Saying a movie is ahead of its time can have two different meanings: 1) The film pioneered a specific filmmaking technique or 2) The film was maligned upon release and is now considered a classic. What I’ve done is look at horror films released over the past few decades and see what films I believe to truly be ahead of their time.
First the funny bit of trivia: Psycho was the first film to show a toilet flushing on camera! Now for the serious bit of trivia: Psycho was not universally praised upon its initial release (nearly all British film critics panned it)! Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, “There is not an abundance of subtlety or the lately familiar Hitchcock bent toward significant and colorful scenery in this obviously low-budget job.” Interestingly enough, Psycho didn’t garner widespread critical acclaim until after the film’s popularity with general audiences skyrocketed it to box office success, prompting many critics to revisit the film.
The Thing (1982)
While it’s a well-known fact, it still merits mentioning that John Carpenter’s The Thing was much-maligned when it was released in 1982. Another New York Times critic (Vincent Canby, this time) called it “a foolish, depressing, overproduced movie that mixes horror with science fiction to make something that is fun as neither one thing or the other. Sometimes it looks as if it aspired to be the quintessential moron movie of the 80s.” The score was even nominated for a Razzie award! Add to that the fact that The Thing was released the same summer as E.T., audiences just weren’t in the mood for an intense killer alien film. It was a box office flop, taking in only $19.6 million (on a $15 million budget). Here is more of Canby’s review:
I’m sure many of you re-watched Jurassic Park recently, and if so then you probably noticed that the CGI effects are better than about 90% of the films that come out nowadays (they even look better than the CGI effects in Jurassic World!). I have no idea how that is possible, but Jurassic Park has definitely stood the test of time.
Thank God for international box office, otherwise Starship Troopers would have been a major flop. America just wasn’t ready for an anti-war dark satire film in 1997. Had it come out after the Iraq war had already begun, it might have been slightly better received. To be clear, Starship Troopers is a brilliantly entertaining film, it just came out a few years too early. Like Jurassic Park, the special effects are top notch, and still look good today.
While not as acidic as the Brett Easton Ellis novel it is based on, Mary Harron’s American Psycho adaptation was incredibly polarizing in 2000. Making only $15 million (on an admittedly low $7 million budget), the film’s humor wasn’t interpreted very well by audiences at the time. Had the film come out today, it might have clicked more with audiences.
I don’t like Videodrome (don’t hate me!), but I can’t deny that David Cronenberg was really on to something when he wrote it. The film essentially boils down to the idea that people are obsessed with their television (this is a very simplistic explanation for the film). This idea is more timely than ever right now, with DVR and the ever-growing presence of TV as a discussion topic. I write TV reviews for Bloody-Disgusting. I get it. The topics of violence and sex on our TV screens was also ahead of its time in 1983, with TV today pushing more boundaries than ever. Videodrome probably makes more sense today than it did to anyone in the 80s. The fact that it is more relevant today than it was back then earns it a spot on this list.
We all know how Stephen King hates Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel The Shining, but what you may not know is that many critics weren’t too keen on the film upon its release either. Variety complained that it “destroy[ed] all that was so terrifying about Stephen King’s bestseller.” Kubrick and Shelley Duvall were nominated for Razzie Awards for Worst Director and worst Actress, respectively. Roger Ebert even claimed that it was hard to connect with any of the characters. Oh how time changes things.
The Mist is notable for having one of the most depressing endings in film history. Released back in 2007, mainstream audiences just didn’t want to be depressed. That’s not to say people want to be depressed now, but with shows like Hannibal, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead preparing them for major character deaths, they’re a bit more prepared for it. Had The Mist come out this year, it probably would have done much better at the box office. Needless to say, many people walked out of the theater wanting to do this:
What other horror films do you believe were ahead of their time? Let me know in the comments below!