn't reboot the franchise to it's former glory.

Once again it was a low turnout, zombie flicks aren't appreciated by everyone, with the verdict being that the movie was entertaining and probably worth scoring on DVD for a Resident Evil marathon at some stage. Clearly the gate has been left open for another episode, and I for one will trot along, leave my brain at the popcorn counter, and hit an action orientated zombie flick. Besides hot chicks in tight clothing using lethal weapons, what's not to like about that!

Universal walked into something of a Twitard firestorm with The Wolfman title being used for an entirely different movie than the original. One notable fan of Edward and Bella even went so far as to accuse Universal of stealing the whole werewolf thing from Twilight, which about sums up the typical twitard really, and we were astonished that they think Stephenie Meyers writing is good! We're talking intellectually challenged here people. Anyway moving along Universal hit the moors howling mid February with a CGI laden lycanthrope outing that seemed to split opinion amongst horror fans. The movie opened to $1.86 million, and did enough to stretch out to a solid $4.3 million.

And in a double win for the dark genre, Aussies Dave Elsey and Rick Baker won an Oscar for their makeup efforts on The Wolfman! Congratulations to Dave and Rick who also hammer away at Darkhouse Comics flagship title The Dark Detective.

To be honest we all caught this one on DVD, with mixed reactions from the Crew as people found their inner wolf. I kind of thought it was okay in a CGI laden sort of a way and dug the atmosphere, whereas others thought it was badly cast. So some mixed emotions on this one, it did however get everyone yearning for a return to lupine action and no doubt a viewing of An American Werewolf In London is going to be prioritised.

In sixth spot A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) saw Warner Brothers trying to cash in on the recent trend of remakes of classic horror titles. The movie opened solidly enough in late May to the tune of $1.14 million but found a restricted audience, only managing to reach a gross total of $2.9 million. Considering the hype that surrounded this movie you have to say that was a pretty disappointing result for the Bros.

Another one that was put in the DVD rental bin. No one enjoyed the movie, finding it bland compared to the original, and once again the franchise stepping away from the implicit evil Freddy represents. Jackie Earle Haley was definitely no Robert Englund when it came to playing the dream demon! A very sad attempt to cash in on a franchise that simply can't take that many more hits below the waterline. Come back Wes all is forgiven.

Late August saw Fox releasing one of the few horror comedies, term used lightly, to hit cinemas in Australia. Vampires Suck, a parody of the already excruciatingly bad Twilight movies, opened to $1.4 million before being gunned down at the $2.7 million mark. Overall in dark genre terms a successful movie, but one is left wondering who in their right mind would fork out good cash for the movie.

Yes you guessed it a DVD hire, and a weekly one at that. Vampires Suck got it at least half right, this movie sucked the life force out of the universe. Strangely it still managed to be better than the movies it was parodying, which sort of confuses the whole parody thing really. No one actually got to the end of this one as it lumbered from one half arsed idea to the next, simply terrible.

Hopscotch managed ninth spot with their attempt to play in the majors, November's Skyline. The movie was heavily advertised on it's special effects and saturation coverage ensued. What Hopscotch failed to mention was that the Directors behind the abysmally bad Aliens v Predator: Requiem, the Strause Brothers, were in trouble in Hollywood for apparently siphoning off of resources from this year's World Invasion: Battle LA to Skyline. As of writing no confirmation of that. Hopscotch didn't need to remind fans who was directing as surprisingly the movie opened to a low $1.25 million, and only managed a $2.5 million total gross. Considering that's only a 2.0 multiplier, it indicated overall punters were not fooled by the hype once word of mouth kicked in.

For a change we caught this one at the movies, and opinion was split about straight down the middle. Some of the team really dug it as a no brainer action flick, while I was irritated by the bland self centered characters and the reuse of Matrix franchise CGI. Considering the movie bombed World Wide I would imagine the Strause Brothers claims of a sequel might not be high on the Studio's list of future projects. Worth a look if you simply dig huge amounts of CGI and things going bang and the like.

