For a while it looked like Asian horror was going to be the wave of the future - more explicitly, English-language remakes of Asian horror movies. The flick that kicked it all off was The Ring. Gore Verbinski's take on the tale of the haunted videotape that caused anybody who watched it to die made over $129 million in gross profit, and the sequel tacked another $75 million onto that. After a slew of imitators (The Grudge, The Eye), the trend fell off fast, but it's still enough to earn a spot on the list.
You're going to notice a trend on this list, as many of the flicks have an original run in the 70s and 80s followed by a reimagining in the 21st century. A fine example of that is The Omen, the tale of the Antichrist reborn as a punk-ass kid. The original 1976 movie was the fourth highest-grossing flick of the year, pulled in nearly $61 million on a budget of under $3 million, and two sequels followed for another $50 million. And then in 2006 the remake hit, pulled in the highest Tuesday opening in American history with over $12 million just that day.
Most of the flicks on this list have a few well-performing entries under their belt, but for The Blair Witch Project, it's riding to a spot on the strength of just one. The 1999 film, marketed as a pseudo-documentary used one of the most effective strategies of all time and raked in just under $250 million in theaters - an incredible showing for a horror movie starring no-name actors. The sequel certainly didn't perform up to the expectations of the original, but it still added enough cash to the pile to get it on the list. The filmmakers are still busily working away in Hollywood trying to get a third film made.
You wouldn't believe it, but the Child's Play franchise is one of the strongest performers in the horror genre. The first film, which featured Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky the homicidal doll, made a pile of cash worldwide on a very low budget, and the inevitable sequels soon followed. The series saw a very entertaining reboot with 1998's Bride of Chucky and 2004's Seed of Chucky, but 2012 is going to see a remake of the original flick, toning down the comedy elements and bringing it back into the world of straight horror.
Tobe Hooper's 1974 slasher classic laid the groundwork for the psycho-killer genre, and a number of the other flicks on this list wouldn't exist without it. Leatherface and his murderous cannibal family are some of the most treateningly gross antagonists in movie history, and the gritty aesthetic is one of a kind. Made on a shoestring budget of just $140,000, it brought in $30 million. Three sequels followed before the flick was rebooted in 2003 with a remake, which itself saw a sequel. There's an upcoming 3D film in the pipeline as well, which may vault the series a spot or two higher on the list.
Most of the flicks on this list feature a definitive antagonist - a villain that the series can tie to. The Amityville Horror is an exception. The original 1979 movie was a massive cultural phenomenon, helping kickstart the horror craze of the 80s and raking in over $86 million. Three sequels followed, and then four direct-to-video movies. As expected, the concept got a reboot in 2005 with a Ryan Reynolds-starring remake that brought in over $100 million by itself. A 3-D sequel is on the way.
The most recent franchise on this list, the two Paranormal Activity films earn a spot because of the massive difference between the cost of the films and how much cash they raked in. Love or hate the first one, it was guaranteed money at the box office and made almost $200 million on a $15,000 budget. The sequel pulled in $173 million on a little bigger investment, so we're swinging for the fences here. This October will see a third movie in the fledgling series hit theaters - it's unknown if spooky ghosts have worn out their welcome, but this could be another huge hit.
When you think of iconic horror villains, Freddy Krueger leaps to the front of your mind. The steel-clawed serial killer made his debut in Wes Craven's 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was a deliriously bloody smash hit, and eight more films followed, most starring Robert Englund as Freddy. Collectively, they've pulled in over $455 million, with no sign of slowing down. Freddy recently showed up in a reboot with 2010's A Nightmare on Elm Street, but his latest appearance was in the world of video games, starring as a Mortal Kombat character as DLC in the latest MK, where he's a blast to play.
Masked psychopath Michael Myers is one of the most enduring antagonists in horror history, so it's no surprise that he lands this high on the list. The Halloween cycle is notable because the series has never really taken a break between installments - the longest pause the series saw was the six years between Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch and Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers. Rob Zombie's takeover of the series has given it new legs for 21st century moviegoers.
I know that a lot of you are probably going to be pretty shocked that the Friday The 13th franchise is only in second place. With twelve movies in the series - more than any other on this list - it's certainly the most prolific, and just about every installment has featured the murdering talents of hockey-masked Jason Voorhees. Jason has been all over the place - in space, in Hell, and crossing over with the Nightmare On Elm Street series - and even though there are currently no plans for another film, it's only a matter of time before the thirteenth Friday goes into production.
Over just seven films, the Saw series has managed to rake in over $870 million worldwide, with the most expensive installment - 2010's Saw 3D - only costing $20 million to make. Creators Leigh Whannell and James Wan outlined a truly modern horror formula, one where the prospective victims stay alive for a very long time as Jigsaw's devious traps bring them closer and closer to collapse. According to them, the series is over, so it's possible that another series on this list will one day top the list, but it doesn't look likely right now.