You'd think that filling the October film release schedule with horror movies would be a no-brainer -- this is the time of year when moviegoers are eager to be terrified -- yet only three chillers are booked between now and Halloween. Which raises the question: Where have all the horror movies gone?
Fans in the mood for fright have just three options this month. (Four, if you count 'Dream House,' which opened on the last day of September and, judging by its poor box office performance, is going to slink out of theaters quickly.) This weekend, there's 'The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence,' which is opening in only a handful of theaters. Next weekend comes the reboot of 'The Thing.' The following week is 'Paranormal Activity 3.' Then, zip. (There's also Kevin Smith's 'Red State,' which some are calling a horror movie, though it's arguably a psychological thriller/political polemic.)
So, where did the scary movies go? In part, August. In recent years, late summer has become a haven for horror. By the last two weeks in August, the studios' slates of action blockbusters are spent, but there are still genre movie fans hungry for jolts and shocks. Recent Augusts have seen such horror hits as 'The Final Destination,' 'Halloween II' and 'The Last Exorcism.' This year, in the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September, there were six horror releases: 'Fright Night,' 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark,' 'Evidence of a Haunting,' 'Shark Night 3D,' 'Apollo 18' and 'Creature.'
The strategy seems to have backfired. With the exception of 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark,' none of these movies grossed more than $20 million.
Is that why there so few horror movies scheduled for October? Not really. In large measure, it's because of 'Paranormal Activity 3.' The found-footage-style horror franchise has replaced 'Saw' as the annual ritual for Halloween moviegoers. "'Saw' has dominated October for years," says Jeff Bock, a box office analyst and horror film expert at Exhibitor Relations Company. "Studios didn't dare open anything against it. ['Saw' distributor] Lionsgate really did have that month to itself." Now, however, "'Paranormal Activity' has that slot," he says.
Then again, there's another possible explanation for the October dearth. "We're just having an off year."
As for fans, if you feel deprived this Halloween season, there's not much consolation for you. The next mini-glut of horror movies doesn't come until January, another traditional dumping ground for movies that studios have little hope for. You'll have to keep your fears in check until then.
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.
Photo credits: IFC Films ('Human Centipede 2'), Universal ('The Thing')