Collins’ Crypt: 2012 Drawn & Quartered 3: Dream Warriors
Well, 2012 is over, but more importantly (to this column) another four months have gone by, so it's time to recap the "season's" horror theatrical horror fare! After a pretty low-key summer filled with only "sorta" horror movies like Prometheus and Dark Shadows, the autumn months tend to bring out the big guns in order to capitalize on Halloween - were they any good? Did anyone show up to find out?
As with last year's Final Destination 5, Resident Evil: Retribution bumped up the usual 3 year cycle between movies and gave us a new entry a mere two years later. And like that (quite good) film, it didn't pay off domestically - audiences weren't itching for another 90 minutes of Milla Jovovich jumping around in slo-mo fighting zombies just yet. I think it was better than the previous installment, but it was still more of the same, and once again ended on a cliffhanger for a new sequel without making sure we actually WANT one. But while it eventually became the series' lowest grossing sequel domestically, it made a ton of dough overseas, so expect a 6th entry whether you want it or not.
A week later, horror fans would be tortured with House at the End of The Street, a mostly terrible Psycho wannabe that probably would have been dumped in January or something if not for the insane 400+ million gross for star Jennifer Lawrence's Hunger Games a few months earlier. While probably a pretty interesting script at one point (an earlier incarnation had Richard Kelly writing for director Jonathan Mostow), the result was toothless and riddled with go-nowhere subplots and a supporting cast that disappeared/reappeared whenever the movie required it. It actually made money (31 million vs a reported 10 million production budget), but I guarantee no one will remember it as anything but "That Jennifer Lawrence movie that came out between the two that people liked".
September 28th gave us Hotel Transylvania, a CGI film from Happy Madison that concerned a hotel for all of the traditional monsters (a werewolf, a Frankenstein monster, a mummy, etc), run by Count Dracula (Adam Sandler). Obviously not aimed at the hardcore horror crowd, it was amusing and packed with fun monsters, both original creations and redesigns of the classics (where is the action figure line?), and went on to become Sony's highest grossing animated film. It also apparently stole some of Frankenweenie's thunder - it came along a week later and despite good reviews and the Tim Burton brand, it never quite caught on with audiences, limping its way to a pitiful 34 million gross (even Corpse Bride cleared 50 million - and that one sucked!). Hopefully the DVD will be a good seller, but silver lining - perhaps the failure of this and Dark Shadows will encourage Tim Burton to explore new territory sooner than later.
One week later we were blessed with Scott Derrickson's Sinister, which was the rare horror film to hang on week after week instead of sinking like a stone after its first few days in theaters (it was also one of the year's few original R rated horror films). I know some folks didn't feel the love, but I quite enjoyed it on both of my viewings, and had no second thoughts about placing it high on my year end top 10 list (for horror). And it helped prove that the Blumhouse brand could stretch beyond traditional haunted house films, which is good since they're pretty much the only horror-centric outfit going these days now that Dark Castle is pretty much dead and Dimension is... well, who knows what's ever going on with them.
Blumhouse came back a week later with Paranormal Activity 4, a pitiful entry in the series that was rightfully rejected by the mainstream audience, grossing only about half of what (the quite good) PA3 brought in. But since they only spend about 17 dollars making these things, it doesn't matter - the 5th film has already been announced, so now we can only hope they'll bring in some new blood and/or wrap up the (increasingly stretched) storyline before things get worse. The next week gave us ANOTHER new release (back to back releases for 6 weeks! Yay for fall), though Silent Hill: Revelation proved that 6+ years is much too long of a wait for a first sequel - we might wait that long for a new Jason or Michael Myers movie, but with a new franchise? Especially one as convoluted as this? It's almost impressive that it made 17 million in a crowded marketplace, especially since it wasn't very good. It fared better overseas, but I still doubt a 3rd film will ever see the light of day (maybe they can do CGI animated ones like they offer for Dead Space, Resident Evil, and some other game franchises?).
After that things got quiet for a while, with Breaking Dawn Part 2 being one of only two wide releases in November, and that barely even counts as horror. It performed in line with the other Twilight films, though usually these big finales outgross the others in their respective series (i.e. Harry Potter, LOTR), but Eclipse remains its commercial highpoint. The other was The Collection, curiously released on November 30th with a puzzling "The REAL Black Friday" marketing campaign that probably confused people since the "actual" Black Friday was the week before. I wasn't surprised that it didn't catch on with audiences; again it had been a bit too long since the first film (2009's The Collector), but this brand of horror just doesn't seem to be in vogue right now. A shame though, it's a fully entertaining splatter flick with a cool villain, one who will probably not get a chance at a 3rd go-around.
