WHAT is the secret behind a hit horror film? The answer is simple -- the number of ghosts appearing on screen.
The more ghosts that appear in a movie, the bigger the chances of the film becoming a box-office hit.
This was proven in Skop Productions' current box office hit, Khurafat: Perjanjian Syaitan.
The film, directed by award-winning Syamsul Yusof, made RM2.5 million (S$1.04 million) in its first four days.
At press time, the film has collected RM5.5 million and is on its way to beat Jangan Pandang Belakang (2007) as the most successful local horror film.
Jangan Pandang Belakang, directed by Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nazri, collected RM5.7 million at the local box office.
Khurafat used the same formula as Jangan Pandang Belakang, in which ghosts appear on screen every 10 minutes, jolting and scaring the audience.
The experience of watching the two films is similar to being in a haunted house ride, where the audience anxiously waits for the ghosts to appear.
And once it appears, one will scream in delight and wait again for the next jolt.
This is why many moviegoers watched both films more than once, contributing to the films' box-office successes.
In fact, until Khurafat, no other local horror film managed to repeat the success of Jangan Pandang Belakang.
The closest was also Idham's sophomore horror film, Congkak (2008), that collected RM3.8 million at the box office.
In 2009, Jangan Tegur and Santau, both produced by MIG Productions, made RM3.2 million and RM3.4 million, respectively.
Jangan Tegur was directed by Pierre Andre, and Santau by Azahari Zain.
Thinking that moviegoers were tired of seeing too many ghosts in a movie, Idham reduced the number of spectres in his Niyang Rapik The Movie (2010).
The film still managed to make RM3.7 million.
Azahari's second film, Mantra (2010), which focused more on black magic rather than ghosts, made RM2.7 million.
James Lee's Histeria (2008) made RM2.7 million while two other horror films, Susuk (2008) and Momok The Movie (2009), made RM2 million each.
Other horror films that made more than RM1 million were Puaka Tebing Biru (RM1.5 million), Waris Jari Hantu (RM1.7 million) and Skrip 7707 (RM1.9 million).
The first two local films that opened the horror-genre market, Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam (2004) and Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam 2 (2005), made RM3.2 million and RM2.7 million, respectively.
Last December, Idham's Damping Malam, a horror film sans scary looking ghosts, only managed to collect RM1.6 million.
Damping Malam opened a week after Grand Brilliance's Janin, a horror film that also had too few ghosts in it. Directed by Yeop Hitler, the film only made RM1.4 million.
Many industry players thought that the poor turnout for Janin and Damping Malam indicated that moviegoers were already tired of horror films.
Many thought the horror-film fever was dead.
Khurafat, however, proved that "the dead" are still alive and kicking and all local moviegoers really want are more scary ghosts on screen.
And based on upcoming movie trailers, there will be a lot of screaming in cineplexes this year with the release of films like Sini Ada Hantu, Karak, Senjakala, Keramat, Flat 3A and Momok Jangan Panggil Aku.
-- New Straits Times