Horror at the Australian Box Office in 2011 - 3rd March 2012


In 2011 the dark genre was down on previous years in terms of both number of releases hitting cinemas in any meaningful fashion and overall box office gross. Actually since the Cinema industry overall was faltering in a year that saw major economic meltdowns in Europe and the US guess there were no surprises coming at us over a slight dip. For the dark genre the continued development of home cinema looks to have had a similar effect on box office gross that it did back in the early 1980s as video tapes proved to have a siren call that drew major numbers into the home and out of the theatre. Two reasons here for mine. Firstly fans can get the movies they want to see, you know the independent horror flicks the Cinemas are too lame arse to show as it might take screens from such cinematic highlights such as Hangover 2 and affect the viewing pleasure of the mouth breathers, and the simple fact that it's more comfortable to sit in your own lounge room than spend a whack of cash for the privilege of sitting with people checking their mobiles constantly. I'm almost at the stage of calling for a boycott of the multiplexes till they ban the twats who are so important that they need to check their fracking phones every two minutes. Sorry you are too important to be at the movies in the first place if you need constant mobile contact with the outside world. I will be missing the movie I planned to catch this coming weekend as I can purchase a couple of DVDs for the same price as a ticket, have a beer or two on the sofa, and have a more enjoyable experience in front of the large screen tellie than in a cinema. Enough of the soapbox on with the 2011 review, just what the hell happened in a year that saw a major drop in dark genre releases.

In this article I'll talk my way through the top ten grossing movies of the year and maybe see if there were any trends happening, though I think any trends were probably out in DVD land rather than via the continually downgrading cinema market. For those who constantly drone on about the horror genre dying, suck it up The Devil Inside opened at number one in North America as I begin writing this, making back it's production costs in about the first hour of ticket sales. Let's get the year in review on!

As expected The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 romped to top spot as the answer to a question I poised last year was delivered, which movie would be worse than Eclipse? - hello welcome to Breaking Dawn Part 1. Hoyts once again were on a high as the paranormal romance juggernaut continued its rampage through the box office. Notably once again the overall gross was down, we're talking around $29 million as opposed to Eclipse's $32 million, but still strong enough to make you wonder if women actually deserve the vote. Still given Transformers maybe none of us deserve voting rights either; there are clearly some dumb people out there. Hoyts tried a November release date, clearly eyeing up December and the lucrative January time slots for a major win, sorry dudes your demographics are getting older and are waking up to how asinine these movies actually are. One more of them to come and we can quit talking about this shockingly bad franchise.

No one in the crew was interested in taking a bullet over this one based on the trite trailers that did the rounds prior to the release. Come on wolf boy was so traumatised by the pending nuptials that he had to rip his shirt off and go smell other dogs arses or something! We relied on a couple of other sites to check the movie out, general verdict - there are some dumb chicks out there that will lap anything up no matter how bad it is. Fingers crossed in the final movie Edward comes out of the closet and admits to being a gayer who really digs Cure concerts, we live in hope.

In October Paramount rolled out Paranormal Activity 3 as they attempted to strike gold for the third time with the found footage franchise Icon had paved the way with. Not surprisingly version 3 managed to out gross the previous year's edition and went pretty close to the original movie's shock result. Paranormal Activity 3 opened to a robust $2.9 million and turned in a solid 2.7 multiplier to prove things weren't all front loaded. Considering PA movies cost less to make than the bill for Robert Pattinson's hair products on set, that's a major win. Paramount not surprisingly have announced Paranormal Activity 4 for a 2012 release as they seek to eke out every dollar they can from the franchise before it fades. Ironically Paramount had shelved the original movies for a couple of years as they didn't see a market, once again proving Boredwood would be hard pressed to find their collective bums with both hands.

