The first Conjuring movie descended with one of the great marketing hooks: That the MPAA had slapped it was an R rating for simply being too scary. And, for once, the movie itself lived up to the marketing hype: With nary any blood or boobs, The Conjuring jammed audiences into a non-stop claustrophobic horror thrill ride, as Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated paranormal activity in the ’70s. A Certified Fresh rating (a first for director James Wan) helps in securing a sequel, a $300 million worldwide box office haul all but guarantees it – and the Conjuring 2 was almost as scary as the original.
Years later, the Conjuring Universe is in full-swing, having now expanded into one direct sequel and many spinoffs that have whisked audiences to locales like London, Rome, and Mexico. A second direct sequel is currently filming, more from The Nun is in the works, and this Friday, the franchise’s central creepy doll, Annabelle, Comes Home. This all prompts a play date with the Conjuring Universe movies, all ranked by Tomatometer below!
Horror has a way of making an unlit hallway look like a trek through hell, inducing heart attacks though jumping cats, and transforming everyday tools like chainsaws and double-barrel shotguns into instruments of doom. The marketing and posters for Us suggests that Jordan Peele’s new horror flick will do for golden scissors what Get Out did for tea cups, which also happens to be one of selections for the 25 most iconic props from horror movie history! Read on to get your fill of creaky carriages, demonic dolls, and bloody blades.
(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.
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.
Thor: Ragnarok only needed to get a 67% on the Tomatometer to improve upon The Dark World‘s score. Looks like all this franchise needed was some new zeal and New Zealand director Taika Waititi because Ragnarok is currently scoring way higher than that, which inspires this week’s gallery of 24 most improved movie sequels by Tomatometer!
A nanny is shocked to learn that her new employers’ son is actually a living doll in this Friday’s The Boy, inspiring this week’s 24 Frames gallery of the creepiest dolls from film and TV history!
This week on home video, we’ve got a new action thriller from Luc Besson, a mediocre Conjuring spinoff, and Laika’s latest stop-motion feature film. Then we also have a number of notable smaller films, like a Certified Fresh crime drama starring Tom Hardy and an acclaimed documentary about an internet activist. Read on for details:
French writer-director Luc Besson has been the brains behind some of the most gleefully brainless thrillers in recent memory, like the Taken franchise, and though he doesn’t get behind the camera as often as he once did, we still get something like Lucy every once in a while. Scarlett Johansson stars as an American ex-pat living in Taiwan who is forced to become a drug mule by a Korean mob boss. When the experimental drug begins seeping into her system, she begins to experience heightened physical and mental abilities, which she utilizes to seek revenge. Besson has a thing for powerful leading ladies, and Lucy seems to be aware of its own silliness, so critics were relatively kind to the film, ludicrous logic and all. It may dumbfound you and confound you, but if you’re looking for a cheesy actioner, this may do the trick.
The very beginning of 2013’s horror hit The Conjuring introduced audiences to the paranormal team of Ed and Lorraine Warren via the story of a mysterious doll named Annabelle. While we wait for the sequel to that film, the producers thought, “Eh, why not throw’em a bone in the meantime?” Hence, last year’s Annabelle, a Conjuring spinoff that includes the same introductory scene from the earlier film and builds off that to explain the origins of the creepy possessed doll that makes things go bump in the night. Unfortunately, critics weren’t too impressed with the story, which, like a lot of horror films these days, simply borrows elements from better predecessors and attempts to jump-scare you into submission. At just 29 percent on the Tomatometer, Annabelle is kind of a poor appetizer for The Conjuring 2, but if you just want to spend more time in that universe, it’ll do.
The stop-motion animation studio Laika had great success with their first two features, 2009’s Coraline and 2012’s ParaNorman, so there was some anticipation for their third, The Boxtrolls. Isaac Hempstead-Wright leads an all-star voice cast as Eggs, a human boy raised by the titular Boxtrolls in an underground home beneath the city of Cheesebridge. The Boxtrolls are misunderstood, however, and when an exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) vows to wipe them out, Eggs teams up with this first human friend, Winnie (Elle Fanning), to save his family. If you’ve seen the trailer for this film, you know that its visuals are both typically spectacular and a little off-kilter, which is also indicative of its sense of humor. Though it’s not Laika’s best effort to date, it’s still an entertaining family film that’s fascinating to watch.
