Final Girls illustrated the moral split between the chaste and the virtuous. You know the deal – the hard-drinking, promiscuous girl dies first, and the demure, virginal girl survives to take down the murderer. She’s the final one standing. Pop culture is replete with characters that fit the bill – Jess Bradford in the original Black Christmas, Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nancy Thompson in The Nightmare on Elm Street – and their existence has become as integral to the slasher genre as the killers themselves.
(Photo by Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection)
But that was then and this is now. The original Final Girl is slowly but surely being crowded out by a newer, more progressive iteration that acknowledges the restrictive ideas that initially gave birth to her. Over the last couple of decades, and particularly in the last 10 years, the last girl standing has looked a lot different from the final girls of the past. Progressively, in films like Scream, The Cabin In The Woods and It Follows, final girls have complicated the existing frame of the trope by pushing against its restrictions.
Whether it’s by having sex, refusing to be constricted by archaic ideas of femininity, or simply by teaming up to fight together, these women now survive despite leading lives the genre used to consider wholly immoral and in need of corrective punishment – they’re a new kind of Final Girl. The Final Girls who were introduced in the 1970s and 1980s have become more nuanced over time, and that progress paved the way for the Finals Girls of Ready or Not and 2019’s Black Christmas who directly confront issues of misogyny and sex negativity.
In some ways, the New Final Girl is almost the original Final Girl’s polar opposite. Rather than surviving because of her innocence, naïveté or virginity, the New Final Girl is the woman who makes it to the end of the film alive specifically because of her rejection of the old norms about what makes a woman morally deserving. The New Final Girl embraces drink, drugs, and sex and defends her engagement in each of them. She insists on being seen as a full human being and actively, often violently defends her right to do so. Most of all, the New Final Girl is still an active participant in her own survival – she knows the original Final Girl shouldn’t have had to sand off her edges to stay alive. The New Final Girl is not a virginal survivor but an intentional fighter who asserts her right to exist despite perceived moral flaws.
(Photo by © Universal /Courtesy Everett Collection)
In the 2019 sequel slasher Happy Death Day 2U, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) finds herself once again stuck in the murderous time loop of the first film. Over and over, she relives the same day, and it ends when she is brutally murdered by a serial killer known as Babyface. In the first film, the culprit is Tree’s sorority sister and roommate Lori (Ruby Modine). The two women are both having an affair with the same married professor, and Lori’s jealousy puts Tree in her crosshairs. In the sequel, Babyface is none other than the philandering professor himself, trying to eliminate any evidence of his transgressions.
What makes Tree’s Final Girl status so interesting is that she begins the story as one of the “immoral women” who would usually die in a thriller. Tree is, by all accounts, a typical sorority mean girl. When we meet her, she is recovering from a night of partying and on her way to meet the professor she’s carrying on with. And in fact, she does die, over and over again, punished for her ruthlessness, immorality, and general misbehavior. But through the mechanics of the film itself, she evolves into a New Final Girl through sheer determination.
(Photo by © Universal /Courtesy Everett Collection)
In both films, Tree breaks her loop and returns to her life not by becoming more virtuous, but by becoming a more compassionate and considerate person. She improves and grows as a character – including ending her affair – not because those things make her unworthy of redemption, but because they are not the best choices for her as a person. She undergoes significant character growth without ever placing a moral frame on her sexuality or femininity. And through each of the infinite deaths it takes her to get there, she plots and schemes to find her killer and thwart them, determined to prevent her eventual death and save herself.
Tree is a novel subversion of the trope because it’s her death itself that furthers her character growth. Several times, she intentionally kills herself in service of a larger goal; sometimes to gather more information about her situation and sometimes to undo the murders of other characters. As a result, her deaths then become an intentional sacrifice that signals her increasing virtue, instead of confirming its absence. It’s a large departure from the way the original Final Girls functioned in films like these.
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Similarly, the evolution of Halloween’s Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) into a New Final Girl in the film’s 2018 sequel of the same name is particularly notable because the character’s first iteration was in many ways the definitive final girl – most other examples are direct descendants of her legacy. In the first film, Strode is left as the sole survivor of the serial killer Michael Myers’ murder spree – the only young woman in the film who chose to abstain from the usual vices. Her survival largely conformed to expectations for women in horror at the time, and helped to cement the trope in the genre.
But in the film’s most recent sequel – which retcons several that had come before –Laurie is now an older woman, driven to extremes by her fixation on stopping Myers’ return. In the 40 years since the events of the first film, Laurie has grown into an obsessive, battle-worn veteran of the war in her own mind. She may not be having sex or doing drugs, but she’s far from the pure, “likable” babysitter we met decades earlier. She is convinced that Myers will return and has devoted her life to preparing for that eventuality. In the process she has lost custody of her daughter and become estranged from her daughter’s family. She is perceived as a lonely old woman too traumatized by her past to move on.