We don't care what people claim on the interwebs, I wasn't scared yadda yadda, the team rushed on mass to catch PA3 just like we did the first two movies. Once again we got chicks screaming, people opting out as things got tense, and a whole lot of thrills and chills with our popcorn. Overall verdict was we're there for the fourth movie, but where the hell can they go from here? By the way if you claim you weren't scared online after viewing PA3 we don't believe you, come on over to our place and we will have you screaming for your momma, claim what you like on the net, no one is listening or believing. For the record I thought Paranormal Activity 3 was better than the second movie but still not as impactful as the first release, the third act kind of let it down, no offense meant Toby.

Back in March Sony released their alien invasion flick Battle: Los Angeles on a market still reeling from how bad Skyline proved to be. The Distributor was on a hiding to nothing here as Audiences were not prone to catch another invasion movie at the time. BLA opened to a pretty solid $2.57 and managed an okay multiplier of 2.2 to finish with a somewhat acceptable $5.7 result. A word from an insider had it the Distributor were committed to this movie but foresaw issues following 2010's disaster of a flick. Also hindering the movie was the in close and personal use of new technology to add some kinetic action to the battle scenes, the bogan element are unaccepting of this unless it involves Timmy Cruise or souped up sports cars they instantly transform their rusted out Hyundai Excels into. While the movie was more Sci-Fi than horror, there were enough dark elements to have us interested.

A couple of us wandered down to the cinema to catch the movie in a wonderfully unattended screening, see opening paragraph. Things definitely improved over the hapless Skyline but there were mixed reactions. I thought the smaller cameras added some hectic in there elements to the combat scenes while my partner in crime was pretty much non-plus about things. As he pointed out, the plot in this one didn't exactly go places new and exciting. Overall we gave the movie a passing grade and are there if a sequel is ever made, hint Battle: New York would have us rocking.

Also opening in March was Warner Brother's attempted Twilight cash in Red Riding Hood. The paranormal romance lupine outing had 204 screens dangled enticingly before it but could only managed a $1.74 million opening as Twitards showed their displeasure at anything not involving an annoying emo chick and an equally annoying emo gay vampire. Hey I'm stating Edward may have come out of the coffin but he hasn't come out of the closet yet! Liberace would have been envious of that sparkle is all I'm saying here. Anyways Red, following a well-trodden path, did generate a 2.7 multiplier which would have gone some way to saving the Bros undue embarrassment, the same couldn't be said for Director Catherine Hardwicke's half arsed delivery though lead Amanda Seyfried is someone to keep an eye on.

Following on from our jaw dropping exposure to the first couple of Twilight movies, just how freaking woeful are those things! - no one was prepared to take a bullet for the team and attended a cinema session of Red Riding Hood. Once bitten twice shy friends and neighbours, Hardwicke couldn't direct a young Christian group to a bible reading. We did however grab a weekly DVD release, and by us I should say me as people bailed as soon as the opening credits promised even more crap cinema in the lounge room that dripped mirth. So sorry solo on the experience here, and yes as expected the movie sucked the life out of the universe. How on earth you can get a lycanthrope outing this wrong remains a mystery, Hardwicke should never be allowed never CGI ever again, or for that matter the Director's chair of anything beyond a shampoo commercial. Over indulgent, sickeningly inane, and I have to say completely melodramatic. Seyfried rocked however, all in the eyes, the chick certainly had me taking notice.

Holding down fifth spot for the year was Roadshow's attempt to re-ignite a grossly overrated franchise, Scream 4 certainly did the business in April but you have to say why did they bother! The movie opened across 187 screens with a solid enough first weekend bow of $1.8 million. A 2.3 multiplier yielded a total of $4.2 million as the fourth movie in an increasingly irrelevant series dropped below expectations. Guess the teen demographics flocked but the movie didn't attract the serious older horror audience who were a bit gun shy after number three in the series plunged to new dark genre depths.

Another movie that we caught on DVD, life's too short yo! Over all the feeling was we got what we expected, trying to roll out the horror tropes is showing it's age as all Boredwood conveyor belt movies basically do the same, and no one was saving their career with this one. Guess the movie will attract some new fans to the franchise, but for god sake can someone pull the pin on a grenade in Yank review circles, if I hear the word "meta" in terms of this movie again it will be once too often. Sorry could you guys stop copying each other's reviews, they sucked in the first instance, let's not spread the crap out too thin.

