(Photo by Lions Gate/courtesy Everett Collection)
Welcome to the new millennium. The decade horror came home to America. The decade horror went global. Welcome to the 80 Best Horror Movies of the 2000s.
If horror movies reflect the fears and concerns of a people, it’s notable that America claimed torture-porn as their de rigueur subgenre. Something in Saw and its ilk’s slow-roasted dismantling of human flesh appealed to a nation consumed by post-9/11 paranoia and a bombardment of wartime images and atrocity. But while torture-porn movies made a killing at the box office, none were ever particularly well-reviewed; only Hostel arrives here. Recovering from the ’90s doldrums, the best horror movies came from overseas, as digital cameras lowered the cost to film and the rise of the internet made knowledge and dissemination of these movies as simple as a mouse click. In fact, of the top 10 movies here (which includes the likes of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Host), only two were shot in America. Other trends seen during this decade: Asian originals and occasional remakes (The Ring, Thirst), found footage (Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield), the return of the living dead (Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later), and nostalgic throwbacks (Slither, Death Proof). The only stipulation for a movie to be considered for this list was a Fresh rating from at least 20 reviews.
Time to add some scary MIDIs to your MySpace and set AIM status to away (FOREVER), because here comes the best scary 2000s movies!
A remake scoring better than its original counterpart? Rare, but it’s been done before as seen in this week’s gallery of every movie remake that got a higher Tomatometer than the first try!
We’ve got a pretty eclectic mix of new selections available on streaming this week, from the anticipated team-up of Netflix’s Marvel heroes to a campy anti-drug film, as well as a couple of horror flicks, a crime thriller, an indie drama, and more. Read on for the full list.
Kristen Bell and Ted Danson star in this NBC comedy about a deceased woman who suspects she may have been incorrectly admitted into an afterlife paradise and attempts to break away from her past life’s bad behavior.
Available now on: Netflix
Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist come together in this culmination of Netflix’s Marvel series, which finds the reluctant hero team facing off against otherworldly criminal organization The Hand.
Available now on: Netflix
This documentary charts the rise of Asian-American rappers through the lens of four performers, featuring interviews and live concert footage to share a largely unknown story.
Available now on: Netflix
Taking a breather from Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi stars as Murder Legendre, a malevolent vooodoo master, with an entourage of undead minions in this low-budget chiller from 1932.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Samantha Morton stars in Lynne Ramsay’s thriller about a Scottish woman who covers up her boyfriend’s suicide, takes credit for his unpublished novel, and moves to Spain for a party lifestyle.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Joel Edgerton,Tom Wilkinson, Jai Courtney, and Melissa George star in a thriller about three cops dealing with the potential fallout from a bust gone wrong.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
Supernatural‘s Jensen Ackles stars in this grisly remake of the 1981 horror film about a psychotic coal miner who wreaks havoc upon a small town.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
This campy cult classic began life as a warning against marijuana usage, insisting that a little pot will drive normal people to acts of depravity like rape, manslaughter, and suicide.
Available now on: Amazon Prime
This comedy from Israel centers on a woman who befuddles her friends and loved ones by refusing to cancel her wedding plans even after the groom backs out.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Kate Mara stars in this inspirational true story about the bond between a Marine corporal and the K9 patrol dog she served two tours of duty with in Iraq.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Terence Davies‘ Certified Fresh drama centers on a young farm girl who finds independence and romance at the outset of World War I.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Brett Gelman and Judy Greer star in this dramedy about an actor whose fading hopes of stardom are mirrored by his less-than-satisfying family life.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
This LA-based drama co-starring Demian Bichir and Melissa Benoist follows a graffiti artist trying to pull away from his family’s history of violence.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella star in the latest iteration of Universal’s classic monster movie, in which a vengeful ancient princess awakens to wreak havoc across the world.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Demetrius Shipp Jr., Kat Graham, and Lauren Cohan star in this chronicle of the life of influential rapper and actor Tupac Shakur.
