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windex's avatar

Why do horror movies cost so little to make?

Asked by windex (2932points) May 6th, 2011

Apparently horror movies cost about a million or 2 to make (or even much less) versus the $80, $100 or $150 million dollar budget that regular action, scifi even romcom movies have.

Why is this? this makes no sense to me. A horror movie demands everything a regular non-horror movie needs. Actors, cast, lighting, audio, pre production, post production, CG (sometimes) etc.

Why the $50 to $100 million dollar difference?

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13 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

They save some money for sure on the writing and the cost of the actors…

iamthemob's avatar

I have to ask where you’re getting your numbers from – a million dollar budget for any movie seems ridiculously low if we’re talking about standard Hollywood fare.

I will say, comparing horror and sci/fi-action movies…there’s a lot that you can get away with in terms of shadows, make-up, and fake-outs in horror that you can’t in the other two “adrenaline” genres.

TexasDude's avatar

@iamthemob, I think these numbers may include the budgets of the myriad uber campy, low quality horror flicks that have flooded the market. It seems like there is something about the horror genre that makes it translate well to home video cameras and cheap masks.

To answer @windex, I think that if you can sift through the crap, you’ll find that a lot of the most effective horror movies had minuscule budgets. I think that this is because good horror is driven by suspense, and all you really need to create suspense is good lighting and good storytelling- two elements that are relatively cheap.

iamthemob's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – I don’t know, though…I don’t know if that’s unique to the horror genre so much as it’s an effect of indie/low budget movie-making generally.

The Exorcist, for example, had a $13M price tag in 1973 – in 1978, five years later, the average film budget was $5M. The cost probably went to the serious amount of location work for it, but “The Exorcist” most benefits from amazing performances from established and well-respected actors.

Cruiser's avatar

The cost to make them is essentially the same as any other movie except big screen movies take big screen talent and top actors start at $20 mil, top directors start at half that and top cinematographers half that. Then the producer(s), locations, set and mega special effects will greatly add to the budget.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Have you ever noticed the terrible acting that are in many of the horror movies out there. Also note the terrible writing. Some of the stories make almost no sense at all.

john65pennington's avatar

This is only a guess.

Horror movies mainly deal with the dark.

Maybe the savings are in a cheap electric bill????

Mikewlf337's avatar

My previous post is why I feel that production cost of horror movies are cheaper than other movies.

mazingerz88's avatar

It could be much lower than that at times and still become a blockbuster. Think Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity I which was made for $15,000 more or less. Also, producers only allow such and such smaller budget for a horror film since it does not really add to the prestige of a studio and they already have calculated the earnings it will make. They are making sure they will profit some and not lose.

as an aside I’m writing a horror screenplay that could be shot cheaply

incendiary_dan's avatar

Red colored corn syrup is cheap.

windex's avatar

Some numbers (movie budgets)

Insidious $1.5 million

Paranormal Activity $15,000

Paranormal Activity 2 $3 million

The Blair Witch Project $60,000

Human Centipede $1.5 million (might not be US dollars)

Cabin Fever $1.5 million

Moon $5 million (more scifi…actually nm, it was scary to me)

Red State $4 million

Saw $1.2 million

Apollo 18 $5 million

The Last Exorcism $1.8 million

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never $13 million

Most are pretty recent, but even the ones from 10 years ago were pretty cheap for their time. If you compare the average “Hollywood” movie budget, you’ll find that these are much lower.

iamthemob's avatar


That’s an unfair comparison though. All of the horror movies there are really independent films. What’s noteworthy is that, for instance, “Paranormal Activity 2,” which received a Hollywood treatment from the beginning, is really not at all a technical improvement on the original – but because it is a Hollywood production, has a budget 200 times that of the original.

We have to compare the above to other similarly situated films:

CLERKS (comedy)
Budget: $27,000 (before additional post production work)

PRIMER (sci-fi)
Budget: $7,000

SWINGERS (buddy/romantic comedy)
Budget: $250,000

PI (suspense (?))
Budget: $60,000

BRICK (new-noire)
Budget: $475,000

NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (pure awesome)
Budget: $400,000

Budget: $800,000

LORD OF THE FLIES (literature on film)
Budget: $250,000

Big-budget Hollywood horror flicks can have mind-boggling budgets – “I Am Legend,” for instance, was shopped around at a budget of $108M.

cloudvertigo's avatar

Yes! @iamthemob The travel expenses and location cost must to be pretty scaled down when you think about the plots of a few: trapped in a mall (film at night with permission), ancient evil attacking a cabin in the middle of the woods (family cabin), possessed house (thanks grandma), haunted car (I swear it won’t have a scratch!), camping in the woods when mysterious evil attacks (7 day camping pass or artful shots in local park) . . . most of the money has to go towards making bodies out of jello and food coloring.

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