After a run of Rotten disappointments in the early 2000s, horror maestro Wes Craven released airplane thriller Red Eye in 2005. It was acclaimed as a smarter-than-average, skillfully made terrorist thriller at the time – a two-hander about two strangers who meet on a plane, one a dedicated hotel employee, the other a sinister suit with a secret and a terrifying mission – and would be the late director’s final Certified Fresh film. And yet the movie has been largely forgotten by many, and is rarely mentioned among Craven’s best works. It’s easy to see why: The director is synonymous with Freddie, and Ghostface, and violent ’70s and ’80s terrors; Red Eye was in many ways a conventional thriller, well done if slight, bearing little of Craven’s trademarks — at least on the surface. Look closer and the movie has the director’s bloody fingerprints all over it, from his ability to expertly read and reflect a nation’s current fears to his fine work with young, on-the-verge actors. And yes, he even gives us a great Craven crescendo.

So, hear us out: It’s time we remember Red Eye for what it is – one of the master of suspense’s best works. Here’s why.


It Marked A Triumphant Comeback For the Legendary Director

Red Eye

(Photo by © Dreamworks)

Horror fans rightly revere Wes Craven as a legend, a master of horror, the man who gave us iconic and genre-defining works like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, and The Hills Have Eyes. If there was a Mount Rushmore for scary movie guys, his face would be on it. But in a 40-year career there are always going to be misses among the hits, and Wes Craven’s filmography is about as bumpy as a desert road trip in a Wes Craven movie. (Remember Vampire In Brooklyn? Or My Soul to Take? Or The Hills Have Eyes 2? We do.)

The director hit a particularly rough stretch of road following the success of Scream 2 and 1999’s kinda-sorta-well-received play at Oscar glory, Music of the Heart, an earnest inspirational-teacher drama starring Meryl Streep. In 2000, he released Scream 3, the first and only Rotten entry in that franchise, and followed that up with Cursed, a so-bad-it’s-actually-fabulous-in-retrospect attempt by Craven and Scream writer Kevin Williamson to revive the werewolf genre… by making a Scream rip-off with snouts. (Production was a complete mess on the project, largely thanks to interference from the Weinsteins, and it shows.)

By 2005, the only way for Craven was up, and – cue airplane metaphor – Red Eye allowed him to soar. Liberated from studio interference and overwhelming expectations – he wasn’t being asked to close out a beloved trilogy or kickstart another subgenre renaissance – Craven brought his formidable talent for suspense to a smart and self-contained script by Carl Ellsworth, and showed his often too-unsung ability to bring the best out of young actors. Critically lauded as one of the tightest, most nerve-racking thrillers to come along in years, Red Eye was a reminder that the master still had a knack for terror – no matter the altitude.


It’s Anchored By Two Great Performances 

Red Eye

(Photo by © Dreamworks)

It’s a testament to Cillian Murphy’s skill as an actor that we don’t dismiss him – or the film, really – the instant we learn his villainous character’s name is “Jackson Rippner.” Murphy, whose 2005 would include his entrée into the mainstream playing Scarecrow in Batman Begins, is all alluring mystery as he flirts in the check-in line and over drinks at an airport bar, and when the script turns, he makes a seamless transition to pure menace. But the movie ultimately belongs to this two-hander’s other hand, Rachel McAdams, fresh off of The Notebook, showing the same steeliness and pluck audiences loved in that film as she tangles with an altogether different kind of male pursuer. Like Rippner, her Lisa undergoes a transformation as the plane races towards Miami: From exhausted daughter allowing herself a little fun to terrified prey, and, ultimately, resourceful final girl, and McAdams delivers on every note. By the time the film devolves to a Scream-a-like in its house-bound finale – or ascends to it, depending on your tastes – you find yourself rooting for her just as you would a bloodied, bruised, but still-standing Sidney Prescott or Nancy Thompson.


It Perfectly Captures the Nightmare of Post 9/11 Travel

Red Eye

(Photo by © Dreamworks)

Craven was an expert when it came to perfectly encapsulating an era’s fears, and Red Eye is no exception. Flying in the years after 9/11 was a source of serious anxiety for many Americans onto whose brains the images of that tragic day were still freshly etched. That anxiety was stoked throughout the 2000s by reports of unsuccessful terrorist attempts – Richard Reid’s failed shoe-bombing among the earliest – involving commercial flights and airports. The palpable national fear around air travel led to many things: The time-consuming security measures we undergo when we fly; some awful racial profiling by passengers and authorities; and, of course, several movies that tried to mine that fear for cinematic thrills.

In 2005, Red Eye did just that, along with the bigger-budget Flightplan, starring Jodie Foster as a mother who wakes up mid-flight to discover her six-year-old daughter has disappeared. (Author side note: On a flight back in 2005 I was awakened mid-flight BY Jodie Foster lightly bumping my shoulder as she took her child to the bathroom!) But Red Eye was the more successful of the two, critically if not commercially, because it hit the nerve harder and more directly. Where Flightplan’s tale was complicated, confused, and conspiracy-focused, Red Eye was born directly from the very simple questions many travelers were sweatily asking themselves as they took their seats: Who am I sitting next to? What if I’m on that flight? Would I fight back – or cower?

The movie also gets the more general horrors of modern-day air travel spot on, with nods to the draconian security process – “Flying’s so much fun these days!” – and one of cinema’s most realistic renderings of coach class. Just watching Lisa squeeze herself down the aisle as other customers sardine themselves into the cabin, over-stuff the overhead, and, in one particularly visceral cutaway, slurp up a box of noodles… I shiver every time.


It’s A Not-So-Veiled Dig At Corporate America

Red Eye

(Photo by © Dreamworks)

In one sense, Red Eye is a high-octane game of cat-and-mouse between a psychotic terrorist and a resourceful final girl; in another, it’s about two cogs in two different corporate machines trying to satisfy their employers and getting in each others’ way in the process. Because that really is the crux of what the two characters are doing: Lisa, the ever-diligent employee, who’s seen constantly solving problems for her mega hotel and its customers, is willing to risk her own father’s life to try to avoid harm coming to either; Jack is the mid-level manager who’s been given an assignment – get Lisa to change the room – and will stop at nothing to keep a client satisfied. The client just happens to be some sort of terrorist organization.

Jack in particular becomes a kind of maniacal embodiment of make-the-sale-at-any-cost corporate culture – he’s the knife-wielding version of a Wall Street banker in some respects – and at one point leans in to tell Lisa they may not be so different. “I never lied to you, Leese,” he says, as she struggles for air. “Know why? ’Cause it doesn’t serve me. We’re both professionals. We have the will and means to follow through. ’Cause when we don’t, our customers aren’t happy. And when they’re not, we suffer and our lives go to s—.” I swear I’ve read that in a corporate training packet somewhere…


The Ending Is Bonkers, In a Good, Polarizing, and Craven-y Way

Red Eye

At the time of its release, a number of critics pointed out that the thriller’s finale feels out-of-step with the taut, disciplined film that precedes it; when the plane lands, the intimate suspense Craven built up in the fuselage is traded in for an elaborate chase sequence that takes us through the airport and eventually to Lisa’s father’s house where Rippner grabs a knife and gets all Ghostface on us. There’s hiding behind walls, and creaking doors, and falling while running away, and a pretty great he’s-behind-the-door jump scare. It’s all a bit ridiculous.

Why does it work? Because for all of its incisive mining of post-9/11 fears, its light social commentary, and its tight script, Red Eye has an air of the ridiculous right from the get-go. Everything in the film is heightened to an almost surreal, wink-wink level: Think Jayma Mays’ hilariously frazzled hotel receptionist; Colby from Survivor showing up as a cartoonishly stoic bodyguard; almost every other passenger on the flight rendered as if plucked from an SNL skit; and the overall terrorist plot itself. Just when you think that having a government official moved to a penthouse suite so that it’s easier for terrorists to blow up his room with a surface-to-air missile is straining credulity, said terrorists retrieve their missile by fishing it out of the water with… a few regular fishing rods.

