In the past several years, we’ve seen something of a renaissance in horror, with films like It FollowsThe BabadookHereditary, and It earning widespread critical acclaim, while Jordan Peele’s Get Out even managed to nab four Oscar nominations and took home the trophy for Best Original Screenplay. But for years, horror films played the part of Hollywood’s whipping boy, as some of the most recognized and beloved icons in the genre — in all of cinema, even — were rooted in poorly reviewed franchises and films thought to cater to the basest instincts of moviegoing audiences.

With that in mind, and with Halloween fast approaching, we here at Rotten Tomatoes decided to take a look back at some critical duds that, for whatever reason, resonated with us. While we readily acknowledge the flaws in these 14 films, we were also entertained by them, thrilled by them, shocked by them, or driven to fits of laughter. Read on for our staff favorite list of 14 Rotten Horror Movies We Love.


The Believers (1987) 39%

If you can love a film for a single moment, The Believers may steal your heart. Starring Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, Robert Loggia, and Jimmy Smits, the 1987 horror-thriller based on Nicholas Conde’s 1982 novel The Religion is about a New York psychologist whose son becomes the focus of a brujería (black magic) cult that practices child sacrifice. At a party, Shaver’s character Jessica powders her cheek from a makeup compact that a brujo (male witch) has surreptitiously brushed his hand over. The witch Palo (Malick Bowens) then dances for the party crowd, and Jessica begins to fall into a trance-like state. Later, in a moment that will haunt your nightmares, a blemish growing on Jessica’s face erupts and a swarm of spiders emerge. Watch the trailer to catch a glimpse of the pulsating boil.


Beyond the Black Rainbow (2011) 61%

First off, come on — Beyond the Black Rainbow? That’s a killer title for any movie. This is the feature debut of director Panos Cosmatos, the man who successfully harnessed the power of Nic Cage and wowed the critics earlier this year with MandyBlack Rainbow is decidedly less focused than that movie — it plays more like an experimental exercise in moods and visuals — but the same singular, inscrutable weirdness that split the critics is also what makes it unforgettable. The story, as it were, centers on a young woman with telekinetic powers who is held against her will in a research facility and undergoes treatment from a doctor harboring secrets of his own. Pretty standard stuff so far, even if the vaguely retrofuturistic setting and ominous synth score do a lot to set an appropriately sinister tone. But then the movie takes a pretty sharp left turn with an acid trip of a flashback, and things go really off the rails. Is it all effective? Not exactly; its story does meander a bit, and it feels a little self-indulgent from time to time. But it is extremely pretty to look at; it’s one of those movies you can play in the background of a house party, just because it’s chock full of fantastic imagery. And it’s so good at evoking a specific sort of existential dread that you’ll swear you’ve dozed off and stepped into a 1980s nightmare. It’s not the scariest movie out there, but it’s icky, unsettling, and good for a shock or two.


The Cell (2000) 45%

Largely dismissed by critics not named Roger Ebert upon release, The Cell was a victim of being graded on the steep curve of The Silence of the Lambs, which was invoked in many a negative review. The unflattering comparison was accurate — The Cell lacks the psychological sophistication of Thomas Harris’ mindhunter franchise — but equating the two is hardly fair. The Cell is not a grounded investigation into a dangerous mind. Instead, it’s a savage opera. The film’s horrific power is drawn from director Tarsem Singh’s knack for unnerving tableaux, aided and abetted by legendary designer Eiko Ishioka’s eccentric costumes that practically defy categorization in their fragrant textures and curved edges. Not that there isn’t a human element in The Cell; you have Jennifer Lopez exuding her viperish charisma for the last time until her triumphant return to form in this year’s Hustlers, and then there is Vincent D’Onofrio giving himself over entirely to a succession of unforgettable grotesqueries while maintaining an undercurrent of tortured humanity throughout. The Cell is gaudy and mannered, but it achieves a quality of horror that cinema rarely aspires toward: the sublime.


Deadly Friend (1986) 19%

Deadly Friend walked so that Ex Machina could run. This 1980s Wes Craven flick is a Frankensteinian tale of body-blending: desperate to revive both his artificially-intelligent robot and his freshly-dead crush, a teenaged boy plugs the bot’s hard drive into the girl-next-door’s brain. Everything about it is goofy and nonsensical – more akin to Scream than anything on Elm Street. The only thing frightening about this “horror” movie is its titular character’s lack of ante-mortem autonomy… and maybe the force with which she can chuck a basketball. You’re more likely to howl with laughter than fear while watching Deadly Friend, but by the end, you’ll be cheering for its most unlikely of heroes.


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) 19%

If you get to watch one Friday the 13th movie, make it The Final Chapter. Not only do you get a recap of the previous three film’s kills and minor plot developments, the fourth movie is the first where Jason wears the hockey mask for the whole time, making for a real classic experience. Of course, there’s more to this movie to recommend beyond Jason’s deft sartorial choices. The teenagers, horny and doomed as usual, include a hilariously and unhinged Crispin Glover. One adult character is actually trying to solve the mystery, giving the plot some forward momentum. The cinematography is uncommonly good, shot by Joao Ferandes, in tandem with director Jospeh Zito. They both previously made the famed underground slasher The Prowler together, and Zito carries over that movie’s cruel, relentless streak into the Friday franchise. Yet, Zito keeps Jason mostly out of sight until the final 20 minutes, who instead stalks his prey outside the frame, creating a mood of paranoia and claustrophobia. Kills are presented with close-up creativity: A victim’s hand squeezing a banana as they’re knifed from behind, or a tracking camera that captures one shadow killing another just as lightning illuminates the screen. It may seem like just another slasher, but horror fans with an open mind will see it as a unique roller coaster of thrills and blood spills.