Also available this week:
The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (93 percent), a Certified Fresh documentary about the programming wiz (and Reddit co-founder) whose tireless efforts in information activism resulted in legal troubles and, ultimately, suicide at the age of 26.
The Drop (89 percent), starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini in a Certified Fresh crime thriller about a bartender who gets targeted by the Chechen mob when a robbery goes awry.
The Mule (85 percent), a dark comedy about a drug mule who decides withhold evidence by not… performing his bodily functions.
The Green Prince (77 percent), a documentary about Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who operated as an Israeli spy.
William H. Macy’s Rudderless (63 percent), starring Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin in the story of a grieving father who discovers his son’s demo tapes and decides to form a band to play the music.
Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem (52 percent), starring Christoph Waltz and Matt Damon in a sci-fi drama about a computer genius tasked with discovering the meaning of life.
White Bird in a Blizzard (49 percent), starring Shailene Woodley in a coming-of-age drama about a young woman whose mother goes missing and who slowly comes to grips with the truth about the disappearance.
A Little Game, starring Janeane Garofalo and F. Murray Abraham in a family drama about a young girl who doesn’t get along with her peers but becomes unlikely friends with a local chess master.
Ep. 061 – New TV & movies, and Chef co-star Emjay Anthony
This week’s show kicks off with Sarah discussing new TV shows, including Gracepoint, Selfie, Stalker, and A to Z. Then Tim discusses new movies Gone Girl, Left Behind, and Annabelle. Last (but not least) Ryan talks about new home video releases Transformers: Age of Extinction and Chef, and he introduces Grae’s interview with Chef co-star Emjay Anthony.
As the old promotional tagline goes, “You’ve read the book — now see the movie!” In the case of David Fincher‘s Gone Girl (adapted from Gillian Flynn‘s page-turning bestseller), critics say that’s sage advice, for the film is a psychologically penetrating thriller that’s chilling and darkly funny — and it features a performance from Rosamund Pike that’s likely to catapult her to the big-time. Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Pike) are a seemly idyllic couple. However, when Amy goes missing, and the media descends on their small Midwestern town, Nick looks increasingly suspicious. The pundits say the Certified FreshGone Girl is well-acted, intelligent, and deeply unsettling — in short, what we’ve come to expect from Fincher. (Watch our video interview with the cast and crew here.)
That creepy doll Annabelle cut such a striking presence in The Conjuring that she got her own movie. Unfortunately, the critics say it’s too bad she couldn’t get a better one; despite a few undeniably effective scares, Annabelle is by and large a compendium of horror movie cliches. A young couple with a baby on the way witnesses the shocking murder of their neighbors by a satanic cult. Soon, our heroes experience sinister goings-on throughout their house ; could that weird vintage doll the husband purchased be the cause? The pundits say Annabelle is a pretty generic haunted house flick, though it’s spooky enough on occasion to wish it were more.
Nicolas Cage plus the Book of Revelations should equal apocalyptic excitement, right? Apparently not. Critics are less than — ahem — enraptured by Left Behind; they say it’s a limp, clumsily crafted potboiler with cheesy special effects and minimal character development. Based upon the bestselling novels by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, the film stars Cage as Rayford Steele, a disaffected airline pilot who witnesses several passengers and crew members vanish in mid-flight. Steele must safely land the plane while chaos reigns on the ground. The pundits say Left Behind is mostly amateurish and largely bereft of thrills.
Fresh on TV this week:
This Amazon Prime dramedy is winning high praise for its honest, empathetic, and funny depiction of a dysfunctional family; critics say Transparent (98 percent) features top-notch performances from the likes of Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Gaby Hoffmann, and many more.
Gracepoint (73 percent) is an American adaptation of the critically-adored British detective series Broadchurch, both of which star David Tennant. And while critics say it’s not quite as sharp as its predecessor, it’s sophisticated and stylish, and features a strong lead performance from Anna Gunn.
Also opening this week in limited release:
Nas: Time Is Illmatic, a documentary about the making of one of hip hop’s greatest albums, is at 100 percent.
Last Hijack, a documentary about the life of a Somali pirate, is at 100 percent.
The Blue Room, a thriller about a man whose adulterous affairs lead to serious trouble, is at 90 percent.
For Those In Peril, a drama about a man who survives a mysterious fishing boat accident off the coast of Scotland, is at 89 percent.