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12 Divisive Horror Movies That Audiences Loved But Critics Savaged

Despite less than favorable reviews, these horror flicks have earned hordes of adoring fans.

by | June 21, 2018 | Comments

A few days ago, prompted by the disparity between the Audience Score and the Tomatometer for Ari Aster’s horror film Hereditary, we ran through a list of some critically acclaimed horror films that ended up generating a collective sigh from audiences. But what about when the situation is flipped? We thought it was worth taking a look at the opposite scenario, when movies that largely resonate well with audiences are savaged by critics.

We looked at a number of films with low Tomatometer ratings and high Audience Scores to determine what, if anything, might result in the critical dismissal of horror flicks that moviegoers hold near and dear to their hearts. There’s a bit of the occult, a dash of religious panic, and a few choices that are a little wacky. On top of that, we even discovered a few franchises that managed to defy expectations and consistently strike a chord with their fans over several installments, even as critics pooh-poohed them.

So read on to see what horror flicks you loved and critics didn’t, and let us know where you fall on the entries listed below. Then, go back and check out our list of movies that critics loved and audiences shunned to see if that matches your tastes any better!


Event Horizon (1997) 27%

Audience Score: 61%
Divide: 37 percentage points

Critics were not all that kind to this gruesome combination of space adventure and supernatural horror, but there’s no denying that the movie has become a cult classic of the modern era. Just mention this movie on Twitter and watch how many people respond!


Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) 39%

Audience Score: 72%
Divide: 37 points

Filmmaker Darren Bousman probably doesn’t mind all that much that critics don’t love his offbeat, fan-friendly horror musical mash-ups, because his target audience sure does. Repo! has more than its fair share of vocal supporters, as does The Devil’s Carnival, which presently enjoys an 87% approval rating among movie watchers.


The Covenant (2006) 4%

Audience Score: 62%
Divide: 58 points

Now this one just boggles my mind. I like a whole lot of goofy horror films but I cannot image what 62% of the audience enjoyed about this patently ridiculous tale of four young warlocks who get up to no good. Then again, the movie is full of handsome young men, so perhaps that explains some of the audience approval.


The Reaping (2007) 8%

Audience Score: 49%
Divide: 41 points

One of those occult thrillers in which a professional skeptic who has seen it all finally faces something she cannot explain in a creepy location. Something that deals with biblical plagues. I think. Pretty sure I fell asleep during this one.


The Phantom of the Opera (2005) 33%

Audience Score: 84%
Divide: 51 points

Yes, the musical. It’s only tangentially a horror film but we had to include it because wow: 84% of the audience liked this adaptation? One can only assume that’s a lot of residual fandom and goodwill from people who adore the stage version — and of course the music — but one could also assert that those fans deserved a better cinematic adaptation. Maybe they’ll try again in a few years.


Stigmata (1999) 22%

Audience Score: 63%
Divide: 42 points

Horror fans enjoy nothing more than a truly horrific possession story, and while Stigmata didn’t win over all that many fans on the Tomatometer, the Audience Score remains inordinately high for this rarely-discussed occult story. (I do recall Patricia Arquette delivering a fantastic, punishing performance, but that’s about it.) Perhaps this film critic should take the advice of the Audience Score and give Stigmata a second spin.


House of 1000 Corpses (2003) 20%

Audience Score: 65%
Divide: 46 points

Rob Zombie is sort of the poster child for “fans dug it, but critics did not,” and it all began with his gruesome grindhouse-style debut. His second film, The Devil’s Rejects, fared slightly better, with a 53% Tomatometer, but then his Halloween remake (25% Tomatometer vs. 59% Audience Score) proved one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt: Mr. Zombie’s fans are nothing if not loyal, and very few film critics are big fans of the man’s films.


Idle Hands (1999) 16%

Audience Score: 58%
Divide: 42 points

Never try to apply logic to a certified cult flick. I remember not caring for this one when it played theaters, but somehow this bizarre horror-comedy about a slacker with a possessed hand has turned into a bona fide cable/Netflix favorite. It just goes to show that a movie may fail at the box office, and it may also fail to win critical acclaim, but if people like it enough, it can enjoy a very long afterlife.


Ravenous (1999) 45%

Audience Score: 78%
Divide: 33 points

This one really confuses me. I have yet to meet a film critic who dislikes this fascinating tale of war, cannibalism, and insanity, yet the Audience Score is clearly the one on the side of goodness and decency. Speaking as both a film critic and a horror nut, I cannot recommend this strangely engaging genre concoction highly enough. And get a load of that awesome score!


Saw (2004) 49%

Average Audience Score for the Saw Series: 64.4%
Average Tomatometer: 28.4%
Divide: 36 points

Wow! Talk about a disparity between critics and horror fans! I’m a film critic and a Saw fan but this surprised even me. Film critics have never particularly liked this franchise, but that hasn’t stopped fans from digging through every terrible trap, brutal betrayal, and ridiculous resurrection. The eight Saw movies hold an average Audience Score of 64.4%, which may not sound super impressive, but considering the average Tomatometer for the same films is 28.3%, it’s pretty solid.


Underworld (2003) 31%

Average Audience Score for the Underworld series: 65.2%
Average Tomatometer: 24.8%
Divide: 40.4 points

What? Film critics didn’t fall in love with a “werewolf vs. vampire” rendition of Romeo & Juliet set in a gloomy Gothic location? How weird! Granted, there’s a lot of down time scattered across this series, but there’s also some pretty decent action and some wildly indecipherable accents. Though some critics dug the first chapter, it gets pretty dire after that, and thanks to a pretty decent average Audience Score, we’re looking at a beefy 40-point differential for the entire franchise.


Resident Evil (2002) 35%

Average Audience Score for the Resident Evil series: 55.5%
Average Tomatometer: 27.7%
Divide: 27.8 points

This is the other Screen Gems franchise (after Underworld) that doesn’t even bother screening films for critics but brings in lots of money from movie theaters from all over the world. And yes, there’s definitely some fun to be found within this willfully wacky zombie action franchise. Unfortunately, while most of my colleagues don’t seem to agree with me on that last part, there are enough moviegoers who do, resulting in a nearly 28-point chasm.

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