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Of course, Myers does eventually return. But this time Laurie is ready for him, having rigged her entire house to trap and kill him. Whereas in 1978 she was permitted to survive by virtue of her moral purity, in 2018 she fights like hell for that survival, taking active steps to make sure that Myers can no longer victimize her. She takes the lead in tracking Myers down and trapping him on her home turf. After spending years contemplating and preparing for the return of his torment, Laurie has transformed herself into the Ultimate Final Girl through sheer force of will. She has no intention of being defeated yet again.
Critically, Laurie must also protect her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Virginia Gardener) this time around, folding them into a generational legacy of victimization and defense. When the threat they have dismissed for so long reveals itself to be real, they join forces with Laurie to fight and eliminate it – Myers is now a specter that haunts them all, the source of their estrangement and the origin of their familial trauma. Defeating Myers together connects the women as Final Girls of a new generation, forcing them all to overlook their own and each other’s flaws in order to face the embodiment of their fractured relationships. Laurie leads the charge, but her family takes up her mantle.
This isn’t to say that the old trope never survives. In fact, Allyson’s best friend Vicky is killed during a babysitting job soon after letting her wayward boyfriend into the house. It wouldn’t be a stretch to interpret her death as the same kind of stark moral judgement that historically happened in slasher films. This is especially true given the contrast with Allyson’s own encounter with Myers. After her boyfriend’s best friend inappropriately propositions her, he is immediately murdered while she survives. His overeager instinct to breach her consent should absolutely have been corrected, but death is a disproportionate response. The message couldn’t be clearer: all sexual impulses exist along the same punishable continuum, regardless of how welcome they might be to the participants involved.
(Photo by © Neon /Courtesy Everett Collection)
One of the starkest examples of this shift in recent years is 2018’s Assassination Nation, which explored the trope in thrilling style. Set in conservative Salem, the movie focuses on a group of teen girls who find themselves at the center of a small-town lynch mob when they are blamed for the release of the community’s private information. The girls are not guilty of the mass doxing, but their reputations as “loose women” make them ideal targets for the ire and anger of the town’s men and boys.
The girls — Lily (Odessa Young), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef), and Em (Abra) – are known at their high school for their skimpy outfits, their questionable choices in boys, and their perceived promiscuity. They are open about and proud of their burgeoning sexuality and enjoy exploring their relationships to the men in their lives. Lily is dating an abusive high school boy and carrying on an illicit affair with a married neighbor. Bex is trans and keeping her relationship with the popular football player a secret at his request. Sarah and Em are living with their mother Nance, who is implied to be operating a brothel out of her home.
When the community devolves into ultraviolence, the citizens hunt the girls across the town, determined to punish them for being forced to confront their own once-private sexual shames. As the balance of power shifts, the horror genre tropes follow in quick succession. From a coordinated home invasion to a horde of masked killers to the use of guns and baseballs bats — the most American of weapons — the girls suddenly find themselves in the middle of their very own slasher film.
(Photo by © Neon /Courtesy Everett Collection)
At another time, all four of these women would be fated to die before the credits rolled. Their proximity to vice marks them as fallen women, and only the morally pure survive the transformative power of abject terror. But as New Final Girls, all four of them not only survive but continue on to restore order to the town. The girls rescue each other from the outsized violence the men are trying to inflict on them (including an attempted rape and hanging) and take up arms to defend themselves both literally and in abstract. The film ends as they deliver a call to action to the town’s girls, surrounded by bodies and covered in glitter, both claiming the righteousness of their femininity and rejecting the ubiquity of patriarchal terror. Through female solidarity they all survive and mete out the violence necessary to do so.
Assassination Nation is unique in that the girls are explicitly targeted because of their sexuality – usually, this aspect of the genre is left as subtext. But here, the trope is almost deconstructed by bringing both the reasons for their attack and subsequent defense to the surface. They become New Final Girls because, given the plot constraints, their only options are to transform themselves or die.
(Photo by © Universal Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection)
Teenaged Laurie Strode and college-aged Tree Gelbman might have led different lives and made different choices, but when it came down to it, they both survived because they resolved to fight and refused to die. The haunting specter of violent masculinity came for all the women mentioned here, and they all triumphed, even under the restrictive gaze of a society that expects feminine perfection. But no matter how stark the contrast may be, these changes are progressive strides that honor the history of the slasher genre in inventive ways while bringing them into the contemporary moment. The Final Girl survived, but the New Final Girl thrives, and she’s ready to fight again another day.
Follow Catherine Young on Twitter @battymamzelle
Horror has a way of making an unlit hallway look like a trek through hell, inducing heart attacks though jumping cats, and transforming everyday tools like chainsaws and double-barrel shotguns into instruments of doom. The marketing and posters for Us suggests that Jordan Peele’s new horror flick will do for golden scissors what Get Out did for tea cups, which also happens to be one of selections for the 25 most iconic props from horror movie history! Read on to get your fill of creaky carriages, demonic dolls, and bloody blades.