The Hills Have Eyes (2006) 52%

It’s not hard to understand why this remake of Wes Craven’s classic about a family being stalked in the desert left some critics cold: as Richard Roeper said when he slammed the flick back in 2006, “it’s just nasty.” And we’re not going to argue back; the central trailer attack, which involves an incredibly brutal rape, is tough to watch. If you’re out at that point, we get it. But there’s incredible skill here too from director Alexandre Aja, who had just directed the terrifying and totally preposterous French slasher High Tension and knows his way around a good scare. He conjures dread and thrills in equal measure, and ultimately stages an extremely satisfying revenge-driven third act. It’s scary as f—k and it mostly unfolds in broad daylight! Aja is aided by a game cast that includes the criminally under-employed Vinessa Shaw, Kathleen Quinlan, Ted Levine, Emilie De Ravin, and the scene-stealing Dan Byrd.


Jennifer's Body (2009) 45%

Just Googling Jennifer’s Body brings up thinkpiece after thinkpiece talking about how underappreciated it was and retelling the story behind its cringey marketing campaign. But no one needs to be reminded that Jennifer’s Body is a good movie. Not a so-bad-it’s-good movie, not a good-but-ahead-of-it’s-time movie, just a solid, good movie. The cast was so 2000s it’s like watching a time capsule, and Megan Fox’s public image at the height of her career added layers to her performance. Her star power was fueled by blockbuster movies and sex appeal, and she was suddenly in a film that was the polar opposite of the Transformers franchise, again playing a sex symbol but one who becomes something monstrous, fueled by chaos, gore, insecurity, and toxic friendship. Jennifer’s Body was a salty little morsel when it debuted in 2009, and its sodium content hasn’t dropped since. Goes well with friends and frenemies alike.


Leprechaun 4 in Space (1996) 17%

Of all the franchises you could ever want to venture into space, the Leprechaun series probably isn’t high on the list. Although it’s often remembered for being Jennifer Aniston’s film debut, the first Leprechaun film leaves one wanting. (It’s boring!) From there, Leprechaun tries to find a wife (the very forgettable Leprechaun 2) and when that doesn’t pan out, he makes his way to Sin City in Leprechaun 3. What’s left for a wayward Leprechaun to do? Go to space, of course! Having already abandoned any prospect of maintaining a significant lore or continuity, Leprechaun 4: In Space begins with the promise of ripping off every single space movie you can think of, and it does. Warwick Davis’s Leprechaun has an inexplicable array of powers at this point that leads to one of the most ridiculous and hilarious death scenes in the franchise. The cast is game, led by an impeccably charming Jessica Collins. It seems unlikely, but Leprechaun 4: In Space proves a mission worth signing up for. It’s an unexpected delight to enjoy before you make your way to Jason X.


Orphan (2009) 56%

[Warning: Spoilers Follow] Orphan is a campy, insane, ridiculous, over-the-top, frustratingly well-acted, Leonardo DiCaprio-produced, almost-Fresh-but-definitely-Rotten horror movie. There are few things scarier or more menacing in film than a sociopathic child — except, maybe, a sociopathic child who’s not really a child but a full grown adult woman who fools you into adopting her by playing on your emotions because you’re devastated by the loss of your unborn child, then definitely tries to kill you and your children while also gaslighting you and making you seem crazy so that she can eventually seduce your husband and be the new you. That’s perhaps the scariest use of all. And the only thing scarier than watching this movie when it was originally released is watching it now that it plays like an actual Daily Mail headline.


Prom Night (2008) 7%

An 7% on the Tomatometer seems a little harsh but isn’t completely unwarranted for the 2008 remake of Prom Night. It’s a predictable slasher film packed with jump scares, an escaped lunatic, an almost comical number of murders, and cheesy high-school prom sentiments like, “This is the time of our lives.” The plot is thin – a former teacher becomes obsessed with a high school student, kills off her entire family, and miraculously escapes from jail just in time for her senior prom, which he sees as the perfect opportunity to resume his murder spree. Even if the film doesn’t necessarily offer us anything new in the teen-horror genre, the fast-paced progression of the night’s events keep you intrigued. It’s worth seeing not only to see how many people this deranged murderer can actually kill off in the span of a high school dance, but also for a heartfelt performance by Brittany Snow, whose terror-induced mascara tears will make you feel for the poor protagonist.


Ravenous (1999) 49%

“He was licking me!” That sentence wouldn’t be out of place in a bro-tastic comedy, but it’s in a horror movie directed by the late Antonia Bird. Guy Pearce plays a disgraced lieutenant during the Mexican-American War who is sent to a remote military fort as punishment. Then an outsider (Robert Carlyle) arrives, seeking shelter; he claims to have been part of a camp that survived starvation by resorting to eating their companions. From there, everything goes to hell. Ravenous wasn’t just a scary movie, it was a period film, a war film, a claustrophobic supernatural thriller, and a cautionary tale about colonialism, human nature, and cannibalism. This may sound a bit heavy for those who turn to horror for fun and thrills, but the film really is as chilling as it is (ahem) digestible. Licking accusations aside, Ravenous has one of the best lines in movie history: “I said no food. I didn’t say there was nothing to eat.” Also, Robert Carlyle won a BAFTA the year before for playing one of the male strippers in The Full Monty.