The movie’s climax is only out of step if you weren’t paying attention to the movie itself. It is excessive, and, yes, it has more than just echoes of Craven’s previous work, but it’s also a release; the director eschews a tighter, neater, subtler ending to give the audience what they want, making a meal of the tension he’s built throughout and throwing on a second dessert of slasher fun just because he can.

And Craven can, which is the other exciting thing about this finale. It is tense and scary and delicious. After two public failures, and with his ability to jolt us out of our skin in question, the master gives us 15 minutes of what he does best, reminding us he’s indeed still a master. Just because he can.


Red Eye was released on August 19, 2005.

#1

Red Eye (2005)
79%

#1
Adjusted Score: 86670%
Critics Consensus: With solid performances and tight direction from Wes Craven, Red Eye is a brisk, economic thriller.
Synopsis: In the wake of her grandmother's funeral, hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is waiting to fly back home when... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

(Photo by Rogue Pictures, Dimension Film, New Line, DreamWorks / courtesy Everett Collection)

All 20 Wes Craven Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

Wes Craven’s debut, 1972’s scarring rape-revenge thriller The Last House on the Left, was among the first cross-cultural grindhouse flicks out there: It cost $87,00 to make and made back 36 times as much. At the time, America was mired deep in a losing Vietnam War slog just as its citizens lost faith in their social institutions, a mood reflected in Last House‘s success, announcing audiences’ new appetite for gritty, grubby, boundary-pushing cinema. Craven, already hardened beyond most normal sensibilities after a previous career directing pornographic films under different nom de guerres, knew how to push the violence, sex, and rage right up to the edge.

With aspirations to emerge from the horror grotto, Craven nonetheless returned to the genre in 1977 with the agitated, belligerent The Hills Have Eyes, which transported the menace of Last House into the desert mountains.

The ’80s were the golden age of slasher movies, with thanks in no small part to Craven. He dipped his toe into the subgenre with 1981’s Deadly Blessing, before making the enormous slashy splash with A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dozens of slashers were being released a year by 1984, but it was Craven’s bright idea to freshen things up by bringing the supernatural into the mix, thus creating one of horror’s great icons: Freddy Krueger, as portrayed by Robert Englund.

Horror films had a tough go at it in the ’90s, both creatively and at the box office, with Craven one of few genre directors to survive with a career intact. Always one to infuse satire and literacy into the shocks wherever he could, Craven turned to meta-textual tricks for New Nightmare and Scream. The latter fit like a knife in snug flesh with the decade’s laid-back cynicism, ushering in a new age of teen slashers.

Highlights of Craven’s post-Scream career include, of course, the well-received first sequel, directing Meryl Streep to an Academy Award nomination in Music of the Heart, and the Certified Fresh thriller Red Eye. Scream 4, in 2011, would become his final movie – and it just recently ticked over onto Fresh territory. Here, we look back on a storied film journey from one of the undisputed masters of horror, with all Wes Craven movies ranked by Tomatometer!

#20
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: It's been eight years since Bobby (Robert Houston) barely survived being terrorized and held captive by a group of desert-dwelling... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#19

Deadly Friend (1986)
19%

#19
Adjusted Score: 18735%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A teenage whiz kid (Matthew Laborteaux) puts his robot's brain in the head of a nearly dead girl (Kristy Swanson).... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 12641%
Critics Consensus: Neither scary nor very funny, this misguided effort never lives up to its premise.
Synopsis: In the wake of her mother's death in a mental institution, detective Rita Veder (Angela Bassett) is assigned to a... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#17

My Soul to Take (2010)
10%

#17
Adjusted Score: 10678%
Critics Consensus: Dull, joyless, and formulaic, My Soul to Take suggests writer/director Wes Craven ended his five-year filmmaking hiatus too soon.
Synopsis: In the small town of Riverton, a local legend tells of a serial killer's oath to come back and kill... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#16

Deadly Blessing (1981)
14%

#16
Adjusted Score: 9944%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Friends visit a recent widow (Maren Jensen) who is frightened by the leader (Ernest Borgnine) of a neo-Hittite sect.... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#15

Cursed (2005)
16%

#15
Adjusted Score: 19380%
Critics Consensus: A predictable plot and cheesy special effects make Cursed a less-than-scary experience.
Synopsis: In Los Angeles, siblings Ellie (Christina Ricci) and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) come across an accident on Mulholland Drive. As they... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#14

Shocker (1989)
27%

#14
Adjusted Score: 28134%
Critics Consensus: With an intriguing enough premise and horror legend Wes Craven on writer-director duty, the real Shocker here is just how lame the end results turned out to be.
Synopsis: After being captured for a series of gruesome murders, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), a television repairman, faces execution by the... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#13

Scream 3 (2000)
41%

#13
Adjusted Score: 44627%
Critics Consensus: Despite some surprising twists, Scream 3 sees the franchise falling back on the same old horror formulas and cliches it once hacked and slashed with postmodern abandon.
Synopsis: In the final installment to this trilogy, a murdering spree begins to happen again; this time targeted toward the original... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#12

Scream 4 (2011)
61%

#12
Adjusted Score: 67185%
Critics Consensus: The franchise is showing its age, but Scream 4 is undeniably an improvement over its predecessor, with just enough meta humor and clever kills.
Synopsis: It has been many years since the Ghostface Killer cut a deadly path through the town of Woodsboro. In order... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#11
Adjusted Score: 67688%
Critics Consensus: Held aloft by gonzo black comedy and socially conscious subtext, The People Under The Stairs marks a unique -- though wildly uneven -- change of pace for director Wes Craven.
Synopsis: When young Fool (Brandon Adams) breaks into the home of his family's greedy and uncaring landlords, he discovers a disturbing... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 64845%
Critics Consensus: Its visceral brutality is more repulsive than engrossing, but The Last House on the Left nevertheless introduces director Wes Craven as a distinctive voice in horror.
Synopsis: Teenagers Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) head to the city for a concert, then afterward go looking for... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 66628%
Critics Consensus: Meryl Streep's depiction of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things transcends, inspires, and entertains.
Synopsis: After being abandoned by her husband, depressed music teacher Roberta (Meryl Streep) lands a job teaching violin to underprivileged children... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 68012%
Critics Consensus: When it's not bludgeoning the viewer with its more off-putting, cruder elements, The Hills Have Eyes wields some clever storytelling and a sly sense of dark humor.
Synopsis: Wes Craven's cult classic about cannibalistic mountain folk on the trail of stranded vacationers in the arid Southwest.... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#7
Adjusted Score: 66047%
Critics Consensus: Although it's occasionally overwhelmed by excessive special effects, The Serpent and the Rainbow draws on a chilling atmosphere to deliver a intelligent, politically informed story.
Synopsis: In a time of social and political unrest in Haiti, anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) travels to the torn country... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#6

Swamp Thing (1982)
62%

#6
Adjusted Score: 63957%
Critics Consensus: Unabashedly campy -- often to its detriment -- Swamp Thing is not without its charms, among them Adrienne Barbeau as the damsel in distress.
Synopsis: On the verge of a breakthrough in his quest to wipe out world hunger, altruistic botanist Dr. Alec Holland (Ray... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#5

Scream (1996)
79%

#5
Adjusted Score: 83871%
Critics Consensus: Horror icon Wes Craven's subversive deconstruction of the genre is sly, witty, and surprisingly effective as a slasher film itself, even if it's a little too cheeky for some.
Synopsis: The sleepy little town of Woodsboro just woke up screaming. There's a killer in their midst who's seen a few... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#4

