Nicole Sperling
April 18, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

There was no pig’s blood spilling from the rafters, but last weekend’s Prom Night was still one to remember. The remake of a second-rate horror flick from 1980 starring Jamie Lee Curtis — updated with a new teen cast and less embarrassing dresses — slashed the competition. Its $21 million haul was the best bow for a screamer in the last six months.

Credit Screen Gems, Sony Pictures’ low-budget genre arm, which is making a killing by removing the gore and violence from campy, semi-forgotten horror movies. (They’re removing the stars, too: Prom Night‘s biggest name was Brittany Snow.) In 2006, a suspense-heavy version of 1979’s When a Stranger Calls made $48 million. Even before Prom Night‘s major success with teenage girls, the studio had been planning tamer (read: PG-13) versions of the 1987 chiller The Stepfather with Gossip Girl‘s Penn Badgley, along with updates of 1981’s Hell Night and 1985’s Fright Night. ”If you are going to make a movie for a bunch of kids, you have to make it PG-13,” says Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper. ”You try not to make a movie for an audience that is older than your protagonist.” With torture-porn franchises like Saw and Hostel wearing out their welcome, these remakes are likely to keep girls screaming in theaters — and Screen Gems screaming all the way to the bank.

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