Naturally the year wouldn't be complete without the dimensioning returns of the Saw franchise making it's presence felt, this time in tenth spot. Opening in late October Saw VII 3D continued the saga with an opening weekend of $0.93 million, possibly due to bad word of mouth on the preceding entry in the series, but making Hoyt's embarrassment less was a multiplier of 2.7 for a final gross of $2.5 million, about what the previous movie did off a smaller multiplier. Hopefully this means a end of the increasingly ludicrous franchise, but bogans like to see some traps and blood, so expect at least one more to be dragged out. Horribly the Saw franchise is now the most profitable in horror history, which sort of puts things in perspective somewhat.

Sorry no one put their hand up for this one, you can fool us a few times folks but eventually we work it out. So I guess our view is it wasn't even worth a weekly rental, watch if you enjoy slowing at car wrecks.


Local Film makers were surprisingly well represented in 2010 and quite naturally the local punters preferred to be talked down to by Boredwood movies rather than trying something with local flavour. Clearly local movies take no prisoners, ergo don't appeal to the “I want to pretend to be scared” crowd, or the sheep that just jump on whatever event movie is going down in any given week. The Bogans can clearly be discounted as there usually is no advertising informing them they must go see a local dark genre flick, therefore the maxtreme factor isn't happening.

Leading the local charge was Daybreakers, a vampire movie by the Brothers Spierig, that actually managed eleventh spot on the chart with an opening weekend of $1.06 million for a total gross of $2.45 million. The movie was heavily marketed with Hoyts attempting to fool everyone into believing that Daybreakers was a Yank flick. Unfortunately for the Distributor the plot is pretty old hate, and fans thought twice about seeing yet another vampire apocalypse outing.

One of the few local movies to open in our local multiplex, home of the mouth breather, we all rushed to see this one. Overall opinion was favourable with a sequel high on everyone's agenda. While not the best horror movie of the year it was fairly solid with some of that Hollywood gloss rubbing off on it.

In November Madman, who are currently flexing their muscles in the big pond of dark genre cinema, decided The Loved Ones had enough hype to go broad release with. Okay broad if you exclude regional cinemas, would take space from Twilight and other Hollywood brain mush. Unfortunately for the Indie Distributor they are still to learn the salient lesson of Downunder releases, people don't turn out for gorenography here, your movie is going to crash and burn if you hit that option. Fuelled by various sources of so called horror fans, who make a minor percentage of patrons in the light of day and who generally bring the genre down to the gutter every fracking time, Madman hit the advertising trail with about every torture scene that The Loved Ones contains, reaping an opening weekend of $120k for a total gross of $284k.

Naturally none of us have seen the movie, the awesome nature of living in the backwoods, so have to rely on other people's opinions. The usual motley crew of Aussie horror apologists, Critics who haven't seen an Aussie movie they don't like, and gore happy Reviewers, all thought The Loved Ones was the best thing since Jason picked up a machete. A larger group of Reviewers and fans pegged the movie as just another backwoods torture flick with slightly more humour than expected, read quirky Aussie shite, that offered nothing new. Our Jury is currently out, but seems to me the over hyping will probably hide an average flick at best, hope to be proven wrong in March when the DVD finally becomes available.

Also getting a cinema run in very limited release were Triangle (Icon), a movie that should have gone huge, Savages Crossing (MED), am yet to see this one but it stars Dowunder genre heavy weight John Jarrett, and The Horseman (Umbrella), a better than average revenge flick. Please note I may have missed the odd movie here that did the Festival circuits, sorry for any discrepancies.

As usual there were some casualties that once again proved to be the best of breed in 2010. Movies that were simply superb but which failed to gain a foothold in the market. As usual people were not turning out for quality cinema they were turning out for cookie cutter Mary Jane releases that advertising made safe for them.

Icon must have been hugely disappointed in the lack of support for John Hillcoat's The Road, an atmospheric nihilistic look at a post apocalyptic future where optimism is a hard commodity to come by. Perhaps working against the movie was the advertised cannibal side of things, a small but vital part in the overall scheme of things, and the fact that nothing was explained. Your typical Bogan is not going to front up to a movie that doesn't explain things allowing them to feel all intelligent and stuff, like after those Saw movies, where they knew what happened right after the movie told them. Hillcoat is a stylist and that shined through in The Road.