Jigsaw is back in theaters this Friday, bringing back memories of the bygone era between 2004 and 2010 (the release years of the first and last Saw movies) when every horror movie released seemed to fall under the guise of ‘torture porn.’ They involved inflicting the most amount of pain in the slowest way possible, where dark fates could lead to death, or something worse: living on, literally broken in body and mind. Relive the pain with 24 best and worst (mostly worst) torture porn movies pieced and sorted by Tomatometer!
Rings is out in theaters this week, continuing the ghostly VHS story started by the first American Ring 15 years ago. Not a bad length for a horror franchise that started this century, but in this week’s gallery we look at 24 series that have been taking a stab at audiences for over two decades. Remember: If your franchise has gone over four movies without a Fresh rating, consult a script doctor.
We here at RT went deep into the vault of horror franchises to tally up the victims of some of film and TV’s most deadly psycho killers. Take a peek at the results — if you dare!
Haunting Grounds: Bates Motel
Estimated Body Count: 20
Has there ever been a cinematic slasher more pitiable than Norman Bates? The poor guy is practically at war with himself, and his mom nags him from beyond the grave. Heck, every time he makes friends, they seem to end up dead. If Psycho exerted a profound influence on the slasher genre (and onscreen violence in general), it wasn’t because Norman was a particularly prolific killer. Alfred Hitchcock’s original (and the sequels) depicted a man in the clutches of inner torment and madness that was so gripping and scary that it didn’t need buckets of blood (or, in one memorable case, chocolate syrup) to be deeply unsettling. Nine deaths are attributed to Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) on the five-season AMC prequel TV series Bates Motel. But, really, who can say for sure?
Haunting Grounds: The Jeepers Creepers series
Estimated Body Count: 20
When Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote “Jeepers Creepers” in the late 1930s, they surely never guessed their snappy little pop ditty would go on to provide the theme song for a murderous winged creature who possesses a bee- and dog-like ability to smell fear, and who can regenerate body parts by ingesting those of his victims. And that’s not all — the Creeper can also overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews, too! Although critics kept 2001’s Jeepers Creepers from a Fresh certification, the Creeper was back just two years later with a sequel, and there was even talk of a third installment. Not bad for a bad guy who’s limited to a single 23-day feeding frenzy every 23 years, right?
Haunting Grounds: The Thing from Another World, The Thing, The Thing
Estimated Body Count: 20
Human beings have long wondered what otherworldy monstrosities might be lurking out in the far reaches of space, which helps to explain the enduring appeal of John W. Campbell’s 1938 short story, Who Goes There? It’s the tale of an Antarctic research team that unwittingly rescues a malevolent alien from an icy grave. The creature repays the favor by forcibly (and messily) assimilating every living being within reach, including 20 unlucky scientists and a handful of dogs. Campbell’s monster — referred to as the Thing — has provided rich fodder for filmmakers over the decades, inspiring 1951’s The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter’s 1982 cult classic The Thing, and, most recently, the 2011 prequel/reboot of the same name.
Haunting Grounds: The Jaws series
Estimated Body Count: ~21, if you count the whale in Jaws 2
Most of the slashers on our list are bona fide film icons, but few of them can boast of having changed the entire industry the way Peter Benchley’s great white shark did: Before Jaws‘ 1975 debut, studios actually held their big films out of the summer market, believing the vacation months to be a commercial graveyard. Almost $500 million (and lots of bloody ocean water) later, a franchise was born — and although the third and fourth installments aren’t good for much besides unintentional humor, the original remains a certified classic with a 98 percent Tomatometer rating. Granted, the kill count here takes into consideration the havoc wreaked by multiple great whites over the course of the franchise, but it merely illustrates what Benchley already knew: the ocean is scary enough even without a gigantic bloodthirsty shark chasing you around, so tossing one in the mix just ups the ante.
Haunting Grounds: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series
Estimated Body Count: 30
The twisted true-life tale of grave robber Ed Gein has inspired many notable cinematic grotesques, from Norman Bates in Psycho to Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. However, Tobe Hooper may have done the most to immortalize Gein in the annals of perverse pop culture by emphasizing his habit of making clothing out of human flesh. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced Leatherface, a developmentally disabled fellow under the control of his cannibalistic family. Though he started out as a pretty timid guy who was as afraid of visitors as they were of him, Leatherface came out of his shell in the sequels and reboots, making up for lost time in liberally employing his Poulan 306A.
Haunting Grounds: The Hellraiser series
Estimated Body Count: 35
By the late 1980s, the slasher genre was starting to feel a little stale — and then along came Pinhead, the sadomasochistic leader of the extradimensional pack of hooligans known as the Cenobites. The spike-headed hook fetishist wasn’t featured heavily in 1987’s Hellraiser, but Pinhead’s combination of creepy appearance, selective taste for victims, and clear fondness for gruesome torture stole the movie; throughout the eight-film series (four of which were released straight to DVD), Pinhead has remained the only constant, and for good reason: although his body count may be relatively low, no one else can match his prowess with a sharp, well-placed hook.
