(1978) emerged as the winner in the battle of
rip-offs, with sequels, remakes, and positive reviews solidifying its success.
An American Werewolf in London
(1980) triumphed over
, earning both critical acclaim and superior box office numbers.
The Lost Boys
due to its campy cult classic status and a cast of legendary ’80s actors.
When two similar horror movies go head-to-head with each other upon release, one always wins the day. While many horror movies pride themselves on their original premises, sometimes, two entries in the genre can have disarmingly similar plots and arrive in multiplexes around the same time. This happens in every category despite how unlikely it may seem. 1998’s apocalyptic asteroid double-bill Armageddon and Deep Impact prove as much.
While Armageddon comfortably outperformed Deep Impact at the box office, Deep Impact fared better with critics. This goes to show that it isn’t always easy working out which movie “won” in a given box office battle. However, some of the movies listed here started great horror movie franchises, while others were forgotten within a few months of their release. Thus, a few of these instances of horror filmmakers struggling with parallel thinking are easier to call than others.
10 Barracuda and Piranha (1978)
Both Barracuda and Piranha were Jaws rip-offs about schools of killer fish that were created by government experimentation. As far as box office stats go, little information exists about Joe Dante’s Piranha and Harry Kerwin’s Barracuda. Neither was a massive success. However, Piranha wins out thanks to its sequels, remakes, and stellar reviews, with Spielberg himself calling in the best of the countless Jaws rip-offs of the late ‘70s.
9 An American Werewolf in London and The Howling (1980)
Dante seemingly couldn’t catch a break early in his career. After Piranha’s outsized success, he went on to direct the franchise-spawning werewolf thriller The Howling, written by legendary screenwriter John Sayles. This cult horror was a critical success but had the misfortune to arrive in cinemas the same year as John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London. The Howling made a superb $17 million (via Box Office Mojo), but An American Werewolf in London dwarfed this with a staggering $62 million (via The Numbers). Both hugely acclaimed werewolf horror-thrillers, only The Howling created a long-lasting franchise. However, An American Werewolf in London earned the first makeup Oscar for its effects.
Winner: An American Werewolf in London
8 The Lost Boys and Near Dark (1987)
The Lost Boys and Near Dark told stories of a lead character falling in with a group of vampire antiheroes in a sleepy small town. However, that is where their similarities ended. Near Dark was a gritty, dark horror Western, while The Lost Boys was a campy cult classic. Near Dark flopped, and The Lost Boys was a hit. Although Near Dark’s reputation improved in the decades that followed, The Lost Boys’ cast of legendary ‘80s actors makes it the more famous and successful of the pair.
Winner: The Lost Boys
7 Mikey and The Good Son (1993)
Mikey and The Good Son were 1993 movies centered on angelic blonde children who were secretly vicious killers. The Good Son got better reviews and is more fondly remembered, while the psychological thriller also boasted an impressive cast in the form of Elijah Wood, Rory Culkin, and Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin playing against type as the villain. Unfortunately, Mikey is mostly remembered for its debunked connection to a tragic real-life killing in the UK.
Winner: The Good Son
6 The Haunting and House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Both The Haunting and House on Haunted Hill were expensive, CGI-heavy remakes of ‘60s haunted house horrors that arrived in 1999. The Haunting was critically abhorred, while House on Haunted Hill was written off as campy but solid fun since the reboot didn’t take itself too seriously. That said, one movie had an unfair advantage here. The Haunting was a risible remake of a truly great movie, 1963’s Shirley Jackson adaptation of the same name. By contrast, House on Haunted Hill remade a movie that was already pretty silly, self-aware, and campy.
Winner: House on Haunted Hill
5 The Descent and The Cave (2005)
The Descent and The Cave told the story of a tight-knit group of cave explorers besieged by prehistoric monsters while deep beneath the earth’s surface. However, The Descent won much more critical acclaim with its relentless, terrifying tale of an all-female caving crew that fell apart psychologically and physically when faced with toothy, terrifying crawlers. In comparison, the PG-13-rated thrills of The Cave felt hopelessly anodyne. The Cave barely recouped its $30 million budget, while The Descent earned over $50 million on a budget of only $3.5 million (via The Numbers).
Winner: The Descent
4 Rogue and Black Water (2007)
While many deep sea horror movies have illustrated the dangers that lurk beneath the ocean’s surface, few successful monster movies center on freshwater beasts. 1999’s Lake Placid was a surprise sleeper hit, as was 2019’s Crawl, but most crocodile movies fail to make a sizable splash. Both Rogue and Black Water were Australian crocodile horror movies released in 2007, neither of which were breakout hits with critics or viewers. Both fared fine with reviewers, but Black Water beat its competition by losing a lot less money at the box office.
Winner: Black Water
3 Paranormal Activity and The Fourth Kind (2008)
Paranormal Activity and The Fourth Kind were both 2008 found footage horror movies about supernatural phenomena. The former was a massive, franchise-spawning mega-hit, while the latter was swiftly forgotten by everyone except a small, dedicated fan base. While the Paranormal Activity franchise has had its ups and downs in the decade and a half since, the sleeper hit was the clear victor here.
Winner: Paranormal Activity
2 Detention and Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Detention and Cabin in the Woods were subversive slasher comedies that deconstructed their own genre while still sticking (mostly) to its format. Cabin in the Woods was a much bigger mainstream hit, earning $70 million on a budget of $30 million (via The Numbers). Detention had the misfortune of arriving in cinemas the same day as Cabin in the Woods, effectively annihilating the surreal indie’s chances of crossover success. Meanwhile, critics were split on Detention’s merits but mostly praised Cabin in the Woods.
Winner: Cabin in the Woods
1 Burying the Ex and Life After Beth (2014)
Both Burying the Ex and Life After Beth were dark 2014 horror comedies about likable young men whose lives were thrown into disarray when their seemingly dead girlfriends returned to life as zombies. Neither were critical or commercial hits, but director Jeff Baena’s Life After Beth did make significantly less money than Dante’s Burying the Ex. Both movies boasted unusually great ensemble casts, but sadly, this wasn’t enough to get mainstream viewers interested in the potentially off-putting premise of these two competing horror movies.
Winner: Burying the Ex
Source: Box Office Mojo, The Numbers