Available now on: FandangoNOW
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, girls in tan speedsuits! Mass hysteria has gripped the nation since the hyperventilating presence of a femme Ghostbusters swooped in with a trailer, becoming the most disliked in YouTube history. Would a Mannequin remake cause the same tribulation? Only time will tell.
For now, as the Ghostbusters franchise crosses the mainstream once again, we look at 24 more ’80s movie remakes, ranked worst to best by Tomatometer! (Only original properties included — no Annie or Conan — while movies like 2011’s The Thing, which explicitly extend the original plot, are excluded.)
There have been so many horror remakes that there’s no way we could cover them all at once. We did, however, decide to collect a sampling list, making room for some of the best, worst, and most puzzlingly misguided examples from the genre. Let’s get started, shall we?
Like many of the movies on this week’s list, the latter-day Amityville Horror was produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes — and like more than a few of them, it suffered in comparison to the original. Which is a shame, because Amityville‘s central story — about a young family moving into a horrifically haunted house — is both devilishly simple and allegedly fact-based, which has helped the franchise retain its aura even through a series of sometimes-silly sequels and spinoffs. Unfortunately, despite a talented cast that included Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, and a young(er) Chloe Grace Moretz, this Horror was mainly scary for the studio execs who had to account for its $64 million domestic gross, which sentenced the franchise to years of direct-to-DVD purgatory.
Inspired by the way David Cronenberg used modern special effects and less-campy storytelling to amp up the horror in The Fly, Hollywood spent a portion of the late 1980s rushing to the vaults and searching for other long-dormant properties that might benefit from the remake treatment. Hence 1988’s The Blob, in which an alien goo plops down in a small town and starts gorging on its unsuspecting residents. It was just as fantastically cheesy a premise as it had been in 1958, when Steve McQueen starred in the original — but thanks to a solid screenplay from future Shawshank Redemption director/adapter Frank Darabont, as well as a (slightly) more believable Blob, it managed to just about reach the rather low bar set by its predecessor, which is about all one can hope for when making a film about hungry interstellar plasma.
The original Cat People, produced on the cheap by Val Lewton in 1942, emphasized suggestion over explicit horror; four decades later, director Paul Schrader used the movie’s central idea — about people whose sexual desires trigger a sometimes-deadly feline transformation — as the basis for a steamy softcore flick that made up for its lack of genuine scares with an abundance of Natassja Kinski and a cool soundtrack featuring David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder. While it may not be the most terrifying movie on this list, it’s probably one of the hardest to turn away from if you happen across it on the cable dial during a bout of late-night viewing.
“WHY ARE THE GOOD PEOPLE DYING?” screamed the poster for George A. Romero’s paranoid The Crazies about the side effects of a military accident that resulted in a small American town being poisoned with a biological weapon that turns people into violent lunatics. Sadly, the tagline for Romero’s 1973 effort might as well have been “WHY WON’T MOST THEATERS SHOW THE CRAZIES?,” because the picture died with a whimper at the box office — but a good idea always turns up again in the horror genre, and in 2010, director Breck Eisner repurposed Romero’s original to create a sleek, gleefully nasty update that managed a surprisingly robust 71 percent on the Tomatometer. Alas, while Eisner’s Crazies at least made it to wide release, they didn’t fare a whole lot better at the box office, managing to slash together ony $54 million worldwide. The result of a military-industrial conspiracy, perhaps?
Did George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead really need a remake? Perhaps not. But if we were going to get one, it might as well have been one that blended the the visual wizardry of director Zack Snyder with a screenplay from future Guardians of the Galaxy mastermind James Gunn, and that’s just what we got with this 2004 “re-envisioning” of the zombie classic. Using the original’s basic framework as an effective delivery mechanism for a fresh round of gruesome gore and heart-pumping action, the new Dawn proved surprisingly bright for most critics, including Aisle Seat’s Mike McGranaghan, who wrote, “Dawn of the Dead is ultra-violent, excessively bloody, and extremely gory — all in a good way. I left the theater feeling pumped full of adrenaline.”
