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2019 has been such a strong year for wide-release horror films that the upcoming Black Christmas remake could receive a 0% Tomatometer score and the average for the 23 horror films released in 2019 would still be a Fresh 60%. This may not seem all that important, but this is big news for horror fans. Why? Because in the modern era of horror (which we’ll define as from 1980 forward), there hasn’t been a year with a Fresh overall Tomatometer score.
This Fresh average shouldn’t come as a surprise to those paying attention to the genre this year – Certified Fresh hits like Us, Crawl, Ready or Not, and Midsommar have won over critics and audiences alike. Even remakes/adaptations are over-performing critically as Child’s Play (63%) and Pet Sematary (57%) are Fresh and very close to it, respectively, when historically horror remakes average a Rotten 44% Tomatometer average.
In honor of this Fresh year of theatrically released horror, we pulled the Tomatometer data on the 644 horror movies that received wide releases (defined here as 600+ theaters) in the United States since 1980. We wanted to know how the preceding 40 years of horror films matched up against 2019, and if any year had a higher Tomatometer average.
Quick Note: We chose 1980-2019 because there is greater consistency in Tomatometer data than in earlier years. The 1970s were the bomb though.
(Photo by Lions Gate / Everett Collection)
Another interesting fact (for data nerds and horror movie lovers who are also data nerds) is that since 1990, only five years have had more Fresh horror films than Rotten: 1982 (7 > 4), 1983 (8 > 7), 1987 (10 > 7), 2013 (7 > 6), and 2019 (12 > 10). This data makes 2019’s Fresh score even more impressive.
On a side note, the years 1997-1999 have a seriously high number of Rotten horror movies that we at RT actually love. Between Anaconda, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, The Faculty, Idle Hands, Blade, Deep Rising, The Relic, The Mummy, Lake Placid, and the king of all Rotten horror movies, Event Horizon (you can read more about Event Horizon as well as Blade in our book Rotten Movies We Love), the years are stacked with Rotten movies that are pretty awesome.
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Despite having no single year with a Fresh Tomatometer score, the 1980s have the highest overall average with a groovy 52.5%. Buoyed by A Nightmare on Elm Street, Near Dark, The Fly, The Thing, and Fright Night, the 1980s slaughtered the 1990s (43.6%), 2000s (32.2%), and the 2010s (47.1%).
Six of the top 10 years in our data set come from the 1980s, and 1987 came close to being Fresh, but the 0%-rated Jaws: The Revenge and the 9% House 2 kept it at a Rotten 57%. A big reason for the 1980s being the highest-rated decade is that it has only one year in the bottom 10 Rottenest years on the list (1989, with a Tomatometer average of 34.4%).
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The worst year in our entire data set is 2006, which currently has a Rotten 31.1% average. The distinction is dubious, but at least 2006 kept it interesting with movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, The Descent, Slither, Hostel, Snakes on a Plane, The Hill Have Eyes, and The Wicker Man remake, an amazingly bonkers movie that features Nicolas Cage running all over the place while wearing a bear suit. Also, the first Black Christmas remake was released in 2006, and with a 14% Tomatometer score, the less said, the better.
The 2000s as a whole weren’t much better, as the decade averaged a 32% Tomatometer score. Four of the five lowest Tomatometer years in the data set are from the 2000s, and only 33 of the 189 theatrically released movies in that decade have a Fresh Tomatometer score. The numbers may look bad, but on a positive note, the 2000s are responsible for bona fide classics like Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, The Mist, and Zombieland. Plus, movies like Jennifer’s Body, 28 Weeks Later, 30 Days of Night, Constantine, Frailty, Eight Legged Freaks, and The Happening (it’s awesome, get over yourself), are starting to gain their due popularity.
Random Tomatometer Fact: Imogen Poots, the star of the upcoming Black Christmas remake, made her horror debut in 2007, appearing in the Fresh 28 Weeks Later (the opening scene is awesome). Since then, she’s crushed it the underrated Fright Night remake and in Green Room, which is one of the best-reviewed horror films of recent memory.
What makes 2019 the only Fresh year in our data set might surprise you. While movies like Us, Doctor Sleep, The Lighthouse, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark helped greatly, it’s the remakes, prequels, sequels, and adaptations that greatly contributed to the overall Freshness. 2019 has been a lot of fun because of movies like Annabelle Comes Home, a sequel to a prequel (Annabelle: Creation) of a prequel (Annabelle), which has a Fresh 64% Tomatometer score. Normally, a horror movie so far removed from the original is almost always Rotten. Toss in the Certified Fresh Crawl (82%), a movie about rampaging alligators, and 3 From Hell, Rob Zombie’s 50%-rated sequel to The Devil’s Rejects, and you have movies that are over-performing critically when compared the likes of Lake Placid (46%), Primeval (18%), 31 (47%), and Lords of Salem (46%) from past years.
The 25% Tomatometer-rated Countdown, a movie about a ‘killer’ phone app, has the lowest score of any wide-release horror movie in 2019. Typically, a 25% score isn’t reason to celebrate – but when compared to the Rottenest horror movie of each year in our data set, it’s the least Rotten (the closest is 1984’s 23%-rated C.H.U.D.). In fact, the 10 Rotten horror movies released in 2019 have a 46.3% average, which is the highest average for the Rotten films of all the years in our data set. 2019 has the best of the worst, and that’s why it’s Fresh.
What is your favorite year for horror? Let us know in the comments.