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OH, THE HORROR!

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Jason Lives! Freddy Returns! Michael Myers Walks Again! For years, body-counting horror fans thirsted for the resurrection of such carnage-crazed come-ons. Unfortunately, all signs — both commercial and creative — indicated that slasher movies had gone out with the Reagan era. But now, just when you thought it was safe to return to the multiplex…they’re back!

This Christmas, Miramax’s smart teen-slasher flick Scream treated such ”surefire” high-profile films as The Preacher’s Wife and One Fine Day like a suburban babysitter on Halloween. Despite a razor-thin $15 million budget and a non-powerhouse ensemble cast that includes Drew Barrymore, Courteney Cox, Skeet Ulrich, and Neve Campbell (who, after starring last year in another surprise horror hit, The Craft, is well on her way to becoming the Jamie Lee Curtis of the ’90s), Scream has scared up $40 million in its first three weeks. ”People have asked for years if horror movies can make a comeback,” says Scream director Wes Craven. ”They can as long as they’re good. But lately, they haven’t been.” Craven, the creator of the Nightmare on Elm Street saga, even blames himself for that problem in one of Scream’s many inside jokes. But now Craven is on a roll again with a two-picture deal at Miramax. Meanwhile, the renegade studio’s got its own little gift — a franchise. ”Yes, I definitely think we’ll be doing a sequel,” says Miramax cochairman Bob Weinstein. ”It was written with a sequel in mind. Plus, I love these kinds of movies.” The good news for horror fans is that Scream 2 is going to have some bloodthirsty competition. Next month, Columbia starts shooting the high school chiller I Know What You Did Last Summer, written by Scream’s 31-year-old in-the-know rookie screenwriter Kevin Williamson. In February, Miramax’s Dimension label, fresh off its Screaming success, will release Nightwatch, a scary-as-hell thriller about a killer loose in a morgue, starring Nick Nolte and Trainspotting’s Ewan McGregor. And New Line will soon begin production on the nostalgic supernatural battle royal Freddy vs. Jason. ”That’s just the way Hollywood is,” says New Line director of development Brian Witten. ”I’m sure at every studio, they’re sitting around saying ‘Let’s get a horror movie.”’ Of course, in the case of New Line, which in recent years has cranked out more mainstream fare (such as The Mask and The Stupids, which resulted in decidedly mixed box office earnings), reviving two moldy fright franchises may seem like an awkward step backward. Then again, New Line is the house that Freddy Krueger built. And, as Witten points out, if the new round of horror can successfully mimic Scream’s brainy bloodletting, audiences will line up to jump on the terror train. After all, he says, ”people will always want to get the s — – scared out of them.” [BOX]

SLASH AND EARN

Not counting the still-rolling Scream, here is horror’s all-time top five:

1. Pet Sematary (1989) $57.5 million 2. Nightmare on Elm Street IV (1988) $49.4 million 3. Halloween (1978) $47.0 million 4. Nightmare on Elm Street III (1987) $44.1 million 5. Friday the 13th (1980) $39.8 million

Source: Exhibitor Relations

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