The Strangers (2008) 48%

“Because you were home”: Chills every freaking time. Bryan Bertino’s mood-driven couple-stalked-by-masked-killers flick was dismissed upon its release, but has over the last decade or so come to be seen as perhaps the seminal slasher of the 2000s. Mostly because it’s scary as hell. Bertino makes excellent use of framing, letting his masked intruders resolve slowly into view from shadowy doorways like a trio of upgraded Michael Myserses, and he knows how deliver a solid “boo!” And like Laurie Strode’s serial psycho pest, these killers are relentless and devoid of any particular motivation, which only makes them all the more terrifying. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as the quarreling couple in their sights are both at their peaks here, conveying genuine terror and eliciting genuine sympathy. It’s a slasher in which you do want the victims to get away unscathed – a rarity in the last couple of decades.


Tales From the Hood (1995) 52%

Though many will balk at the comparison, a line can be drawn between Jordan Peele’s Get Out or Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and the 1995 cult horror classic Tales from the Hood. All three features blend comedy and horror-thriller elements with biting social commentary. The cornerstone of each is one true fact: for the marginalized, the real horror story is not the monster under the bed but modern society itself. Though Rusty Cundieff, the film’s writer/director, didn’t possess the budget or cinematic scale of either Parasite or Peele’s Oscar-winning film, their DNA remains the same. Celebrated in the African American community as a comedy horror cult classic, Tales from the Hood utilized broad comedy to mask the film’s powerful commentary on race, injustice, gang violence, and politics. After a new generation of film fans discovered the film on Blu-ray and DVD, it enjoyed a welcome resurgence and prompted a Fresh sequel in Tales from the Hood 2, which hit theaters in 2018. A clear example of a film just a bit too niche to appeal to most, but it’s nevertheless a bona fide classic that’s more than worthy of a second look.


Thirteen Ghosts (2001) 17%

Twelve unsettlingly realistic looking ghosts. A spooky house that seems to move at will. A handsomely illustrated manuscript. Peak Mathew Lillard. Monk. Is there anything Thirteen Ghosts didn’t have going for it? Thanks to its stacked cast (Lillard and Tony Shalhoub scream alongside Shannon Elizabeth, Embeth Davidtz, and F. Murray Abraham) and incredibly creepy production design, Thirteen Ghosts is a treasure trove of jump scares and grotesque vignettes that will leave your skin crawling for days, especially one bone-cracking scene second only in horror to Dumplings. Oh, and there’s a kid who is obsessed with death and creates what can only be described as a proto-podcast called “Death Today” in which he discusses, you guessed it, death. The story is lean, but it gets the job done and leaves plenty of room for its spooky spectres to haunt it up. Grab your spectral viewers and get ready for a ghost-down.


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Hereditary torments viewers with every horror trick and trope in the book. It’s got jump scares, dreadful atmosphere, supernatural goings-on, the occult, spirits and seances, and, yes, creepy kids. You’ll be hard pressed to find a young girl more unsettling at the movies than Milly Shapiro as the forlorn Charlie, who may be channeling her dead grandmother…or worse. But enough tongue clucking: we present this week’s gallery of the 24 creepiest kids from horror movie history.

(Photo by Universal)

Children’s dolls have played hosts to malevolent spirits for generations, but few have achieved the notoriety of the evil “Good Guy” doll named Chucky. We first met him in 1988’s Child’s Play, when deranged serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) transferred his soul into the red-headed plastic moppet and began his reign of terror. Six films later, the Child’s Play/Chucky franchise is still going strong, and if the recent Cult of Chucky is any indication, we haven’t seen the last of him.

To celebrate Halloween, we thought it would be fun — if a bit risky — to find out what Chucky’s Five Favorite Horror Films were, and lucky for us, writer-director Don Mancini was kind enough to ask him on our behalf. A couple of his choices weren’t too surprising, but in true Chucky fashion, a few were just savage. Read on for the full list.


It (2017) 86%

Pennywise is a friend of my mine.  Sometimes we get together for drinks, have a few laughs, swap stories about scaring the crap out of little kids. He’s a great guy. Plus we have the same hairdresser.

Annabelle (2014) 29%

I actually got her into the business, showed her the ropes, taught her everything. She shows a lot of promise, but honestly she has a long way to go as an actor. Not a lot of people know this, but she has terrible stage fright. That’s why they don’t give her any lines. But I think she’s really cute. Don’t tell Jennifer Tilly.

Orphan (2009) 56%

The story of of a brilliant Russian manipulator with a BIG secret, toying with an idiotic American family. It’s a metaphor for our current political situation. Absolutely terrifying.

Flatliners (2017) 4%

Managed to scare away critics and audiences to an unprecedented degree. The ultimate nightmare for anyone who works in Hollywood.

Unforgettable (2017) 28%

My old co-star Katherine Heigl actually based her performance on Barbie. For the whole movie her face doesn’t budge an inch. It’s uncanny. I haven’t slept since I saw it.  Katie, call me.


Cult of Chucky is currently available to stream on Netflix, and you can pick it up on DVD.