Red Eye (2005)
79%

#4
Adjusted Score: 86670%
Critics Consensus: With solid performances and tight direction from Wes Craven, Red Eye is a brisk, economic thriller.
Synopsis: In the wake of her grandmother's funeral, hotel manager Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) is waiting to fly back home when... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#3
Adjusted Score: 82167%
Critics Consensus: Wes Craven's New Nightmare adds an unexpectedly satisfying - not to mention intelligent - meta layer to a horror franchise that had long since lost its way.
Synopsis: Reality and fantasy meet in unsettling ways in this installment of the long-running horror series, which finds director Wes Craven... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#2

Scream 2 (1997)
81%

#2
Adjusted Score: 86056%
Critics Consensus: As with the first film, Scream 2 is a gleeful takedown of scary movie conventions that manages to poke fun at terrible horror sequels without falling victim to the same fate.
Synopsis: Sydney (Neve Campbell) and tabloid reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) survived the events of the first "Scream," but their nightmare... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

#1
Adjusted Score: 98230%
Critics Consensus: Wes Craven's intelligent premise, combined with the horrifying visual appearance of Freddy Krueger, still causes nightmares to this day.
Synopsis: In Wes Craven's classic slasher film, several Midwestern teenagers fall prey to Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a disfigured midnight mangler... [More]
Directed By: Wes Craven

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

 

Wes Craven, the influential horror director behind such genre classics as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, died Sunday, Aug. 30 after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76.

Craven’s films are among horror cinema’s most indelible and iconic. Freddy Krueger, whose blade-fingered reign of terror began in Craven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, is arguably the definitive big-screen boogeyman of the 1980s, and his Scream films showed that Craven could juggle self-referential laughs with bone chilling scares.

Born in Cleveland in 1939, Craven worked as a professor at several colleges before getting a job as a sound engineer at a post-production company in New York City (he also worked on adult productions using a pseudonym). Craven’s first film was a major success; the low-budget proto-slasher movie The Last House on the Left was a brutal tale of murder and revenge that sparked controversy and threats of censorship as well as admiration for its uncommon intelligence (its story borrowed heavily from Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring). Craven went on to direct The Hills Have Eyes (1977), about a family of cannibals, and Swamp Thing (1982), based on the DC comics character, before hitting the jackpot with A Nightmare on Elm Street (featuring Johnny Depp in his big-screen debut).

In addition to his work in horror films, Craven also directed the 1999 drama Music of the Heart starring Meryl Streep as a violin teacher; and the Hitchcockian thriller Red Eye, starring Rachel McAdams as an airplane passenger trying to outwit a terrorist played by Cillian Murphy. Craven’s last directorial credit was Scream 4, though he was an executive producer on the 2015 Scream TV series. He is survived by his wife, Iya Labunka, and two children from a previous marriage.

Craven shared his Five Favorite Films with RT in 2009. For Craven’s complete filmography on Rotten Tomatoes, click here.

After welcoming in four new wide releases per week for seven straight weekends, the North American box office slows it down a bit on Friday with only one saturation release and a pair of moderate national bows.

Sony courts the teen horror crowd with its supernatural thriller "The Covenant." Meanwhile, Focus targets mature adults with the crime thriller "Hollywoodland" and The Weinstein Co. goes after the action audience with the martial arts pic "The Protector." With a slate of Labor Day weekend pics coming off of their lukewarm holiday performances, the overall marketplace is sure to be sluggish and could slump to its lowest point of the year.

Four prep school dudes learn of their ancestral powers and stir up some evil in the new teen chiller "The Covenant." Sort of a "Lost Boys" for today’s youth, the PG-13 film will target the horror audience as well as the back-to-school date crowd. Renny Harlin, who has seen highs with "Die Hard 2" and lows with "Cutthroat Island," directs. "Covenant" should play primarily to teens and young adults and Sony has a strong track record when it comes to attracting that crowd with these kinds of films. Last fall, the studio scored a big hit with "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" which bowed this very weekend with $30.1M, but saw more modest results with "The Fog" which opened in October with $11.8M. Each one still hit the top of the charts. The marketing push on "Covenant" has not been too fierce so a debut closer to "Fog’s" is likely. Competition for teens is not very strong at the moment so many should pick this for their weekend moviegoing choice. Attacking 2,681 theaters, "The Covenant" could scare up around $11M in ticket sales this weekend.


More teen-horror hijinks in "The Covenant"

Academy Award winner Adrien Brody plays a not-so-super sleuth in the 1950s who investigates the suicide death of Superman actor George Reeves in the new crime thriller "Hollywoodland." The R-rated Focus release also stars Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, and Bob Hoskins. After last year’s dominance at the Oscars by numerous indie flicks, "Hollywoodland" tries to get the awards season started early by getting a headstart over some of the fall’s other promising non-studio films. The casting of the "Gigli" star as the Man of Steel, however, might diminish its chances a bit as many industry voters won’t be able to help but snicker when the daredevil himself comes on screen. Mature adults will be the target audience and women might outnumber the guys by a small margin. The film’s subject matter will certainly be intriguing for film industry folks, but it will be a tougher sell to mainstream moviegoers. "Hollywoodland" will have to reach its audience in a hurry as parent company Universal will target the exact same crowd with its ensemble-driven period crime mystery "The Black Dahlia" a week later. Debuting in moderate national release in 1,548 theaters, "Hollywoodland" might capture about $8M this weekend.


Adrien Brody gets rough while investigating the death of tv’s Superman

The "Quentin Tarantino Presents" marketing technique is back once again with the Thai martial arts pic "The Protector" starring Tony Jaa. The R-rated film from The Weinstein Co. finds the acrobatic action star seeking revenge on those who wronged his people. Jaa’s "Ong Bak" made a moderate splash at the North American box office last year when it opened to $1.3M from 387 theaters for a mild $3,449 average on its way to a $4.6M domestic take. A year and a half later, more American action fans know of Jaa, though he’s still far from a sizable draw. Two years ago, the Weinsteins saw stellar results when using the "Pulp Fiction" director’s
name in the marketing of Jet Li‘s "Hero" which ended up topping the box office for two straight weeks on its way to a $53.6M gross. Lionsgate also used the QT tactic to drive in business for its horror pic "Hostel" last January which also bowed in the top spot. "Protector" will appeal mostly to young men who love martial arts and crossover to other groups is unlikely. The second weekend of "Crank" will draw upon many of the same folks so competition will be tough. Fighting its way into around 1,400 theaters, "The Protector" might kick up about $6M this weekend.


Tony Jaa, doing his own stunts, in "The Protector"

More independent films open in New York on Friday hoping to expand further around the country in coming weeks. Polychrome Pictures debuts the Asian American pic "Red Doors" in a pair of Manhattan locations. The dysfunctional family pic won the top prize at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Film Philos goes into one solo house with the coffee cart vendor drama "Man Push Cart" which world premiered at Sundance last winter.

"Invincible‘s" undefeated season should come to an end this weekend as the Disney sports drama enters its third outing. A 40% decline would see the Mark Wahlberg pic gross around $7M pushing the 17-day cume to $47M. After a second place bow over the weekend, the Lionsgate actioner "Crank" pumped itself up to the top spot on Tuesday with solid midweek business. Jason Statham saw his "Transporter 2" fall 55% a year ago when it came off of its Labor Day debut. "Crank" could see a slightly smaller drop. A 50% tumble would give the poison pic roughly $5M for the sophomore frame and a ten-day sum of $20M.

Nicolas Cage‘s "The Wicker Man" did not make too much of a dent at the box office last weekend. A 45% drop to around $5M seems likely giving Warner Bros. only $19M in ten days. Indie sensation "Little Miss Sunshine" should step back a bit after a strong Labor Day frame and could slide 30% to $5M as well. That would lift the cume for the year’s most recommended film to $42M making it the fifth biggest hit in company history for Fox Searchlight after "Sideways" ($71.5M), "The Full Monty" ($45.9M), "28 Days Later" ($45.1M), and "Napoleon Dynamite" ($44.5M). In another week, it will vault to number two for the Fox subsidiary.

