Blood lust: Fright flicks a bright spot

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Studios looking to scare up some business this year will continue to turn to horror movies, often cheap to make and relatively easy to market.

A scan of this year's releases shows that the onslaught of gore, much of it extremely graphic and R-rated, is just beginning. A spate of fright flicks are launching, from the envelope-pushing "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" to "Saw 3" and remakes of "When a Stranger Calls" and "The Hills Have Eyes."

Lionsgate, which has created a franchise out of the grisly "Saw" movies, will put a sequel to "Hostel" (a surprise No. 1 movie with $19.5 million on its opening weekend) on the fast track for an `07 release. Among the other offerings will be "See No Evil," "The Descent," which premieres tonight at the Sundance Film Festival, and the werewolf movie "Skinwalkers."

Studios have found that the movies, often high-concept stories that don't require big-money stars, do well in their feature release and on DVD, with the inevitable unrated and directors' cuts raking in extra cash. The majors tend to stick to the slightly less intense PG-13 rated horror films, while the indies and boutiques take the grittier route.

Looking for a new marketing hook, Fox is launching "Omen 666" on a Tuesday. By doing so, Fox will be able to tout the movie's ominous launch date: 6/6/06.

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