Spirits, curses, witches and black magic - nothing could send shivers down the audience's spine despite close to a dozen horror outings hitting the screens in 2010, leaving both ticket counters and the seats empty.
The promotional blitzkrieg didn't work for the likes of Click, Rokkk, Hide & Seek, Shaapit, Phoonk 2, Help, Mallika, Bachao and A Flat -- all strung together as horrific duds of the year.
According to trade pundits, these were approximately made on a budget of anywhere between Rs.4.5 crore and Rs.11 crore.While the filmmakers pleaded wrong release timings and dearth of people interested in watching horror, experts blamed the content.
"Horror as a genre was never a filmmaker's fancy in Bollywood except for a handful of them but the Ramsay Brothers' era is gone and times have changed now. Horror is now losing its sheen to some extent," trade analyst Atul Mohan told IANS.
Sunny Khanna, director of Mumbai-based production and distribution house Watch Tower International, said: "Last time horror worked (in 2009) and people thought horror will work in 2010 too. Industry people are forgetting that every quarter there is a new trend here. And where was the horror in these movies for that matter? It was just packaging. The heart of a movie lies in the content."
Khanna, who has been in the business for over a decade, lamented the release of movies with specific emphasis on content like last year's Raaz - The Mystery Continues and 13B that set the cash registers ringing.
The recent release to bite the dust was Wilson Louis' folktale adaptation Kaalo that released on Dec 17. Made on a budget of around Rs.3 crore, it failed to scare despite being pitched as India's first creature-based horror film.
Help, starring Bobby Deol and Mugdha Godse, was apparently the first Bollywood horror film to even release on Friday the 13th but perhaps the day of supposed ill luck proved fatal despite the producers' daring.
"These films suffered because their content was not strong enough to lure audiences and keep them glued to the screens...some also suffered due to release timings and not being marketed well. Moreover, nobody would like to scare himself at such scary ticket prices today," said Mohan.
Multiplex authorities have, however, declared the horror genre as redundant now.
"Horror doesn't work now. It's become obsolete and there is no acceptance for this genre now. Mostly it's romance and comedy that work and even thrillers and action don't work sometimes because there is a heavy flow of Hollywood content," said Yogesh Raizada, corporate head (Cinemas) of Wave Cinemas.
"And considering the exorbitant ticket prices, people prefer lighter movies than watching blood and gore," he added.
The makers, however, disagree.
"There is different audience for different genres and there is only 10 percent audience for horror movies here. And we released at a wrong time - during the Indian Premier League (IPL) - so it was the release date that went wrong," said Shawn Arranha, director of Hide & Seek, which featured newcomers.
Sajit Warrier, whose Rahul Bose-starrer thriller Fired couldn't release this year, said: "It's always about the content and horror as a genre has to be experimented with in our country. Until and unless contemporary problems are involved in the story, audiences are not going to watch it."
Traversing the festival circuit now, Fired is stuck due to censorship issues over explicit content. It has been now tentatively slated for an early 2011 release. It will be followed by the likes of other horror outings like Balaji Motion Pictures' paranormal sex thriller Ragini MMS and Vikram Bhatt's Haunted. Will these break the jinx?
(Robin Bansal can be contacted at email@example.com )