LAST YEAR: Sony scored a huge surprise winner with the suspense thriller "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" which bowed bigger than expected with a hefty $30.1M grossing more than the next five films combined. The fright flick went on to scare up a sturdy $75.1M. Comedy sensation "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" followed in second with $7.7M in its fourth date while "Transporter 2" fell from first to third with $7.4M. The political drama "The Constant Gardener" and the airline thriller "Red Eye" rounded out the top five with $4.7M and $4.5M, respectively. Samuel L. Jackson debuted poorly in sixth with his action-comedy "The Man" which took in a weak $4.1M on its way to just $8.3M for New Line.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

The summer movie season comes to an official end with the Labor Day holiday weekend unleashing three new releases plus the national expansion of a fourth.

Lionsgate offers the action crowd "Crank," Warner Bros. provides the suspense thriller "The Wicker Man," Sony takes a shot with the basketball drama "Crossover," and Yari Film Group goes nationwide with its period thriller "The Illusionist." Each is hoping that current champ "Invincible" will fumble the ball. The summer-ending frame is often a time when moviegoers catch up on hit films they haven’t seen yet so notable holdovers could see their four-day grosses grow beyond their three-day takes from last weekend. Overall, the marketplace remains overcrowded with too many films fighting to get a slice of the box office pie.

British action star Jason Statham attacks the U.S. for the second Labor Day weekend in a row with his latest pic "Crank." Co-starring Amy Smart, the Lionsgate release sees the actor playing a poisoned hitman who must keep his adrenaline up in order to stay alive. Unlike his PG-13 "Transporter" flicks, "Crank" carries a more restrictive R rating which could narrow its target audience. It’s been a tough summer for R-rated action films with movies like "Snakes on a Plane" and "Miami Vice" both underperforming. But if there’s any distributor who can successfully target young adult males with these types of films with intriguing concepts, it’s the "Saw" studio.


Jason Statham showing off his dramatic range

"Snakes" was the only pure action film in the top ten last weekend so competition for "Crank" may not be too fierce. Statham has seen his starpower grow in the last couple of years and that might benefit his latest pic too. Still, the marquees are jam packed with choices this weekend so it will be tough to fight off other films and convince moviegoers that their time and money should be best spent here. A year ago this weekend, "Transporter 2" opened at number one with a four-day tally of $20.1M. However, that Fox pic was a sequel, had a less restrictive rating, and bowed in 900 more theaters. Given "Crank’s" debut in about 2,400 locations, it could end up with around $13M over the long Friday-to-Monday period.

With his twin towers drama still in the top ten, Nicolas Cage hits the big screen for the second time in a month with the psychological thriller "The Wicker Man." The PG-13 film stars the Oscar-winning actor as a cop investigating a cult while looking for a missing girl. Labor Day weekend has been a good time for creepy thrillers, especially for ones that appeal to high school and college students like the "Jeepers Creepers" pics. "Wicker Man’s" rating will help its cause, but whether it can excite teens will determine how big it can become. With a half-dozen production companies, six producers, and seven executive producers all involved, it’s hard to say if this is really director Neil LaBute‘s film. Warner Bros. has given "Wicker" a decent marketing push, but it has not become a must-see thriller. A marketplace flooded with pictures will provide plenty of competition for adults and this one will have to work extra hard to stand out in the crowd. Ending a disappointing summer for the studio, "The Wicker Man" bows in over 2,500 theaters and could scare up around $12M over the four-day period.


Nicolas Cage and Ellen Burstyn in "The Wicker Man"

Sony goes after the urban youth audience with its new basketball drama "Crossover" which finds two young streetballers competing in the world of underground hoops. The PG-13 film is getting a moderate release in 1,023 theaters which will limit its potential, however a solid per-theater average could result. Compared to reigning box office champ "Invincible," this new sports drama will attract a much more ethnic audience and should play primarily to teens and young adults. "Idlewild" will provide some competition for African American moviegoers, however the OutKast pic is playing to an older audience. With Anthony Mackie, Wesley Jonathan, and Wayne Brady heading up the cast, "Crossover" does not offer up much starpower. But it could be a short-term choice for the back-to-school crowd in urban markets. Over the Friday-to-Monday holiday span, "Crossover" might shoot up about $5M.


The first rule of underground streetball is…

After two weeks of strong results in limited release, the period mystery "The Illusionist" expands wide from 144 theaters to approximately 1,000 sites across North America. One of the summer’s best-reviewed films, the Edward NortonPaul Giamatti drama opened in 51 theaters with a powerful $18,195 average and widened on its second frame scoring a still-potent $12,745 average. Glowing praise from critics and solid word-of-mouth could help sell "The Illusionist" to moviegoers who would not ordinarily buy tickets to a film with these stars. Competition will be tough, though. For only the second time all year, ten films surpassed $5M last weekend and most are looking to remain relevant over the holiday session. "The Illusionist" could capture the same amount over four days this weekend pushing its cume to about $9M.


Those illusionists get all the chicks

More new movies enter into limited release on Friday. IFC Films unveils the documentary "This Film is Not Yet Rated" in exclusive engagements in New York and Los Angeles. The unrated film (it was given an NC-17, but is going out with no official rating) explores the mystery behind the movie ratings system as determined by the Motion Picture Association of America. Writer/director Ed Burns returns to theaters as a private investigator searching for a missing woman in "Looking for Kitty." The R-rated drama is being released in one solo New York house by ThinkFilm.

Last weekend, Mark Wahlberg‘s football drama "Invincible" scored a number one opening and was the only film to attract more than $10M in ticket sales over the frame. Word of mouth has been good and the Disney release would like nothing more than to land another win over the holiday session. The four-day gross might see only a small drop from last weekend’s three-day bow. A decline to about $15M would give "Invincible" a total of $38M after 11 days.

Labor Day weekend has historically been a great time for hot late-summer indie films to reach out to broader audiences and "Little Miss Sunshine" hopes to be the latest one to capitalize on its buzz. Four-day increases over the previous three-day weekends in recent years have included 17% for "March of the Penguins" last year, 35% for "Garden State" in 2004, 80% for "Napoleon Dynamite" that same year, and a whopping 104% for "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" in 2002. That PG-rated blockbuster added about 300 theaters over the holiday frame while the R-rated "Sunshine" will only increase its current count of 1,430 by a hundred or so. The Fox Searchlight hit could charm about $9.5M from ticket buyers over the long weekend and boost its cume to $36M.

LAST YEAR Jason Statham ruled the Labor Day weekend box office with the number one opening of his action sequel "Transporter 2" which grossed $20.1M over four days. The Fox hit went on to collect $43.1M. The comedy sensation "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" slipped to second place with $16.5M over four days displaying another great hold in its third frame. Debuting in third with $11M was the thriller "The Constant Gardener" from Focus which went on to gross $33.6M and become a major awards contender. Rounding out the top five were the DreamWorks suspense flick "Red Eye" with $9.4M and Miramax’s adventure pic "The Brothers Grimm" with $9M. Two new films opened with weak results outside of the top ten. Miramax’s "Underclassman" bowed to $3.1M on its way to $5.7M while Warner Bros. took in just $1.2M for "A Sound of Thunder" leading to only a $1.9M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Another wave of new releases hits the multiplexes across North America this weekend in hopes of capturing the final dollars of the summer movie season.

Leading the charge are Disney’s football tale "Invincible" for all audiences and the raunchy Warner Bros. comedy "Beerfest" aimed at young men. Music fans will get Universal’s "Idlewild" starring the OutKast duo while the New Line comedy "How to Eat Fried Worms" will play to school kids. Indie hit "Little Miss Sunshine" advances to another round in the box office pageant doubling its theatrical run in hopes of winning over new fans in all parts of the country. Overall, the marketplace looks to remain sluggish with moviegoers not being too impressed with Hollywood’s late-summer menu.