Haunting Grounds: The Child’s Play series
Estimated Body Count: ~38
Chucky may have devolved into a pint-sized Tony Clifton at this point, but the original Child’s Play was a superior genre piece — creepy, suspenseful, and blessed with an insidious sense of humor. Child’s Play riffed on the idea of innocence gone horribly wrong, with a quasi-Cabbage Patch Kid embodied by a vicious serial killer thanks to a voodoo ritual. Subsequent sequels — the most recent of which, Curse of Chucky, just recently made its way onto home video — have delivered more camp than scares, but Chucky’s left a trail of more than 35 corpses in his wake — and probably didn’t enamor himself to Teddy Ruxpin.
Haunting Grounds: The Nightmare on Elm Street series
Estimated Body Count: ~39
Arguably the most recognizable movie monster of the 1980s, Freddy Krueger may not be able to compete with other horror icons when it comes to killing in bulk. But the dermatologically-challenged Elm Street resident certainly wins points for style; in addition to his expert use of claw-tipped leather gloves, Freddy is adept at shape-shifting, strangulation, and generating geysers of blood from the bodies of future heartthrobs. Even accounting for the various forms Freddy has taken over the years in his efforts to turn the sweetest dreams dark and bloody, we’ve got his kill count somewhere in the vicinity of 39. That might be fewer than one might expect, but Mr. Krueger is an artiste who chooses his victims very specifically.
Haunting Grounds: The Final Destination series
Estimated Body Count: 39
Remember the old margarine commercials that said you can’t fool Mother Nature? Well, according to the Final Destination series, you can’t cheat Fate, either. It’s often said that revenge is a dish best served cold — but for the unseen hand of Fate, it tastes even better when garnished with a series of incredibly brutal (and, it must be said, very morbidly entertaining) booby traps. The series’ unseen antagonist has dispatched 39 victims, using everything from the mundane (death by falling brick) to the cleverly rewind-worthy (shower cord strangulation, ladder through the eye, death by falling cherry picker). By the time we surpassed The Final Destination and got Final Destination 5, the series was clearly aware of its silly appeal, and each creatively choreographed death was equally as hilarious as it was cringeworthy.
Haunting Grounds: The Scream franchise, Scream (TV series)
Estimated Body Count: 49
One of the rare slasher antagonists who’s a killer by committee, the Scream series’ Ghostface is played by a revolving door of mask-donning, knife-wielding psychopaths. Their motives are different (peer pressure, revenge, etc.), but the results are the same, no matter who wears the Edward Munch-inspired getup: teenagers will turn up dead, following the conventions of horror movies. And, as with other horror franchises, the body count increases with each sequel. Adding to the mayhem was the first season of MTV’s Scream, which aired this summer. All in all, this council of killers is responsible for at least 49 slayings.
Haunting Grounds: The Leprechaun series
Estimated Body Count: 50
The Leprechaun series is the embodiment of the finest that Irish culture and letters has to offer, easily surpassing the works of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. The titular antihero is murderously committed to acquiring a pot o’ gold, an undertaking that prompts travel to such exotic locales as Las Vegas, Compton, and outer space. Despite his diminutive stature, the Leprechaun’s super-sharp claws and teeth have helped him tally 50 onscreen fatalities, including a very young Jennifer Aniston, who made her big screen debut in the first film.
Haunting Grounds: The Saw series
Estimated Body Count: 60
John Kramer was first christened “Jigsaw” by detectives who discovered the serial killer’s calling card was a puzzle piece-shaped hunk of flesh carved from the corpses of his victims. The name stuck as the cops closed in on Kramer and realized his elaborate, irony-laden traps were designed to punish those he deemed guilty of criminal acts or taking life for granted (he must have been a fan of Se7en). More characters and plot twists (Jigsaw doesn’t work alone! Something about cancer!) were introduced as the series wore on, and Saw evolved into a labyrinthine annual soap opera drenched in blood and agony. A Grand Guignol for our times.
Haunting Grounds: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising, Hannibal (TV)
Estimated Body Count: 98
Before 1991, you may not have even known what fava beans were — but after Anthony Hopkins’ first appearance as Doctor Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, nobody ever thought of them the same way again. Like Jason Voorhees, Lecter doesn’t appear in much of the famous reboot — he’s only in a little over 15 minutes of Lambs — but it was the first time we actually witnessed the good doctor rack up a few kills on screen (both Manhunter and its remake Red Dragon only imply Lecter’s murdered some folks), and audiences had a clear, um, appetite for the flesh-craving serial killer’s brand of mayhem: he’s gone on to appear in a number of other books and movies. Although we just saw the end of Hannibal‘s three-season run on NBC, series creator Bryan Fuller insists we haven’t seen the last of Lecter just yet.
