Last weekend marked the long awaited theatrical release of You're Next, a home invasion horror flick that premiered on the festival circuit just about a full two years ago, way back in September of 2011. (Check out our review here.) Is it uncommon for such a highly praised film to take so long to enter our lives? Well, not exactly.
Today we take a look back at ten other horror films that also spent a lot of time on the shelf before getting released, the majority of which ended up becoming big time fan favorites. Go figure!
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Though widely regarded as one of the best and most disturbing horror films the genre has ever seen, John McNaughton's real-life-inspired Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was made in 1986 but not released until 1990. Several factors contributed to the delay, but it was the film's extremely graphic content that was largely responsible, and an ongoing battle with the MPAA held the release in limbo for four years. After being handed the dreaded X rating, Henry was eventually released unrated in early 1990, and was one of several films which led to the MPAA creating the NC-17 rating. Oddly enough, though he typically frowned upon horror films, the late Roger Ebert praised Henry and called it "a low-budget tour de force."
Rabid Dogs (a.k.a. Kidnapped)
The film which has the distinction of sitting on the shelf for the longest time out of all the titles on this list is Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs, which was made in 1974 but remained unreleased in 1998... and no, those dates are not typos. The story goes that during the final stages of production, before the film was completely shot, the producer went bankrupt, with legal issues preventing it from ever being completed or released. Long after Bava's death, the long-lost film finally hit DVD in 1998 under the title Kidnapped.
House of 1000 Corpses
It was in early 2000 that Rob Zombie took his first film script to Universal Pictures, and production on House of 1000 Corpses began in May of that year. Despite the fact that they were on board with the project, Universal got cold feet after they saw the finished cut of the film, fearing that it would never get handed anything less than an NC-17 rating. Though they refused to release the film, Zombie was eventually able to buy the rights back from the company and eventually sold them to Lionsgate, who released Corpses in April of 2003... three years after the film's 25-day shooting schedule wrapped.
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
This slasher film from Jonathan Levine began swooping up acclaim on the festival circuit in 2006, and saw theatrical and home video release in the UK in 2008. In the US, on the other hand, Mandy Lane was nowhere to be found. Originally slated for release in 2007 by the Weinstein Company, a series of box office flops (including Grindhouse) led to them selling off the film to another company, which soon thereafter went out of business. For the next six years not a peep was heard about the film, until earlier this year when the Weinstein Company announced that they once again had secured the rights, and would be releasing it On Demand on September 6th and in theaters on October 11th. No doubt the box office success of Levine's Warm Bodies paved the way for this long-lost gem's stateside debut.
Independently made on an extremely low budget by then-unknown filmmaker Oren Peli, Paranormal Activity had its worldwide premiere at the October 2007 Screamfest Film Festival, two years before it terrified the masses in 2009. Why the long wait? Well, Paramount/DreamWorks initially bought the rights to the film with the intention of remaking it with a bigger budget, but once they realized how effective Peli's original film was (largely due to a strong reaction to the screener from Steven Spielberg), they decided to instead just release that version. Paramount did tinker with the film a bit, however, changing a few scenes and filming a brand new ending, and released their modified cut in September of 2009.
Renée Zellweger hasn't exactly had the best luck in the horror genre. After an embarassing early career appearance in 1994's Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, the Academy Award-winning actress returned to the genre with Case 39, which began production in 2006. A victim of constant release-date-shuffling, the film was originally set to debut in February of 2008 and then pushed back several times, over the course of several years, before finally hitting theaters in October of 2010. According to director Christian Alvart, the film was never a priority for Paramount, which is why they held off on releasing it for as long as possible. It ended up ranking in 7th place at the box office on its opening weekend, and most horror fans agreed that this was one film that wasn't worth the wait. Both Zellweger and co-star Bradley Cooper, who had moved on to bigger and better things by 2010, have declined to speak about the film.
Trick 'r Treat
For a couple of years after its initial film festival premiere in 2007, Michael Dougherty's anthology Trick 'r Treat became a thing of legend: it was the one film that every horror fan absolutely needed to see, an instant cult classic that stood alongside John Carpenter's Halloween as one of the very best horror movies set during All Hallows' Eve. But aside from various festival screenings throughout 2008 and 2009, there was virtually no way to see it, even though by that point you could already purchase toys of the film's loveable icon "Sam." Talk about a tease! Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures finally released the movie in October of 2009, but they didn't bother to give it any sort of theatrical run; instead, Trick 'r Treat went straight to DVD and was immediately embraced as one of the most beloved horror films of the decade. Of course, now you can watch Sam every year, right here on FEARnet, for our annual Halloween 24-hour Trick R Treat marathon.
The Poughkeepsie Tapes
This is the only film on our list that not only hasn't yet seen widespread release, but is seemingly never going to see the light of day. The found-footage serial killer flick first surfaced in 2007 and was picked up by MGM, who planned on releasing it that year, and trailers for it were even attached to other horror films that hit theaters around that time. Then... nothing. The Poughkeepsie Tapes all but disappeared from the radar, and it's very hard to find any information as to why MGM pulled it (though it may be due to the film's extremely disturbing content), or when we'll be able to see it, if ever. Fortunately, the movie led to a lucrative film career for director John Erick Dowdle, as he subsequently directed the studio features Quarantine and Devil.
Return to Sleepaway Camp
The Sleepaway Camp franchise hasn't had much luck after the release of the third film, an unlucky streak that began with a planned fourth installment that was partially shot in 1992, but never completed. 11 years later, in 2003, the brand new entry Return to Sleepaway Camp wrapped production, with a planned theatrical release date the following year. On top of problems with many of the CGI effects, there was a lack of distributor interest in the movie, and director Robert Hiltzik wasn't all that happy with the finished product. All of those factors led to the movie's plans meeting the same fate as the character of Ally in Sleepaway Camp 2: getting flushed down the toilet. Return to Sleepaway Camp finally surfaced in November of 2008, an admittedly terrible but fun-to-watch sequel that went straight to DVD.
The Cabin in the Woods
We round things out with this game-changing epic created by Joss Whedon, which suffered a long and troubled journey to the theater. Completed in May of 2009, Cabin was scheduled for release by MGM shortly thereafter in February of 2010 – a plan that fell apart when the company decided to take some extra time to convert it to 3D, to capitalize on the growing popularity of the gimmick. The new date fell nearly a year later in January of 2011 – but that plan also went awry when MGM ran into financial trouble and eventually filed for bankruptcy. The film's release hung in the balance for over a year after that, and horror fans rejoiced when Lionsgate announced that they had bought the rights from MGM in July of 2011. True to their word, they released The Cabin in the Woods on April 13th, 2012, and it was widely considered to be the best horror film of that year.
Which films were worth the wait, and which weren't? Comment below and let us know!