It might seem a little odd to base a horror remake on a TV movie from the 1970s, but the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark — starring Kim Darby as a housewife whose new home comes with some nasty little tenants lurking in the basement — is a cult classic for aficionados of the genre, so a theatrical version was probably inevitable. Given that the 2011 edition was co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, fans had reason to be hopeful that the remade Dark would be even scarier than the first; alas, after being trapped in studio limbo for months due to Miramax’s shuttering, director Troy Nixey’s update on the story — which focused on an eight-year-old (Bailee Madison) and her father’s girlfriend (Katie Holmes) — was greeted with lukewarm indifference by audiences and critics alike. Perhaps some things are just more frightening on the boob tube.
How in the world do you put together a remake of one of the most beloved horror-comedy cult classics of the last 40 years? If you’re director Fede Alvarez, you film a new version of Evil Dead with production input from creator Sam Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell, a much bigger budget, and a far more serious take on the story of young campers who unwittingly unleash a demon plague while goofing around with the Book of the Dead. The amped-up gore in Alvarez’s Evil Dead certainly wasn’t for everyone, but it arguably made more sense, given the film’s narrative outline — and the resultant uptick in attention to the franchise helped lead to the subsequent TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead.
The original version of The Fly, released in 1958, was a Vincent Price classic that didn’t really need to be remade, but that didn’t stop producer Stuart Cornfield (working with an uncredited Mel Brooks) from getting the ball rolling on a new version. After several years in development, plenty of studio struggle, and some turnover at the screenwriter and director positions, Cornfield had his movie: David Cronenberg’s gorier, more suspenseful take on The Fly, which went back to George Langelaan’s 1957 short story and emerged with one of the more delightfully suspenseful horror/sci-fi movies of the 1980s. Unfortunately, Cronenberg’s Fly — starring Jeff Goldblum as the ill-fated scientist whose experiments leave his DNA accidentally intertwined with the titular pest, and Geena Davis as the woman who loves him — was too successful to prevent a sequel: 1989’s rather uninspired The Fly II. Rumors of another remake (and a quasi-sequel penned by Cronenberg) have popped up over the years, but it’s all been for naught. So far, anyway.
Featuring a “star” hidden behind a hockey mask and a brilliantly low-budget conceit that needed nothing more than anonymous young actors capable of screaming in various states of undress, the Friday the 13th series was one of the most reliably profitable horror franchises of the 1980s — and ripe for the reboot treatment in the 21st century. Platinum Dunes did the honors in 2009, reimagining the murderous Jason Voorhees as more of a lethal maniac and less of a lumbering dolt, with cooler special effects and plenty of T&A; once again, the formula worked, producing plenty of pure profit for the studio and signaling that perhaps a new slew of sequels was on the horizon. Alas, Jason slumbered for the next several years, although he’s currently set to terrorize a fresh batch of Crystal Lake campers on May 13, 2016.
If director Craig Gillespie had polled horror fans in 2011 and asked them if he really needed to remake 1985’s Fright Night, the answer probably would have been a resounding “no”; after all, the original was not only a surprise hit, it had matured into a solid favorite among scary movie lovers, and little seemed to be gained by updating the story of a horror-loving teen (William Ragsdale) who makes the awful discovery that his new neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is secretly a vampire. While it may not have been strictly necessary, the new Fright Night — starring Anton Yelchin as young Charley Brewster and Colin Farrell as the undead addition to the neighborhood — proved surprisingly potent, with Farrell’s charismatic performance matching Gillespie’s confident lens. While box office returns were fairly weak, the remake brought the Fright Night franchise back to life, with a direct-to-video sequel arriving in 2013.
By the 2000s, producer Moustapha Akkad’s once-proud Halloween franchise had fallen on hard times, with deathless serial killer Michael Myers resurfacing in a series of low-budget sequels that bore little resemblance to John Carpenter’s classic 1978 original. All that was left was to start over from the beginning — and that’s what director Rob Zombie did with 2007’s Halloween, which retold Myers’ gruesome origin story and returned him to poor, unfortunate Haddonfield, Illinois for a gorier version of his first grown-up killing spree. While Zombie had previously flirted with critical respectability with 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects, his Halloween mustered a mere 25 percent on the Tomatometer — not as high as 1982’s much-maligned Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but still better than the sixth installment in the series, 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers, and good enough to greenlight a sequel (dubbed H2) in 2009. A planned 3D follow-up eventually fell off the schedule, but the next sequel, reportedly titled Halloween Returns, is currently in development.