Haunting Grounds: The Halloween series, minus Season of the Witch
Estimated Body Count: ~107
The best-known escapee of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, Michael Myers has never been a big fan of babysitters, nor is he particularly fleet of foot. He digs Blue Oyster Cult, and makes special use of Star Trek paraphernalia and kitchen cutlery. Since the release of John Carpenter’s landmark Halloween, Myers’ legend has been told in a number of sequels, and if his reasons for killing are obscure, he’s still coldly efficient at the task; he’s racked up a whopping 100-plus notches on his belt.
Haunting Grounds: The Invisible Man (1933)
Estimated Body Count: 123
We were shocked (shocked!) to discover that killers with high body counts could even be found in Old Hollywood fare. Based on the H.G. Wells 1897 novel, James Whale’s pre-code horror film featured Claude Rains (Casablanca) in his American film debut as the titular villain, also known as Dr. Jack Griffin. Hiding away in a snowy village, Griffin experiments on himself while working on a drug called “monocane,” which he believes is the secret to invisibility. Although he does succeed in turning himself invisible, he also becomes a crazed murderer. Killing those who get in his way, and a train full of people just for kicks, Griffin eventually causes the death of 123 people – including himself.
Haunting Grounds: The Friday the 13th series
Estimated Body Count: 146
Rocking facial protection that would do Jacques Plante proud, Jason Voorhees terrorized Camp Crystal Lake with cold precision (and an ability to cheat death that Rasputin would envy) in Friday the 13th. Occasionally, he breaks out of the bucolic confines of the countryside to wreak havoc in the big city (Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan), Hades (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday), and the future (Jason X). According to our research, Jason has put a whopping 146 unfortunate souls on ice. Pretty impressive for a cat who drowned in 1958.
En español: Read this article in Spanish at Tomatazos.com.
Five new films push their way into nationwide release on Friday hoping to challenge two-time champ The Rock making for what should be a free-for-all at the North American box office with many different studios having a realistic shot at claiming the number one spot. Among the top contenders are Sony’s crime thriller We Own the Night, the Lionsgate comedy Why Did I Get Married?, and the George Clooney vehicle Michael Clayton which expands nationally after its scorching debut in limited release. Adding to the mix are the costume drama Elizabeth: The Golden Age and the baseball tale The Final Season. The box office race should be a tight one with as many as four films likely to reach the low double digit millions.
Oscar nominated actors Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix face off as brothers on different sides of the law in the new action thriller We Own the Night. The R-rated pic co-stars Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes and will target an adult audience with a slightly male skew. The former Marky Mark proved his box office pull last spring as the only major star in Shooter which bowed to $14.5M and a $5,176 average by targeting the same audience. Things will be more difficult this time because of the intense competition for mature audiences especially from Michael Clayton. But Night‘s biggest advantage over Michael is that it has two commercial stars instead of just one. The combo should lead to a slim edge at the cash registers.
Despite its awkward title, Night has been pushing itself as an action-packed thriller with faces people love to watch. Reviews have been mixed and with such a crowded field, it will be hard to stand out as a must-see option. Starpower should be the main factor here and showdowns between two solid actors are usually popular with ticket buyers. Opening in over 2,000 theaters, We Own the Night could debut to about $12M.
Clayton will test his drawing power since the film has no other box office anchors in it. Co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack are well-respected, but they don’t sell tickets. There is plenty of direct competition which is why the film got a head start a week early. Buzz from its red hot platform bow has spread helping to build interest. The crowd will consist of the same people that opened Syriana to $11.7M, The Black Dahlia to $10M, and Zodiac to $13.4M. Night will take away some males and Elizabeth will steal some females so a huge gross will be hard to find. But over the long-term the film could have legs. Expanding into 2,511 locations, Michael Clayton stands as the widest of the new offerings and may capture around $11M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
Married does not have the promotional value of Black History Month or the help of Presidents Day which Girls had early this year. However, Perry’s new film will not face any direct competitors for its target audience. Girls had to face the second weekend of Eddie Murphy‘s hit comedy Norbit which offered some audience overlap. Plus Married boasts more starpower with Perry back on screen and an added boost will come from Janet Jackson who is always a strong draw at the box office with the target audience every time she makes a rare appearance in a movie. The PG-13 film from Lionsgate is unlike anything else in the marketplace right now and with few buzzworthy films aimed at black moviegoers in recent months, it should successfully connect. Debuting in 2,011 theaters, Why Did I Get Married? might open with roughly $12M this weekend.
The first Elizabeth opened in limited release in November 1998 and rolled through awards season that winter eventually reaching an impressive $30M while never playing in more than 600 theaters. It also bagged seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture. Now the studio is hoping that a built-in audience will want to take another trip to the past. Though the first was an acclaimed picture, no real demand ever surfaced for a sequel. So it will be tough for Golden Age at the box office especially with all the competition. Female-led dramas often struggle in the marketplace since it is often too hard for adult women to drag men with them to the multiplex for these stories. New films from Clooney and Wahlberg offer more cross-gender appeal. Ordering her troops into 2,000 theaters on Friday, Elizabeth: The Golden Age might take home about $8M over the three-day period.
