00’s Retrospect: A Look Back at 2002, Horror Strikes Back!

Y2K, 9/11, war and a a horrid recession, a major escape we had this decade was in the form of film, notorious for thriving during National crisis. Leading up to New Year’s Eve where we’ll ring in 2010, Bloody Disgusting will be looking back at the entire decade year by year through the eyes of various staff writers. Check back each day for a profound reflection from Ryan Daley, David Harley, Tex, BC and yours truly. Inside you’ll find my own personal look back at the year 2002, the year horror came back from the dead — and struck back! Please share your memories for each year below, there are so many stories to be told!

’00 | ’01 | ’02 | ’03 | ’04 | ’05 | ’06 | ’07 | ’08 | ’09

More Retrospects:
-Top 20 Films of the Decade: 21-16 | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
-Dead on Arrival: Ten Horror Duds of the Last Decade

2002

There was a lot to look forward to going into our one year anniversary. While 2001 hadn’t been all that mind blowing, the studios had had a little fire lit under their asses, thanks in large part to JEEPERS CREEPERS. Following from that, I wasn’t at all surprised when both JASON X (the tenth film in the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise that had been shelved for two years) and HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION were released. While HALLOWEEN took in an impressive $30m (probably due to the Fourth of July weekend), New Line Cinema’s JASON X crumbled to only $12.6m in April. JASON X is the first film I can remember that caused quite a stir when it was leaked online before its release. Horror fans had been begging for Jason Voorhees’ return to the big screen and had been waiting for years at that point. Who’s to say whether or not bootlegging hurt the film’s box-office, but I will say that JASON X helped to officially ring in the `00s. It was just a preview of what was to come.

2002 continued to build on the momentum of 2001; this decade was determined to put the teen-slashers of the 90’s to rest…for good. While not every title carried the same impact, there were a few historic movies that would help pave the way for the genre over the next several years.

After years of development with the legendary George A. Romero, Screen Gems (Columbia/Tri-Star Entertainment at the time) hired Paul W.S Anderson to direct RESIDENT EVIL, the highly anticipated adaptation of the smash hit Capcom video game. Horror fans were excited because Anderson had also helmed the awesome EVENT HORIZON back in 1997. And while we can argue back and forth on whether RESIDENT EVIL was good or not, it has spawned four sequels (AFTERLIFE being currently in production) and has become a franchise favorite among many horror fans. Opening in theaters on March 15, the movie would take in nearly $40m at the domestic box office, a HUGE take at the time for a genre film.

That $40m would end up looking measly next to New Line Cinema’s BLADE II, Guillermo del Toro’s popular sequel that grossed over $80m at the box office that March. While the franchise would eventually be run into the ground by the lackluster third film, this was one of the early successful superhero movies (SPIDER-MAN would gross over $400m that summer) that would help pave the way for movies like BATMAN BEGINS and IRON MAN.

Next to superheroes, Asian horror also began gaining popularity, only with these films it was on the bootleg scene. Movies like RINGU (THE RING), VERSUS, JIAN GUI (THE EYE) and KAIRO (PULSE) had been hitting conventions hard. I had lately been purchasing VHS copies of these films off EBay and even straight from Asia. Over the years these were converted to DVD and “all-region” players became all the rage. At the same time, a little company by the name of Vertigo had been paying attention to the craze and began working diligently on delivering the game-changing American remake of RINGU.

On October 18, 2002 DreamWorks scared the living sh*t out of audiences with THE RING, a superior remake to the Japanese horror film that would forge the way for hundreds of horrid impostors and half-assed remakes over the next several years (DARK WATER, SHUTTER, MIRRORS, ONE MISSED CALL, PULSE and THE EYE to name a few). The movie took in a disgusting $129m at the box office, a marker that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY might not even pass (to put it into perspective, especially given that ticket prices were lower in 2002).

