by Adam Riske
Night of the Living Dead (1990) – Being only 8 years old in 1990, I was somewhat naïve to what horror was going to hit and I thought America was clamoring for the Night of the Living Dead remake solely on the basis that it was playing in theater #3 (the main theater) at my local mall cinema on opening weekend. With that kind of investigative reporting, I’m shocked that Box Office Mojo didn’t come knocking down my door to give me a job. Anyways, the movie was a wash, taking in only $5.8M (on a $4.2M budget) and is largely forgotten about outside of the horror community. I think the remake is decent in spots, but on the whole it’s best watched as a curiosity. Fun fact: Also at 8, I was convinced that Tony Todd was reprising the role that he played in the 1968 original. I was smart.
Note: The Lawnmower Man did indeed have a sequel released in January 1996, called Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. That one made virtually (see what I did there?) no money, thus ending the debate of “does Matt Frewer have the same box office pull as Jeff Fahey?” It's directed by Brett Leonard, who is possibly just Brett Ratner in VR.
Pet Sematary Two (1992) – Bottom line, I thought Edward Furlong was a bona-fide star after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Wasn’t everything that movie touched supposed to turn to gold? America decided not to open their hearts (or wallets) to young Furlong, and Pet Sematary Two closed with only about 1/3 of the box office as the hit original film. I haven’t seen Pet Sematary Two in a long time but I remember it being a sleepover watch on one or two occasions and my friends and I were pretty taken aback at how ugly and mean it is, even for a horror movie.
Dr. Giggles (1992) – I blame my parents for this one. Sure, the horror crowd was going to show up for Dr. Giggles -- he’s a self-appointed (see what I did there?) horror icon -- BUT this movie was supposed to be huge because it was going to crossover and bring in that fuckin’ L.A. Law crowd, kid? Nobody wanted this check-up, though, and the movie only brought in $8.4M, thus dashing the hopes of a potential franchise. I used to be excited that Doug E. Doug was in this because I thought that guy was amazing way back when. Isn’t it weird that Drake’s L.A. Law co-star Corbin Bernsen made his own medical horror film in the ‘90s called The Dentist? It’s interesting. Like, don’t write a think-piece on it, but, you know, interesting.
Leprechaun 2 (1994) – I thought Leprechaun (1993) was a masterpiece in my youth and that its sequel was going to cash in on people like me seeing the first one on video, loving it and wanting more. Yeah, that didn’t turn out happening. Leprechaun 2 grossed just over $2M in its entire run (that’s less than Jimmy Hollywood, for those of you scoring at home) and relegated the series to run its course direct-to-video. Fun fact: I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that the weekend it opened no single person wanted to see Leprechaun 2 more than I did. I remember it came out the weekend of my sister’s Bat-Mitzvah and the only thing I was thinking about that whole time was when I was going to be able to see that sweet Lep action. To be fair, the same thing happened with my Bar-Mitzvah. The whole time I was just excited because my family said they would take me to see Die Hard with a Vengeance after I became a man.
*“Hey honey, want to see a movie where Meg Ryan is too drunk, too often?”
“Sounds good peaches let me finish my wine first. And you’re driving hahahahahahahahaha!” -every couple that saw When a Man Loves a Woman back in 1994
Hideaway (1995) – My man Brett Leonard is back! I remember the weekend of March 3 – 5, 1995, vividly. Man of the House took the box office by storm and I wanted to see either Hideaway or The Mangler really bad instead, which also both opened that weekend. I saw the trailer for Hideaway before Demon Knight and I was like “this movie’s gonna be huge!” I thought Jeff Goldblum was gonna bring in some of that Park cred and make it rain for Sony. The movie only took in $12.2M and was quickly lost to the sands of time. I also thought this movie was going to be big because of Dean Koontz, who I thought was a bigger deal than he was (he’s like a poor man’s Sutter Cane, evidently, because Cane outsells them all). Quick aside: This particular weekend was seminal in my horror fandom. I told my dad I wanted to see Hideaway on Saturday and The Mangler on Sunday of that weekend. He said “Pick one. I don’t want you becoming one of those guys.” What is that supposed to mean? I love my dad (he’s the best) but in this aim he failed. I am one of those guys! I picked Hideaway, so I called my buddies and was like “what time should we go?” One of them (not to name names, but it was Paul) says to me “Can we see Man of the House instead?” Un-fucking-believable.
The Frighteners (1996) – Based on its summer release from Universal and its star Michael J. Fox, I thought this one was positioned to be a big hit, the type of movie that would break out of the horror crowd and appeal to the mainstream. But alas, it did not. The Frighteners grossed only $16.7M, which is fine because the movie is the worst kind of bad movie – one that is disappointing and also loud and annoying. I’ve tried so many times to give this one another chance and I make it like 20 minutes every time before remembering what a bad idea that was.
Idle Hands (1999) – I thought this movie would hit because it was about high schoolers (and I was in high school at the time; another example of this phenomenon is Angus) and it had music from The Offspring. I was wrong. It made only $4.1M. I think the release date was the problem. All them high school movie dollars were going to Never Been Kissed and you can’t stand a chance in the wake of that juggernaut. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Idle Hands in its entirety.
Scream was making money in the ‘90s (except for Idle Hands), so when Kevin Williamson made his directorial debut with Teaching Mrs. Tingle, and it was opening right around when school starts, I was all “this movie is going to be the talk of the Fall.” Wrong. $8.9M in grosses. Very sad. We owed Katie Holmes a little better, I think. I hope you all can sleep at night.
What are some ‘90s horror movies you thought would be huge but weren’t?