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Are unrated horror movies the new 3-D?

October 7, 2010 |  2:07 pm

Spit on grave

A beautiful young woman travels to a charming cabin in secluded woods, where morally deprived locals inflict hideous acts of torture and degradation. Revenge ensues involving bear traps, baseball bats and rusty hedge clippers.

That pretty much sums up director Steven R. Monroe's reboot of the 1979 cult classic "I Spit on Your Grave," which reaches theaters on Friday.

But while the original was a controversial exercise in torture porn -- and was named to Time magazine's Top 10 Ridiculously Violent movies thanks to its extended scenes of gang rape and graphic depictions of murder -- the new "I Spit on Your Grave" is making headlines around Hollywood for a different reason: It's the second horror movie this month to be released in major markets without an MPAA rating.

Last Friday, an unrated version of "Hatchet II" was carried by 60 theaters in the nationwide AMC chain, the widest opening for an unrated film in a quarter-century.

Far from treating the absence of an MPAA rating as a liability, marketers of this new wave of horror are making it part of the sales pitch. "Unforgiving. Uncompromising," read title cards cropping up between scenes of ultra-violence in the "I Spit on Your Grave" trailer. "Unmerciful. Unapologetic." More violence and mayhem ensues. "Unrated," the narrator intones.

The trailer for "Hatchet II," meanwhile, declares: "...For the first time in over 25 years, a horror film is coming to American major cinemas uncensored, uncut, uncompromised. Gore like you've never seen in the theater before." The play is clear: turn the absence of a rating into a novelty, like 3-D.

Unrated DVDs are common enough to be forgettable. But getting an NC-17, or opting to go unrated, usually works like kryptonite against theatrical releases.

While attitudes are starting to change -- Darren Aronofsky's surrealistic junkie drama "Requiem for a Dream," for instance, reached 90 theaters in its unrated form and grossed a respectable $3.6 million -- unrated films have also misfired. After howls of injustice from Oscilloscope Films chief (and part-time Beastie Boy) Adam Yauch about the MPAA's NC-17, the Holocaust documentary "A Film Unfinished" was released unrated in just five theaters to gross a lackluster $135,000. And Lars Von Trier's graphic and deliberately provocative "Antichrist" -- a movie for which NC-17 does not begin to cover the spread -- arrived in theaters without rating to a measly $404,000 domestic take.

These new horror movies are trying to change that, though they may have to work harder: Despite its brazen campaign, "Hatchet II" averaged fewer than 10 people at any given screening on its opening weekend.

-- Chris Lee

Photo: "I Spit on Your Grave" poster. Credit: Anchor Bay

Comments () | Archives (8)

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What does 'Unrated' have to do with '3D'? I don't see the connection, and your article really doesn't seem to tie them together. In any case, by using the title 'Are Unrated Horror Movies the New 3-D?', you're implying that Unrated movies are going to replace 3-D ones... I don't see that. Considering the audience for horror movies is generally in the 13-25 age range, I don't think it makes a lot of sense to release your movie unrated unless you have more sophistication than the typical slasher or torture porn film.

I do think there's a lot of experimentation going on with 3D in horror, and the jury may still be out on how those numbers fall into place, or how audiences react to it.

The MPAA is a total joke. A movie like Jackass 3D has a member of the cast getting painted in excrement and they get an R. Where 2 horror movies get an NC-17. I think a real person covered in excrement warrants a worse rating than a totally fictitious over the top horror character like in Hatchet 2.

Sorry if i seem dumb being a Brit , but how is it possible to release a film on general release without a rating ? I was under the misinformed idea that the ratings system ( which is a waste of time here in the USA as it doesn't stop moronic parents taking babes in push chairs into R movies ) was an attempt to at least give a guide outside the home ( where what goes on is the responsibility of good parenting - laughter ensues ! ) as to the content and so age guidance to a film and its audience ?

How quickly things change.

Hatchet II was peremptorily pulled from theaters for reasons no one can provide.

LA Times, an industry town newspaper, hasn't asked why.

Not much of a trendsetter, eh? Anyway, we hope not.

@ Uncle Bob Martin - I think the last paragraph of the article answers that question pretty definitively.

Really, LAResident_2010? You don't get that the suggestion that unrated releases are the new 3D implies that it is just one more gimmick in getting people to fill theater seats? Do you need everything spelled out?

That 'Hatchet II' statistic was staggering. I figured it'd do better than that. I'm seeing 'Scar' at the Culver Plaza Theatres tonight, not rated R, but I've heard it's really intense.

If the reviews for ISoYG are any indication, it will also disappear from theaters just as quickly as Hatchet II.

Film makers need to get it through their heads that people want to see entertaining movies. Putting together a garbage film and then using the Unrated ploy to draw in audiences will not be enough.

Warner Bros. could probably distribute an unrated, 3-D version of the next Batman movie and have a blockbuster. Would it be a blockbuster because it was unrated? No. Would it be due to the 3-D? No. It would do huge numbers simply because it was an entertaining Batman film.


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