Paramount and DreamWorks were caught by surprise by the lack of strength for the opening of the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid. With nothing to keep it afloat, a 45% decline might be in order especially since adults will be distracted by a wide assortment of other options. That would give the Farrelly brothers a sophomore session of about $7.5M and a cume of only $25.5M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: Sony used the Friday the 13th before Halloween to launch the sequel to one of the most successful horror films in history and captured the number one spot. The Grudge 2 bowed on top with $20.8M accounting for more than half of its $39.1M final. Eventual Oscar champ The Departed slipped to second with $19M easing only 29% for Warner Bros. The Robin Williams political comedy Man of the Year debuted in third with $12.3M before finishing with a disappointing $37.3M for Universal. Rounding out the top five were the Sony toon Open Season with $11.1M and New Line’s fright franchise flick Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning with $7.5M for a steep 60% plunge. Opening with weak results in sixth was the action pic The Marine with $7.1M on its way to $18.8M for Fox. The religious-themed drama One Night with the King bowed to $4.1M with a good $4,518 average and finished with $13.4M for 8X.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Following a six-week streak of R-rated films topping the charts, The Rock‘s family comedy The Game Plan led the box office last weekend. Now, adult fare comes back to claim the crown with the new Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid which is aiming for an easy number one debut. Also opening nationally are the fantasy adventure The Seeker: The Dark is Rising and the music-filled drama Feel the Noise. With the Columbus Day holiday falling on Monday, some students will have extra time off making for a solid start for the month of October.
Almost a decade after There’s Something About Mary became a sleeper smash, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly reunite with Stiller for another raunchy relationship comedy with The Heartbreak Kid. A remake of the 1972 film written by Neil Simon, the Paramount release stands as another number one hit inherited from the DreamWorks factory. The pic tells the story of a man who marries too early and then falls for another woman during his honeymoon. In the past year, the R-rated envelope-pushing comedies Borat, Knocked Up, and Superbad grossed nearly $400M in combined domestic box office proving that there is gold to be mined in this genre when films are made well and deliver the laughs that audiences want.
Plus star-driven comedies with major Hollywood faces routinely lure moviegoers away from the home and into the multiplexes. Heartbreak will probably not reach the $30.7M opening weekend figure of Knocked Up which had more buzz plus opened in June when most college students were out of school. But reviews so far have been quite good for this type of film so adults will certainly give it a try. And with so many dark and serious films about outlaws, vigilantes, and terrorists out there, audiences definitely want something light and funny right now. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, The Heartbreak Kid may debut with about $27M this weekend.
The Middle East drama The Kingdom has been ranking number one during the week since kids are busy with school and less able to see Game Plan. Universal should see a 45% drop to about $9.5M which would put the Jamie Foxx actioner at $32M after ten days. Look for Resident Evil: Extinction to slide 50% to roughly $4M leaving Sony with $43M to date.
LAST YEAR: October kicked off with a bang with the top spot debut of Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed with $26.9M. Warner Bros. went on to gross $132.4M domestically and $288M worldwide plus scored four Oscars including the coveted Best Picture statue. Opening in second place with $18.5M was Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which was the first of three horror sequels that month. New Line found its way to $39.5M. Sony’s toon hit Open Season dropped to third with $15.6M in its sophomore frame. The Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month bowed in fourth with $11.4M on its way to $28.4M. The Guardian rounded out the top five with $9.6M in its second weekend.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
According to Moviehole.net, none other than Ms. Jordana Brewster will be stepping into the role made famous by Angelina Jolie. Jordana is certainly not a stranger to genre fans; she can be found in flicks like "The Faculty," "The Fast and the Furious," "D.E.B.S.," and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." Oh, and she was also in "Annapolis," but we forgive her for that.
Filming will begin in a few months, and ABC is looking at a Fall 2007 slot for the series. Apparently the pilot episode of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" will pick up six months after the movie left off. No word yet on who’ll be snagging the Brad Pitt role. I’m guessing it will be someone attractive.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a new take on the first Noel ("The Nativity Story," starring Keisha Castle-Hughes), endangered Americans in Brazil ("Turistas," starring Melissa George), and a hard partying expat ("Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj," starring Kal Penn). What do the critics have to say?
It may be based on The Greatest Story Ever Told, but critics say "The Nativity Story" is hardly the greatest movie ever made — or even a particularly good one. In case you need a refresher on the origins of the upcoming holiday that may be the occasion for you to receive a Playstation 3, "The Nativity Story" tells the tale of a teenager named Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) who is to give birth to the savior of mankind — all the while dealing with political persecution and lousy hotel service. Critics say the film is too safe (strange, given director Catherine Hardwicke‘s previous films about remarkable young people, "Thirteen" and "Lords of Dogtown"), adding little spark to the most inspirational (and familiar) of sagas. "The Nativity Story" currently stands at 26 percent on the Tomatometer.