December, as is almost always the case (unless Dimension wants to gamble), was completely horror-free, save for the VOD release of John Dies At The End, an incredibly fun horror-comedy from Don Coscarelli. It will get a small theatrical release next year, but since that'll be confined to the major cities, I highly recommend renting it from your onDemand service of choice and enjoying the insanity right now.
There was plenty of smaller fare too, though you really had to dig to find a lot of it. The big one was V/H/S, an anthology from a variety of indie horror stalwarts like Ti West, Adam Wingard, and The Signal's David Bruckner (plus Devin's boxing partner Joe Swanberg!). Like just about any anthology it was uneven, but the intriguing concept (VHS snuff films) and inspired use of the found footage aesthetic put it in the "win" column, and I look forward to the upcoming sequel (titled, hilariously enough, S-V/H/S). Magnolia also released Rec 3 at some point, but its $9,600 gross suggests that it's the first you've heard of it playing theatrically - hopefully it did better on VOD and the like. Anchor Bay also offered a couple of movies with little fanfare; both Darren Bousman's The Barrens and the Aussie import Bait 3D played in LA on a screen each; not sure if other markets got the privilege, but I was happy see both on the big screen; The Barrens was an intriguing blend of psychological thriller and monster movie, and Bait proved to be the best 3D shark movie ever (faint praise, but still).
October predictably offered plenty of "alternative" options for horror fans, though none managed to get much attention. The most prolific was probably Smiley, a ridiculous slasher about a killer that used Chat Roulette (!) to find his victims, though I can't tell how much it made because its gross wasn't reported anywhere. Ditto for #HoldYourBreath (yes, the hashtag is part of the title), the first and probable last theatrical release from those nutty sods over at The Asylum. I also saw a movie called Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes around that time, but it was apparently a one-screen release, and since it was also pretty much the worst horror movie I saw all year (and keep in mind, that's out of 365+ of them), let's just forget it existed. Oddly enough the only one that DID get its box office reported on was something called Bad Blood The Hunger, which I've never even heard of but apparently played on 10 screens.
November also had plenty of smaller releases for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in "select cities". The first weekend alone gave us two found footage films: the abysmal Amber Alert (a disaster about a trio of obnoxious college kids following the car described in the titular alert), and the much better The Bay, which made my top 10, in fact. Not sure why the latter got dumped; not only is it a popular genre, but it was directed by Barry Levinson and starred Kristen Connolly from Cabin In The Woods - surely it deserved more than a 23 screen release. But even that was better than poor Vamps, a vampire comedy that reteamed Clueless' Amy Heckerling and Alicia Silverstone - Anchor Bay tossed it on a mere TWO screens a few weeks before its DVD debut. Not a great film, but it had plenty of charm and a surprisingly moving take on the downside of immortality - again, it deserved better, considering the talent involved.
That same weekend, the great Citadel was released in a SINGLE theater, expanding to a whole seven in the following weeks, but like just about all of these besides V/H/S, its final gross is so small you'd probably think I had made a typo if I bothered to include it (assuming I could even find it). Luckily, in this case I think the film will play just as well at home, being that it concerns an agoraphobic (and is rich with atmosphere and small-scale terror) - look for it on DVD soon. Silent Night, a loose remake of Silent Night Deadly Night, also had a quiet theatrical bow on November 30th, a couple days before its far more attractive DVD/Blu release. It was a bit clunky, but I mostly enjoyed this update, and it fits in well with the rest of the series.
But really, the crown jewel of small release horror fare has to be Saint Dracula 3D, a film that was only released in 2D... for an Oscar qualifying run! Yes, the movie has an original musical number in it, and thus made the list of the eligible entries for the "Best Song" category, so somehow I (and one other guy) ended up seeing this thing on a Saturday morning in Pasadena - the only theater that played it, as far as I can tell (once again, the movie doesn't even show up on BoxOfficeMojo). Imagine the worst vampire movie you've ever seen crossed with the "Holy shit what were they thinking" aesthetics of The Room and you'll have a good idea of what the Saint Dracula experience is like - I spent most of its 90 minutes chuckling uncontrollably. I truly hope it secures that Oscar nomination, if only to get this thing back in theaters where I can bring 100 friends who probably don't believe me that it exists.
As someone who relishes the moviegoing experience, it bums me out that so many movies seem to be getting these half-assed (contractually obligated?) releases while their distributors put all their efforts into promoting the VOD incarnations, but at least this model seems to be beneficial to their filmmakers, and I'm perfectly OK with that. As long as they keep dumping their small stuff into the local independent theaters for me to seek out and see on a big screen, I'm happy! Just wish I had as much company for those as I do things like Hotel Transylvania - I saw this kids' movie at MIDNIGHT and there were still more people there than there were for a 7:30 Friday night showing of The Bay. Your New Year's resolutions should be to go see ONE horror flick that isn't playing on 1000+ screens! Even if you have to fill up the gas tank to do so! Make some memories!