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Orphan

There are few things creepier in this world than a really creepy child and Orphan delivers the goods.

In the wake of a family tragedy, Kate and John Coleman decide to adopt a daughter. At the orphanage they develop an instant connection with the quaintly odd, smart as a whip, devil-spawn Esther (Isabelle Fuhrmann). Their son, Danny (Jimmy Bennett), struggles with his new sister almost immediately while the youngest, Max (Aryana Engineer), who is deaf, adores her on sight. But something is most definitely wrong with Esther and from the moment she steps into the house, the Coleman’s lives begin to unravel.

Films starring children should, more often than not, be avoided at all costs. Child actors can be tedious, shrill and smug but in this film each child delivers a strong performance. Vera Farmiga also does well as the mother who’s past indiscretions and flaws are brought out into the glare under the wilful manipulation of their new little ray of sunshine. The only weak link is Pater Sarsgaard’s John. Sarsgaard does a fair enough job but his character is deeply irritating beyond repair.

Despite being built around a great concept, the movie does indulge the odd cliché and dips into tedium at around the half way mark. Stick with it though because just at the point when you are considering wandering off to make yourself a cup of tea, there comes a twist and things get interesting. So interesting in fact that you will wish they had dropped this piece of information earlier.

Orphan is by no means a masterpiece but it is an intriguing addition to the ‘evil child’ genre and well worth the rental. The special features include some deleted scenes and an alternate ending.


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The September Issue

Anna Wintour is a legend. She is the editor-in-chief of Vogue, the devil who wears Prada, the “Nuclear Wintour” and possibly the most feared person in New York.

R. J. Cutler’s The September Issue follows her staff as they work feverishly under her cool gaze to produce the 2007 September issue of Vogue, an 840-page tome that is the largest single issue of a magazine ever published.

Anna Wintour is a fascinating woman yet she is not the most interesting thing in this documentary. Rather it is the way people react to her that will keep you glued to the screen. She comes across as cool, certainly, but also measured, smart and driven. She knows what she wants, and under the shade of her almost childlike page-boy bob, she gets it.

Life is not quite so simple for those around her. They fear her. Do not underestimate that sentence. Her staff ashen in her presence, they tremble, they work desperately to anticipate her, to please her, but these are not easy tasks. With the exception of a brief visit to her home, we do not get much of a glimpse of Anna the woman but we do get to see her power.

One of the most interesting relationships in the documentary is between Wintour and her Creative Director, Grace Coddington. They have worked side-by-side for twenty years and, from Coddington’s nervous disposition, you can’t help but think it hasn’t been the easiest of roads. Still, Coddington is Wintour’s match in terms of genius and despite the tension between the two, the mutual respect is evident. Coddington is the only person in the Vogue office feisty enough to take the great one on and it makes for wonderful entertainment.

Special features include the theatrical trailer and some deleted and extended scenes.


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Van Diemen’s Land

This is the true story of Alexander Pearce, one of our country’s most notorious convicts and his escape, with seven other prisoners, from a hard labour camp in Macquarie Harbour. With only flour and meat to last a couple of days, and nothing but forest in sight, the end of the world can become a remote and godless place.

Under the cinematography of Ellery Ryan every glimpse of the Tasmanian landscape is breathtaking. Yet for all its harsh beauty this place is more a prison to the convicts than the hell from which they have fled.

As the men grow more desperate it becomes clear that their only chance for survival is to sacrifice the weak.

This is a deeply challenging film. It takes its time. The men’s suffering is relentless and their means of survival, confronting. It could so easily have slipped into mindless horror, or even a grotesque black comedy. Rather, it withstands as an intelligent and fascinating study of human nature and our overwhelming drive for survival.

Hunger is indeed a strange silence.

The DVD release is packed with special features. There is an audio commentary with director and co-writer Jonathan auf der Heide, co-writer and lead actor Oscar Redding and cinematographer Ellery Ryan. You will also find four featurettes: A Journey Up River: Making Van Diemen’s Land; The Battle of the Beards; Subtleties of the Slate; and From Bailbo to Van Diemen’s Land.

This week, the Rotten Tomatoes Show will be looking at the movies that opened over the weekend, including Funny People, In the Loop, and Thirst, with help from you (the Rotten Tomatoes community), the Current TV community, and the viewers of the show. The cutoff for webcam reviews has already passed (midnight on Sunday), but the good news is that you can still contribute your Haiku Reviews of the last movie you saw. In order to submit your beautiful Haikus, click here.

Otherwise, be sure to tune in to our show this Thursday (10:30pm on Current TV), and if you missed last week’s episode, you can either download the podcast on iTunes or watch it here:


This week at the movies, we’ve got an evil adoptee (Orphan, starring Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard), a battle of the sexes (The Ugly Truth, starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler), and some powerful guinea pigs (G-Force, with voice work by Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz). What do the critics have to say?



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Orphan

It’s been a while since we’ve had a little-kid-is-pure-evil horror flick. And the pundits say that Orphan, while derivative and overly dependent on false scares, is better-crafted and smarter than average. Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard star as Kate and John, a couple that adopts a little girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). She’s oddly precocious, but soon, sinister events make Kate question who she is and where she came from. The pundits say The Orphan too often relies on jolts rather than tension, and features too many characters who are blind to the terror around them. But others say it’s a well-made, moody throwback that features fine performances and a forboding sense of doom. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down cinema’s most evil children.)