If Gus Van Sant’s Psycho serves as an argument against remakes, then the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers offers an equally persuasive rebuttal. While the 1956 original is one of the most highly regarded sci-fi/horror movies of its era, director Philip Kaufman’s update matched it with a thrillingly gritty, ensemble-driven look at what might happen if alien spores landed on Earth and started sprouting eerily emotionless replicas of our friends and loved ones. Sharpening up the special effects without overly relying on them, the new-look Body Snatchers featured solid performances from a stellar cast that included Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum — and although it definitely made its share of money at the box office in 1978, if anything it’s even more highly regarded today. Here’s hoping Kaufman’s Snatchers continues to stand as the most recent version of the movie for many more years to come.
If you’re looking for fright value, bad guys don’t come much more elegantly brutal than a bloodthirsty lunatic with a pickaxe, which might be why the low-budget 1981 Canadian slasher flick My Bloody Valentine — about a miner who survives a collapse by dining on his fellow crew members, goes crazy before being rescued, and wages murderous revenge — proved even more potent when its 3D remake surfaced in 2009. And although it may not have generated blockbuster numbers at the box office, it fared surprisingly well with critics; it can’t be long before we’re treated to yet another Bloody Valentine.
Given how much money the Nightmare on Elm Street movies made for New Line during the 1980s and early 1990s, remakes and/or reboots were probably always a matter of course; problem was, the series was just as memorable for Robert Englund’s outstanding performance in the role of series killer Freddy Krueger as it was for its scores of inventive on-screen murders. Faced with the unsolvable problem of replacing Englund, the folks at Platinum Dunes hired Jackie Earle Haley to take over the part for their 2010 reboot — and although Haley is certainly a talented actor, and more than capable of exuding a sinister aura, he isn’t as physically imposing as Englund. Add that to a story that hit many of the same beats as the original, and the end result was a movie that, while certainly profitable, failed to land with as much impact as it had the first (eight) time(s) around.
Werner Herzog’s filmography offers more than a few case studies in audaciousness, not the least of which is 1979’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht. Occasionally referred to by its less cool English title, Nosferatu the Vampyre, this remake of F.W. Murnau’s classic 1922 silent film finds Klaus Kinski stepping into the bloodsucking role so memorably inhabited by Max Schreck, with all parties involved acquitting themselves admirably. No less a cinematic authority than Roger Ebert agreed, writing that “To say of someone that they were born to play a vampire is a strange compliment, but if you will compare the two versions of Nosferatu you might agree with me that only Kinski could have equaled or rivaled Max Schreck’s performance.”
Of all the remakes on our list, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho embraces the concept more eagerly than most, delivering a somewhat bafflingly precise update on the 1960 Hitchcock classic with a shot-for-shot replication that, while assembled and acted by talented creative types, exhibited no real creativity of its own. But while Van Sant’s Psycho wound up bottoming out at a rather miserable 37 percent on the Tomatometer, he dodged a few bullets in at least one sense — unlike a lot of remakes of classic films, his attempt to re-Hitchcock Hitchcock inspired more critical bafflement than anger or derision. Ultimately, the 1998 Psycho serves as a perfectly persuasive (albeit most likely unintentional) argument against remakes in general.
A man, a plan, a chainsaw. Oh, and a facemask made out of human skin. It may not sound like much, but from the moment 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre terrified its first audiences, it’s served as the basis for one of the horror genre’s more surprisingly durable franchises — in spite of the mostly miserable track record suffered by its spate of periodic prequels, sequels, and spinoffs. The horror remake enthusiasts at Platinum Dunes tried to take things back to the beginning (again) with their 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and although most critics claimed time had dulled Leatherface’s blade, audiences still turned out to the tune of more than $100 million in box office grosses. Yet another prequel followed in 2006, followed by a 3D sequel to the original in 2013, and the origin story Leatherface is currently scheduled for 2016. Confused? Don’t think too hard; in the end, it all goes back to those first simple ingredients.