Mark Wahlberg hopes to score a box office touchdown this weekend with the football drama "Invincible" from Disney. The Good Vibrations rapper-turned-actor plays Vince Papale, a 30-year-old bartender who earns a spot on the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles. With a PG rating and the studio’s brand name behind it, "Invincible" should play to a broad audience with men connecting to the sports angle, women responding to the emotional true story, and kids coming in for the inspirational underdog tale. The studio has devised a strong marketing promotion with the NFL which has been pushing the film to football fans during the pre-season.


Greg Kinnear and Mark Wahlberg in "Invincible"

Excitement does not match what the studio saw with "Remember the Titans" or what Universal had with "Friday Night Lights." Those fall football films opened with just over $20M a piece. But, "Invincible" does offer a feel-good story that could work for the moment. And Disney can crank out these uplifting sports dramas with its eyes closed. Wahlberg is hit or miss at the box office, but here he should add some decent starpower to the picture. And Greg Kinnear, who plays Coach Dick Vermeil here and also stars in "Little Miss Sunshine," will have a great weekend at the turnstiles allowing his agents to start asking for more bucks for future projects. Charging into more than 2,400 theaters, "Invincible" could live up to its name and score a top spot debut with around $14M.

The Broken Lizard group returns in "Beerfest," a new comedy about a group of American dudes who train to take on the Germans in a secret beer drinking competition in Munich. Warner Bros. is looking to target the frat boy crowd with this R-rated gross-out comedy. With lots of belching and the most shots of bare breasts of any movie released in theaters this year, the studio should hit its mark with older teens and twentysomethings. "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" may have been doing brisk business at this time last year, but R-rated sex comedies with no stars often end up struggling at the box office before finding gold on DVD. Films like "The Girl Next Door," "Eurotrip," "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle," and even Broken Lizard’s "Super Troopers" all opened in the $5-7M range. The troupe’s fan base has grown thanks to cable and video so "Beerfest" should benefit. Plus the studio is giving it a relatively strong push for an end-of-August flick. But it has also been a tough year for R flicks and there is plenty of competition for young males right now. Chugging down brews in over 2,800 theaters, "Beerfest" might drink down about $11M this weekend.


The Broken Lizard troupe is back in "Beerfest"

Andre Benjamin and Antwan A. Patton of the Grammy-winning hip hop act OutKast reunite for the new music-driven film "Idlewild" which also stars Terrence Howard, Cicely Tyson, Patti Labelle, and Ving Rhames. The R-rated drama about the goings-on at a Prohibition-era nightclub will have significant appeal to hardcore fans of the popular musical act and should see much of its business come from African American adult audiences. Casual fans who only know them as the "Hey Ya" guys are not likely to spend money on tickets. Last summer, "Hustle & Flow" played to a similar audience and bowed to $8M from 1,013 theaters for a solid $7,915 average. "Idlewild" is going out in about the same number of playdates and could end up in the same neighborhood. Debuting in 973 theaters, the Universal release could capture about $7M over the frame.


Outkast’s Big Boi in "Idlewild"

New Line offers up "How to Eat Fried Worms," the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling kids book.The PG-rated film is aimed at school children and the tween set with a pic filled with immature boy pranks. Last weekend’s top five lacked any movies for kids so "Worms" should not face too much direct competition. However, excitement might not be high enough to generate a large opening. Parents and children familiar with the book might take a trip to the local cinema for this one. But the real cash will be made on DVD. Opening in about 1,800 theaters, "How to Eat Fried Worms" could bow to around $6M this weekend.


New Line Cinema’s "How To Eat Fried Worms"

In limited release, Sony Classics opens its dramatic thriller "The Quiet" which stars Elisha Cuthbert as a popular cheerleader whose life changes when her parents adopt an orphaned deaf girl into the family. Edie Falco co-stars in the R-rated film which opens in six sites in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. Reviews have been mixed.

Last weekend, "Snakes on a Plane" eked out a victory atop the box office charts with a less-than-expected $15.2M bow. About half of that business was generated on Thursday night and Friday leaving little audience left for the days and weeks ahead. A steep drop is sure to occur this weekend now that the hype is all gone. Most people interested in "Snakes" in the first place have already gone and seen it. A 60% fall would leave New Line with a $6M weekend and a ten-day tally of $26M.

Will Ferrell has been satisfying audiences with "Talladega Nights" all month long. A 35% drop could result giving the Sony hit about $9M for the frame which would push the cume to $128M. A similar decline could be in the works for Paramount’s "World Trade Center" which may grab around $7M this weekend boosting its total to $56M.

The comedy sensation "Little Miss Sunshine" will more than double its run this weekend and further infiltrate theaters across the country. Fox Searchlight’s unstoppable hit will expand from 691 to over 1,400 locations on Friday and could collect about $7M in its fifth frame. That would put "Sunshine’s" cume at $22M putting it on course to become a bigger hit than "Snakes on a Plane" will be.

LAST YEAR: The Steve Carell surprise hit "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" enjoyed a small decline and held onto the top spot with $16.3M dropping only 24% in its second frame. Miramax opened its Matt Damon adventure "The Brothers Grimm" in second with $15.1M on its way to $37.9M. The airline thriller "Red Eye" followed with $10.3M with the revenge actioner "Four Brothers" in fourth place with $7.9M. Opening poorly in fifth was "The Cave" with $6.1M leading to a disappointing $14.9M finish. The teen flop "Undiscovered" opened to an embarrassing $676,000 from 1,304 theaters for a pathetic $518 average landing in the number 20 spot. The Lions Gate release ended up with a miserable $1.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This weekend Samuel L. Jackson looks to seize control of the muthaf*ckin’ box office with his new muthaf*ckin’ film "Snakes on a Plane" which invades theaters on a wave of internet buzz.

It should be a smooth trip to number one for the action thriller which will face competition from the teen comedies "Accepted" and "Material Girls" plus the expansion of the indie darling "Little Miss Sunshine." After two weeks in the top spot, Will Ferrell‘s hit comedy "Talladega Nights" will decelerate and lose pole position, but will have the distinction of crossing the celebrated $100M mark.

All eyes are on Sam Jackson this weekend as his much-blogged-about action vehicle "Snakes on a Plane" makes its way into theaters. The R-rated film presents an old fashioned good guy versus bad guy story with the former Mace Windu playing an FBI agent assigned to escort a key witness to a mob murder on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles. When the crime boss masterminds a plan to unleash poisonous snakes mid-flight, all hell breaks loose. New Line has no ambitions of winning Oscars here. "Snakes" is pure entertainment aimed at giving fans a thrill ride for two hours. No advance screenings are being held for the media which is usually a sign that the studio believes that the reviews will only trash the picture so why waste the time and money?

No R-rated film this year has broken the $30M mark on opening weekend. In fact, in the past two years, only a pair of R pics have opened north of that mark – last year’s duo of "Saw II" with $31.7M and "Wedding Crashers" with $33.9M. "Snakes" will be relying on an adult male audience for its ticket sales with older teens and twentysomethings being the driving force. Jackson may also be able to pull in African American audiences given his stature and the type of role he is playing. Typically, the Oscar-nominated actor does not have much box office muscle when anchoring a film solo. But the buzz and media coverage surrounding "Snakes" has almost made it into a franchise.

With so many on the internet buzzing about the movie since the beginning of the year, uploading their own trailers and "Snakes"-related videos, and pushing for more violence and profanity, the fans have gotten a sense of empowerment. They feel like they have been part of the filmmaking process and you can be sure that they will be out when the film opens to see the final product. And since everyone knows that the film will be cheesy and that there are no press screenings, expectations are not too high. Without all the hoopla, this film would only be seen as action movie number ten that Hollywood churns out for the summer season. New Line is taking the step of launching "Snakes" a day early on Thursday night with showtimes starting at 10pm.