For a horror movie to make over $100m is unheard of, and the success of THE RING showed just what kind of business a good genre film can do. I remember hearing that DreamWorks was holding special screenings of the film the week before its release, something studios only do when they’re confident in what they have. And to tell the truth, seeing THE RING in the theater was one of the greatest moviegoing experiences I’ve ever had. When Samara crawled through the TV I recall literally half of the theater jumping out of their seats and screaming. There were people all over the theater yelling, “No way, no way — get the F*CK out of here!” I hadn’t seen anything like that before, and I haven’t really seen anything like it since; but I would do anything to experience something that intense again in my lifetime. Personally, I believe THE RING holds up even today, and I wish Paramount would put it out on Blu-ray already.

While THE RING took the spotlight for the year, there would be plenty of other successful genre films in 2002. Sony Pictures’ creepy and unnerving THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES (January 25) would make $35.2m; Warner Bros. Pictures’ terrible Anne Rice adaptation (and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE sequel) QUEEN OF THE DAMNED (February 22) would take in $30m; M. Night Shyamalan’s third twist-end horror flick SIGNS (August 2) would be one of the biggest films of the year, pulling in a gargantuan $227m (we got in first because our friend had a broken foot — sweet!); Universal’s RED DRAGON (October 4), the SILENCE OF THE LAMBS prequel/remake, would make $93m; and lastly, Warner Bros. and Dark Castle’s GHOST SHIP (October 25) would bank $30m.

While JEEPERS CREEPERS rejuvenated the creature feature and THE RING kicked the remake craze into full effect, Danny Boyle’s UK chiller 28 DAYS LATER (another widely bootlegged movie) revived the zombie genre and also made an astounding $45m for Fox Searchlight. Not only did it bring about a whole new zombie craze, but the film also helped open the minds of writers, directors and executives all over the world. The film broadcasted the message that the same old song and dance (in this case, the zombie movie) could be looked at from a new perspective, and that not every horror film needed to be churned out following the old models. Ironic, considering the rash of remakes that would go into production later in the decade. Just imagine if they would apply the lessons they learned from 28 DAYS LATER to these remakes? Imagine…

2002 is a year that should be referenced by all studios, all the time. The year stands as evidence that horror fans want to see GOOD movies and will (typically) listen when they’re told something is bad. While THE RING exploded, Warner Bros. Pictures’ RINGU rip-off (it’s the same freakin’ movie) FEARDOTCOM (August 30) made only $13.2m; Miramax’s horrendous THEY (November 1) took in a lackluster $12.7m; Lionsgate’s FRAILTY (April 12), an example of a good horror film that no one saw, barely managed to gross $13m; and EIGHT-LEGGED FREAKS (July 17) disappointed with only $17m.

2002 also had its share of well-made direct-to-disc releases (some of which had seen a very limited theatrical run). Lionsgate released Neil Marshall’s popular breakthrough werewolf film DOG SOLDIERS; Miramax released the highly anticipated submarine horror film BELOW; ADV Films delivered a region 1 release of DARK WATER; Palm Pictures released THE EYE (Jian Gui); TLA gave us SUICIDE CLUB (which featured that incredible mass suicide in its opening scene); Wellspring Media came out with the incredibly creepy masochistic thriller IN MY SKIN (still underrated); and Lionsgate released Lucky McKee’s popular modern FRANKENSTEIN story MAY, as well as CUBE 2: HYPERCUBE. Not too shabby if you ask me.

THE BIG BANANA: THE RING

HI! NICE TO FINALLY MEET YOU!: JASON X

STOP WITH THE TWISTS, PLEASE?: SIGNS

SUCKS THAT YOU MISSED IT: MOTHMAN PROPHECIES

Something I was hoping to do with each year was to reflect back on some of the big news stories, along with a few funny ones. Unfortunately, we switched to a new server/database (or something) and lost our early headlines, leaving us back at square one. Thankfully, I was able to salvage some of the articles from 2002.

2002 was a HUGE year here on Bloody Disgusting, specifically because we broke two major stories (a couple of our first scoops). Until this day we don’t know if we were receiving real intel or not (oh the learning experiences, sheesh) with all of our SILENT HILL scoops. Someone was tipping us off to all sorts of SILENT HILL developments, and while some of them came to fruition, it’s hard to decipher which of our stories were real and which came about by pure chance. I’d like to say we were ahead of the game, but in all honesty I’d have to admit that our SILENT HILL month was the most embarrassing learning experience in our site’s history. In short, our faces were dripping with rotten egg yolk by the end of that period.

