Rings, the long-delayed horror sequel, has died an ignominious death at the box office and taken a drubbing from the critics. The Hollywood Reporter is saying that such a pasting has made Platinum Dunes, the studio behind the film, a little gunshy around horror, and they’ve pulled the plug on their new iteration of Friday the 13th, which was due to shoot in March.
Director Breck Eisner, who called the shots on the pretty decent remake of The Crazies a few years back, was prepping for the film, although no cast had yet been announced when Platinum Dunes pulled the plug. THR speculated that the poor performance of Rings was the key influence here, citing an unnamed source as saying, “…the production was not ready to go at this date.”
That seems like a pretty long bow to draw. Platinum Dunes made its bones with horror, beginning with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre back in 2003, and have always kept a place for the bloody-handed genre on their production slate, having given us a number of remakes (The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, A Nightmare on Elm Street and, funnily enough, the 2009 Friday the 13th) as well as original fare like The Unborn, Horsemen and, in conjunction with Blumhouse, the Purge series. Platinum Dunes stepping away from horror would be like Disney stepping away from animation. It’s not likely to happen.
Secondly, while Rings and Friday the 13th are both horror movies, they’re very different examples of the genre, and the audience for the lank-haired spookiness of one is not necessarily the same audience that goes for the arterial thrills of a slasher flick like the other – although there is crossover.
Thirdly, Breck Eisner is capable, in theory, of producing a better movie than Rings. Then again, judging by the reviews, so are most people, and your smarter breed of dog.
And fourthly – and this is probably the key fact – Rings only cost $25 million to make. It’ll wind up in the black once streaming and home release are factored in. And that’s as it should be – that’s how the model for low budget horror works. You don’t expect every film to go through the roof; you tend your field of terrors carefully, planting a lot of seeds, and every so often one of them blooms into a Blair Witch Project or a Scream or a Paranormal Activity. There’s a reason why we don’t get too many A-list horrors – they’re a gamble, and it’s much easier to gamble $10-$25 million than $150 million (as the producers of this year’s The Mummy are about to learn – there’s a good chance Alex Kurtzman will never direct again).
We’ll learn the real reason why Friday the 13th got canned in due course, but it’s almost certainly not because Rings keeled over. And if it is, well, whoever made the call has no idea how the genre they’re working in functions in the marketplace.