Naturally we caught this one at the cinema, Aussie Director and all, and were all simply enthralled by what we saw. The whole concept, from a novel by Cormac McCarthy, was breath taking and Director Hillcoat delivered on it. Major conversation for us after much gushing over the movie was what exactly caused “a flash of light and some after tremors”, intriguing yet never explained.

As a left field inclusion we were all pretty taken with Hopscotch's The Last Exorcism, another in the mockumentary range of good times. Clearly Hopscotch, in a year where they followed Madman's lead and took on the majors, were expecting a Paranormal Activity run from Last Exorcism and would have been disappointed that the movie didn't have the same impact. A few factors guys, The Last Exorcism is anti fundamentalist taking out the Christian cults from the equation, the movie didn't attract the event status of PA taking out the rent a crowd, and the trailers showed it was playing for keeps taking out the “I want to pretend to be scared” mob. Three strikes right there to keep a good movie out of the top ten.

We all had a lot of fun in the movie, grooved to the obvious understated “possessed” signs, precognition for example, but thought a bit of religious hysteria in the boon-docks would have been a better conclusion to what we watched. What promised to be the most chilling scene made the trailer but didn't end up in the movie! For those unable to follow a movie, yes the ending was referenced a number of times through the course of the movie, it was not a left field development.

One of the strangest movies to be released during the year was Let Me In, a North American remake of the exceedingly beautiful and hard edged Let The Right One In, the 2008 Swedish vampire movie that had fans dancing in the streets. At the time I wondered if Icon had gone insane, as who needs another North American remake, made due to their own Audiences being unable to read subtitles, i.e the bogan and teen markets. However like Quarantine Let Me In turned out to be superb and an above average vampire tale that said so much more than what you would think a blood sucking outing would have to say. Full marks to Icon for taking the risk and delivering an above average horror flick where vampires are more apt to rip out throats than sparkle.

I vaguely remember very little being on at the time, mid October, so a couple of us made the pilgrimage to the local movie worship place, got our frozen cokes and sugary goodness, and prepared for a hour and half of deriding the movie. We exited after the closing credits raving about the film and claiming it to be one of the best of 2010. A subsequent DVD night convinced others and had a number of people kicking themselves that they did not catch the movie on the big screen. Which just goes to show I guess that not all remakes are a bad thing.

Please note I have not included a few movies due to none of us having seen them, one of the delights of living out in the hinterland, or anything that didn't receive a cinema release. This is after all a breakdown on what went on at the theatre in 2010. So please don't write in telling me or others that we suck because we didn't include Monsters or whatever floated your boat during the year, we simply haven't had the chance to catch up with all the releases.

A few trends emerged or were underlined during the year. As normal not a lot of support by the Distributors for Downunder horror flicks, clearly the Boredwood product is so much more commercially reliably as the sheep are herded into pre-ordained pens. I would like to see one Distributor bite the bullet, get right behind an independent Aussie or Kiwi movie, and not only take it to the normal haunts but out into the bush as well. Fingers crossed Snowtown gets some support this year rather than being dumped with little to no advertising.

Sequels as usual showed a natural attrition in gross terms from previous entries in franchises. There's a real feeling of flogging a dead gut muncher with some of the movies being released simply to wrench every possible dollar out of an idea. I wonder if the concept of trying to improve a franchise is alien to Boredwood?

And finally gorenography must be almost dead in the water, no pun intended, with even our Distributors becoming aware that it doesn't sell well in this market. Notable casualties included The Loved Ones, torture pain didn't work, and The Human Centipede, medical pain didn't work. Gorenography delights a very small demographic who are not indicative of anything like a commercially viable sector of the movie going public.

Overall a solid year for the dark genre with enough business flowing through the ticket offices of the Country to ensure a regular flow of genre movies in 2011. The Majors had some results, the Minors kicked into the big play pen, and a couple of new Distributors tested the waters. Passing mark at the box office in 2010, not a lot of goals were kicked, but then not a lot of damage was done either.