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5 Horror Films With No Stars That Were Huge Hits!!!

This weekend Machete Kills tanked at the box office with only $3.8 million dollars despite boasting a cadre of stars that would have made any business affairs exec blush in their heyday. While Machete isn’t really a horror film – I often see the “no star” angle bandied about whenever a horror movie fails to live up to commercial expectations (however insane those expectations might be). And it’s not uncommon to see horror films filled with A-list talent die on the vine.

The fact is that’s a usually a misinformed argument. Horror, more than any other genre, has the highest immunity against “negative starpower.” For better or worse, horror films usually live or die based on word of mouth and marketing (sadly, these days it’s mostly dependent on marketing for the first weekend – with word of mouth picking up the slack to fill future playdates).

Finding examples for this list was like shooting fish in a barrel, and there’s a silver lining in that. In horror, you don’t necessarily need a star – you just need the best actor for the part (of course, that doesn’t stop lazy hacks from exploiting gene goodwill by filling their films with talentless nobodies – but one step at a time). This is only the tip of the iceberg.


Not only were the actors in this film complete unknowns when it hit theaters (many naive moviegoers actually believed Blair Witch was real and that these people actually perished), they remained unknown – despite their best efforts – following the film’s gargantuan cultural impact.

Worldwide Box Office: $248,639,099

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)

This was well before Kevin Bacon was a name and Betsy Palmer wasn’t exactly prominently featured in the marketing materials.

Domestic Box Office: $39,754,601 (Adjusted for inflation: $120,593,900)


This film benefitted from a great marketing campaign (as well as actually being good).

Worldwide Box Office: $80,578,934


This was Jamie Lee Curtis’ very first film. And before you say, “but Donald Pleasance was in it” please take into account that he wasn’t really a box office draw. There are “actors” and there are “movie stars,” and Pleasance was the former. People wanted to see the movie.

Domestic Box Office: $47,000,000 (Adjusted for inflation: $163,897,400)


Nope. No household names here. Just 2 years of pent up word of mouth and effective positioning on the part of Paramount.

Worldwide Box Office: $193,355,800



  • horrorking95

    It just shows that stars don’t sell movies any more. They used to in the 50’s and 60’s but now people just aren’t bothered, which is further highlighted with Machete Kills’ terrible opening. My sister is a huge, huge Lady Gaga fan but even she’s not seeing it because she’s not interested in the film!

  • ihavebadtaste

    I beg to differ in regards to Hostel. Although not a selling point, Jay Hernandez was fairly well-known, having been in at least a few big pictures..

    • EvanDickson

      He wasn’t a box office draw though. No one that weekend was saying, “hey let’s go see the new Jay Hernandez.” That’s the definition of a star to me – when people say/think that.

  • The rest of the movie bored me, but that final image for Blair Witch was so CREEPY. The girl falling to the ground after someone hit her from behind was the icing on the cake.

    That’s why I’m worried about Carrie flopping this Friday. Moretz is fairly popular because of Hit-Girl, & Julianne Moore is a highly praised actress.

    This might sound crazy, but I got the feeling Machete Kills was way, WAY too full of itself in the promos, TV spots, and trailers. It’s like they were telling everyone, who would pay attention Machete Kills was going to be the greatest explanation film of all-time.

    Plus, Danny Trejo is not a draw box office draw, Michelle Rodriguez is not a box office draw, Amber Heard is not a box office draw, Sofia Vergara is not a box office draw, and Mel Gibson’s public image is still in the shitter (for a lengthy list of obvious reasons). That’s why I didn’t understand the idea of NOT pushing Lady Gaga’s presence in this film. She’s got the star power, but you barely noticed her in the trailers, TV spots, and promos. Instead, we got 90% of psycho Sofia Vergara and her breasts being used as deadly weapons, Michelle talking about “taco time,” sporadic shots of Mel, and Trejo slicing people with various machetes.

    • Damn, I meant to say exploitation, not explanation. And I just responded to myself. lol.

    • joeshmo447

      Amber Heard not a box office draw? Have you seen Never Back Down?? I would frekin jizz on my own toothbrush and brush my teeth with it to see her ! <3 Michelle Rodriguez has a fan base of resident evil fans who love her(I'm not that big a fan of resident evil I just thought she was a great character for the movie) and she was in Lost for a little..overall I like the cast 🙂 these types of movies arnt for everyone

      • Lulz! 🙂 I never thought about it like that! And yeah I love Rodriguez too (especially in the Fast & Furious films), and I agree about her character in the original RE and more recently Retribution. I thought it was hilarious how Rodriguez portrayed the “good clone”, because she was supposed to be the nice and friendly housewife type.

        It felt like she was poking fun at herself, because %99.9 of the time, Rodriguez portrays this angry, disgruntled rebel bad ass. lol.

      • wildgator25

        Well then Joeshmo, you need to see Miss Heard in “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane”. No nudity, you would have to watch “The Informers” for that, but still….. nothing but blonde awesome!

        • Haha! I saw All The Boys Love Mandy Lane a few weeks ago. Thought the movie itself was okay, but Heard was smokin’ hot as usual. And yeah, I’ve also seen the nude scenes in The Informer. Too bad the movie itself had to suck so bad. lol.

  • coldblood

    Almost all of the great horror movies have been low budget.

    When you start adding big money and big stars – the movie studios will get scared about their return of investment and will pussify the flick.

  • And what about Saw? Personally, I think 3 is the best one, but I know Saw made a splash at the box office.

    • ill_mindedd

      i agree. saw made alooooot of money at the box office.

  • torsch

    so what about the texas chainsaw massacre!! huge succes..

    • coldblood

      You’re right. The more I think about – wtf is up with this list???

  • viking1983

    hostel shouldnt be on the list, out of the list the best film that had truely unknown people and worked well was blair witch (even though it rips off last broadcast)

  • MrMyers

    I agree,i remember Tarantino having alot to do with selling Hostel.
    Wolf Creek?

    • GoreFaceSupreme

      Yep. While not a “movie star”, Tarantino’s name was all over Hostel. TCM should definitely be up there. And of course, the original Evil Dead.

  • mcgillj

    I also day the original evil dead.. heck even the remake. maybe I am wrong but I didn’t recognize anyone. I would say the original Nightmare on Elm St. and on the Left, off hand.

  • Nick Johansen

    Dawn of the Dead (1978) should be on here. The remake didn’t have huge stars either, but the original REALLY had no names in the cast, yet it was a huge smash at the box office (Despite a mature rating for gore) and is just a brilliantly perfect freaking movie in general.

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