There are worse (and far, far better) horror remakes than Neil LaBute’s update on The Wicker Man, but we absolutely had to include it here, because no other film provides its particular brand of sheer, cackling lunacy. While it’s misguided on just about every level, the 2006 Wicker is chiefly noteworthy thanks to Nicolas Cage’s presence as police detective Edward Malus, whose journey to a secluded island in search of his abducted daughter ends very badly for all concerned — including any audience members not prepared for the unforgettable sight of Cage punching a woman in the face while wearing a bear suit, or the equally memorable sound of Cage screaming “Oh God! Not the bees!” Avoid it if you’re looking for truly scary viewing, but it still needs to be seen in order to be believed.
En español: Read this article in Spanish at Tomatazos.com.
Henry Selick, the animation mastermind behind such Certified Fresh classics as The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach adds another gong to his cabinet with Coraline, based on the novella by Neil Gaiman. Its dark tale of a young girl who finds a portal into an alternate reality will please adults and children alike and it’s both visually stunning and wondrously entertaining. Now, set against a gallery of stills from the production, Selick takes RT on an exclusive journey into the art of Coraline…
“Coraline is kind-of relentless, like animators like me. She’s going to get there one way or another and she’s not going to be tied in place because her parents won’t allow her to do something. She’s going to find a way to get to what she wants. Of course, what she wants can get her into deep trouble and that brings up the other aspect about her I love — how brave she is. She doesn’t have guns or superpowers but she still faces incredible evil and manages to win. You can read the book in much less than a day, and so when you’re working on it you do have to think the character through. You talk to animators and figure out what the poses are which’ll work for her. You have to define her and it doesn’t just happen. Over a long period of time you get to know her on different levels.”
“If 3D is used well it’s a tool for telling a story. If it’s only used as a gimmick, which for some films like My Bloody Valentine 3D maybe that’s what the audience wants, I think it’s less powerful. If it’s used to enhance the story and draw the audience into the film, I think it could be the equivalent of what sound or colour was to cinema. There’ll be a bunch of bad 3D movies made and the good ones will win out. It’ll just take some time. The new system, Real-D, which uses technology invented by a friend of mine, Lenny Lipton, it’s great. It’s so much better than the 50s version, the anaglyph system with the red and blue lenses. It still has room to improve, it’s very dark, but I think the reason we’re seeing so many 3D films now is a combination of the emergence of this technology and people always looking for something different — why would you go to a movie rather than download it or wait for the DVD?”
“It was very challenging to shoot in 3D at first; it took four months to work it out. I know a lot about 3D, I know Lenny going back 20 years, but the main thing is that it’s like learning a language. It’s easy to use too much because it’s cool. For me it was about coming up with a script for when and how to use it based on story. Then it wasn’t so difficult. It’s easy to get carried away, and I’m especially happy we kept a lid on it.”
“It was great to get Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders involved. Really funny people can be hard to be around because you feel dull and slow, but they were great. I threw them a total curveball in that when I first recorded them, we spent the whole day, finished all their lines, and as I was listening to playback I thought it was good but not great. I couldn’t figure out what was missing. So I asked them to switch parts and they didn’t freak out. They gave it a try and then in five minutes time everyone was beaming. Of course, Dawn French is Forcible — what were we thinking?!”
“The sets for the film are very extensive and some are quite large. Ultimately we rented a warehouse which was twice as large as we needed and inevitably the sets grew to be twice as large as we’d planned! We took advantage of what we had and there was a sense of trying to give the movie scale and have it not feel like a tabletop movie with toys in a limited space. We built where we could and didn’t keep things flat. We gave a lot of topography and gradations to these worlds.”