Universal hit the ground running in early February with the James Cameron produced Sanctum 3D, no prizes for guessing what the sales pitch was there. The movie opened reasonably solidly with a $1.6 million take from 252 screens, though clearly the Distributor was expecting Cameron's name to drive the total gross well beyond the $3.8 Sanctum left cinemas with. Probably the biggest mistake Universal made was letting the Aussie nature of the movie out of the bag, bogans might be proud to be Aussie but that doesn't extend to them catching our movies when Hollywood has snake oil to sell them. Overall a disappointing result for Universal who would have expected more from a well formulated advertising strategy.

A couple of us caught this one on opening weekend as it seemed a long time between dark genre drinks. Overall we had a good time, noted some weak parts of the movie, and wondered if the 3D was really necessary as it wasn't used effectively. I quite dug the claustrophobic nature of things but my partner in crime was hoping for a slight more bloodletting than actually happened.

Slotting into seventh spot was the fifth movie in the Final Destination series imaginatively entitled Final Destination 5. While Warner Bothers may have harboured some belief in this movie it certainly wasn't reflect in a disappointing opening weekend of $966k from a solid enough 158 screens. With things pointing to an outright disaster the Bros kept their nerve and we're rewarded with a 2.56 multiplier and a respectable final total of $2.57 million. It would appear that the teen demographics were drawn in by the promise of more elaborated death scenes than one could reasonably expect from a Jason Voorhees saga. Whether or not that's a sign of the imminent collapse of society I leave to the individual reader to determine. In the wash up it has to be said that Warner Brothers showed how to take a cup of cement and push the major selling points of a movie, even if those selling points are aimed at the lowest common denominator.

I actually took a bullet for the team and hit this movie in a small rural independent cinema that reminded me of those 1960s theatres that were converted from live shows to movie houses. Joining me for a late night session were two teen chicks who spent the movie hiding behind their hands, checking their mobiles, and somewhat surprisingly giggling. I blame youth drug culture. Also in attendance were three teen males who spent the movie trying to look tough in each other's presence without getting the inherent homo-erotic thing they had going down, hey we support all life styles here at ScaryMinds as opposed to our current Federal Government. Anyways the fifth movie in the Final Destination series dispensed with all attempts at being a decent movie with a mythology and simply strung a bunch of death scenes together with cardboard characters and the minimum of plot. Must admit the ending did promise that finally this franchise might be buried, it's smelling like a three week dead cat yo, but guess that's down to Hollywood and how much box office gold the movie racked in. If this is what passes for modern horror then the genre is in a very bad way and just maybe should be taken off life support. That's called tough love kids; I simply hate this sort of movie that attracts the wrong viewer to the genre.

The House of Mouse of all people loaded up the dark genre bullets mid-September with one of those remakes no one wanted, Fright Night managing to slip into slot eight in 2011. The original is one of those guilty pleasures a lot of dark genre fans harbour, and I have to say if you have never caught up with the original movie than consider yourself out of the horror club. Anyway the remake opened on 167 screens to the tune of an abysmal $525k as Disney got down and dirty with a car wreck. The movie did manage a 2.5 multiplier as it rampaged through teen chick markets, but with a paltry $1.30 million in total Disney really did back a shocker. Seems the older demographics weren't interested and there simply wasn't enough firepower in the teen markets to get much happening.

Okay so no one went and saw this one, not at the cinema, not on new release DVD, and not even as a weekly release. While the original may have had its problems, the thought of watching all sorts of cinematic sins being committed by the remake simply proved too much to bare. While I personally have no issues with remakes, though could they do the movies that need a remake and leave the classics alone, this one was simply a bridge too far in terms of cult goodness going stale for a modern brain dead audience.

