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Low budgets, cheap thrills and big returns

Undead or unkillable slashers, tales of monsters and attractive young casts are all elements of a trend in film that should now be referred to as B-stream, if you will. Although it may sound like an oxymoron, horror movies are Hollywood’s own independent films.

Halloween cost $500,000, Nightmare On Elm Street a meager $1.5 million while current indie favorite Lost In Translation had a budget of $4 million.

Because of these low budgets, countless sequels and spin offs follow, until the series becomes completely unprofitable.

Nightmare On Elm Street was New Line’s first theatrical release and was a make-or-break film for the struggling studio. Those “Lords Of The Rings” at New Line are doing just fine these days.

Whereas most genres go through a period of fluctuation — producing smashes and bombs in a single month — horror is a consistent performer, always managing to be a small, but sound investment that delivers results at the box office or on Blockbuster’s racks.

This was a year horror fans have dreamt about for two reasons: Two horror icons (Freddy and Jason) were going to duke it out in a blood-soaked, winner-kills-all grudge match while Leatherface’s Chainsaw was due to get a millennial make-over.

And since mid-August, films like Freddy Vs. Jason, Jeepers Creepers 2, Underworld and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre have been multiplex favorites.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (produced for $9.5 million), Cabin Fever ($1.5 million), 28 Days Later ($8 million) and Darkness Falls ($11 million) are films that have scored great numbers at the box office on a budget that wouldn’t cover the costume cost on Charlie’s Angels.

Meanwhile, supposed “Hollywood hits” couldn’t even pay back their production budgets with ticket sales: The Rundown ($85 million), The Hulk ($140 million) and Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle Of Life ($95 million).

On its way to the box office, Kill Bill: Volume 1 carried with it the hype of a long, seven-year wait, a $55-million budget and one of this generations greatest directors (Quentin Tarantino).

But even with all that, the film only secured $22 million its opening weekend.

The following week, Kill Bill was ousted by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie that garnered bad reviews but still grossed over $28 million during the weekend (on a budget under $10 million). If only Tarantino could do that.

Critics and jaded moviegoers are quick to dismiss these films as art (and maybe they’re right), but horror movies receive criticism for the same elements that are parts of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters.

Not to point out the obvious but, the acting in the majority of horror films has been known to be a bit “rough.”

However, viewers easily accept this same sub-par performance from action stars like The Rock or Vin Diesel, who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag.

Maybe the problem most people find horror movies all have similar plots; but then why watch The Pianist (a second rate Schindler’s List) or Episodes I, II and III (a poor man’s Star Wars Trilogy).

No matter what reasoning one may have to criticize this genre, it’s clear that the public still loves a cheap fright.

And don’t worry horror patrons, you’ll have plenty of B-stream flicks to look forward to.

Chucky returns in Spawn Of Chucky (tentatively scheduled for next fall), preproduction has started on both Freddy Vs. Jason 2 (with the possible inclusion of Ash from the Evil Dead series) and Elm Street: First Kills (chronicling Freddy’s transition from child murder to dream demon) and next Halloween expect two Hellraiser sequels (VI: Deader and VII: arriving directly on DVD.

Pablo Saldana is scene’s Movies Editor and can be reached at