Fear is cheap. That’s the reason, no joke, that horror movies are more profitable. It’s so much easier to scare someone with an errant noise, an idea, or simply a suggestion that something might be off, and producing that on film is so cheap that profits are one of the first things that are often seen in horror movies. Think about it, for those that stay up late at night, those that have honest to goodness phobias, and those that fear one thing or another without any real explanation why. The idea of being afraid is something that requires next to nothing to capitalize on since some of the most kitschy horror movies ever made have still produced some of the most visceral reactions when people attempt to watch them. Michael Kennedy from ScreenRant is right, horror is cheap to make and easy to capitalize on since it relies heavily on the terror that’s induced by so little. Think about the budgets for many of the movies that have debuted in the past decade and now think about how many action movies have been seen to produce well over a billion dollars. They kind of have to do well, hence the merchandising and the insane level of marketing that’s needed to push the movie over and over and over in order to get people to pay attention and declare that the movie is brilliant and ground-breaking and blah, blah, blah. Horror movies don’t really need that as often.
There are obviously the duds that don’t go anywhere and aren’t even worth their production value since the story falls flat and the scares are generic enough that they wouldn’t frighten a child, but the average horror movie, those that at least unnerve or terrify those that watch, rely on a very simple but cerebral tricks that don’t always involve the jump scares or the in your face freak-out moments that cause people to jump. Think about the Paranormal Activity movies. Now that we’ve likely watched them over and over it’s still a bit creepy to see the hint of something, an unseen force that’s obviously watching, and it costs so little to make. Even a heavily CGI-laden movie like IT didn’t cost nearly as much as the average superhero movie to make, meaning that its profits were a great deal more and easier to attain. Fear is a big factor in bringing people to a movie theater and keeping them on the edge of their seat, so to speak. A scream off-screen can get a person’s attention, a shadow can seem ominous, and even the lighting in a movie can make a huge difference. And it’s all CHEAP, all cost-effective, and until you get into the heavy special effects and CGI there’s really not much cost associated that’s going to work against a horror movie. Andrew Liptak of Gizmodo can give you a little more perspective on this matter.
The range of human emotions that can be played upon by movies is pretty varied, but fear is one of them that is reliable and can be used over and over since no matter how much a person tells themselves it’s not real, it’s just a movie, their mind will work against them, and that’s a better trick than anything you’ll see on the screen. For years some folks didn’t want to go into the water thanks to Jaws, while some people were actually worried about camping after various slasher flicks that showed psychotic killers stalking through the woods. Heck, some people were afraid of sleeping just because Freddy Krueger became the dream demon that horror fans loved. And of course, clowns have almost always been a horror staple that’s easy to lean on and fairly cheap to produce in many cases since there’s a deep-rooted fear that many people have of clowns. If you don’t believe this then look back to 2016 when folks dressed as psychotic-looking clowns were roaming the streets for one reason or another. Steven Poole of The Guardian has more on this subject. Personally I was one of those willing to dare a mask-wearing individual to bring their ruffles and floppy shoes to my doorstep to meet my good friends Louisville. That’s the point though, fear is cheap, it’s abundant, and it’s not hard to enlist as a means of making money. Horror movies are an easy way to make a buck and it’s because they play upon an emotion that’s already there beneath the surface and is easier to access at times for less cost.
Some people act tough or are genuinely not afraid of much, but still enjoy a good horror movie since they can tell a great story and be impressive apart from the need to scare the living daylights out of the audience. When it comes to which movies make the most though the box office numbers would likely tell you that almost any action blockbuster will trump a horror movie, but in truth the profit margins for horror movies are a lot greater since they cost less to make.
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