"Turistas" continues a mini-trend in slasher films that began with "Hostel": arrogant Americans getting their comeuppance in foreign locales. In this case, a group of youngsters are terrorized in Brazil after they fall into the clutches of a mad organ harvester. While some critics have praised the film’s political undertones and better-than-average tension, most say "Turistas" adds little to a stale genre. At 38 percent on the Tomatometer, this tourist trap may be worth avoiding.
"Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj" was not screened for critics, which may indicate that it has the potential to sink like a stone with the scribes. (The original "Van Wilder" garnered a robust 17 percent.) Guess that Tomatometer.
Opening this week in limited release: "10 Items or Less," a laid-back romance starring Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega, is at 53 percent; "3 Needles," a globe-spanning drama about the toll of the AIDS virus, is at 33 percent; and "The Architect," a tale of two families in conflict over a public housing structure, is at 33 percent.
Notable Biblical Epics:
51% — The Passion of the Christ (2004)
80% — The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
88% — The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1965)
96% — Ben Hur (1959)
91% — The Ten Commandments (1956)
Blood will flow and screams will be deafening at North American multiplexes this weekend when the horror sequel "Saw III" buzzes its way into theaters. While there will be no fight for the number one spot, the rest of the top ten will see new films and holdovers scrambling for high positions.
The political thriller "Catch a Fire" opens on Friday in moderate national release and the comedy "Running with Scissors" expands into major markets after an impressive debut in limited release last weekend. Meanwhile, star-driven pics "The Prestige" and "The Departed" will try to remain popular choices with adult moviegoers.
If it’s Halloween, it must be "Saw." That’s the tagline that Lionsgate hopes will keep horror fans coming back for a third helping of pain for the newest chapter in its highly profitable fright franchise, "Saw III." The R-rated film finds Jigsaw returning to terrorize another set of young people. Once again, the formula of no stars plus extreme brutality unleashing its fury on the weekend before the pumpkin holiday remains intact. Now a major player in the horror genre, Lionsgate opened its first "Saw" in 2004 to the tune of $18.3M and grew its audience over the following year, especially with DVD, to propel the sequel to a $31.7M bow. Over the last 15 months, no other R-rated film has opened better. Now, a marketplace without many exciting choices for the 17-30 age group will embrace a film, though familiar, that appeals to young adults.
This month has already seen a pair of horror franchise pics open weaker than their predecessors which bowed in mid-October of recent years. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" debuted to $18.5M, down 34% from the $28.1M of 2003’s "Massacre," and "The Grudge 2" launched with $20.8M, a steep 47% less than the Gellar original. But "Saw III" is in a different situation. "Beginning" was a prequel three years later with not much new to offer while "Grudge 2" was no longer a star vehicle. "Saw III" promises more of what its fans want – brutality, gore, and torture – so it stands on almost equal footing when compared to the last installment. The fan base has probably not grown much in the last twelve months and some might even drop out thinking it’s just the same offering yet again. But with competing fright flicks fading fast, "Saw III" will basically be the only horror film in town for those getting ready for Halloween. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, "Saw III" might cut up around $30M.
Tim Robbins plays an elite South African leader and Derek Luke stars as an oppressed everyman in the apartheid drama "Catch a Fire." Directed by Phillip Noyce ("Patriot Games, "Clear and Present Danger"), the PG-13 political thriller tells the true story of a man captured and tortured by his government, only to become a radical freedom fighter for his people. Focus is likely to attract an audience similar to the one it saw last fall with another African-set political pic, "The Constant Gardener." The Ralph Fiennes–Rachel Weisz film boasted a similar level of starpower and screens when it bowed to $8.7M over three days from 1,346 locations for a solid $6,444 average.
Reviews for "Fire" have been generally positive, but it will not be an easy sell at the box office. Robbins is the top star here and his track record selling tickets is spotty when it comes to films where he is the solo anchor. Plus the marketplace is filled with pictures targeting mature adults like "The Departed," "The Prestige," and "Flags of Our Fathers" so a crowded field will make it tough for "Fire." Using the ‘based on a true story’ angle in the marketing is always a helpful thing and Focus will soon see how much mileage it can get from it. Attacking 1,305 locations, "Catch a Fire" might capture about $6M over the Friday-to-Sunday session.
Annette Bening‘s dysfunctional family pic "Running with Scissors" enjoyed a strong platform debut last weekend with a scorching $28,263 average from only six sites. This Friday, Sony hopes to build on its bow by expanding the R-rated film into 586 theaters across North America. Critics agree that "Scissors" is not the next "Little Miss Sunshine." Reviews have been unflattering which will limit the commercial potential of a film that will mostly play to upscale adult audiences. A weekend take of around $3M could result diluting the per-theater average down to the neighborhood of $5,000.
