Discussion: Are Audiences Getting Tired of the Supernatural?

supernatural-horrorDeliver Us from Evil opened at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend. To date, it has grossed $15 million since opening Wednesday, July 2nd, but box office analysts are focusing their targets on the film's $9.5 million weekend gross and taking fire. Understandable. That's a pretty weak weekend performance. It was up against the new comedy Tammy and holdovers likes Transformers22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon. If you recall, Deliver Us from Evil was pushed up from its original 2015 release date because Sony was so confident in the film that it thought Deliver could earn some big bucks akin to The Conjuring's mid-summer success last year.

Regardless of the quality of Deliver Us from Evil, I honestly think the film would have had a tough go of it at the box office because, more or less…audiences are getting supernatural fatigue.

This year we've seen four other major supernatural releases open to middling or poor box office numbers. Take a look:

  • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Opening weekend: $18.3 million / Final domestic: $32.4 million – a low performance by this franchise's standard)
  • Devil's Due (Opening weekend: $8.3 million / Final domestic: $15.8 million)
  • Oculus (Opening weekend: $12 million / Final domestic: $27.6 million)
  • The Quiet Ones (Opening weekend: $3.8 million / Final domestic: $8.5 million)

It's clear audiences are trying to send a message to Hollywood – enough with the exorcism, hauntings and possessions. It's all bleeding together. It's hard to differentiate one from the other. Certainly, supernatural fare has been felt over the years with Insidious and the Paranormal Activity films, but the last few months have been especially busy. And within the span of a year, Hollywood has effectively made moviegoers grow weary of these types of films and their apathetic reaction is being felt at the box office. Hollywood's fixation on capturing The Conjuring's success could be partially to blame. The VOD market is always expanding, welcoming more smaller budgeted imitators that flood the market – I'd like to think this is to blame, too.

But the bottom line is this: The audience is ready to move on. Where Hollywood likes to dwell on the past's success and try to recapture whatever worked over and over and over, audiences are looking for the next big thing in horror that may not have anything to do at all with Conjuring-like thrills. What that next "thing" is we never know. I get asked that all of the time: "What the next big thing?" The answer doesn't come easy. But when that special horror film hits, you can just feel it. I felt that way when I saw The Conjuring (it also helped that it had a brilliant ad campaign).

Side note: I ranted a bit about "the supernatural at the box office" via Twitter and one Shock reader suggested a return to slasher films. I honestly think a studio needs to have a pretty daring, crazy, inventive idea for the slasher film to catch on again.

As for the supernatural – it may be time to go. Of course, I say this when there's another Paranormal Activity on the way along with JessebelleAnnabelle (a Conjuring spin-off), AmityvilleOuijaAs Above So Below, the Poltergeist remake, Insidious Chapter 3 and The Conjuring 2. So, "the supernatural" isn't going to be departing our theaters any time soon, but I think now would be a good time for studios to start thinking of a contingency plan and mine some other horror genres to reignite the box office.

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  • Billy Bob Throrton

    even if there is Supernatural fatigue,cop fatigue is worse.
    I think the fatigue with 2000’s procedural cop shows is directly responsible for the rise of genre tv. I don’t know a single person near my age who can stand boring police dramas. this was advertised as a cop movie,a film genre so dead it’s become downgraded to a supporting element in other genres

    Scott Derrickson isn’t James Wan. He doesn’t have a following really,because only his last movie was good enough to root for him as a director.
    Not everybody can be James Wan.

    • M M

      Not everyone should be James wan. He’s ok but highly overrated.

      • Tyler Durden

        He’s overrated to YOU. You have to at least give him high praise. James Wan and Leigh Whannell have pretty much been the top horror go to team for the past 10 years. Why? Because they actually put substance in their horror films which is almost nonexistent in the genre itself. He’s not overrated. I understand that it’s an opinion but I don’t see how you can say that when no other directors/writers are even coming close to what he can do. You can almost bet that if a horror movie comes out and it’s not James Wan, it’s most likely going to suck these days.

        • James

          They out a little substance and have slowly been getting better. I will give him praise for the Conjuring and that’s about it. Oh and the first half of insidious. Otherwise I just can’t. If you don’t think other directors are reaching his level you’re not watching enough horror movies. After the conjuring I’ll be curious to see what he does next, but aside from that he’s very mediocre.