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The Ugly Truth

News flash: Women are looking for deep, meaningful relationships, while men are cretinous pigs. That’s the premise of The Ugly Truth, which critics say is labored, clichéd, and overly raunchy. Katherine Heigl stars as a TV morning show producer who’s frustrated both professionally and romantically; when her station hires a sexist loudmouth (Gerard Butler) to dish out relationship pointers, she’s appalled at first, but soon finds herself following his advice. The pundits say The Ugly Truth seldom deviates from the romantic comedy playbook, offering forced comic setups and stereotypical characters.



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G-Force

G-Force is the tale of four super-intelligent special agents who have been tasked with saving the world. Oh, and they happen to be guinea pigs. It’s an inspired setup, but critics say G-Force is merely content to assault the senses, not create memorable characters or an involving plot. The film follows our tiny heroes, who are part of a secret government program that trains animals in the art of espionage; this fearsome foursome must save the planet from an evil industrialist bent on global domination. The pundits say G-Force is mostly uninspired, relying on obvious pop-culture references, spastic action, and so-so CGI effects.


Also opening this week in limited release:

  • California Company Town, a documentary about communities in the Golden State that have become abandoned once their primary economic focus dried up, is at 100 percent.

  • In the Loop, an Iraq war farce about a miscommunication that leads to attack by U.S. and British forces, is at 93 percent.
  • The English Surgeon, a documentary about a London neurosurgeon who treats patients in Ukraine with little access to modern healthcare, is at 90 percent.

  • Import/Export, a drama about two European victims of the economic downturn, is at 80 percent.

  • The Answer Man, starring Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham in a romantic comedy about a self-help author who is himself searching for truth, is at 36 percent.

  • Shrink, starring Kevin Spacey as a Hollywood psychiatrist who’s as troubled as his patients, is at 15 percent.

  • As Harry Potter inches closer to graduating wizard school, the box office prince will face three new releases opening on Friday each targeting its own specific audience. Sony goes after the adult date crowd with its battle-of-the-sexes comedy The Ugly Truth, Disney offers kids a handful of cute talking animals in G-Force, and Warner Bros. hopes to pull in the horror set with its fright flick Orphan. Each pic will have breathing room but none may be able to stop Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which despite what undoubtedly will be a huge dropoff, aims to hold onto its top spot on the charts.

    Moviegoers in the mood for a formulaic romantic comedy can now leave Sandra Bullock alone and shift their attention to Katherine Heigl who stars opposite 300‘s Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth. The first in an endless late-summer string of R-rated films scheduled to hit theaters between now and Labor Day, Truth is just the latest pic to build a story around one of the film industry’s favorite stock characters – the hopelessly single career woman who meets Mr. Wrong only to find out that he’s Mr. Right.

    The Sony release will have to sell itself based on starpower and the jokes. Heigl has come into her own in recent years with Knocked Up, which in the beginning was sold more as a Judd ApatowSeth Rogen vehicle, and 27 Dresses which became a hit solely because of the actress. Opening weekend grosses were $30.7M and $23M, respectively. Butler shot to fame as a Spartan and later diversified his portfolio adding hunk appeal to the romantic drama P.S. I Love You which went on to gross a respectable $53.7M. As for Ugly‘s comedy, the trailer delivers a few laughs though the newer television spots with the running scoreboard of points between men and women is indeed attention-getting.

    With wizards, robots, and cartoon mammoths ruling the box office for the past month, the adult date crowd has been underserved which partially explains the sensational legs displayed by The Proposal and The Hangover in recent weeks. Truth gives this audience something new to try so at least in the short term it should score some business. Reviews have been ugly which won’t help things and those looking for raunchiness will be disappointed as this is essentially a PG-13 pic with language that forces the R rating. Entering more than 2,700 theaters, The Ugly Truth could take in about $21M this weekend.


    Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth

    Kids can’t resist talking animal movies so Disney is hoping that the reliable formula works for its new adventure G-Force. The PG-rated pic, presented in 3D in select theaters, finds a team of guinea pigs working in a covert government operation to become spies. Jerry Bruckheimer produces and picks an odd choice for his first ever 3D film. Summer is a great time for kidpics and only two films have really dominated with the target audience this season – Up and the Ice Age sequel. Families with younger children are ready to move on to something new, but at the same time they’ve invested heavily already in those higher-priced 3D tickets on both blockbuster toons. Some parents may opt to wait for G-Force on DVD and save the cash.

    The Bruckheimer and Disney brand names will be put to the test since the film is not based on any property that already has a fan base. Nor are there any big stars here to help get the sale. Kidpics opening in the second half of summer not based on a wildly popular brand are a mixed bag. Recent bows for these types of pics include $7.2M for last summer’s Space Chimps, $11.6M for the somewhat known Underdog in 2007, and $22.2M for 2006’s Monster House. The Mouse House has been putting some marketing muscle into its guinea pig film’s release so a decent showing could result, but breakout potential is limited. Opening in more than 3,200 theaters, G-Force might debut with around $20M this weekend.


