We are currently living in a golden age for horror movies. There are tons of quality horror movies coming out every year, and an influx of new voices in the genre are driving the trend. Movies like It are now regularly breaking box office records, so it doesn't seem like the horror hype is losing steam anytime soon.
Among all of these amazing films are movies that are not so great. Some of the biggest horror hits of the last few decades have aged fairly poorly by today's standards, and it's difficult to understand why they were so popular at all. Were they just beneficiaries of our insatiable love for horror movies, or were they decent films that suffered from poor execution? Some of the most popular horror movies aren't really that good, but there is a reason they got so much positive attention.
The Human Centipede is almost more of a meme than a movie. This Dutch horror film is actually pretty forgettable once you've seen it, and that's largely because it relies on shock value more than presenting a strong narrative.
The premise of the movie is more disturbing than the actual film itself, and that alone gave it a sort of must-see notoriety. Comedian Daniel Tosh took full advantage of this fact and mercilessly mocked the movie concept on his show Tosh.0. Still, one Human Centipede film inexplicably spawned a full trilogy based more on morbid curiosity than quality storytelling.
The original Saw is undoubtedly a horror classic, but its sequels don't have the same longevity as the first entry in the series. Some of them may be fun horror movies, but each subsequent entry in the saga takes us further away from what made the original Saw so great. The series began to focus more on the extravagant traps and torture mechanisms than the human drama behind them all, and that's largely why it lost its magic.
While the first Saw is terrifying in a real and grounded way, its sequels are almost cartoonish by comparison. The original almost plays out like a drama at times, with the two leads learning more about each other while they are stuck contemplating their situation. There's also a B plot about the police going on in the background that is reminiscent of the classic thriller Seven, which adds a bitter hope to the whole movie - a hope that wickedly doesn't pay off in the end. This focus on characters and storytelling goes out the window with the sequels, distracting from the fundamental reason most people were fascinated by Saw to begin with.
Paranormal Activity is one of the greatest box office success stories in movie history. The micro-budget film only cost roughly $15,000 to produce, but it took home a whopping $193 million at the box office. The entire franchise has earned over $400 million to date and is showing no signs of stopping a decade after the original premiered. In June 2019, Paramount announced that a seventh Paranormal Activity film is in development.
Paranormal Activity largely succeeded due to the novelty factor of it's found-footage style. When the original was released in 2009, The Blair Witch Project was the standard-bearer of found-footage horror. Paranormal Activity was supposed to make you feel like it was real, and that things could go horribly wrong at any moment. The big let down of this movie is that nothing much really happens. There's not much in the way of scares, and it mostly just feels like you're watching a home movie rather than a horror flick.
Eli Roth's story about young travelers being abducted in Europe doesn't have a lot going for it other than volatile action, which was the main selling point when Hostel was released. The film certainly showcases Roth's twisted imagination, and it succeeded at the box office likely due to quality marketing. The film made over $80 million worldwide on a budget of less than $5 million, and it spawned several profitable sequels, as well.
The film was advertised as the kind of movie most people wouldn't be able to sit through unless they had an iron stomach, so there was a sort of morbid curiosity surrounding it. People went into theaters expecting to have their minds blown by the intensity of the narrative, but often left feeling let down that the movie wasn't as extreme as they had been led to believe.