          • Tyler Durden

            Again, your opinion but list other directors that are doing anything close to James Wan and I’ll go watch their movies myself if I haven’t seen them already. I’m a HUGE horror movie fan so I watch a lot of them and any horror fan knows that 95% of horror movies usually suck unfortunately. It’s just part of the genre but those few that are really good stick out and honestly even if I didn’t like Wan’s movies I’d still give him high praise because at least he’s trying to scare us unlike most directors who just try to throw blood and guts at us when that doesn’t even remotely do anything to me and most people whatsoever. I would rather James Wan make a movie that TRIES to scare me than most of these crappy ones that come out and they are just plain lazy and messy and don’t do anything but make you laugh.

  • M M

    I don’t know if I would chalk it up to fatigue. Aside from the conjuring and occulus the rest just weren’t really good. The truth is many, many supernatural movies just feel lazy. The directors just don’t seem to try anything new with the genre.

    • jHbar

      I completely agree. It is hard to claim it is fatigue when the last batch of supernatural movies were not too great. Although, it could be said The Paranormal Activity movies are driving a stake through the heart of the series, just as Saw did with the played out torture sub-genre. Still, as M M said, the quality has not been too great the last couple of movies.

      • RTurek

        But does anyone really know if a film is good or bad until they actually see it – or if the trailers are just truly abysmal? I mean, I was on the fence about The Conjuring until I got a sneak peek and thought it was terrific. Oculus’ campaign was pretty good, I thought (I guess I’m alone in my view of the actual film).

        I’m just hearing some grief about the sub-genre and some industry rumblings that “the supernatural” may be on the way out.

        • Max Shreck

          I think most of these movies blend together due to the possession angle.
          I thought Oculus was one of the more original films to come out of this craze. I thought Oculus was different and welcomed multiple viewings along with many questions or interpretations as to what was really going on. Surprisingly most of the reviews I read about it seemed to miss this as did most of the podcast that covered it.
          This possession wave seems to be going on forever and I’m surprised it’s still going as strong. Remember that movie with Jeffery Dean Morgan and the haunted box, that was a few years ago now ooof.

        • No Nonsense

          These days people have much easier access to early reviews than ever before, and I think because of that people are letting reviewers make their decisions for them more often than before.
          That and the fact that for some reason the industry has made “supernatural” synonymous with “possession” over the course of the last several years. People are definitely tired of possession movies, but I think a good ghost story or other more unusual take on the genre will always find an audience.
          Maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part – as I really don’t care for slasher movies at all (with extremely rare exceptions), and I hope they don’t replace the supernatural stuff.

        • jHbar

          I generally go and see any supernatural horror (it being my favorite sub-genre), yet because money is more a dream than a fact in my life I weigh my desire to see the movie against its “scores” on this sites like this. Low score = stay at home and rent a movie. The last few movies had a mix of scores. I actually went and saw Deliver Us From Evil (score of 7) and Oculus (9) because of the score on this site. On the other hand, I skipped out on Devils Due (4) and The Quiet Ones (3) because of the low score. I feel that sites handing out scores, skulls, thumbs up, or whatever also play into this.
          Still, I believe that over-saturation tends to deaden the genre, which is why horror goes through cycles. After one good film, many moves feel like a cash-in that covers many of the tropes of more successful movies. Between these there are only a handful of good ones, but because of the bad (Quiet Ones, Devils Due) many will skip the good (Oculus, Deliver) regardless of marketing.

          And no you are not alone, I also liked Oculus.

  • Nigel Dungan

    Love to see slashers coming back!

    • K. Lee Adams

      Amen, brother!

