Why Comic Book Movies Need More Horror

Superhero movies are the king of the multiplex these days and while the genre is defined by some [...]

Superhero movies are the king of the multiplex these days and while the genre is defined by some common staples (namely, individuals with extraordinary powers), it's also one that's built around the idea of blending itself with outside elements.

Whether it's sci-fi, classic adventure, or something more serious like a political thriller, superhero movies now come in a variety of flavors - except one: Horror.

It's ironic to think that the new age of comic book movies arguably began with Blade (1998), a film that blended Marvel superhero action with R-rated supernatural horror. And yet, since the success of Blade, the modern comic book movie universes being built by Marvel and DC have been noticeably bereft of horror.

But that is something that's about to change, and needs to.

Here's why comic book movies need more horror.

We Need it Adult

MCU Supernatural Universe
(Photo: Marvel Comics)

These days, the audience for comic book movies is pretty wide and all encompassing. That means that a large portion of the audience are adults -- and adults who want their own brand of comic book movie thrills.

Marvel has used its Netflix branch as a successful testing ground for more adult-oriented superhero fare (Daredevil, Jessica Jones), so we know that there is a suitable audience for it. That's not to mention the fact that Blade has already proven that R-rated superhero movies with horror movie elements can be successes at the box office.

This really is a non-dispute; the oddity is that ever since the Blade trilogy came and went, Marvel (and DC by extension) has been so reluctant to revisit the R-rated horror avenue of superhero movies - even while other studios like Lionsgate (Kick-Ass) and Fox (Deadpool) have continued to chase more adult fare, to much box office success.

It's a Successful Genre

DCEU Supernatural Universe
(Photo: DC Comics)

With all the risks to blend superheroes with offbeat indie comedy (Guardians of the Galaxy), political thrills (Captain America: Winter Soldier) and the now-standard "dark, edgy" tone (Batman v Superman), one wonders why horror hasn't been mixed in more heavily, given that it's one of the least risky genres to bet on.

Horror, as a genre, has endured a long as motion pictures have been around (Nosferatu). We've already examined 2016 as a milestone year in horror, with the genre earning both strong critical praise and big box office returns on the backs of films like Don't Breathe, Lights Out, and The Conjuring 2. The horror genre has endured and looks more successful than ever: perfect reason for comic book movies to now dip their collective toe a little deeper into that pool.

It's not even a risk; the bigger risk has been ignoring a guaranteed revenue stream. Warner Bros. and the DC Extended Universe are betting as much, with the studio having already put their "Supernatural Justice League" movie Dark Universe into active production. Marvel Studios would be wise to follow suit quickly, and we've already put out a few suggestions how they could make Marvel horror something special.

It's Cheap to Produce (But Still Innovative)

Don't Breathe Movie Reviews
(Photo: Screen Gems)

The beauty of horror is that it's a filmmaking genre that requires little investment in order to reap big returns. Looking at the most successful horror films of the year (so far), practically all of them have earned a profit on modest-to-low budgets (the exception being The Conjuring 2 at a middling $40 million production budget). And those limited budgets haven't stopped some creative filmmaking from taking place, with Fede Alvarez's Don't Breathe currently (at the time of writing this) earning over $100 million worldwide on an approximately $10 million budget - with most of audience lured in by the novelty of the film's premise.

When one looks at those kinds of margins, it's clear that comic book movies (especially the superhero type) could stand to have a few more horror projects on the books. It's not just a chance for cutting costs and boosting profits, or giving untested properties a better chance at finding a box office foothold: there are innovative modes of telling a superhero horror story could come out of letting enterprising horror filmmakers mix into the superhero genre. It's already happening to a degree, with Scott Derickson (director of Sinister, one of the more profitable and acclaimed original horror flicks of recent years) bringing Doctor Strange to theaters in a unique visual style that has intrigued many viewers. Marvel Studios was savvy about plucking that sort of talent to handle a supernatural themed character in their universe.


However, as Agents of SHIELD introduces Ghost Rider and a bigger supernatural side to the MCU, we'll need to see more horror-themed characters and stories, made by talent who know how to make the most out of a limited resources. The same goes for DC and whatever plans are in place, following Dark Universe.

And it's not just the big two: there are so many great horror comic books that could adapted into low-budget, inventive and ultimately successful movies. If you want proof, look no further than television, which is (as usual) paving the way to this new trend, by taking horror comics like The Walking Dead and iZombie and turning them into pop-culture success stories. Now it's time for comic book movies to follow that lead.

Spawn creator Todd MacFarlane is still pushing a rebooted Spawn movie that's mostly a horror film; in our opinion, that would be a perfect testing ground for Hollywood to experiment with telling good superhero horror stories at much lower costs.


Do you want to see more horror-themed comic book movies? Any particular titles? Discuss with us in the comments or on Twitter @ComicbookNow & @KofiOutlaw