“We had to create two versions of the world, just like we had to create two versions (sometimes more) of the characters. There’s always this interplay — here’s the house in the real world, kind-of run down and shabby and divided into flats, well what’s it like in the other place and how do we differentiate? One of the main points of differentiation was how we used 3D. We built everything deeper. We didn’t just turn up the 3D but we built the world deeper in the Other World to give a greater sense of freedom. This Other World is trying to seduce Coraline into staying there. So the two worlds designed together is a thread that runs through the entire film and it was always about making the real world feel limited but knowing that we had to live there at the end of the film and feel OK about it. Specially, the look of things, the design, the delicacy of some adjustments, everything was thought of at once and had to be built individually.”
“There are far fewer camera shots in the real world. There are more locked shots. The real parents are the same, they don’t learn any lessons. Mom’s still grouchy at the end. In the Other World, we upped the flamboyance of Spink and Forcible, the French and Saunders characters. We made that broader. There were more differences between the supporting characters in the Other World. We formed them differently.”
Coraline is out now.
This weekend the North American box office was on fire once again as four new releases all scored muscular debuts helping to drive the marketplace to the biggest January weekend in history as ticket buyers flooded the multiplexes over a record-shattering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday frame. The Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop surged ahead of expectations to easily win the session while the R-rated films My Bloody Valentine 3D and Notorious also generated stellar numbers. Kidpic Hotel for Dogs debuted to some nice figures as well joining its fellow newcomers in the top five. All four new films opened to more than $20M each over the extended four-day Friday-to-Monday period.
Santa must have given Hollywood studios crystal balls because just about everything tossed into theaters over the last four weeks has been met with a great response from moviegoers who seem to be in the mood to see anything. In fact since Christmas, a whopping eleven films have opened to $17M or more. That compares to just four from the same period a year ago. The Top 20 grossed a jaw-dropping $185M over the Friday-to-Sunday span this weekend beating last Thanksgiving’s holiday frame by an amazing 15%. Over the four-day span, the Top 20 soared to $222M edging last Memorial Day’s Friday-to-Monday session by 3%. The MLK frame has never been this potent.
Sony topped the charts with Paul Blart taking in an estimated $39M over four days beating the studio’s most aggressive forecasts. The PG-rated comedy averaged a superb $12,405 from 3,144 locations and established James as a bankable funnyman. Look for future paydays to climb rapidly. Having anchored the hit sitcom King of Queens, the actor has never opened a film on his own and instead has taken sidekick roles next to more established box office titans like Will Smith in Hitch and Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Blart’s three-day debut of $31.8M actually beat out the openings of recent films from both of those stars. Smith’s Seven Pounds bowed to just $14.9M while Sandler’s Bedtime Stories debuted to $27.5M. James attracted mostly negative reviews which meant nothing to moviegoers looking just for 90 minutes of mindless fun.
Budgeted at only $26M, the film should turn out to be a nice little moneymaker for Sony and Sandler whose company Happy Madison produced. Exit polls showed that males and females were evenly represented while those under 25 made up 56% of the crowd. Friday saw a solid start with a stellar $9.8M while Saturday jumped a healthy 35% to $13.2M with family audiences making the trip out. Blart also registered the third largest January opening ever.
Clint Eastwood held his own against the $110M of business stolen away by the four new releases this long weekend. His Gran Torino dropped to the runnerup spot in its second weekend of wide release pulling in an estimated $26.2M. The three-day portion fell just 25%. Warner Bros. is enjoying the same strong legs that most of Eastwood’s films have since the Oscar-winner’s older-skewing fan base usually comes out over time and not upfront in the first weekend. With $77.2M already in the tank, Torino could soar to $140M or more by the end of its lucrative run.
The battle for third place was tight but over the four-day Friday-to-Monday period, the horror film My Bloody Valentine 3D eked out the victory. The Lionsgate terrorfest bowed to an estimated $24.2M from 2,534 theaters for a terrific $9,569 average. It was the widest debut ever for a 3D film with 1,033 (41%) of those locations featuring the digital 3D presentation. The extra $2-3 per ticket that exhibitors charged for the new technology also helped to pump up the grosses. The three-day period saw $21.3M in sales. Valentine showed how strong demand is for an interesting horror film at the beginning of the year as it followed the strong $19.8M debut of last weekend’s PG-13 supernatural thriller The Unborn. Critics were surprisingly upbeat for Valentine. This was that rare weekend when the best reviewed new release was a gory horror flick.
