In a theatrical landscape dominated by franchises, sequels, and IP, horror remains one of the most reliable genres at the box office. Audiences have proven they will come out to the theater for horror movies. Classics like Jaws and The Exorcist are among the biggest horror hits of all time. The horror genre also has spawned numerous success stories of low-budget films churning huge profits. Notable examples include Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project.
However, not every horror film can be a hit. Some movies flop hard at the box office, with losses exceeding $100 million. Below, we listed the seven biggest horror movie bombs of all time, ranked by their estimated losses adjusted for inflation.
Note: The numerical figures next to each title are estimated losses that have been adjusted for inflation. Box office numbers used are courtesy of Box Office Mojo.
The original Ghostbusters with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis was 1984’s highest-grossing film at the domestic box office with a $220 million take.. Ghostbusters spawned an entire media franchise, including multiple sequels, animated TV shows, video games, and comic books. People still know who to call when something’s strange in their neighborhood because of the iconic theme song.
Unfortunately, Paul Feig’s 2016 remake failed to make any cultural impact. The female-led Ghostbusters included Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, with Chris Hemsworth playing their receptionist. Despite positive reviews, Ghostbusters failed to find an audience, grossing $229 million on a $144 million budget. However, due to marketing costs and reshoots, Sony lost over $70 million ($91 million when adjusted for inflation) on the reboot.
With superhero fatigue setting in, adjusting the formula for comic book characters in a film isn’t such a bad idea. A superhero horror film like The New Mutants is interesting on paper. The New Mutants follows five teenage mutants – Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), Mirage (Blu Hunt), and Sunspot (Henry Zaga) – who are sent to a mysterious hospital to cure them of their powers. However, the hospital soon becomes a house of horrors as they must fight to survive.
Despite a unique take on the superhero genre, The New Mutants failed to execute both critically and commercially. The New Mutants was scheduled to do reshoots in 2018, which is normal for any movie. However, the release date was delayed multiple times, which is never a good sign. The New Mutants had four different release dates from 2018 through 2020 before it finally settled on August 28, 2020, which fell during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Mutants grossed $49 million on a rumored budget nearing $80 million. When adjusted for inflation, The New Mutants lost $95 million due in part to the constant delays.
Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers is a 1955 sci-fi novel about an alien invasion that uses special seeds to produce replicants of humans while sleeping. The novel has been adapted four times since its release. The first two adaptions – Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956 and Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake – have been hailed as horror classics, while 1993’s Body Snatchers by Abel Ferrara was less successful than the previous two iterations, but still received positive acclaim from critics.
The fourth adaptation – 2007’s The Invasion – was a failure. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, The Invasion stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig as the two doctors who discovered the alien virus and attempted to stop it from spreading. The Invasion is the least effective adaption of Body Snatchers, as it lacks the story and spirit of its predecessors. Against a rumored $80 million budget, The Invasion grossed $40 million for an adjusted loss of $100 million.
One year before directing 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Joe Johnston helmed The Wolfman, a remake of the 1941 film of the same name. After his brother goes missing, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns home to investigate. One night in the village, Lawrence is bitten by a werewolf, which he soon learns is his estranged father, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins). Lawrence now has the family curse and turns into a ravaged beast during a full moon.
The Wolfman isn’t a bad movie, and it managed to win the Oscar for Best Makeup at the 83rd Academy Awards. However, The Wolfman is a forgettable story with so-so special effects that doesn’t justify the $150 million budget. It’s a classic case of not knowing the target audience beforehand. The Wolfman grossed under $140 million worldwide for a total adjusted loss of $102 million.
Peter Hyams’ directorial career is fascinating to revisit. After breaking out with Capricorn One, Hyams directed memorable 1980s films 2010: The Year We Make Contact and Running Scared. In the 1990s, Hyams made Timecop and Sudden Death, two action films with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the action-horror flick End of Days starring FUBAR’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Judging by his filmography, Hyams was not afraid to take risks, and his biggest one came in 2005 with A Sound of Thunder.
Based on the 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury, A Sound of Thunder depicts the year 2055, when millionaires can travel back to the future to hunt dinosaurs. However, a crucial mistake committed in the past negatively alters the future, forcing some of the time travelers to go back and right the wrong. Starring Edward Burns, Ben Kingsley, and Catherine McCormack, A Sound of Thunder was destroyed by critics (6% on the Tomatometer). The film only made $11 million on an $80 million budget, which, when adjusted for inflation, comes out to an estimated loss of $111 million.
The 1998 film Beloved had all the right pieces of a hit movie. The film was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by author Toni Morrison about a former Civil War slave haunted by a poltergeist. Beloved had an Academy Award-winning director helming the project in Jonathan Demme. The cast featured Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, and Oprah Winfrey, who was a megastar thanks to her successful daytime talk show. Beloved was praised by critics like Roger Ebert, who gave it 3.5/4 stars.
Yet, Beloved could not break through at the box office, grossing just $22 million on an $80 million budget for a loss of $123 million when adjusted for inflation. Oprah famously told Vogue about how the failure of Beloved sunk her into a depression. After a studio head mentioned that Beloved lost to the Bride of Chucky on the opening weekend at the box office, Oprah decided to eat macaroni and cheese for breakfast to cope with the bad news.
When a director asks for his name removed from the film’s credits, that’s never a good sign. The director and film in question are Walter Hill and 2000’s Supernova, a sci-fi adventure horror about a six-person crew’s deep space rescue attempt at a mining operation on a moon more than 3,000 light-years away. The film stars James Spader, Angela Bassett, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz, and Robert Forster.
Hill, best known for directing 48 Hrs. and producing Alien, quit Supernova after a test screening of the unfinished film received negative reviews from the audience. MGM hired Jack Sholder to direct the reshoots since Hill refused to return. Francis Ford Coppola was then brought in to re-edit the film. Nearly two years after principal photography ended in 1998, Supernova was finally released on January 14, 2000. Supernova made just $14 million on a rumored budget of $60 million to $90 million. Adjusted for inflation, the film lost $141 million, and Hill is credited under the alias “Thomas Lee.”