    The G’s of G-Force

    Horror fans get to try out the new suspense pic Orphan about an adopted girl who, that’s right, is more evil than she looks. The R-rated film boasts no starpower and a story that is very generic. But with no horror films released since Drag Me To Hell in late May, the timing allows the thriller to stand apart from the competition. The marketing push has been decent, but not too powerful. Overall, there is nothing to make this movie special and worth paying top dollar for. Fright films typically perform better during colder months so a summer title needs to really pack the goods if it wants to connect with audiences. Debuting in about 2,600 theaters, Orphan may debut with around $9M.


    The orphan in Orphan

    Last weekend, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ruled the box office and barring a breakout surprise from a newbie, the wizard sequel should once again lead all competitors. The last Potter film Order of the Phoenix, which also bowed on a Wednesday in July, saw a 58% drop in the second weekend while facing moderate competition from new releases. Prince is witnessing a more front-loaded run. Its first four days of release saw grosses that beat out the comparable days for Phoenix. But the tide changed on Sunday and Monday which lagged behind the last Hogwarts flick by 5%. Tuesday beat Phoenix by 3% so some staying power is there. For this weekend, Prince should fall by at least 60% and rake in about $30M pushing the 12-day tally to $222M making it the fifth biggest hit of 2009 in under two weeks.

    G-Force will give Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs some competition for the family crowd, but the hit shouldn’t be too hard. The 3D toon has been holding up well every week so a 35% drop could be in order. That would leave the prehistoric pic with about $11.5M raising the cume to $174M giving the studio three summer hits above the $170M level joining fellow franchise flicks X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. A colon in the title seems to be the key to success.

    Look for about $7.5M in ticket sales for box office king Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which may slide by 45% this weekend. Paramount would then climb to $378M domestically on its continuing march to the quadruple-century mark.

    LAST YEAR: After breaking the all-time opening weekend record, The Dark Knight then set a new benchmark for best second weekend gross collecting a stunning $75.2M in its sophomore frame, down 53%, boosting the ten-day total to an eye-popping $313.8M. Opening in the number two spot was the Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers with $30.9M and an even $10,000 average. The R-rated comedy reached $100.5M for Sony. Universal’s hit musical Mamma Mia! slipped to third with $17.7M boosting the ten-day cume to a solid $62.6M. Fox stumbled into fourth with its sci-fi sequel The X-Files: I Want to Believe which bowed to just $10M and a weak $3,147 average. Mulder and Scully limped to a measly $21M finish as the new pic sold a disturbing 84% fewer tickets than its 1998 predecessor. Rounding out the top ten was Journey to the Center of the Earth with $9.7M in its third session.

    Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

    Kids say the darndest things — we all knew it even before Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby turned wisdom from the mouths of babes into TV comedy gold. But some of Hollywood’s most memorable tots have also done the darndest things, and by “darndest” we mean “illegal, immoral, and downright terrifying.” This week’s Orphan — starring the undoubtedly sweet-in-real-life Isabelle Fuhrman as an adoptee lacking in the sugar, spice, and/or everything nice department — adds to the rich cinematic legacy of kids behaving badly, so we thought now would be an excellent time to take a look back at 15 of the creepiest youngsters in film.

    With such a deep pool of junior misanthropists to draw from, we’ve undoubtedly left some of your favorites off the list — such as the pants-wettingly menacing twins from The Shining, whose awful, awful chorus of “come play with us forever” would have been enough to vault them near the head of the class if they hadn’t been, you know, dead when they uttered it. But even sticking solely with the realm of the living, we’ve been able to assemble quite the rogue’s gallery for you, encompassing tiny terrors both well-remembered (Samara from The Ring) and not (the bloodthirsty infant immortalized in Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive). They come from films with wildly divergent Tomatometers, but they all have one thing in common: You wouldn’t want to babysit them. Time for Total Recall!


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    15. Ronnie Shields (Role Models)

    Compared to a lot of other kids on this list, Role Models‘ Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson) is relatively benign — rather than a genuine troublemaker, he’s really just a kid who desperately needs a father figure, and who has the misfortune of being saddled with an unrepentant skirt-chaser like Anson Wheeler (Seann William Scott) instead. Still, Ronnie deserves inclusion here, if for no other reason than the times he hauls off and slaps Wheeler in his smug face. Every actor worth his salt has a unique specialty, and Scott’s is playing characters who really need to get what’s coming to them; Thompson’s on the other hand, is apparently playing pint-sized, foul-mouthed terrors who are only too happy to deliver said comeuppances. Let’s dance, Ben Affleck!


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    14. Eric Bates (The Toy)

    Spoiling a child, while it may make you feel like a better parent in the short term, rarely produces desirable results in the long run. Case in point: “Master” Eric Bates, the unbelievably obnoxious young heir of multi-mega magnate U.S. Bates (Jackie Gleason). Played memorably by cinematic 1980s wonder brat Scott Schwartz, little Eric is so accustomed to getting everything he wants from his father that he actually demands to have — and gets — ownership of a person (played by a perfectly incredulous Richard Pryor). Of course, his plans for his new toy aren’t completely benign; he plays a series of pranks on his poor houseguest (including tricking him into getting nibbled by piranhas) before recruiting him to help expose the elder Bates’ unsavory business practices. See, parents? Give your kids whatever they want, and eventually they might just end up coming after you.


