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A Scary Box-Office Monday

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Who out there is doing a happy dance now that Prom Night — a prim and plodding excuse for a horror film — took the No. 1 spot at the box-office with $22.7 million for the weekend? It's the best debut yet in 2008 for a scare flick, as long as you're not counting the sci-fi-ish Cloverfield (which had $41 million at hello). Other fright flicks that opened this year include — please stop me at any time if you hear the title of a decent one — One Missed Call, The Eye, Shutter, Funny Games, and The Ruins, which tumbled nearly sixty percent in its second week. If these duds strike you as sweet news for scares, gag me now.

Another box-office wake-up call is the distant second place finish at $12 million for Street Kings, with Keanu Reeves futilely trying to channel Russell Crowe as a bad cop approaching meltdown. Want more?

Despite the presence of Juno It girl Ellen Page, Smart People barely scraped up $4 million. With the box-office off nearly twenty percent from the same period last year, panic is building in Hollywood's executive suites. As a critic, I get satisfaction from seeing The Visitor, one of the best movies so far this year, open well in limited release. But an $88,383 take in four locations is chump change to studio chiefs looking for the big score. Resut? Terror!

Which brings us to the question of the day: What happened to scary movies? Good ones, I mean. Back in the Stone age — read 1980 — Prom Night starred scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis and generated a few R-rated jolts. The tame 2008 remake is rated PG-13, letting Brittany Snow (see photo) run from former teacher turned psycho Jonathan Schaech with nowhere near the threat posed to Jamie Lee. And yet the new Prom Night scored the biggest debut for a fright flick since Saw Iv, which opened to $31.7 million in October. What's up with that is a major shift. Prom Night 2008 is less like the harcore gore of the Saw series and more like 27 Dresses with red syrup on the hemlines. The soft rating appeals to teen girls, during prom season yet, and promises a hunk bogeyman and nothing too yuccky. And the success of Prom NighT proves the formula is working. Is PG-13 the future of horror? Has Saw-Hostel shock cinema worn out it's welcome? What was the last scary movie you saw that actually curdled your blood?

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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