  • K. Lee Adams

    Kudos to that twitter follower. Yes, Dear God, a slasher revival. I’ve been saying that for so long (though I do agree with your response to that, Ryan). That said, I don’t only want slashers, just like I don’t only want supernatural. As we all know, horror has a lot of subgenres and it would be awesome to have a wide array of horror movies come out every year and cover virtually everything (ghosts, demons, slashers, werewolves, vampires, mummies, killer kids, giant monsters, mummies, witches and so on and so forth). And you don’t have to ditch supernatural altogether. Just try to make them better and more distinct or combine it with another subgenre to keep things interesting. A new supernatural slasher, anyone? As always, another great piece from Ryan (I can’t help but compliment you when I agree with most of what you have to say). But I have to say, even though audiences definitely seem to be suffering from “supernatural fatigue”, I expect a number of the upcoming films you mentioned to do quite well. Annabelle has the luxury of being a spin-off of a highly successful film and of course The Conjuring 2 should be huge as well, not just based on the first movie’s box office but the fact that a lot of people walked away having really enjoyed the movie. And then you have the name recognition of Poltergeist and Amityville to potentially lead to great success. It’s like Clarke said on a Bloodcast episode awhile back about Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw being based on pre-existing properties while Oculus (a great movie that deserved more love) is gonna make some people go “What the hell is this?”, which is unfortunate because it makes it seem like people are now so used to seeing movies based on stuff they already know and not going out to support original material. I hope that’s not the case. Only time will tell, though. God, I’m rambling on. Sorry!

  • shutcheson

    I don’t care what kind of movies the studios make, just make good movies. New slasher movies would be awesome. I love them. But I don’t want one good slasher movie and then a bunch of crappy slasher movies because that is what made money. And its the same with any other subgenre. I just want good horror movies. Maybe if they mixed it up they wouldn’t have such bad weekends. Just because one movie had a good box office on a certain weekend doesn’t mean that another similar movie is going to have the same success.

  • Steve

    I have to agree with others that it’s not really fatigue, just a string of bad or unknown movies. Another one will come along at some point and do very well, and in the meantime another movie in another subgenre will do very well and it’ll kick off a string of imitators.

    As far as slashers go, I think the key to doing something different is in the characters. I’m sick of the 3 guy 2 girl configuration of friends with stock personalities and a silent lumbering killer. Freddy Kreuger and Chucky are memorable characters. I really liked No One Lives because the victims weren’t nice people either and the final girl had to survive them as well as the killer. More scenarios like that (without being exactly the same) I think is the way to go.

    P.S. Don Mancini wants to do a Chucky/Nightmare on Elm Street crossover and I want to see it.

    • J Jett

      Steve i really liked NO ONE LIVES too!

  • No Nonsense

    No. If anything, there aren’t enough supernatural horror films. Imo, the problem is that lately most of them wind up being about possession, which actually IS played out. Seriously, how many possession movies do we get in a year? A dozen? More? I don’t even consider possession stories to be true supernatural horror. The only people who are really disturbed by the thought of possession are religious people – who are not usually going to flock to theaters for a horror film. For an agnostic like me, the whole exorcism thing is boring and a little silly. As good as the conjuring was overall, I was deeply disappointed that it just led to yet another possession and exorcism scenario. It made the end of the film a massive letdown, to me.
    As a horror reader, I assure you that there are thousands of great supernatural horror stories out there that are untapped, and that don’t involve a bunch of religious jargon. Let’s try some of those before we start burying the entire genre.

  • Juan Asilo

    i think the supernatural, is not getting over saturated, is just getting to tired,
    of same thing. Occulus was something diferent, and well made. Only to discover that most people didnt get the story. Pity cause it does have some element that also have been plaguing the genre that is the found footage films. that is also getting to tired of it.Right now the only film i m looking forwar for this genre is
    the purge 2, and (believe or not) as above so below. Why?
    purge cause horror of that, is a holiday, as below easy the effect, the one of the car crap, freddy krueger have something to say about that.

    • J Jett

      Juan, most/many of got OCULUS’s story. it was just that that story (around the middle of the film) got really stupid and really uninteresting. i liked the cast a lot and the movie had potential but it just becomes a complete mess.

  • Francesco Falciani

    “the quite once” just came out last week-end here in italy…and it’s really bad. the problem is not the paranormal movies…the problem is those are very bad very very bad BAD movies. there are all copies of THE CONJURING or PARANORMAL ACTIVITY!!!

  • Eric

    I think this article has it all wrong. It’s not supernatural subject matter audiences are fatigued about. It’s all the half ass knock offs and gimmick movies that follow. Horror films are highly scrutinized. If they don’t look scary or entertaining in the trailers then why waste the money? The Conjuring and the original Paranormal Activity were both well done films. Most of the other films you mentioned this summer are nowhere near as exciting, well made, or brilliantly marketed. People know a winner when they see one, and most of the crap released the past few months looked far from intriguing. Give us a supernatural film that appears like it has a reasonable amount of effort, scares, and quality and you’ll pack the seat like Conjuring did.