Arthouses continue to get more crowded with fall films hoping for critical buzz and possible awards attention. Paramount Vantage packs the most starpower with its Brad Pitt–Cate Blanchett drama "Babel" which took home Best Director honors at Cannes this year for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams"). The R-rated tale trots across the globe from Morocco to Mexico to Japan with four interweaving stories about people from around the world who have no idea how connected their lives are. "Babel" opens in just six locations in New York and Los Angeles, most of them major multiplexes, and expands nationally in November. Reviews have been solid.
With Election Day around the corner, President George W. Bush stars in two documentaries that will try to stir up some controversy in order to get audiences running to their local theater. Newmarket Films releases "Death of a President," a docudrama about the fictional assassination of Bush in October 2007 and its aftermath. The R-rated whodunit was one of the hottest films at the Toronto Film Festival last month and hopes to capitalize on its buzz when it invades over 100 theaters this Friday. Also trying to wage a Red State vs. Blue State rivalry is "Shut Up & Sing" which examines the hardships that The Dixie Chicks faced recording their new album after their public outcry against the current Commander-in-Chief. The Weinstein Company opens the film in New York and Los Angeles on Friday before expanding to much of the country on November 10.
Among holdovers, the period thriller "The Prestige" and the mob drama "The Departed" should remain popular contenders in the top five. "Saw III" should not detract from either pic too much and the frame’s other new films will not play wide enough to offer significant competition in the rankings. "Prestige" swiped the top spot last weekend and is well-liked by moviegoers. A 40% drop would give Buena Vista about $9M and a ten-day total of $28M. "The Departed" has been holding up superbly so another 30% dip would leave Warner Bros. with around $9.5M which could be good enough for a third consecutive weekend at number two. The cume would rise to $90M.
LAST YEAR: Doing what its predecessor couldn’t do, "Saw II" opened triumphantly at number one and grossed a sturdy $31.7M for Lionsgate on its way to $87M continuing its most popular horror franchise. Sony countered with its family friendly adventure sequel "The Legend of Zorro" which debuted in second place with a decent $16.3M. The pricey Antonio Banderas–Catherine Zeta-Jones pic went on to reach just $45.4M domestically. Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman quietly bowed in third with the comedy "Prime" which opened to $6.2M from less than 2,000 theaters. Universal found its way to a $22.8M final. The horse flick "Dreamer" held up well in its second jump taking in $6.1M while fellow kidpic "Wallace & Gromit" rounded out the top five with $4.3M in its fourth weekend. The fourth new wide release of the frame, Nicolas Cage‘s "The Weather Man," got rained out collecting a mere $4.2M leading to a wimpy $12.5M finish.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week at the movies, we’ve got the return of Jigsaw ("Saw III," starring Tobin Bell), a tale of rebellion in apartheid-era South Africa ("Catch a Fire," starring Derek Luke and Tim Robbins), and a story of family dysfunction in the 1970s ("Running with Scissors," starring Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alec Baldwin). What do the critics have to say?
The sheer awfulness of South Africa’s apartheid system has been grist for Hollywood’s mill in recent years, but Phillip Noyce’s "Catch a Fire" may be one of the subgenre’s strongest entries to date. "Fire" tells the true story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a dedicated family man falsely accused of terrorism who in turn becomes a radical rebel fighter against the apartheid government. Critics say the film works as both a political thriller and as a potent history lesson, and it features a particularly strong performance from Luke. At 77 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to "Catch" this one. (Check out RT editor Jen Yamato’s review from the Toronto Film Fest here.)
Augusten Burroughs’ memoir "Running with Scissors" struck a nerve as a bizarre depiction of dysfunctional families and a culture of therapy among the privileged. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the movie adaptation will do the same. The film is a coming-of-age story about a young man whose unstable mother sends him to live with her therapist’s family, at which point his life only gets weirder. The critics say the film features some sharp performances — particularly by Annette Bening — but also note the film is too awash with mannered eccentricity and cartoonish caricatures rather than fully developed characters. At 33 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s "Running" on fumes.
They say the first cut is the deepest. And if the fact that it hasn’t been screened for critics is any indication, it appears that in the case of "Saw III," the blade’s gotten pretty dull. So kids, it’s time to bust out the old crystal balls and play Guess the Tomatometer!
Also in theaters this week in limited release: "Cocaine Cowboys," a documentary about drug smuggling in Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is at 100 percent; "Exit: The Right to Die," a documentary about assisted suicide, is at 86 percent; "Shut Up & Sing," a rockumentary about the Dixie Chicks, is at 83 percent; "Babel," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s globetrotting film about despair and interconnectivity, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, is at 72 percent; "The Wild Blue Yonder: A Science Fiction Fantasy," Werner Herzog‘s latest epic journey, is at 70 percent; "The Bridge," a doc about suicides on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, is at 63 percent; "Climates," an atmospheric Turkish import about the decline of a relationship, is at 46 percent; and "Death of a President," the incendiary mockumentary about a plot against George W. Bush, bombed with the critics, as it’s at 33 percent.