Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF) loves a good horror film. Gory flicks like Saw and Hostel have put a nice, bloody shine on the studio's brand. But is an upcoming movie maybe too terrifying?

Probably not, but judging by a recent change in the marketing campaign for Captivity, one might be led to believe as much. The change I refer to actually was a forced one -- according to reports, there were enough complaints about the promotional billboards used in Los Angeles and at New York taxi tops that Lions Gate told After Dark Films, the company responsible for the movie, to pull the advertising materials.

What was so bad about the posters? They featured actress Elisha Cuthbert in stages of terror and torture reflective of the project's content. They apparently were very explicit, going so far as to show hideous tubes and a bloody finger.

Does this help or hurt Lions Gate's prospects at the box office? In my mind, the studio can only benefit from this controversy. In my opinion, the audience that heads out on opening weekend for this category of entertainment thrives on this kind of backlash. It immediately confers upon Captivity an aura of taboo -- is it too scary to see? News Corp. (NYSE:NWS) is betting that its television campaign for the sequel to last year's remake of Wes Craven's classic The Hills Have Eyes, which trumpets that many critics found the first movie disturbing, will fill seats at the multiplex.

Hard-core horror fans -- what I like to think of as the "Fango crowd", as in the devoted readers of the very famous horror magazine Fangoria -- can be very difficult to please. They want nothing less than raw, visceral mayhem up on the screen. These consumers go to conventions to meet up with George A. Romero, Tom Savini, and many other gods of the genre; they're not fooling around, they're upfront about what they want -- a great, intense story with a lot of entrails lying on the cutting room floor (and by cutting room floor, I don't mean the editing room). If the controversy delivers this audience, and if Captivity delivers the gruesome goods, then word of mouth from this group will be very value-adding, especially in this day of widespread viral marketing on the Internet.

None of this is to say that Lions Gate and After Dark purposely engineered this; in fact, the ads were never supposed to be released as they were, and After Dark says this was the result of a mistake. Nevertheless, Captivity is now on a lot more radars than before, and I'll bet that a fair amount of the mindshare who now know about the movie is intrigued. That can only help the picture, which is scheduled to open in May, a very competitive time for movies in general, especially for horror movies.

Lions Gate is a feisty studio with no reservation when it comes to engaging the darker side of cinema -- it's a great way to compete against majors such as Disney (NYSE:DIS), Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), and Viacom (NYSE:VIA). Sure, there will be some turned off by the idea of Captivity now that its initial advertising images have been declared off limits for public consumption, but there might be a whole lot of horror fans counting the days till the movie's release to see what all the fuss is about. Again, if Captivity is as fascinating as the hype, then the film will please Lions Gate's shareholders. If not, there's always the sequel to Hostel, due in theaters this June.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney. He has written a few horror screenplays (any agents out there?). As of this writing, he was ranked 12,326 out of 24,861 investors in the CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.