Close behind in fourth place, but with the heaviest average of the weekend, was the biopic Notorious which grossed an estimated $24M from only 1,638 theaters. Averaging a sizzling $14,652, the R-rated story of the slain rap superstar gave Fox Searchlight the biggest debut in company history. It was also the best opening weekend average for a wide release since November’s Twilight. The three-day bow was $20.5M. Reviews were mixed for Notorious which attracted the multicultural fans of the late music star. Searchlight’s choice of release date was no coincidence as it knew that a film about a popular African American entertainer would sell opening over Martin Luther King weekend, and just days before the Obama Inauguration.
Kids and tweens lined up for the comedy Hotel for Dogs which debuted in fifth place with $17M over three days and $22.5M over the long holiday frame. The PG-rated Paramount release averaged a respectable $6,879 over four days from 3,271 locations.
A pair of sophomore titles followed. The wedding comedy Bride Wars fell to an estimated $14M pushing its 11-day total to $39.9M. Budgeted at $30M, the Kate Hudson-Anne Hathaway pic should go on to gross about $65M for Fox. Universal’s hit thriller The Unborn scared up an estimated $11M for a cume of $34.2M in 11 days. With a low $16M price tag, the PG-13 fright flick looks to reach $50M.
Paramount Vantage went nationwide with its Holocaust drama Defiance and ended up at number eight with a respectable four-day estimate of $10.7M. The Daniel Craig pic averaged a moderate $5,981 from 1,789 sites and has taken in $11M since its platform debut on New Year’s Eve. Two-time box office king Marley & Me followed in ninth with an estimated $7.5M. The Fox overachiever raised its impressive total to $133.9M making it the top-grossing film of Jennifer Aniston’s career when in a lead role.
A sweep of last Sunday’s Golden Globes helped make Jamal Malik a richer kid. Slumdog Millionaire, winner of Best Picture – Drama and three other trophies, lost 19 theaters but saw sales surge to an estimated $7.2M leading to a potent $12,285 average from 582 locations. The three-day tally of $5.8M soared 54%. Fox Searchlight has already taken in $44M and will expand the indie hit nationwide to about 1,300 runs this Friday, a day after Academy Award nominations are announced. Slumdog jumped up a spot to number one in the United Kingdom this weekend and will open in India on Friday.
Other films winning Globe statues also saw their grosses rise. Searchlight’s The Wrestler which took home two awards for Best Actor – Drama for Mickey Rourke and Best Song for Bruce Springsteen more than doubled its take to an estimated $2.1M. The film also expanded by 84 theaters and averaged a sturdy $14,410 from 144 sites. Kate Winslet’s Revolutionary Road, which won her a Best Actress – Drama prize, grossed an estimated $2.2M, up 24% over the three-day portion. The Paramount Vantage release averaged a solid $12,614 per location over four days from 171 playdates and will expand nationwide this Friday into 800 venues. Totals stand at $5.4M and $6.1M, respectively.
Those snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press suffered declines this weekend. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button dropped 40% (over the three-day portion) to an estimated $6.6M for Paramount lifting the total to $103.6M. The Meryl Streep pic Doubt fell 51% to an estimated $1.5M giving Miramax $25.5M to date. Declining 41% was Sean Penn’s Milk with an estimated $921,000 and a $20.5M cume. Frost/Nixon slid by 26% to an estimated $789,000 putting the sum at $8.7M for Universal. A Best Picture nod from the Academy this week could revive any of these films in the weeks ahead.