August has been a great month for these types of action films for young males. Three years ago, the studio opened the R-rated horror flick "Freddy vs. Jason" to $36.4M while a year later, Fox found a $38.3M bow for its PG-13 sci-fi pic "Alien vs. Predator." Jackson’s film lacks a franchise following, although the hype has generated a sizable built-in audience of its own. "Snakes" will come and go quickly from theaters. A strong start should be followed by massive erosion, but with a reported budget of only $30M, it can’t lose money. Plus Jackson has done a commendable job hitting the trail and promoting his new flick. Attacking over 3,300 theaters, "Snakes on a Plane" could open with around $28M this weekend.

Universal is hoping that those too young for "Snakes," but who are still looking for some late-summer fun, will line up for its new comedy "Accepted." The PG-13 film stars Justin Long as a high school senior rejected by every college he applies to who then decides to make up his own fake university. The under-25 set is the target audience here with teens who can relate to the character’s nightmare making up the bulk of the crowd. Recent young-skewing hits like "Step Up" and "John Tucker Must Die" have proven that no-star vehicles with an interesting concept can lure in solid numbers on opening weekend. Those films debuted to $14.3M and $20.7M, respectively. Studios have done a poor job satisfying teenagers in recent weeks with their big ticket items which has only helped these low-cost pictures. "Accepted" will certainly have to face "Snakes" taking away older guys and "Step Up" in its second weekend stealing away the gals. But the concept is a good one and with so many young people getting ready to head back to campus, memories of rejection letters will come flying back. Marketing materials register some laughs too and appeal to both genders is there. Entering over 2,700 locations, "Accepted" could open with around $12M this weekend.

Hilary and Haylie Duff graduate from the world of breath mint commercials to feature films in "Material Girls" from director Martha Coolidge ("Real Genius," "The Prince and Me"). The PG-rated film finds the sisters playing heiresses to a cosmetics fortune who stumble upon bankruptcy. Anjelica Huston co-stars. The MGM release will play primarily to a female audience of teens and pre-teens. Males interested in buying tickets should number about three. "Material Girls" is not getting too big of a push and with "Step Up" doing so well with the same demographic, it will be an uphill battle attracting business. Once a potent asset, Hilary has lost much of her pull at the box office with recent clunkers like "Raise Your Voice" and "The Perfect Man" landing poor debuts of only $4M and $5.3M, respectively.. The Duffs may end up taking a lesson from the Olsen twins whose own film "New York Minute" opened a week after the bow of 2004’s surprise teen girl hit "Mean Girls" and ended up being squashed with a weak $6M debut from over 3,000 theaters. "Material Girls" will enter only 1,509 playdates and could settle for an opening of just $4M.

After three weeks of sparkling results in limited release, Fox Searchlight’s comedy sensation "Little Miss Sunshine" expands nationally into 694 locations from its current run in 153 sites. Last weekend, the R-rated dysfunctional family pic averaged a stunning $17,014 which is one of the best showings in recent years for a film playing in 100-200 locations. With strong reviews and positive word-of-mouth, "Sunshine" should jump into the top ten this weekend and could gross about $5M pushing its cume into double-digit millions.

Searchlight also debuts its next indie flick "Trust the Man" which opens in 37 theaters in selected cities on Friday. The R-rated dramedy stars Billy Crudup, David Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julianne Moore, and Eva Mendes and tells the story of two New York couples going through relationship troubles. Moore’s real-life husband Bart Freundlich directs. "Trust the Man" has garnered mixed reviews from critics and will expand nationwide on September 8.

Also opening in limited release, but attracting more glowing praise from critics, is the dramatic thriller "The Illusionist." Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel star in the PG-13 film which finds a turn-of-the-century magician battling wits with a Vienna cop. Two weeks after the limited bow, Yari Film Group will expand "Illusionist" wide over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

A variable that could affect moviegoing behavior this weekend could be all the current stories in the news this week that have connections to major films in release. Tapes of 911 calls from victims of the World Trade Center disaster have been released after nearly five years. New terror plots aboard commercial planes have dominated the headlines lately, and a new arrest in the Jonbenet Ramsey case has brought attention back to little girls in beauty pageants. How this news coverage will affect the grosses for films like "Snakes on a Plane," "Little Miss Sunshine," and "World Trade Center" is anyone’s guess. But at a time of year when moviegoing typically slows down anyway, some potential ticket buyers may decide to look elsewhere for their weekend entertainment.

Will Ferrell’s "Talladega Nights" looks to race past the $100M mark by the end of its second full week in theaters. The Sony hit won’t win a third box office crown, but it should remain in the top five and drop 45% to about $12M. That would give the racing comedy $113M in 17 days making it the comedian’s second biggest hit ever, in a leading role, behind "Elf" which took in $173.4M.

Last weekend’s surprise smash "Step Up" is not afraid of "Snakes on a Plane" which is likely to tap into an older and more male audience. Instead, Buena Vista’s dance drama will see its competition come from "Accepted" and "Material Girls." Word-of-mouth for "Step Up" has been encouraging with the film averaging a solid B+ from over 5,500 users of Yahoo Movies. Still, teen pics tend to fall fast so a 50% decline would give the film around $10M for the weekend and a stellar ten-day total of $40M.

Paramount’s "World Trade Center" got off to a healthy start at the box office and is also generating positive buzz from moviegoers. Competition is not too fierce this weekend for adults looking for mature fare so a 35% drop would give the Oliver Stone movie roughly $12M and a cume of $46M after 12 days.

LAST YEAR: The surprise comedy hit "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" debuted at number one with a better-than-expected weekend opening of $21.4M. Universal’s R-rated smash displayed strong legs in the weeks ahead and ended up scoring $109.3M. Settling for second place in its first flight was the DreamWorks thriller "Red Eye" with a solid $16.2M on its way to $57.9M. Rounding out the top five were holdovers "Four Brothers" with $12.5M, "Wedding Crashers" with $8M and "The Skeleton Key" with $7.7M. The frame’s two other new releases were mostly ignored by moviegoers. Disney’s animated pic "Valiant" bowed to $5.9M for eighth place while Fox’s action drama "Supercross" crashed into 15th place with a dismal $1.3M opening weekend. Final tallies reached $19.5M and $3.1M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Are you between the ages of 13 and 19? Do you like … stuff? Then click right here and cast your votes for the 329th annual Teen Choice Awards, which is where you can tell the universe that Puffy is more illing than Snoop Dogg, Will Ferrell is funnier than Brad Pitt, and Katie Holmes is cuter than Katey Sagal. Or something.

Click right here for the ballot, but don’t even think of voting if you’re older than 19. The Teen Choice Awards employ a bunch of enforcers who’ll come to your house and check your birth certificate.

I had to lie about my age to check out the nominees (don’t tell anyone), but the TCAs are poised to celebrate some of the following flicks:

Best Action Adventure:
"King Kong," "Mission Impossible 3," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," "Superman Returns," "V for Vendetta," "X-Men: The Last Stand"

Best Drama: "Flightplan," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "Pride & Prejudice," "Take the Lead," "Goal!," "Walk the Line"

Best Chick Flick: "Failure to Launch," "Just Like Heaven," "Just My Luck," "Last Holiday," "Aquamarine," "The Lake House"

Best Comedy: "Click," "Nacho Libre," "Scary Movie 4," "She’s the Man," "The Benchwarmers," "The Break-Up"

Best Thriller: "An American Haunting," "Hostel," "Red Eye," "Saw 2," "Silent Hill," "The Omen"

They also have a bunch of actor’s categories, but the choices managed to somehow get even sillier. Click here to cast your votes, kids.

Our "White Noise 2" set coverage continues with RT’s conversation with director Patrick Lussier, as the horror editor-director talks about working with Wes Craven and promises twists and turns in the upcoming thriller sequel.

