And you thought the subprime-mortgage crisis was scary. Drag Me to Hell— Spiderman director Sam Raimi's latest movie, which hits theaters this weekend—is the latest flick to capitalize on horror films’ popularity during economic downturns. Featuring the torturous tale of a loan officer who falls under a curse after evicting an old woman from her home, Drag Me to Hell is bound to join recent scary-movie successes like Friday the 13th, which raked in $65 million at the box office, and My Bloody Valentine 3-D, which made $51 million. Why do belt-tightening audiences shell out for the scares? "It's a way of dealing with our frustrations and fears without having to face them," says Jeff Bock, a box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations Co. “We’d rather face Jason or Freddy.” And hard-times horror movies often play on the particular anxieties of the downturn they’re born in. The Daily Beast asked Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, to sort through the guts and gore and find the links between recessions past and their ogres du jour.
Megan Angelo is a former reporter at Conde Nast Portfolio and a contributing blogger at AOL's Walletpop.