Many horror movies have flopped when first released, but with time, have grown into beloved cult classics.
The label “cult” is given to films that are often weird and go against the grain of mainstream films. Usually, cult horror films are filled with gore, weird subject matter, and memorable sequences that aren’t the norm in horror films.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
The popular, beautiful Jennifer (Megan Fox) and her awkward friend (Amanda Seyfried) end up at a concert in their small town bar, where Jennifer is lured into the van of the touring band. They turn out to be Satanists looking for a virgin to sacrifice and have chosen Jennifer as their victim. The ritual doesn’t go as planned, and Jennifer emerges as an undead, nearly indestructible monster with a taste for blood, specifically, the blood of teenage boys.
Jennifer’s Body was highly anticipated, starring it girl Megan Fox, and written by Diablo Cody, who had just won an Academy Award for the filmJuno. It has since become a well-loved comedy horror, specifically by women who praise it as a campy, spooky feminist masterpiece. Even though it only came out in 2009, it has undoubtedly earned cult classic status.
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Recently engaged couple Brad and Janet played by Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon find themselves in the middle of nowhere on a dark rainy night with a flat tire. They seek help and end up at an ominous castle where they meet Dr. Frank N.Furter (Tim Curry) and several mysterious guests, including Frank N. Furter’s recent creation.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show tends to be one of the first films that come to mind when someone says cult classic horror. The film is still to this day a fantastic example of creativity and queer characters that will likely remain iconic forever. Upon its release, however, the film flopped in theatres. It’s hard to imagine that was the case when fans meet up every year across the world around Halloween to rewatch the film.
A double feature directed by Robert Rodrigez and Quentin Tarantino featured two cult classic films. The first, directed by Rodrigez, is called Planet Terror. The film is about a small town in Texas that soon becomes overrun by vicious, flesh-eating zombies. Cherry (Rose McGowan), a go-go dancer, and Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), her ex, band together with other survivors of the attack to escape the crowds of monsters. The next film, directed by Tarrantino, called Death Proof, follows a stuntman played by Kurt Russell who takes unsuspecting women for deadly drives in his car doctored to survive maximum impact. He finds himself in over his head when he targets a group of women that give him a run for his money.
Perhaps the strange plots kept fans away during the time of its release, or maybe it was because people didn’t initially recognize the films as the work of the two famous directors, due to being released under the Grindhousename. The film has been viewed time and time again since its initial release and is now considered a cult classic. Car crashes, machine gun legs, and zombies make these films endlessly entertaining.
The Thing (1982)
The Thing follows a crew of researchers in Antarctica who are terrorized by a creature that takes on the form of its victims. A helicopter pilot (Kurt Russel) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the crew in a gory battle against the shape-shifting monster.
Directed by John Carpenter after his recent hit Halloween, it’s surprising that The Thing didn’t do well at the box office. At the time of its release, the film was destroyed by critics, who called it bleak, paranoid, and depressing, alienating its potential audience. Years later, as more people saw the film, it solidified itself as one of Carpenter’s best. Fans praise it for its amazing practical effects, terrifying setting, and masterful score.
Donnie Darko (2001)
A teenager in the 80s named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) sees a giant demonic-looking rabbit while sleepwalking. The creature tells him that the world will end in 28 days, and when Donnie returns home, a jet engine has crashed into his room. Donnie is unsure if he’s living in a parallel universe, suffering from mental illness, or if the world is going to end.
Donnie Darkohas become a favorite amongst many horror movie fans. Its creepy nature and dark, multi-layered themes make for an intriguing, entertaining watch. The movie didn’t do well when it was first released due to 9/11 just happening. The inciting incident of a jet falling on someone’s house made the movie unappealing to audiences, due to unfortunate timing.
Veronica (Winona Ryder) is a part of the most popular and cruel group at her school, the Heathers. When Veronica and her new boyfriend J.D. (Christian Slater) confront the group’s leader, Heather (Kim Walker) they accidentally poison her and frame her death as a suicide. Soon, Veronica realizes that J.D. is purposely killing off the popular kids and getting away with it. She must figure out how to intervene as the death count rises.
Heathersgrossed $1.1 million when it was first released, which wasn’t even half of its $3 million budget. The movie was perhaps ahead of its time, with the casual violence and teenage sexuality feeling out of place in the 80s. Dark comedies weren’t particularly popular at the time, and the grim subject took a while to gain popularity. Heathers was the opposite of movies such as Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club, and it had a very niche fan base
Overprotective mother Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody), is spying on her son Lionel (Timothy Balme) as he goes on a date to the zoo. While there, she is bitten by the terrifying Sumatran rat monkey, which slowly turns her into a zombie. Lionel tries to hide her in the basement, but her frequent escapes end up turning most of the town into the living dead.
Peter Jackson worked hard to make Dead Alive (AKA Braindead overseas) with a budget of only $3 million. When it was released in 1993, the gruesome horror film only made $240,000. After Jackson became a household name thanks to theLord of the Ringstrilogy, Dead Alive experienced a revival with new fans seeing it for the first time. The movie features one of the most brutal and gory zombie fighting scenes, featuring blenders and lawnmowers.
After losing his son in a hit-and-run accident, Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) seeks the help of a local witch (Florence Schauffler). She summons the vengeful demon Pumpkinhead to hunt and kill the group of teens responsible for the death of his son. But Ed ends up discovering a bond with the creature and fights to stop Pumpkinhead’s murderous rampage.
Pumpkinhead is now considered to be one of the best creature features of all time, but it took a while to find its audience. Its original distributor went bankrupt, causing the film to be released nearly three years late. When it did hit theaters, it had no marketing of any kind and was only released in a limited number of theaters. The straight-to-VHS sequel that came out in 1994 finally caused horror fans to watch the original, and it was an immediate hit.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) and the daughter of a murder victim, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), uncover a terrifying plan by local mask maker Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). The madman is planning a Halloween mass murder by following an ancient Celtic ritual, and they must figure out how to stop him.
When the movie first came out, fans of theHalloween franchise were disappointed that Michael Myers wasn’t going to be in the third installment. The franchise already had two films featuring the killer, so fans had linked his name with the title. After its initial release, however, fans released that Season of the Witch is a fantastic movie, despite not featuring the iconic killer.
Day of the Dead (1985)
A team of scientists trapped in a missile silo with civilians and soldiers are desperately trying to ensure the survival of the human race after a zombie attack. Tensions rise inside ad the undead are gathering outside.
Initially, the film only made a worldwide total of $5 million with a $3.5 million budget. Many attribute its failings to the other many horror films released that year including Re-Animator, Fright Night, and Return of the Living Dead. However,Day of The Deadwas rejuvenated through its release on VHS and DVD. Many fans say it is one of George Romero’s best films and it is extremely popular among zombie movie fans.