Patrick Lussier‘s career in horror films has included an extensive editing collaboration with fright master Wes Craven (chopping the "Scream" trilogy, "Red Eye," and more), as well as helming his own "Dracula 2000" movie series. Now Lussier’s inherited the reins to "White Noise 2: The Light," along with all the (not-so-positive) expectations that job brings. RT’s Senh Duong and Phu Bui-Quang sat down with Lussier to learn more about the "White Noise" sequel, Lussier’s career segue, and the current state of horror cinema.

Rotten Tomatoes: So Patrick, have you seen the first "White Noise" film?

Patrick Lussier: Yeah. I’ve worked for Geoff Sax — I edited his "Doctor Who," so it was kind of funny to follow in his footsteps with the sequel to his film.

RT: The first movie dealt with EVP while the second one is more about premonitions.

PL: We definitely leap away from EVP pretty quickly, you know. There are elements of it, but it’s more about one man’s adventure as he goes on this journey and what happens to him after this near-death experience. He kind of becomes his own EVP receiver; he can see things other people can’t see.

RT: What is it about the script of the sequel that attracted you?

PL: When I read it I was completely surprised. It starts out being one kind of movie, and halfway through it becomes very different. It has twists and turns and things that aren’t expected, and ends in a way that is completely shocking. You can’t imagine that you would ever end this movie in the way it does.

RT: Katee [Sackhoff] said this takes a more realistic approach to horror films.

PL: Yes. It’s very character driven. The best horror movies are about people you care about, as opposed to just cannon fodder that gets killed. So it’s not that kind of movie, it’s very much about characters that you can fall in love with, be passionate about as an audience member, and then watch their journey to a very frightening environment.

RT: Did the audience and critical reaction to the first film cause you to approach the second film in a different way?

PL: I think when they were talking sequel, they wanted to do something different — they didn’t want to just leave off the first film. They realized that what they had was an incredibly strong concept, so they wanted a sequel to the concept. That’s why ["White Noise 2"] is a stand-alone adventure — it doesn’t really play on the events of the first film, except for a few tiny connections. The thematics in the world are very similar, but everything else becomes different, and it’s very much its own adventure.

RT: In your previous films you worked as an editor. Now you’ve started directing. When did you decide to make that transition?

PL: I was very fortunate to work for Andrew Ronin and everyone at Dimension Films. After cutting "Scream," "Mimic," "Scream 2," and "Halloween: H20," they offered me the chance to direct the third "Prophecy" movie with Christopher Walken and Vincent Spano, which was great. They said, "Hey, do you want to do this?" I said, "Sure!" So it kind of came up like that.

RT: Has your editing experience affected your directing style at all?

PL: Yeah, [as an editor-director] you can shoot less. You know which parts work and which parts don’t…you can be very specific with the actors, very specific about construction, how the scenes will work, how they’ll play out, how they’ll be fabricated, so that you’re not having to guess and say, "well somebody will figure it out later." You can figure it out before you do it.

RT: Are you editing "White Noise 2" as you go along?

PL: Yeah, Tom Elkins, my editing sidekick, is cutting right now, and I’ll join him and we’ll both cut the film together once we finish production.

Because of my editing experience, sooner or later you always want to sit in the chair and start hacking away at the material. I love editing; it’s a great thing to do. It’s also great to do it with a partner, because they will see things that you didn’t. You’ve shot it in a very specific way and sometimes they see different things in the footage. So it’s great to have an extra set of eyes. It’s a good partnership.

RT: You’ve worked with Wes Craven too. How is your relationship with him, and did he influence your work?

PL: I cut for Wes for years, since ’91; the "Nightmare" movies, and all the "Scream" movies, and "Music of the Heart," "Red Eye," so it can’t help but influence you. He’s got such a keen sense of horror and how it works and such specific thoughts about it. It becomes ingrained with you. Wes is a master with that stuff. For Wes it’s not about style, it’s about performances and story and character. That’s what is key to making everything else work.

RT: Horror films have been doing well lately, with Japanese horror remakes and other remakes. Since you’ve been through the whole trend from the 80’s up to now, what do you think is the state of horror films?

PL: It seems to be changing. It seems to me like the PG-13 ghost stories are working out well, and then there’s the R-horrors which are "how extreme can you go?" like "Hostel" and "Saw." It’s about how far you can push the ratings.

But horror is cyclical…different things repeat themselves. ‘"Emily Rose" worked, let’s go with more of that. "The Grudge" worked, so let’s make more of that.’ If "The Omen" works, we’ll see more spooky kid stories. And if it doesn’t, we won’t.

RT: Lastly, do you believe in EVP and premonitions?

PL: Sure. I believe people are balls of energy — it’s gotta go somewhere, it can’t just evaporate.

You thought the awards season ended with the Oscars? Please. MTV’s just gearing up for their movie awards, which will be broadcast worldwide on June 8th — but we have all the nominations listed just a click away. (Interesting to note that not only were Paris Hilton & Rob Schneider nominated for awards, but also that "Hustle & Flow" earned three noms — a movie produced by "MTV Films.")

More than an award show, but a film unto itself, MTV: Music Television today announced the cast, or nominees, of the “2006 MTV Movie Awards.” Up for starring roles are the “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Wedding Crashers,” each receiving five nominations. Also vying for the spotlight are “Batman Begins,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “Hustle & Flow,” “Sin City” and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith” with three nominations each. Filming June 3rd at Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, CA, the “2006 MTV Movie Awards” will premiere to audiences nationwide on Thursday, June 8th at 9pm ET/PT on MTV.

MTV also announced it will cast for new categories of “Best Hero,” “Sexiest Performance” and the “mtvU Student Filmmaker Award” for the first time ever. And in another Movie Awards first, all of this year’s categories, including “Best Performance,” will make no distinction between male and female. Breaking the gender barrier and award show tradition, both actors and actresses will be vying for the same coveted golden popcorns.

Fans can vote for the entire nominated cast of the “2006 MTV Movie Awards” by visiting movieawards.mtv.com before May 19th . Fans can also vote from their mobile phone by texting “MOVIEAWARDS” to 91757 to receive a ballot. Voting is also available by dialing toll free to 1-877-MTV-VOTE where fans can support their favorite nominees with a different category available for voting each day.

“This year’s Movie Awards will be more than an awards show — it’s an experience completely inspired by the movies, and everything we love about them,” said Christina Norman, President, MTV. “This year’s cast of movies and stars are all deserving nominees, and there is no doubt this year’s Movie Awards will in itself, be a movie to remember.”

Starring Hollywood’s hottest actors and celebrities, the “2006 MTV Movie Awards” promises to be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters. Sources close to the production have remained tight lipped, revealing little of the project’s storyline or script except to say mystery, adventure and mayhem prevail. MTV will announce other starring roles in the upcoming weeks including the project’s leading man and/or lady, along with featured bands and performers making up the production’s soundtrack.

The “2006 MTV Movie Awards” will be seen in 171 countries/territories via 50 music programming services, and in 23 languages in more than 479.5 million households.

