If you're looking for a way to get into the Halloween spirit a little early this year, MGM Studios has your first option this Friday: Kimberly Peirce's Carrie, a "reimagining" of Stephen King's horror novel and the beloved 1976 movie it spawned. But if the idea of seeing Carrie get drenched in pig's blood again doesn't do anything for you, we have some bad news: It's your only option. Carrie is the only new wide-release horror movie hitting theaters in October.
It wasn't always like this. Last year, horror fans got to choose between Sinister, Paranormal Activity 4, and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D; in 2011, there was The Thing, Paranormal Activity 3, and The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence for anybody who wanted something really extreme. So why has Hollywood dropped the ball so badly with horror movies in 2013? Here, 5 reasons:
1. Many new horror movies have migrated to video-on-demand
If you're looking to get your horror fix this October, your best bet might be staying home. Almost all this month's new (and invariably low-budget) horror movies have been relegated to limited release/video-on-demand. Fortunately, there should be something for virtually every kind of horror aficionado: Slasher horror (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), supernatural horror (Cassadaga), horror-comedy (Bad Milo), and surreal horror (Escape from Tomorrow).
2. There isn't a big Hollywood horror franchise right now
For the past decade, Hollywood has consistently relied on two horror franchises to fill the coffers: Saw and Paranormal Activity. Beginning in 2004 with Saw and ending in 2010 with Saw 3D, Lionsgate released a new entry in the franchise every year on the Friday immediately before Halloween. As the popularity of the Saw franchise waned, Paramount took over October with the found-footage horror franchise Paranormal Activity, which saw new entries in 2010, 2011, and 2012. But the delay of the upcoming Paranormal Activity 5 means that the franchise is taking a year off — leaving October 2013 as the first October in nearly a decade without a new entry in a proven horror franchise.
3. A bunch of successful wide-release horror films have already been released in 2013
With Paranormal Activity taking a year off, this might have seemed like the perfect time for a studio to take a crack at launching a brand-new horror franchise — but instead, many studios successfully used their horror movies as counter-programming to this summer's weak crop of blockbusters. In June, Universal's The Purge beat out Fox's tepidly received comedy The Internship. In July, The Conjuring towered over a field of big-budget under-performers like Red 2 and R.I.P.D. Last month, Insidious: Chapter 2 gambled on the buzz of a September "Friday the Thirteenth" release date instead of an October release — and earned over $100 million worldwide on a paltry $5 million budget. Studios are learning that audiences have a steady appetite for horror all year round — and that standing alone outside the Halloween season might be the surest way to fulfill it.
4. The awards season is unusually overstuffed
If studios aren't releasing horror movies this October, what are they releasing? In an attempt to get an early lead on awards-show buzz, many studios are releasing their Oscar hopefuls in October. Warner Bros. kicked off the month with Gravity, and Sony Pictures took the following weekend with Captain Phillips. 12 Years a Slave and The Fifth Estate are opening opposite Carrie, and the following weekend will see the release of Ridley Scott's The Counselor. With so many Oscar hopefuls dominating the lineup, space at the box-office was even scarcer than usual.
5. Halloween falls on a Thursday this year
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin for October's horror movie lineup is a simple matter of timing. This year, Halloween happens to fall on a Thursday, which wreaks havoc on scheduling. Release a horror movie on October 25, the Friday before Halloween, and you've jumped the gun on the holiday; release it November 1, the Friday after Halloween, and you've missed the buzz by a day. But any horror fans who are disappointed can take heart: With Dracula Untold, Frankenstein, and Paranormal Activity 5 already scheduled for October 2014, next year should be business as usual.