Monday, October 3, 2016

Riske Business: 10 Horror Movies I Thought Would Be Huge But Weren't ('90s Edition)

by Adam Riske
The only thing scarier than these tales was their box office returns! (Maniacal Laugh)

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.
The Lawnmower Man (1992) – To be fair, The Lawnmower Man made some bank in spring of 1992 ($32.1M), but I thought it was going to make Avatar money. I thought VR Jobe was going to become iconic like Mickey Mouse. I’ve convinced myself just now; I’m pulling my DVD of The Lawnmower Man and am going to watch it this October. I don’t remember liking it, but inexplicably I own it, so fuck my life.

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.
Brainscan (1994) – Look, we blew it with Jobe in The Lawnmower Man, but surely we’re all going to get behind The Trickster, right? Well, fuck you then! How am I supposed to look Edward Furlong in the face and tell him that the horror fans have turned their genre backs on him once again? This movie only made $4.3M in total. That’s not even 1/10th of what When a Man Loves a Woman grossed. How the hell did they do THAT? *

*“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.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999) – Virtually every high school horror movie after 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?

21 comments:

  1. Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace - that f-ing title, haha!

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    1. a/k/a Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War

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  2. Poor man's Sutter Cane - haha, someone finally watched In the Mouth of Madness - not bad, right? Also have you seen Possession? You thought Sam Neill was good at scaring the shit out of little children at electric fences, but you should see the man rock a rocking chair!

    Okay, so I paid no attention to the box office in the 90s so some of these are coming as a shock. I remember loving Brainscan - $4.3 million? An Edward Furlong movie about a video game in the 90s only made $4.3M? And I would have thought Jessica Alba in her undies was good for at least 10M! And Teaching Mrs. Tingle failed in the height of beautiful-people horror? This is blowing my mind.

    And yeah, I bought and watched The Frighteners based on a 4.5/5 review on blu-ray.com and was stunned by how obnoxiously annoying it was - I always thought maybe I watched it wrong but the Riske Seal of Disapproval is enough for me - maybe my kid will like it someday.

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    1. I thought Ravenous (1999) deserved better as well. 12 mil budget made 2 mil lifetime.

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    2. In the Mouth of Madness is a lot of fun. I have seen Possession too. It bruised my brain.

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  3. The Frighteners wasn't loud and annoying enough to prevent me from falling asleep. Cool lenticulard/3d poster. Terrible movie. ....though I feel like I hear a lot of positive thoughts on that one now.

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  4. The Relic. It only made half of its $60 million budget. I haven't seen it in years but remember it being a fun monster movie(when Hollywood still made those).

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  5. I keep getting Idle Hands and Never Been Kissed confused. It's just too much young Jessica Alba.

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  6. The Village. Coming off a fairly strong trifecta of movies(sixth sense, unbreakable, signs) I was ready to crown M Night's period piece(but it IS...kinda) as another box office success, critically along with monetarily, when I went to see it. Although not a great movie, I still feel it holds up okay as an intriguing mystery. Ultimately it does fail in its final thirty to forty minutes. Wish a double reveal could've been done where we, the audience, are given the initial revelation only to be dealt a gut punch by revealing that there are, indeed, things in the woods to be scared of.

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  7. An American Werewolf in Paris (1997). This flick barely broke even against its $25 million budget thanks in large part due to being released against the crowded Christmas season with movies like As Good As It Gets, Jackie Brown, The Postman and Mr. Magoo. Not to mention that the CGI werewolves are fake as hell.

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  8. I am 100% alone here, but I was positive that Bats was gonna be a huge movie in 1999. Teen heartthrob Lou Diamond Phillips in a movie about everyone's favorite flying disease factory? What could go wrong? Oh yeah, everything. But hey, at least we still got TWO religious horror movies starring Gabrielle Byrne! Hooray 1999.

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  9. Man, Toledo is showing up for this one! I guess that says a lot about Toledo …

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  10. Near Dark made only 3.e millions on a 5 million budget. I thought that it would be a huge hit.
    The hitcher starring Rutger Hauer also seemed like a surefire hit to me. Well, that turned out to make only around 6 million in 1987.
    Communion starring Chris Walken and based on the Whitley Strieber bestseller seemed a sure thing to me. But it made only around 2 million and sadly it wasn´t very food.
    Clive Barker´s Nightbreed should have been a great hit but wasn´t, taking only around 8 millions after being butchered by the producers.
    The dark half - Timothy Hutton, Stephen King, George Romero, what could go wrong here? Well, it made only a little over 10 millions where I expected a big hit.
    Lord of illusions, In the mouth of madness, Deep Rising, Apt Pupil, eXistenZ - some more failures of box office judgement of mine...

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    1. The Hitcher is great! Killer hitchhiker dude is so persistent.

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  11. Oh no...my boyfriend really wants me to watch The Frighteners...I guess I should run and hide after reading your dismal remarks on it. Damn...

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    1. You should hide every copy of it you see anywhere. I used to do that with The Golden Compass.

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  12. I remember being blown away by that Event Horizon trailer in the late 90s and being scared stiff seeing it as a 13 year old on VHS. I thought for sure it was the next Alien. Still a fun watch but recent viewings have blunted its impact with it's aged CGI and bananas ending.

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  13. Sweet lep action. Outstanding. I used to believe that brainscan had better special effects than T-2 and would tell all my friends this. I had one friend and it was castle greyskull toy with microphone for deep throat voice effects. And it told me to go fuck myself.

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  14. Oh Edward Furlong. Come on man. At least update your wikipedia page with a nice photo. Not the one they took when you went to prison the 3rd time.

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    1. Looking...looking....(screams in terror)

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  15. bahahahaha My friends and I were OBSESSED with Lawnmower Man and played the computer game too which was weird and I believe had absolutely no instructions included.

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