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Five Examples of Why You Should Stick to the Supernatural When Making a Horror Movie

'Insidious 2' marks the latest spectral-themed scarer to power ticket sales

When it comes to the horror genre and box office potential, the biggest truism is that it’s all about the movie.

Horror films, in particular, have some of the most fervent fans, which can make for an impressive opening weekend box office. Consider this weekend’s “Insidious Chapter 2,” which made a revised $40.3 million and already has spurred a three-quel. Other such cult hits to debut well included 2009’s “Friday the 13th” remake, which scored $40.6 million during opening weekend, and “Nightmare on Elm Street,” with its $32.9 million start the following year.

But generally speaking, playability for that subset of horror films — meaning slasher and torture porn pics — is far less reliable.

That’s why filmmakers, who are looking to cash in on the often lucrative business of making low-budget horror movies, should skip the slasher genre and stick to good ole’ fashioned spectral storytelling.

Here are five case studies of supernatural films “killing it” at the box office, compared to their slasher brethren:

Popular on Variety

  1. The Conjuring vs. The Purge — With more than $130 million domestically (and north of $200 million worldwide), Warner Bros.-New Line’s “The Conjuring” so far has earned more than three times its opening, a standout multiple for any genre, let alone a horror film. That’s compared to Universal’s slasher/thriller “The Purge,” which bowed a month earlier, earning $64 million Stateside.
  2. Paranormal Activity vs. Saw— As the highest-grossing installment of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise to date, the 2009 original became a micro-budget box office phenomenon, grossing $107 million. The “Saw” original, meanwhile, earned $55 million Stateside in 2004.
  3. “Texas Chainsaw 3D” vs. The Devil Inside— Both films launched the first weekend in January, but a year apart. Ultimately, it was last year’s “The Devil Inside” — an original property without the benefit of higher-priced 3D — that earned more, with $53.9 million, compared to “Chainsaw 3D,” which made $34.3 million earlier this year. Takeaway? Go with demons.
  4. “Mama” vs. “Evil Dead” — As with the previous example, “Mama” lacked the brand recognition of the $54 million-grossing “Evil Dead,” but it earned more ($71.6 million).
  5. Scream 4vs. Paranormal Activity 4— Neither film impressed at the box office, by any standard, though “Paranormal 4” wound up grossing $53 million vs. the $38 million Stateside tally for “Scream 4.” That said, the latter film saw a slightly higher theatrical multiple based on its domestic opening.

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