Thankfully, we snagged a few legit scoops that helped establish our street cred. The biggie was our exclusive first look at Freddy Krueger in FREDDY VS JASON, one of the most anticipated horror releases of 2003. A reader had sent us pics of Freddy, one of his head and one of him in the water. This would be our first ever contact with a studio, as we subsequently received a nice rash of legals from New Line asking us to remove the pictures or face the consequences. I didn’t understand what the big deal was until the rep pointed out that in the photo Freddy’s head was severed, an ending plot detail that New Line hid from screenings prior to the film’s official theatrical release. D-yikes. This was yet another huge learning experience for us, one that nearly caused us to have to shut down the website. The thought of being personally liable for anything was incredibly terrifying. After all, we were just horror nuts having fun. I began to wonder how I’d gotten into the position where I was now having to worry about being sued and paying out of my own pocket for giving our readers a sneak peek at a highly anticipated movie. I likened the experience to Marvel suddenly handing their comics out for free every month. Thank God we were able to tough it out, but BD fans should know it was nearly the end of the website.

Let’s see, what else was going on in the news in 2002? Well, along with FREDDY VS. JASON, New Line Cinema was also forging ahead with their remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Word spread throughout the industry that Platinum Dunes had pitched the studio with a completely black screen teaser that featured a 5.1 chainsaw mix; the execs had reportedly been blown away. This was one of the first major horror films to be remade, and it began to cause quite an uproar that continues to this day. However, while the haters came out against the film en masse, the box office showed them to be first in line. Hypocrites.

One of my favorite stories came on November 27, when I finally got to see THEY. While I hated the film, I joked that there were three reasons to see the “Wes Craven Presents” creature feature: “I just returned from Wes Craven’s THEY and I wanted to save everyone the pain I just endured. The only thing good about THEY is that before the movie started I got to see trailers for FINAL DESTINATION 2, DARKNESS FALLS and HOUSE OF 1000 CORPES, very cool trailers.

It’s amazing how spoiled we are now with Yahoo!, Apple and all the other video sites. I remember DYING to see certain movies only because I’d heard a trailer for a horror film I was eagerly anticipating might play with it. In the last article I mentioned how I saw THE OTHERS in order to catch the HALLOWEEN 8 tease. I remember flipping my sh*t when I saw the trailer for HELLRAISER IV and even the trailer for BRIDE OF CHUCKY. There was something magical about catching a new trailer, unexpectedly, at the cinema. It’s an experience that can never be duplicated, and it’s something that will never happen again. Sadly, waiting impatiently to watch a movie trailer in the theaters is a phenomenon that feels like ancient history now.

While CHAINSAW was revving up for 2003, Universal Pictures was diligently working on a remake of George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD, one of the rare reboots that was well-received among horror fans. In 2002 the script started to circulate around the horror community, to a raft of poor reviews — that is, until James Gunn became friendly with the reporters that had perpetuated all the negative buzz. Suddenly, rave reviews began to pop up everywhere. At the time, it seemed like merely a random development. We know better now.

One of the biggest stories of the year was that Kane Hodder would be passing the torch of Jason Voorhees on to a new actor. EVERYONE was up in arms – screaming and yelling, putting up a fuss, creating petitions. When New Line stated they were looking for a Jason with “sympathetic eyes,” I could almost hear the oncoming trainwreck. Yet when FREDDY VS JASON finally hit theaters, most of us were pleasantly surprised by Ken Kirzinger’s performance. While Ken would only play Jason this one time (before passing the torch on to Derek Mears), he would become one of my personal favorite Jasons.

In addition to the massive Jason casting news, there was even more rage from the community when it was announced that Betsy Palmer wouldn’t be returning as Pamela Voorhees. However, many of us were silenced when Katherine Isabelle – the hottie from GINGER SNAPS – was locked down for a role.

Other random stories floating around were the director announcement and plot details for the EXORCIST prequel (originally titled EXORCIST 4:1: DOMINION), along with preliminary talk of FINAL DESTINATION 2. “After a successful hit at theaters, New Line got running quickly on a sequel to Final Destination, which is set for a March 2003 release…” Poorly said, my friend.

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