It’s that time of year again. Leaves are changing colors, the young and the not-so-young are eagerly planning out their costumes, and everyone is stockingpiling candy. Halloween is upon us, and in addition to the aforementioned costumes and candy it is also the time of year for horror movies. Unfortunately for those seeking a good scare at their local Cineplex, the choices are slim.
For the last four years the “Saw” franchise has dominated the box office, solidifying the weekend prior to Halloween as “Saw” weekend. Other studios avoid the competition and schedule around the seemingly unstoppable Lion’s Gate property. However, it is unclear whether the “Saw” film’s success is due to scaring up public interest or simply because they have scared away the competition.
“Saw,” which starred Carey Elwes and Danny Glover was released back in 2004, and was an out-of-left-field smash. It grossed over $55 million dollars, while costing only $1.2 million dollars. “Saw” was the kind of movie studios dream about. It was a high-profit, low-cost film with a build-in audience of intensely loyal horror fans. These fans will go out on opening weekend and check out most genre films regardless of what critics say.
The trick is to bring them back for more and “Saw” did just that. It told the story of the maniacal “Jigsaw,” a man who passed judgment on people through horrific traps that reflected their own personal defects.
As with any horror film, good or bad, sequels were inevitable. “Saw II” was released Halloween weekend in 2005 and it was an even bigger hit then its predecessor.
It grossed $87 million dollars, while costing a mere $4 million. With that “Jigsaw” was catapulted into the ranks of horror icons such as Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees.
“Saw III” came out in 2006 and grossed $80 million with a budget of an astronomical $10 million.
“Saw IV” followed the next year with only $63 million. It seemed as though Lions Gate had the first can’t miss horror franchise in recent memory.
The problem is that the “Saw” franchise has faced next to no competition from other horror films each year.
This lack of competition has led to increased box office revenue; however, the quality has been declining with each film since “Saw II.”
This year “Saw V” will face off with only one other horror movie released in October: “Quarantine.”
The low budget shaky-cam “Quarantine” received only minimal advertising, and featured a virtually unknown cast. In fact, it seems that the biggest threat to “Saw V” is the equally scary “High School Musical 3: Senior Year.”
October is meant for horror films, it just makes sense with Halloween right at the end of the month.
Instead studios have chosen to save their tent-pole releases for summer or winter. Paramount has gone a different direction with its highly anticipated “Friday the 13th” remake. Instead of releasing the film to battle “Saw” in October, Paramount will release it in February, on the day before Valentine’s Day. Confused? Well that day just happens to be Friday the 13th and the good folks at Paramount couldn’t pass up that kind of easy marketing opportunity now could they?
It’s not just the big studio horror films that are missing in October. Starting in 2006, After Dark films has run an annual festival of independently made horror films called: “Horrorfest.”
Inexplicably, the 2006 and 2007 incarnations both were held in mid-November, while this year’s has been bumped back to January 2009.
These festivals would be a perfect match for an October release date.
Now, it’s not to say that there have been no big horror movies released in October. In 2006, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” was released and in 2007 “30 Days of Night” went face to face with “Saw.”
Neither was able to topple “Saw,” despite featuring bigger names and higher budgets. Both did manage to steal some audience members away from “Saw.”
As with anything that faces minimal competition, the “Saw” product has become stale. Instead of other studios working around “Saw,” they should be going right at it. That way the fans will get both better movies and options.
Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.