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    13. Veruca Salt (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory/ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory )

    A girl whose bad behavior was so legendary that her name was taken by a female-fronted, punk-pop-playing alternative rock band in the 1990s, Veruca Salt has made her way to the big screen twice — and both times, her epic selfishness and greed have sent her plummeting to her apparent doom at the bottom of a garbage incinerator, although not before she wreaked havoc on the lives of everyone in her immediate vicinity. She may not have had the homicidal urges indulged by many of her peers on this list, but with virtually unlimited wealth and astonishingly indulgent parents on her side, there’s no telling how Veruca might have ended up had she not made the mistake of angering a room full of Oompa Loompas.


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    12. Bébé’s Kids (Bébé’s Kids)

    Any baby who speaks with Tone-Loc’s voice has got to be trouble, and Pee-Wee — the diaper-wearing youngest of Bébé’s Kids — is no exception. In fact, the closing moments of this animated cult classic capture the incorrigible toddler as he sends the entire city of Las Vegas plummeting into a blackout. (It’s sort of the city’s fault, relying on a single plug for all of its power, but still — naughty Pee-Wee.) The two elder Kids aren’t any better; in fact, over the course of the film, the clan manages to essentially destroy an entire amusement park as they repeatedly foil the efforts of their unwilling temporary guardian (a character inspired, like the rest, by the late comedian Robin Harris) to find someone who doesn’t scream “Run! It’s Bébé’s Kids!” when they come into view.


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    11. Junior (Problem Child)

    Adopting a child is inarguably one of the most noble things a person can do, and there are never enough prospective parents to match the number of kids who need a loving home — which is why 1990’s Problem Child was doubtless greeted with gasps of horror and revulsion at orphanages all over the world when it arrived in theaters. Despite giving the appearance of an innocent redheaded boy with an adorably grown-up fashion sense, little Junior (Michael Oliver) quickly revealed himself to be a pint-sized psychopath whose penchant for bowties is actually a sartorial tribute to a notorious serial killer. In the end, the movie’s biggest lesson may have been that you should never hire an adoption agent who sounds like Gilbert Gottfried — or it might simply have been that audiences like watching parents suffer on the big screen, because Problem Child did well enough to justify a pair of sequels. (Bonus fun fact: Oliver’s mom-slash-manager was sued by Universal after Problem Child 2 wrapped, in a lawsuit — which the studio eventually won — alleging she extorted a raise for her son. Life imitates art!)

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    10. The Brood (The Brood)

    Distrust the psychiatric profession? You’ll get a bloody kick out of David Cronenberg’s The Brood, in which a nutball psychotherapist (played to the hilt by Oliver Reed) invents a technique, called “psychoplasmics,” which allows patients to turn their negative emotions into fun stuff like bruises, cancer, or — in the case of one particularly troubled young woman — a pack of fast-growing, bloodthirsty mutants with a bizarre psychic connection to their mother. It may not have been quite the “film so terrifying it will devastate you totally” that the filmmakers advertised, but as with any Cronenberg joint worth its salt, it still contains plenty of hands-over-eyes moments (or, in the case of the infamous afterbirth scene, hand-over-mouth). Released 30 years ago, The Brood had an ending that would have led beautifully into a sequel. Perhaps it’s time, Mr. Cronenberg?


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    9. Henry Evans (The Good Son)

    If, at any point in the late 1980s or early 1990s, you ever looked at Macaulay Culkin and thought, “That kid seriously weirds me out,” then 1993’s The Good Son was pretty much made for you. Culkin stars here as Henry, the innocent-seeming 12-year-old who helps his cousin Mark (Elijah Wood) cope with the grief of his mother’s death by introducing him to a wide variety of sociopathic activities, including using a crossbow to murder the neighbor’s dog and tossing a dummy over a freeway overpass to cause a huge accident. Though the adults in their lives initially dismiss Mark’s panicked warnings as delusional, the creepy depths of Henry’s personality are eventually discovered by Henry’s mom — who narrowly avoids taking a son-assisted plunge off a cliff for her trouble. If you’ve been under the mistaken impression that The Nutcracker was the most messed-up thing Culkin had done onscreen, you need to see him in action here.


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    8. Gage Creed (Pet Sematary)

    Like most parents, Stephen King has suffered moments when he thought his children’s lives were in danger; unlike most of them, however, he used that fear as the inspiration for Pet Sematary, the story of an Indian burial ground with the power to resurrect dead loved ones…sort of, anyway. Being brought back to life has a tendency to disagree with people, as grieving father Louis Creed discovers after he digs up the corpse of his young son Gage and moves it to the burial ground: Gage comes back with a nasty sense of humor and a thirst for blood that forces Louis to employ some rather strict disciplinary measures. Not that the kid didn’t have it coming, given that he’d just murdered his mother and the kindly old next-door neighbor. Toddlers are adorable, even when they’re getting into trouble…but undead toddlers who reek of dirt, practice matricide, and mutilate the elderly? They’re just plain scary.


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    7. The Davis’ Baby (It’s Alive)

    Thinking of taking fertility drugs, ladies? You might want to check in with producer/director/writer Larry Cohen first. Cohen, the mastermind behind the 1974 cult classic It’s Alive, wondered what might happen if a mother went from taking the pill to using baby-makin’ medicine — and the result was the seemingly indestructible little maniac that inspired the tagline “There’s only one thing wrong with the Davis baby…IT’S ALIVE.” Though initially a flop, Cohen’s tale of a shrieking, sewer-crawling infant that kicks off its killing spree immediately after being born became a surprise hit three years later. Cohen, no dummy, went on to release a pair of sequels: 1978’s It Lives Again (“The It’s Alive baby is back…only now there are three of them”) and 1987’s too-good-to-be-true It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive (“They do something worse than kill. They multiply”). Sadly, the new Bijou Phillips-led remake is bypassing theaters and going directly to video, but that can’t take away from the original’s delightfully cheesy legacy.


