Is resurrecting a horror brand a sure-fire way of scaring up box office around the world? Ian Sandwell reports
It seems the only thing guaranteed with horror remakes or reboots are the dissenting voices on the internet proclaiming, ‘It will never be as good as the original’ as soon as the project is announced.
When it comes to updating iconic horror classics, box office has been less easy to predict. While some recent films have broken $100m worldwide - like The Wolfman, which took $142.6m in 2010 and The Omen, which took $119.5m in 2006 - others have been less successful, such as Fright Night ($41m in 2011) and The Hills Have Eyes ($69.6m in 2006).
Arriving in April is Evil Dead, Fede Alvarez’s feature directorial debut, which received its world premiere at SXSW in March before rolling out worldwide, including Russia on April 4, the US on April 5 and Italy on May 9. Lionsgate release through StudioCanal in the UK (April 19) and through Metropolitan in France (May 1), while the rest of international is with Sony, which releases in the US.
This year will also see the arrival of another major horror remake in the form of Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie, pushed back from March to October, with 2013 also delivering the likes of Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac and Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are, based on Jorge Michel Grau’s Mexican horror of the same name.
‘The audience that has really made a lot of horror films work is the younger female audience’
Hugh Spearing, StudioCanal
While Evil Dead and Carrie are based on horror classics, the latter two are based on less well-known foreign-language properties. But this is no barrier to success. Two of the most successful horror remakes of recent years are The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004), spooking up $249.3m and $187.3m worldwide, respectively, both of which were adapted from foreign-language originals (Hideo Nakata’s Ringu and Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge).
One thing that could well work in the favour of Evil Dead is its producers Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and Robert G Tapert, who all worked on the beloved 1981 original. “The film has been endorsed and made by the producers of the original film, so hopefully that will put it in a good position with the horror fans who are fans of the original,” says Hugh Spearing, head of UK marketing at StudioCanal.
Alongside the original fanbase, StudioCanal’s UK campaign is also aiming to attract a newer, younger audience in the 18-25 age bracket. (Evil Dead is rated 18 in the UK). “The audience that has really made a lot of horror films work is the younger female audience,” explains Spearing. “The film has a great female lead performance by Jane Levy, which people will like among this target audience.”
Overall, the UK has proven to be a fertile market for horror in recent years, and the audience is clearly there for remakes as well. Among the successes, Dawn Of The Dead scared up $10.1m in 2004, The Wolfman garnered $7.3m in 2010, while My Bloody Valentine 3D took $10.2m in 2009.
Other consistent territories for recent horror remakes and reboots include Mexico - which saw returns of $11.1m for The Wolfman and $4.8m for Nightmare On Elm Street (2010) - and Italy, with grosses of $3.4m for Halloween (2007), $5.9m for The Wolfman and $8.7m for My Bloody Valentine 3D.
‘It is easier if the brand is already built to capitalise on that and expand on it’
Ross Cunningham, Lionsgate UK
In the case of My Bloody Valentine 3D, the original 1981 film was not the main marketing hook for its UK campaign. “It was the first big 3D horror film release, when the technology was starting to boom prior to the release of Avatar,” explains Ross Cunningham, head of marketing at Lionsgate UK, which handled the UK release. “That was the main hook and the main angle, and that’s what all the material focused on.”
Even when a film is not a direct remake or reboot - such as this year’s Texas Chainsaw 3D, which was a direct sequel to the 1974 original - Cunningham believes the brand name can still prove beneficial. “The awareness was already so big for Texas Chainsaw that the ground was already built, and it was synonymous with horror,” he explains. “It is definitely not a hindrance in any way and it is easier if the brand is already built to capitalise on that and expand on it.”
The strength of a brand name is certainly reflected in figures, with poorly reviewed films such as Nightmare On Elm Street and The Omen all banking more than $100m worldwide; results on a par with or above well-received remakes such as Dawn Of The Dead.
Spearing feels that while “the heritage is a fantastic one to have”, the film itself remains the key factor. “[Evil Dead] is a good film to work with in the first place as it actually delivers, and you want to utilise the brand awareness so that you have that core audience of fans,” notes Spearing. “But ultimately it has to perform on its own merits as well.”