Just the other night at Mann's Chinese 6 Theater, a 25-year-old writer-director debuted his first feature film, "Automaton Transfusion," a $30,000 zombie movie with a high-body count filmed in only nine days in Florida.
Steven Miller's horror flick was shot almost around the clock to meet the budget. Among the actors are his friends, even his father, who happens to be a funeral director. It doesn't get much more low budget than this -- but immediately after, Miller was fielding offers from major studios, who can't get enough of the scary movies that are incredibly popular with young moviegoers right now.
"I think it's adrenaline," Miller said. "Most people love that adrenaline rush and scary movies really do that for you."
Well, not really most people. Horror movies tend to attract fans young enough to imagine any sort of horrible death, except their own.
So far this year, the horror genre has grossed more than $650 million at the box office. That's only about 8 percent of the total box office, but what's really scary is the amount of money these movies can potentially make.
Watch "World News" Sunday for Brian Rooney's broadcast report on the resurgence of horror movies.
The original "Saw" cost less than $2 million to make and grossed $55 million. For "Saw II," producers splurged on a $4 million budget and raked in $87 million.
"Saw III" premieres this weekend, promising another potential box-office bloodbath.
Going back to the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," released in 1974, and moving through the years of "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," horror movies have now entered a third wave of popularity.
The names of some horror movies in production right now entertain all by themselves: "Day of the Dead," "Eat Your Heart Out," "The Evil Keg," "Grind House," "Marked 4 Mary," "Prey for the Beast" and "Primal Scream."
Now, get ready for all fear, all the time with FearNet, to be launched on Oct. 31. Comcast, Sony and Lions Gate films will offer horror and scary movies through on-demand TV, a Web site and cell phones.
The frenzy is being fed by people like Miller who, as children, watched some of the classic horror movies of the '80s -- movies their parents wish they had never seen.
"I grew up on horror films," Miller said. "My first was 'Evil Dead II.' And ever since then, that's what I've wanted to do."
TOP-GROSSING SCARY MOVIES 2000-2006
|Domestic Gross||Date Opened|
|Hannibal||$165,092,266||Feb. 9, 2001|
|The Ring||$129,023,466||Oct. 18, 2002|
|The Village||$114,195,633||July 30, 2004|
|The Grudge||$110,175,871||Oct 22, 2004|
|Red Dragon||$92,955,420||Oct. 4, 2002|
|Alien vs. Predator||$90,282,231||Aug. 13, 2004|
|Saw II||$87,025,093||Oct. 28, 2005|
|Freddy vs. Jason||$82,163,317||Aug. 15, 2003|
|Blade 2||$81,676,888||March 22, 2002|
|Texas Chainsaw Massacre||$80,148,261||Oct. 17, 2003|
|Source: Exhibitor Relations Co., Inc.|
Horror movies can be cheap to make with digital cameras, without the need to pay $10 million to a star. Fear is the star. And special effects can be fudged.
"I mean, how do you cut off an arm?" Miller asked. "I don't know, but we can figure it out."
But some of the best horror movies have a certain amount of art to them. Kevin Abosch, a professional photographer who's making the switch to movie making, had offers from a half dozen producers wanting him to make a horror movie.
Right now, Abosch is shooting "Negative Space," a psychological horror thriller about the mind of a serial killer. Scaring people, Abosch said, can be fun.
"It forces the audience to confront a side of them, their shadow side, that they're afraid of. It's a thrill," Abosch said. "It's more like an amusement ride."
"I'm not attracted myself to excessive blood and gore," Abosch said. "What excites me is to really investigate the nature of fear."
Abosch tries to go as dark and deep as possible into the pit of cinematic fear.
"My approach is to instill that sense of fear in the audience members themselves," he said. "So it's not a vicarious fear that somebody on the screen is going to perish, but they themselves might -- in their seat, in the theater."
Most horror movies tend to satisfy formulaic demands of the genre; teenage sex is punished by death, the group of victims will be picked off one at a time, and the pretty girl always goes into the house alone, never to return.
"You don't want to do the same thing they've all seen," Miller said. "Coming up with new ideas and new ways to kill people is always scary. You get a lot of people in a big room, and you pretty much ask the question, 'How do we kill people?' And people throw ideas out right and left, and you pick the best ones and go with it."