Elsewhere below the top ten, Overture expanded its Dustin Hoffman-Emma Thompson comedy Last Chance Harvey from 16 to 1,054 theaters nationwide and posted an estimated $5.1M, a decent bow in a crowded marketplace. Averaging $4,858, the PG-13 title has collected $5.7M since its limited debut in late December. Warner Bros. released its first Bollywood film with Chandni Chowk to China and grossed an estimated $700,000 from 130 theaters for a respectable $5,385 average.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $186.3M over four days which was up an impressive 23% from last year when Cloverfield opened in the top spot with $46.1M; and up a stunning 69% from 2006’s MLK frame when Stomp the Yard debuted at number one with $25.9M.
Compared to projections, the four new releases all soared higher than my three-day forecasts of $11M for Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $17M for My Bloody Valentine 3D, $13M for Notorious, and $14M for Hotel for Dogs.
With critical success for Slumdog Millionaire last week (94%), we have more award-friendly fare in the UK cinemas this Friday in Darren Aronofsky‘s spandex-tastic The Wrestler. Also out this week is Will Smith‘s latest, the emotional drama, Seven Pounds, with kids-flick Beverley Hills Chihauhau yapping at its heel. Plus My Bloody Valentine 3D splatters onto and out of our screens via some nifty technology and ropey looking specs. But what did the UK critics have to say?
Fresh from winning two Golden Globes (Best Actor, Best Original Song), bathed in critical acclaim from the festival season, and surrounded by pre-Oscar hype, The Wrestler finally body-slams into the UK cinema screens, but does it live up to expectations. With seven 5-Star ratings tallied from respected UK sources including Empire, Channel 4, Total Film and The Daily Mail, it seems like The Wrestler is destined for glory at 98% on The Tomatometer. Plaudits have not just been reserved for Mickey Rourke who puts in his best performance for years as past-it pro-wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, but praise has rightly been heaped on director Darren Aronofsky for his own comeback of sorts after the critical kicking of his last film The Fountain (51%). Chris Hicks of Total Film summed up the critical response to The Wrestler:
“Aronofsky’s most authentic film refuses to ridicule the amateur wrestling circuit, while Rourke’s portrait of a has-been will surely be the comeback of the year.”
Will Smith returns to our screens this week following the decidedly iffy Hancock (39%), reteaming with the director of The Pursuit Of Happyness, Gabriele Muccino, for the emotional drama Seven Pounds. Plot details have been kept tightly under wraps due to a twist ending, but the critics weren’t too impressed despite being kept in the dark. Seven Pounds currently stands at a Rotten 27% on The Tomatometer, with the main criticisms being aimed at the film’s illogical and convoluted plotting, mis-handling of a heavyweight subject, and at Smith himself, with Matthew Turner of View London calling it “a career worst performance”. Don’t waste your £7 on Seven Pounds.
Beverley Hills Chihuahua, from Disney, is as silly as it sounds, and features pampered pooches who talk, naturally. It currently stands at a Rotten 40% on the Tomatometer, with most critics dismissing the film as made-for-kids fodder. The critics agreed that it’s probably suitable for youngsters, with the canines putting in better performances than most of the humans involved. The critics wouldn’t write it off completely though, with the traditionally hard-to-please Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian saying:
“This piece of egregious silliness from Disney – featuring live-action canines with CGI moving mouths – isn’t quite as awful as it sounds.”
My Bloody Valentine 3D is a remake/sequel to the 1981 slasher-film original. Utilising the latest 3D technology and making the most of its 18 certificate, My Bloody Valentine 3D promises horror thrills never seen before on the UK screens. With early reviews counted, the film currently stands at a healthy 71% on the Tomatometer, with Nigel Floyd of Time Out gushing “This is why 3D was invented”. Most of the critics were wowed with the polished and impressive use of 3D technology, despite the film itself never really transcending its clichéd slasher roots. Anton Bitel of Channel 4 said:
“It is a vacuous trawl through horror’s more sensationalist tropes… but that is just another way of saying that this is popcorn cinema at its most unapologetic and unpretentious, guaranteed to delight gorehounds and to bring young lovers closer together.”
Quote Of The Week
“Not that anybody would expect perfection from a film called Beverly Hills Chihuahua, but the chewed bone of a story makes it all mutts ado about nothing.”
Beverley Hills Chihuahua. Elliot Noble, Sky Movies.