In the Middle of May Madman, who are starting to strut their stuff on the big stage taking on the tier one Distributors, hit 16 screens with perhaps the most controversial movie of the year, the home grown Snowtown. Various pseudo celebrates took to the airwaves to proclaim their opposition to the movie, leading the charge was the increasingly unimportant Richard Wilkins who pretty much thunder away from the pulpit of mouth breather self-importance, ironically one of the themes of the actual movie. Wilkins was pretty vindictive about the movie, which simply point out what an irrelevance he really is. The results were a lot more solid than we, or the Wilkins bigots of this world expected, an opening weekend of $169k turned into a $1.07 bonanza on the back of a whopping 6.34 multiplier. Clearly word of mouth was very strong, those that went and caught the movie and understood the concept of nihilism reporting back that this small Aussie shocker rocked the house down. Naturally with a movie going gang busters and the possibility of a major Australian cinema event Cinema chains choose to show fluff like The Hangover 2 to the sort of self-centred audience Wilkins speaks to. I'll just reframe a constant statement of this site, I genuinely fear for the future of my society.

Naturally since we all live in the hinterland where the mouth breathers roam free Snowtown didn't make our limited cinematic options, though we did pre-order the DVD and set aside a Saturday night for viewing pleasure. End of movie you could have heard a pin drop as the team was literally stunned by the effectiveness of a representation of true evil. Comments included, "best dark genre flick since The Road", "holy cow, let's hit that one again", and "I've landed in cinema nirvana guys". Two thumbs up from everyone, a highlight of the year, and hell yeah it was an Aussie movie making the dark genre top ten.

Taking down tenth spot was The Rite, a very serious demonic possession movie from Warner Brothers. Always nice to see 1970s style horror hasn't going out with the bathwater as Hollywood continues to work the production line. Clearly the Bros weren't entirely sure on this one and went with a safe 81 screens returning a $409k opening weekend. The 2.35 multiplier wasn't enough to breach the million dollar mark meaning The Rite was something of a disappointment to all involved. Clearly with the serious nature of the movie being advertised up front the Bros lost traction with both the teen and bogan markets, who don't like to think about their movie fare. While there were some solid reviews being given there were also a lot of negative reviews from people demonstrating a woeful lack of cinematic knowledge. Once again a movie that indicated even highly paid Critics sometimes can't find their own arses with both hands, by the way we don't exclude ourselves from that definition though, "highly paid" isn't in the equation. The biggest issue here was Warner Brothers singularly failing to engage the adult demographics who were clearly the audience the movie had been made for.

Do I need to say it, we didn't get a screening here in the hinterland as it may have taken the odd screen off the latest fracking Chipmunk movie to engage the mouth breathers. So naturally a couple of us hired the DVD one wet Saturday afternoon and dialled in. Mixed reaction, the movie was strong in parts, but in other areas failed the litmus test. I'm not even convinced the movie had anything like a solid enough plot direction, but hey may be I was bored or something. One of the least impactful possession movies I've run across in the past few years.

While the top ten certainly showed the dark genre in good standing, a blockbuster and a few good results passes for good standing when you are talking a genre that has never been that box office friendly, it's the overall lack of movies that was a worrying trend during the year. While people may or may not dispute our definition of horror, and heck we vacillate on individual movies, by our reckoning only sixteen dark genre movies received a reasonable cinema release in 2011. That's down from twenty-seven in both 2010 and 2009. Considering the genre has been going through something of a renaissance recently that's a surprising development, though just maybe it could be put down to anger on the Internet over the constant stream of remakes, sequels, and just plain dumb ideas being trotted out. Fingers crossed this trend doesn't continue into 2012, we do need some new content at the box office to keep things interesting round these here parts.

