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The future of fright

The future of fright — ”Hostel II”’s poor performance spells trouble for Hollywood horror flicks

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Who would’ve thought that torture porn — or any porn, for that matter — would become a victim of viewer fatigue? Based on Hostel: Part II‘s disappointing box office bow last weekend — $8.2 million, versus $19.6 million for Hostel‘s January 2006 opening — moviegoers seem to be losing their appetite for the extremely gory horror subgenre. For Darren Lynn Bousman, a director of the Saw franchise, all it took was a trip to the video store, where he noticed five Saw knockoffs. ”The back of one box was identical to Saw II,” says Bousman. ”It was like, Eight people wake up in a house and there’s deadly torture in each room. People get fed up and say, ‘I’ve had enough.”’ Of course, Hostel opened in early June against heavyweights like Ocean’s Thirteen and Knocked Up. This doesn’t bode well for Captivity, which is up against Harry Potter 5 next month, or Saw IV, out Oct. 26, one week before the Russell Crowe-Denzel Washington drama American Gangster. The box office downturn, admits Bousman, ”is a fear. My job is based on this genre.”

But much like reality TV and cockroaches, horror is basically indestructible — and has remained so by continuing to evolve. After slasher flicks came satires like Scream, and Japanese remakes were big before torture porn took over. ”We may be on the cusp of a change,” notes Paul Dergarabedian, head of box office tracker Media By Numbers. ”Maybe…psychological horror?” Well, upcoming horror-thriller hybrids include Rogue’s home-invasion offering The Strangers and Dimension’s 1408, which producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura calls ”a psychological examination of the interior of a man’s mind represented by the interior of a room.” That tack worked for Disturbia, the Shia LaBeouf nail-biter that’s made $78 mil so far. ”It’s easy on Monday morning to have a theory [about box office grosses],” says Rob Zombie, whose Halloween remake hits in August. ”[But] it’s so f—ing random.” Of course, if fans keep putting nails in the torture-porn coffin, the genre can always wait until it’s hip again. Jokes Bousman, ”I’m trying to get on Saw 18: Jigsaw in Space, but the contract is still out.”