Top 10 Horror Movie Box Office Bombs
By Brian Anderson
November 3, 2023
Horror movies are usually big moneymakers, but bombs like Bless the Child and R.I.P.D. proved exceptions to the rule.
Due to promotional and distribution expenses, a film must make at least twice its budget to break even. These film losses are estimated using budget and box office numbers from Box Office Mojo.
Above all else, studios are in the business of making money, so while they will make an occasional prestige picture, they love horror movies because the budgets are low and the returns are huge. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and some horrors have flopped spectacularly, especially when the modest budget perimeter is ignored.
The horror genre is a bit unique in that the films don’t require big stars, named directors, or massive promotion to attract an audience. If it’s scary, gory, or has an interesting twist, people will go see it. Throwing a bunch of money on top of that proven formula only cuts into the profit margin and, in some cases, has resulted in the biggest horror bombs of all time.
10 The Thing (2011)
Estimated Loss: $44.5 million
At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson.Release Date October 14, 2011 Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Cast Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen Genres Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Because it is considered such a horror/sci-fi masterpiece, people forget that John Carpenter’s 1982 classic, The Thing, was a flop, losing over $17 million. The only memory iissuewith the 2011 prequel lazily named The Thing is that nobody saw it, so they have no recollection of it.
The tale of events that immediately preceded the original was made for the relatively modest budget of $38.5 million, but only did $31.5 in ticket sales, resulting in a less modest $44.5 million loss. It would seem that making a prequel to a film that wasn’t successful isn’t the formula for success.
9 Ghostbusters (2016)
Estimated Loss: $58.9 million
Ghostbusters centers around a group of eccentric New York City parapsychologists who investigate, encounter, and capture ghosts, paranormal manifestations, demigods and demons.Created by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis First Film ghostbusters Latest Film Ghostbusters: Afterlife Cast Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Finn Wolfhard, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon
The original Ghostbusters in 1984 was a massive hit and so was the 1989 sequel, which left Columbia Pictures desperate for another movie. There were various proposed sequels and reboots over the years that would have been fine, but for some reason the horrid 2016 remake was the one to get the green light.
The all-female Ghostbusters reboot wasn’t bad because it replaced the male characters with women, it was simply lacking any entertainment value. It was a comedy without laughs and horror without scares. With a budget of $144 million, it lost $58.9 million, making it the only flop of the franchise.
Estimated Loss: $60.5 million
Friends on a camping trip discover that the town they’re vacationing in is being plagued in an unusual fashion by parasitic aliens from outer space.Director Lawrence Kasdan Cast Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, Morgan Freeman Genres Science Fiction, Horror
If one has dough, sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni, chances are those ingredients can be put together for a decent pizza. The 2003 film, Dreamcatcher was based on Stephen King story, had a screenplay by William Goldman, was directed by Lawrence Kasdan, and starred Thomas Jane, Timothy Olyphant, and Morgan Freeman, yet somehow wasn’t palatable.
A group of hunting buddies encountering a parasitic alien invasion should have been a slam dunk, especially considering all the star-power behind it, but the horror/sci-fi only did $75.7 million in the theaters. Doubling the $68 million budget for a break-even point means this bomb lost 460.5 million.
Estimated Loss: $61.1 million
A New York City detective investigates mysterious deaths occurring 48 hours after users log onto a site named feardotcom.Cast Stephen Dorff, Natascha McElhone, Stephen Rea Runtime 101 minutes Genres Horror Production Company Franchise Pictures, MDP Worldwide
In the late 1990s, the Internet was a new sensation and thousands of companies sprung up to capitalize on it without any semblance of a business model, leading to the Dot Com Bust of 2000. The 2003 horror, FeardotCom, was like that only in movie form, trying to cash in on the latest trend without a solid plan.
The plot is centered around a mysterious website that seems to be killing people, but that really doesn’t do justice to how unimaginative and poorly executed this bomb was. Made for the reasonably low budget of $40 million, the movie was so bad that it still managed to lose $61.1 million. Even Windows Millennium Edition didn’t crash that hard.
Estimated Loss: $66.9 million
A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.Director Alex Garland Cast Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez Genres Science Fiction, Horror
In reality, the 2018 film Annihilation wasn’t all that bad, but it sure did stink up the box office, bringing in only $43.1 million. The sci-fi/psychological horror was about a group of explorers who enter a quarantine zone called “The Shimmer” where an alien presence causes all kinds of crazy mutations and utter weirdness.
