The horror genre is quite interesting when it comes to production. Some iconic horror films are made on a shoestring budget while some rely on millions of dollars for high-profile actors, cutting-edge visual effects, and production design. Coming to the latter category, there are examples of failed experiments like Van Helsing that end up looking like another generic creature feature. So while Van Helsing made $300 million (against its $150-170 million budget), genre fans have almost forgotten about the film. The same can be said for other high-budget horrors like the many sequels to The Silence of the Lambs.
On the other hand, there are modern classics like World War Z and Sleepy Hollow that are worth their heavy budgets.
10 World War Z (2013)
This Brad Pitt film overcame several overdone zombie tropes to create an adrenaline-fueled apocalyptic zombie adventure. The viewers are introduced to the panic and frenzy at the start of this zombie apocalypse, eventually adding an emotional angle to the protagonist’s quest to survive and find a home for his family.
Earning around $540 million (against a budget of $190 million), World War Z was a box-office hit. The production costs were high mainly for change in locations from Glasgow to Budapest. Further, Drew Goddard was hired to rewrite the ending in Damon Lindelof’s screenplay. Hence, the budget increased with reshoots.
9 I Am Legend (2007)
Another offbeat, big-budget zombie film, I Am Legend explores the human spirit of survival more than anything else. The film is set in an empty, ravaged city inhabited by nocturnal mutants but it’s Will Smith’s lead performance that steals the show.
It’s amusing that a film that largely revolves around a man and his dog in a minimal landscape cost $150 million in the first place. Just shooting one flashback scene on the Brooklyn Bridge amounted to 5 million!
8 Prometheus (2012)
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus provided a new narrative in his Alien franchise. The sci-fi horror might not have impressed all fans of the series but it still managed to earn rave reactions, especially for its production value and acting ensemble. The plot involves the crew of the titular spaceship as they attempt to find the very origins of humanity. The cast includes major stars like Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Michael Fassbender.
The film’s high-value visual style (at a whopping $130 million) is pretty original, boasting of some fine visual effects, and shooting locations (mostly in England, Spain, and Scotland). It was further shot for most of its duration using 3D cameras.
7 Sleepy Hollow (1999)
This gothic horror brings out the writer/director Tim Burton’s finest trademark elements. A dark brooding color palette, an eccentrically good performance by Johnny Depp, Dany Elfman’s haunting score, and a reworking of a classic horror legend make Sleepy Hollow a highly watchable film.
Shooting in the United Kingdom proved to be expensive and the budget ended up at roughly $100 million. Apart from serving as a period horror film, Sleepy Hollow is also an engaging mystery as the protagonist is a detective who investigates a town haunted by the ‘headless horseman’.
6 Signs (2002)
Signs was M Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. While Signs couldn’t recreate the magic of his first two films, it’s still an interesting take in the extraterrestrial genre. Mel Gibson stars as a pastor who moves to a new farm with his family. A mystery develops when they start finding bizarre crop circles on their farm, implying the presence of alien life.
5 Constantine (2005)
Based on the Hellblazer series from DC, Constantine was quite an unconventional horror and comic-book adaptation for its time with traces of noir and supernatural dramas. Often overlooked by critics as a soulless film with high production value, Constantine has received a more favorable response over the years. And for all its worth, Keanu Reeves does pull off a convincing performance as the mystic antihero who’s tormented with visions from hell (even his version is a far cry from the comics).
With good-enough visual effects and tie-in products like novels and video games, the production budget for the film was estimated at roughly $100 million.
4 Event Horizon (1997)
Event Horizon was a critical and commercial failure but has become a gory, symbolic cult film over the decades, being cited as a pop-culture reference in other films. Following the route of other space horrors, Event Horizon too features a crew of astronauts investigating a missing spaceship and encountering dangerous lifeforms in outer space. Director Paul W.S. Anderson feels that the theatrical 96-minute runtime rushed most of the plot compared to his original 130-minute cut. Unfortunately, most of this unreleased footage has been lost.
The film’s nominal budget was estimated at $60 million but ended up making a meager $47 million at the box office. Despite this, the film is worth a watch for its cultural worth.
3 It Chapter Two (2019)
With the massive success of It Chapter One, the sequel received a budget amounting to $79 million. While many consider the predecessor as a much stronger horror, It Chapter Two still manages to do justice to its source material. The story continues the adventures of the Losers Club as they encounter their worst fears and the nightmarish clown Pennywise, 27 years later. There are plenty of CGI effects, murky locations, and acclaimed actors to expect.
It’s amusing that despite a higher budget, the film ended up earning nearly $116 million lesser than the first one.
2 Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Deep Blue Sea is no masterful creature film but just like the aforementioned Event Horizon, the film’s renewed cult-level popularity prompts audiences to ignore its faults and enjoy it as a guilty pleasure. As it is, the ‘killer shark genre’ is devoid of any entertaining flicks barring a few like the timeless Jaws. The film was made at a budget of $60 million although its story and the animatronic sharks would seem pretty dated by today’s standards.
The film takes place in an underwater facility where scientists are researching on genetically-engineered sharks. But chaos follows as these sharks lose control. Deep Blue Sea can be enjoyed for its B-movie conventions, a terribly angry Samuel L Jackson, and quintessential 90s things like an LL Cool J song called Deepest Bluest.
1 Alien: Covenant (2017)
The sequel to Prometheus was yet again directed by sci-fi visionary Ridley Scott. Alien: Covenant stars Michael Fassbender returning in the role of the humanoid robot David as he guides another crew of colonists on a remote planet. The alien threats on this planet are way more direct and dangerous than the creatures in the first part, raising the stakes.
Featuring similar stylish costume and costume designs, and realistic effects, Covenant‘s budget came around $97 million. The film is a worthy follow up to the Alien prequel saga. David’s dark and cynical turn in this film is another highlight, making for a compelling villain for the film’s ‘human vs science’ debates.
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