The other notable thing from 2011 was the outright banning of two movies by our Censorship board. Both were releases by new outfit Monster and while one, A Serbian Movie didn't exactly incite debate - and given the objectionable content that's a given, the second The Human Centipede 2 was something of a fifteen minute wonder. Issues were raised by two family orientated Christian groups, and quite rightly, anyone defending this movie on artistic grounds needs to re-examine their definitions. The movie was simply made to drag in the lowest common denominator of dark genre film goer, was made as controversial as possibly to raise public debate and hence free advertising, and paid the price when the Censorship board declined to give a rating - effectively finishing any chance of a release in this Country. Supposed horror fans were outraged that what few moral guidelines we have left were used to ban a movie that featured "that barbed wire scene", while opponents it must be said were somewhat smug in their reactions. A couple of days of heated debate followed, notable the opponents of the movie seemed more reasoned and less personally insulting than horror fans, and a number of sites dialled into what amount to a storm in a teacup. Monster meekly, yet somehow in defiant manner, agreed to cut the offending scenes, and were then allowed to release the movie. Somewhat surprisingly no one thought of hitting a box office release strategy at this stage with the movie "the Government had tried to ban", quite possibly due to the first movie being a complete car wreck at the cinema. Ironically, for those of us not overly concerned, the U.S had no issues with the release of the movie full and uncut, a number of local fans showing true support for Monster and their battle with the censors immediately vowed they would import the R1 version of the movie, their puffed out chests being about as effective as a sparrows fart in waking people up on a Sunday morning.

Of course the year rocked on with one of the more interesting release strategies to have been attempted by an Independent movie house. The Tunnel an Aussie found footage movie promised mayhem in the tunnels under Sydney, but pretty much hit mayhem levels online as it raised some debate. Rather than raising money in the traditional methods and hitting standard Distribution channels, the Producers of The Tunnel decided to raise capital by selling the individual frames of the actual movie and allowing free torrents download of the finished product from the internet. What they failed to take account of was that the typical person who downloads from the net tends not to pay for anything if they can avoid it, including $1 film frames. On the bright side we got an above average movie, on the downside someone took a bath on financing it putting the possibility of a sequel off the front burner.


2011 did deliver some solid results for the local industry, though not the breakout hit we have all been pretty much waiting years for. Snowtown lodged itself into the top ten giving some hope that support for local dark genre movies isn't a pipe dream, while The Reef managed to earn some coin, albeit through a low release schedule that made a mockery of how good the movie was in comparison to the average Hollywood outing. The biggest disappointment of the year, in local terms, was Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a remake that simply didn't find an Audience, indicating once again perhaps that remakes are losing traction with the Box Office. A number of other local movies managed festival and exhibit releases, without bubbling up into public consciousness. The genre in this Country is crying out for promotion and a decent Distribution network, but the feeling is why bother when the mouth breathers will simply turn out to the latest Hollywood schlock fest, proclaiming their Aussie pride while pointedly ignoring local movies, unless those movies follow slavishly LA trends of the inane. Sad indictment folks when Red Dog is proclaimed best local movie of the year, I fear for the future of Australian culture. On the bright side the local awards is being made into a second rate Academy Awards evening, so no one is going to give a toss about it in the wash up. Self-congratulatory BS comes to mind.

About the only development I could discern during the year, and remember we're talking box office here not general dark genre movie making, was the continued raise of the demonic movie. Both Paranormal Activity 3 and The Rite surprised and I've got a notion that 2012 and 2013 will see an expansion in demon orientated outings that seek to scare the bejesus out of people rather than offering slight scares for the "want to be scared" crowd. That's actually a good development as we should see a solid batch of serious horror flicks on our screens.

Surprisingly no one thought to throw a zombie outing into the mix, seems to be flavour of the month in the printed world, but my guess is this is due to there not being much of a market. Sure The Walking Dead has had about every fan in the Country importing the DVD of season one, but said fans don't seem to equate to box office sales for some reason. In 2012 we get World War Z, from a box office perspective that's going to make for some interesting weeks following its release. Think the problem is no one is really saying anything new with the subgenre hence there's a "seen if before got the tee" thing going down. I for one would be up for a solid zombie couple of hours however.

Fingers crossed for a good year ahead, though clearly the final Twilight instalment is going to take the year removing any excitement over the eventual dark genre placings. I'm looking forward to The Lady In Black, The Devil Inside, Prometheus, two Amityville (guilty pleasure) releases, and of course Paranormal Activity 4. Catch ya down the ticket queue.