The film looked amazing, had plenty of tension and jumps, plus gave the audience a lot to think about. Maybe that last thing is why it flopped, because people don’t go see horror movies to ponder deep philosophical issues. Sadly, this perfectly entertaining film lost $66.9 million against a budget of $55 million.
5 Bless The Child
Estimated Loss: $90 million
Bless the Child
Cody, a little girl abandoned by her mother and raised by her aunt, a nurse, is kidnapped. The girl’s guardian, aided by an F.B.I. agent, learn that Cody has supernatural abilities, and the abductees are a Satanic cult willing to do anything to gain them.Director Chuck Russell Cast Kim Basinger, Angela Bettis, Rufus Sewell, Christina Ricci Genres Supernatural, Horror
Producers of the 2000 film, Bless the Child, must have spent the bulk of the $65 million budget on Kim Basinger, Jimmy Smits, and Christina Ricci, because there was nothing left over for visual effects or a good script. Also, shame on anyone for making a bad Christina Ricci movie.
The supernatural horror was a tedious soap opera about a Satanic cult trying to get their hands on a specially gifted youngster, which has been done better many times. The movie didn’t even recoup its budget, with only $40 million in ticket sales, leading to a whopping $90 million loss.
4 The Stepford Wives
Estimated Loss: $96.7 million
the stepford wives
The secret to a Stepford wife lies behind the doors of the Men’s Association.Director Frank Oz Cast Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken Runtime 93 minutes Genres Science Fiction, Comedy
The 1975 psychological horror, The Stepford Wives, was about a wealthy suburb where husbands replace their wives with subservient robot replicas. It was a minor cult hit that generated a slew of made-for-TV movies covering Stepford Husbands and Children. Then, for reasons unknown, a $100 million reboot was made in 2004.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, and Faith Hill, the remake is one of the worst movies with the best casts ever. That much talent however couldn’t rescue this self-inflicted disaster, and it lost $96.7 million, proving that throwing money at something doesn’t make it successful.
Estimated Loss: $119.8 million
As a Washington, D.C. psychiatrist unearths the origin of an alien epidemic, she also discovers her son might be the only way it can be stopped.Director Oliver Hirschbiegel Cast Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig Genres Science Fiction, Horror
The first film adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel, The Body Snatchers came in 1954 with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was remade in 1978 with the same title and then again in 1993 as simply Body Snatchers. There was certainly no need for another one, but a big budget version starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig came out in 2007.
Invasion brought absolutely nothing new to the story about aliens replacing humans and in fact was such a bore that it somehow subtracted from it. Made for $80 million, which is an unbelievable sum to throw at a third remake, the sci-fi/horror was only scary in that it lost $119 million after only earning $40.2 million in theaters.
2 The Wolfman (2010)
Estimated Loss: $157.4 million
The Wolfman (2010)
Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, an American man is bitten and subsequently cursed by a werewolf.Director Joe Johnston Cast Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving Genres Horror
Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot in 1943’s The Wolfman remains one of the most powerful and chilling performances from the classic Universal Monster movies. Like Dracula and Frankenstein there have been good tribute movies like An American Werewolf in London and truly awful ones like the 2010 remake, The Wolfman.
The movie, staring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, missed on every point, with slow pacing and a sheer lack of any scares or tension. Worst of all, it relied on bad CGI and the Wolfman was pretty goofy looking. It made $142.6 million at the box office, which would have been fine, but somehow Universal spent $150 making this flop, and it lost $157.4 million.
Estimate Loss: $229.7 million
A cop killed by his own partner joins RIPD, an afterlife law enforcement department working to apprehend various monsters disguised as humans living on earth, and gets paired up with a smart-mouthed veteran.Director Robert Schwentke Cast Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges Genres Supernatural, Action, Comedy
Calling the 2013 Film, R.I.P.D. a horror may be a stretch, but it was billed as a supernatural comedy and there are no intentional laughs. It does have horror elements with the undead and is essentially Men in Black with zombies (Deados), so it counts. It also qualifies as the biggest horror movie box office bomb with an astounding $229.7 million loss.
Based on a comic by the same name, the movie is about a couple of lawmen, who were killed by their partners, and end up working for the afterlife police department, tracking down rouge wicked souls that have escaped judgment. The collective yawn that tag line inspires was experienced by audiences as well with only $78.3 million in ticket sales versus a massive $154 million budget.