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    6. The Children of Midwich (Village of the Damned)

    Of all the things that have ever led human cultures to freak out about outsiders, “They’re after our women” is at or near the top of the list — a fear adroitly exploited by 1960’s Village of the Damned, in which every post-pubescent woman in the quaint British burg of Midwich is mysteriously impregnated by an unseen alien force. That’s freaky enough, but to make matters worse, the immaculately conceived progeny turn out to be a bunch of glowing-eyed freaks whose slightly bulbous heads house brains capable of reading minds, bending wills, and — according to the film’s haunting final shot — surviving an explosion strong enough to demolish a building. So great was the children’s power that they were able to force John Carpenter to direct a remake in 1995 that, despite the combined star power of Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, and Mark Hammill, was unable to gross more than $9.5 million during its brief theatrical run. Terrifying!


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    5. Rhoda Penmark (The Bad Seed)

    One of cinema’s original junior sociopaths, little Rhoda Penmark delivered a resounding, pigtailed blow against the “nurture” side of the nature vs. nurture debate by using her peaceful, well-adjusted home life as a cover for cheerfully offing anyone unfortunate enough to get in her way — whether it’s the classmate who won the penmanship medal Rhoda wanted or the janitor who threatens to rat her out, no one was safe from her adorable blonde wrath. Eventually revealed as the granddaughter of a serial killer, Rhoda was allowed to survive in William March’s 1954 novel — an ending that wouldn’t have flown in the Hollywood of 1956, where the Hays Code convinced filmmakers it would be more appropriate to electrocute her with a lightning strike (and then haul her out for a spanking over the closing credits). Eli Roth briefly toyed with the idea of helming a Bad Seed remake, which surely would have dispensed with such prudish morality; alas, that idea seems to have gone the way of Rhoda’s poor victims.


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    4. The Kids from Lord of the Flies (Lord of the Flies)

    We’ve all heard the expression “kids are animals” countless times, but few children have had the opportunity to prove it as spectacularly as the gang of plane crash survivors who turn from civilized British schoolboys (or, in the case of the 1990 remake, American military school students) into murderous, pig-decapitating goons who reward kindness with violence, prey on the weak, and basically pull off every rotten stunt you tried to get away with while the yard duty was distracted during recess in grade school. Though they aren’t as much fun as some of their counterparts on this list — swapping out sensationalistic violence for sociological subtext is such a buzzkill — they’re arguably the most important, as their id-feeding actions have reverberated in countless books, films, and television series.


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    3. The Children of Gatlin (Children of the Corn)

    With all the movies his books have inspired, it’s somewhat surprising that the Stephen King story that’s spawned the most sequels (so far, anyway) is Children of the Corn. Culled from a 1978 short story, this 1984 feature, starring Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton, was critically derided and only a modest box office success — and yet it’s gone on to launch no fewer than six sequels, with a reboot reportedly on the way. Why, you ask? Simple: Few things in life are more horrifying than a town whose residents are all 18 or younger, especially if they happen to fancy using scythes and pray to a hulking demonic entity known only as He Who Walks Behind the Rows. It’s almost enough to make you want to check yourself into a retirement community, isn’t it?


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    2. Samara Morgan (The Ring)

    So evil she started driving her mother insane while she was still in the womb, The Ring‘s Samara Morgan (or Sadako Yamamura, if you prefer the original Japanese films) makes up for her generally quiet demeanor with a battery of supernatural gifts that include the ability to murder via VHS, the ability to embark on a murderous rampage despite being entombed in a well, and the power to scare the bejeesus out of scores of American filmgoers simply by covering her face with her hair, lurching out of said well, and whispering “everyone will suffer.” Though apparently locked in her watery tomb for good at the end of 2005’s The Ring Two, Samara is set to reappear in The Ring Three in 2011. Throw out your VCRs!


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    1. Damien (The Omen)

    We have a lot of rotten kids on this list, but The Omen‘s Damien Thorn takes the cake, for two reasons: First, his cinematic reign of terror extended through two sequels and a 2006 remake; Second — and here’s the kicker — he’s the Antichrist. It bears mentioning that little Damien wasn’t really aware of his dark destiny as a child; many of the grisly deaths that befell his enemies in the first two installments of the trilogy were carried out on his behalf, either by unseen means (such as the nanny who rapturously hangs herself on Damien’s fifth birthday) or through various proxies (steel spikes, plates of glass, foul-tempered crows, et cetera). In fact, it isn’t until he’s 13 that Damien discovers he’s been branded by the Mark of the Beast — at which point, following a little soul-searching, he cheerfully assumes his birthright and grows up into Sam Neill (which sort of explains 1997’s Event Horizon). The franchise took an unfortunate detour into made-for-TV territory after its third chapter, but the remake’s $100 million-plus worldwide gross would seem to indicate that young Mr. Thorn may yet have a few filmic prophecies left to fulfill.


    Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Orphan.

    Finally, for those who don’t want their kids to be little psychopaths, we leave you with some musical advice from Crosby, Stills & Nash:

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