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A horror a week will keep fans screaming

September 02, 2003|Patrick Goldstein

One reason "Freddy vs. Jason" has been so successful is that the film is benefiting from pent-up demand; the pickings have been slim for horror movies this year. But the drought is over. Beginning with MGM's "Jeepers Creepers 2," which debuted at No. 1 this past weekend, there's a new horror film coming nearly every week into October.

This Friday, Twentieth Century Fox releases "The Order," an occult thriller about an ancient coven of rogue priests who surface in modern-day Rome. On Sept. 12, Lions Gate delivers "Cabin Fever," a gory backwoods tale about a flesh-eating virus wreaking havoc on a cabin full of party-crazed college kids. The following week, Screen Gems releases "Underworld," a battle to the death between marauding vampires and werewolves. On Oct. 3, Dimension puts out "Scary Movie 3," the latest installment in its long-running series of parodies of horror movies and other popular films. And that's all before Oct. 24, the traditional Halloween fright-fest weekend, when Warner Bros. releases "Gothika," a horror film co-starring Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz.

It's too early to tell whether the success of "Freddy vs. Jason" satiated horror fans or simply whetted their appetite for more blood-curdling thrills. But it doesn't take a genius to figure out why so many horror films are hitting the theaters at this time of year. With parents recovering from summer vacations and busy getting their kids off to school, there's only one reliable audience going to the movies.

"These movies appeal to everybody who's young," says Valerie Van Galder, head of marketing for Screen Gems, the studio releasing "Underworld." "The young guys love the thrills in scary movies and the young women love horror movies because your boyfriend will cuddle up with you and hold your hand. They're the ultimate date movies."

Of course, young people go to movies all summer, but during that season there's stiffer competition from special-effect extravaganzas with $40-million marketing campaigns that would swamp a modestly budgeted horror film. "Horror movies rely on a niche audience," says Van Galder. "And it's hard to reach a niche audience when they're going to see 'Charlie's Angels' or 'The Matrix.' So you wait till fall, when you don't have to go up against such giant competition."

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