When I first started this site one of the earliest features I put in was a calendar listing all the local Halloween-related activities – haunted house openings, special horror movie screenings, my own parties, and so on. I also used it to list all the theatrical horror movie releases in September and October. I don’t really do that anymore. There aren’t enough horror releases in those months to justify it.
I am, to use the most literal phrasing, baffled. The closer it gets to Halloween, the more people (especially teens) feel the urge to go see scary movies. It’s such an obvious truth it actually feels silly for me to type it. If you’re a teenager in particular, you’re probably too old to trick or treat but too young to party properly. Going to see movies is one of the only reliable weekend activities you can do.
If it’s October and you’re in the mood for a horror movie, it doesn’t even have to be good. That one month is the only time of the entire year you, as a movie studio, are given a total pass on quality as long as what you’re putting out is clearly horror (as opposed to suspense/thriller). Horror is one of the only genres in which a bad movie can be even more fun than a good one. I simply can’t stress enough how much of a no-brainer it is to release as many horror movies during October (and late September) as possible. It’s virtually as obligatory as releasing Christmas movies in December.
But look at this. These are the four “popular” theatrical releases coming out this October.
Click on that image to see the entire list of releases confirmed thus far for October 2016. There are two horror films releasing wide that month. Two.
Let that sink in. TWO WIDE HORROR RELEASES FOR OCTOBER.
The first is Ouija: Origin of Evil, releasing October 21st, the sequel to an incredibly poorly received 2014 release. The other is Rings, the long awaited next entry in the American Ring franchise, releasing October 28th. Meaning, if either of those films hope to ride the Halloween success wave, Ouija will only have two weekends to do so, and Rings will get one.
Who wants to see a horror movie the week after Halloween?
Note: There are also two limited release horror movies coming out in October. The Greasy Strangler, which so far appears to be so incredibly weird as to alienate any potential mainstream appeal, and 31, Rob Zombie’s next movie, which should honestly be releasing wide. Rob Zombie still has Halloween pull for most people.
September, oddly enough, has more wide horror releases than October this year: Morgan, Before I Wake, and The Woods, plus one or two limited.
I don’t know where this ridiculous trend started, honestly, but I suspect the Saw franchise has something to do with it. It started a tradition in which one franchise would release a new sequel every single year like clockwork on the last Friday before Halloween. And they did so with the Saw series all the way until Paranormal Activity took that crown and carried on the same tradition, which concluded last year. And it seems, due to the sheer juggernaut nature of those franchises that the entire month of October more or less belonged to them from a release strategy standpoint, even though they deliberately limited their Halloween bump to a single weekend. Again, barring a stunning lack of the faith in the longevity of their movies, I can’t think of one good reason to limit the entire month of October and all its Halloween energy to one big movie and one weekend. Why leave that much money on the table?
The Paranormal Activity series ended (for now…) on a low note with the sixth numbered entry (seventh total) last year, and there’s been no huge sequelizing breakthrough to take its place, making this October particularly pathetic at the movies. But it’s not as if there aren’t options. The Conjuring has proven itself to be a reliable and popular brand, with built-in franchise appeal due to the anthology nature of its story. Why did it come out in the beginning of Summer? Why is Lights Out, a film with strong early buzz and social media presence, releasing next week? October has room for both of them, and it seems to me like both would have performed infinitely better at the box office then.
When businesses behave out of naked financial self-interest and it ends up harming the consumer, I don’t like it, but I get it. I can accept it as a reality of living in capitalism and move on with my life. But when a business behaves this way – in a way that appears to be both bad for the consumer and bad for the business, I want to claw my own eyes out. Why dump out all your low quality horror stuff in the Spring and cut your losses when you can dump it in October and maybe have a hit on your hands? Why wouldn’t you give people more of what they want, when they want it? Isn’t that the whole point?