Nominees for the “2006 MTV Movie Awards” are:

*BEST MOVIE*

The 40-Year-Old Virgin
(Universal Pictures)
Batman Begins (Warner Bros. Pictures)
King Kong (Universal Pictures)
Sin City (Dimension Films)
Wedding Crashers (New Line Cinema)

*BEST PERFORMANCE*

Joaquin PhoenixWalk the Line
Jake GyllenhaalBrokeback Mountain
Rachel McAdamsRed Eye
Steve CarellThe 40-Year-Old Virgin
Terrence HowardHustle & Flow
Reese WitherspoonWalk the Line

*BEST COMEDIC PERFORMANCE*

Owen WilsonWedding Crashers
Adam SandlerThe Longest Yard
Steve Carell – The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Tyler PerryTyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion
Vince VaughnWedding Crashers

*BEST ON-SCREEN TEAM*

Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen & Romany MalcoThe 40-Year-Old Virgin
Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott & Jessica SimpsonThe Dukes of Hazzard
Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans & Michael ChiklisFantastic Four
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson & Rupert GrintHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Vince Vaughn & Owen Wilson – Wedding Crashers

*BEST VILLAIN*

Cillian Murphy
Batman Begins
Hayden ChristensenStar Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Ralph FiennesHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Tilda SwintonThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Tobin BellSaw II

*BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE*

Andre “3000” BenjaminFour Brothers
Isla FisherWedding Crashers
NellyThe Longest Yard
Jennifer CarpenterThe Exorcism of Emily Rose
Romany Malco –The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Taraji P. HensonHustle & Flow

*BEST HERO*

Christian BaleBatman Begins
Jessica Alba – Fantastic Four
Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Kate BeckinsaleUnderworld: Evolution
Ewan McGregorStar Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

*SEXIEST PERFORMANCE*

Beyonce KnowlesThe Pink Panther
Jessica Alba – Sin City
Jessica Simpson – The Dukes of Hazzard
Ziyi ZhangMemoirs of a Geisha
Rob SchneiderDeuce Bigalow: European Gigolo

*BEST FIGHT*

Kong vs. The Planes — King Kong
Stephen Chow vs. Axe Gang – Kung Fu Hustle
Angelina Jolie vs. Brad PittMr. & Mrs. Smith
Ewan McGregor vs. Hayden Christensen – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

*BEST KISS*

Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain
Taraji P. Henson & Terrence Howard – Hustle & Flow
Anna Faris & Chris Marquette – Just Friends
Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt – Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Rosario Dawson & Clive OwenSin City

*BEST FRIGHTENED PERFORMANCE*

Rachel Nichols – The Amityville Horror
Jennifer Carpenter – The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Derek RichardsonHostel
Paris HiltonHouse of Wax
Dakota FanningWar of the Worlds

*mtvU STUDENT FILMMAKER AWARD*

Joshua Caldwell (Fordham University) – A Beautiful Lie
Sean Mullin (Columbia University) – Sadiq
Stephen Reedy (Diablo Valley College) – Undercut
Jarrett Slavin (University of Michigan) – The Spiral Project
Landon Zakheim (Emerson College) – The Fabulous Felix McCabe

*2006 MTV Movie Awards *
*Total Number of Combined Category Nominations*

The 40-Year-Old Virgin — 5
Wedding Crashers — 5
Batman Begins — 3
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — 3
Hustle & Flow — 3
Sin City — 3
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith — 3
Brokeback Mountain — 2
The Dukes of Hazzard — 2
The Exorcism of Emily Rose — 2
Fantastic Four — 2
King Kong — 2
The Longest Yard — 2
Mr. & Mrs. Smith — 2
Walk the Line — 2
The Amityville Horror — 1
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — 1
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo — 1
Four Brothers — 1
Hostel — 1
House of Wax — 1
Just Friends — 1
Kung Fu Hustle — 1
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion — 1
Memoirs of a Geisha — 1
The Pink Panther — 1
Red Eye — 1
Saw II — 1
Underworld: Evolution — 1
War of the Worlds — 1

* Nominees are chosen through a national poll of MTV and MTV2 viewers.

Per the Hollywood Reporter, Shia LaBeouf ("The Greatest Game Ever Played") will star in DreamWorks’ new thriller, "Disturbia," which will be that studio’s first project under the Paramount umbrella; D.J. Caruso will direct.

From the Hollywood Reporter: "Written by Christopher Landon, the story revolves around a troubled high school senior (LaBeouf), still grieving over his father’s death, who is sentenced to house arrest after an outburst of anger at school. While at home, he becomes convinced that his neighbor is a serial killer.

Landon wrote the initial script, and Carl Ellsworth, who wrote "Red Eye" for DreamWorks, did a rewrite. Montecito, which has a first-look deal with DreamWorks, picked up the script as a spec in June."

—–

LaBeouf, whose star has recently begun to take off in memorable sidekick roles in films like "I, Robot" and "Constantine," had leading roles in family flicks "Holes" and the recent period golf drama, "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Director Caruso’s most recent films are 2002’s "The Salton Sea," "Taking Lives," and "Two For The Money."

Hollywood North Report brings some Canadian movie news that’ll thrill all you fans of PG-13 horror sequels: A director has been hired for "White Noise 2: Noisier."

(Just kidding about the "Noisier" part.)

"Brightlight Pictures announced its latest collaboration with Gold Circle Films on "White Noise 2: The Light," a sequel to the supernatural thriller and box office success "White Noise" that was shot in Vancouver in 2004. "White Noise 2: The Light" is a feature film scheduled to shoot in the Greater Vancouver area in early 2006. Patrick Lussier is directing on a script written by Matt Venne. The picture has not yet been cast. Rogue Pictures has acquired U.S. distribution rights with Mandate Pictures handling foreign distribution.

In "White Noise 2: The Light," the story follows a man who is brought back to life after his family is murdered. After his own personal near death experience, he undergoes a transformation that allows him to see people who are on the verge of death. Trying to save their lives, he realizes that a price has to be paid for trying to change the natural order of things."

For those who may not spend hours in the direct-to-video horror section of your local Blockbuster, Patrick Lussier is the director of films like "The Prophecy 3: The Ascent," "Dracula 2: Ascension," "Dracula 3: Legacy," and "Dracula 2000," which actually did get a theatrical release, but kinda stunk anyway. Mr. Lussier might be a better editor than he is a director; he cut flicks like "Scream 3," "Cursed," and "Red Eye," all of which, coincidentally enough, were directed by Wes Craven.

Genre giant Wes Craven will produce a new thriller entitled "Home," from a screenplay by Adam Alleca, says The Hollywood Reporter. Mr. Craven’s production shingle will bakroll the project, and the master will act as executive producer along with partner Marianne Maddalena.

"The story follows a man, fresh out of prison and under provisional house arrest in a cabin in the woods, who struggles with his own psychological delusions."

The Craven/Maddalena partnership is presently working on the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes" for Fox Searchlight. Their most recent success was the airplane thriller "Red Eye."

The movies that scored with the critics this summer also scored with audiences. That is, the movies with the best Tomatometer scores also tended to perform well at the box office.

At the top of the list, there is a surprise and a disappointment. The surprise was "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which, at 84 percent on the Tomatometer and $97 million at the box office, was a film with slight expectations that became a runaway success. The modest disappointment was "Cinderella Man," a film that was beloved by critics (also scoring 84 percent on the Tomatometer) but took in a not-too-shabby but far-from-blockbuster $61 million in theaters.

The rest of the top five contains fewer surprises box office-wise; less predictable was the critical enthusiasm that greeted "Batman Begins" (83 percent on the Tomatometer), "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (82 percent), and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (82 percent). Each of these films surpassed the $200 million mark (with "Sith" at $380 million), as would seemingly befit a "Star Wars" movie, a kids’ flick and a superhero story. However, what was unanticipated was the very real enthusiasm critics and audiences had for these films.

Here’s the complete list of the summer’s fresh wide releases:

84% — Cinderella Man ($61.5M)
84% — The 40-Year-Old Virgin ($97M)
83% — Batman Begins ($205M)
82% — Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith ($380M)
82% — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($204M)
81% — The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants ($39M)
81% — Red Eye ($57M)
81% — The Constant Gardener ($27.7M)
81% — Hustle & Flow ($22.1M)
77% — Crash ($55.4M)
73% — Wedding Crashers ($205.5M)
73% — George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead ($20.4M)
72% — War of the Worlds ($233.3M)
68% — Sky High ($62.3M)
66% — Unleashed ($24.4M)
61% — Mr. and Mrs. Smith ($185.6M)

Check out the rest of our coverage:
Summer Tomatometer Wrap-up: Box Office Down, Tomatometer Up

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