Collins’ Crypt: Drawn & Quartered 2013 Part 2

Brian surveys the last few months of theatrical horror, from the terrible - THE PURGE - to the surprisingly decent - WORLD WAR Z - to the very good - THE CONJURING.

I almost didn't do my usual tri-annual look at the last few months' worth of horror movies this time around, because... well, there hasn't been a hell of a lot to talk about since the last one. There have only been four major horror releases, two of which I've covered in previous pieces and one other best left forgotten. But also, since I no longer do Horror Movie A Day every day, I've completely missed a few (limited) horror releases that I previously would have checked out and had something to say about.

But then I realized if I didn't do this I'd just have to come up with something else for the week, so let's go!

The first big summer offering for genre fans was The Purge, which shocked just about everyone by topping the box office its opening weekend with a whopping 34 million gross (breaking the previous record for an original R rated horror movie), DOUBLE the take of the weekend's more high profile release (The Internship). All of this on a 3 million budget, scoring another major victory for Blumhouse productions (and a return for Platinum Dunes, who I guess isn't out of the horror business after all). Of course, the fact that the movie was pretty lousy didn't help word of mouth any - it followed the trajectory of many other horror films and dropped 75% the following weekend, ultimately ending up with 64 million - not even double what it made in its first 3 days (fellow home invasion film The Strangers, on the other hand, made nearly 3x its opening weekend by the end of its run at the same time of the year back in 2008). Still, it kept horror's hit streak going - joining winter/spring hits like Mama and Evil Dead and proving Blum didn't need ghosts to turn out a major success.

Next up was World War Z, which was destined to fail thanks to costly reshoots, tons of bad press, and a PG-13 rating (for a zombie epic?). However, Paramount's gamble paid off - not only did it manage to top its (reported) budget domestically (something no one seemed to think would be possible) rather than hope for overseas grosses to save face, but it has become the biggest zombie film of all time by more than double, as well as Brad Pitt's first 200m grosser here in the US. Not bad for a surefire dud - they're even making a sequel (maybe they can use Max Brooks' novel this time?). I don't think the film was any classic, and I'm surprised as anyone that it performed so well in a very crowded market, but it was enjoyable and featured some great setpieces (the airplane comes to mind), and as I mentioned in my column last week I'm a bit tired of zom-coms, so it was nice to see a serious take on the undead on such a grand scale.

But the real success of the summer as far as horror was concerned was James Wan's The Conjuring, which took on a whopping THREE major releases (Red 2, Turbo, and RIPD), all of which boasted bigger budgets and bigger stars, and beat them all easily, nearly doubling the take of its closest competitor (Turbo) and somewhat hilariously broke The Purge's month old record with a 41 million take. It's actually still playing on 900 screens, almost unheard of for a horror movie after 2 months, and should end up with just under 140m domestic when all is said and done - more than the combined total of all of Wan's previous films. Of course, it's not hard to see why it performed so well - it was scary as hell, and provided old-school haunted house fare without everyone shoving cameras in our faces or relying on CGI ghosts to "scare" the audience. Tellingly, ads for Insidious 2 now boast "from the director of The Conjuring"; has to be the first time the marketing for a sequel that had the same director as its original was tying it to another company's success.

Then, at long last, Lionsgate released You're Next, nearly 2 years after its legendary TIFF debut. Sadly, the long wait didn't pay off - while it has far exceeded its production budget, it's not likely to gross more than 20m domestic, making it one of the year's lowest grossing genre wide releases despite terrific reviews (74% Rotten Tomato score - compared to 38% for The Purge) and what seemed like unanimous praise from the horror sites. Really not sure what happened; I discussed the marketing's failure to show off that the film was fun, but I don't believe that's the only thing that kept you fine folks from checking it out. Hopefully it will find its audience on DVD and Blu-ray, though it's a shame the home market will be its savior when it's such a fun crowd film.

And that's it for wide releases since the end of April; I guess Pacific Rim could sort of be considered a genre film since it had giant monsters, but I see it strictly as a sci-fi/action film - I'd be more easily convinced to include This Is The End, which reminded me of Ghostbusters more than once, and even had a scare or two. But otherwise, it was pretty slim pickings at the multiplexes; not that summer is EVER exactly rich with horror fare, but when you only have four wide releases and one of them was on a shelf for almost two years, it's not hard to feel a bit abandoned. Thankfully, the independent scene had plenty to offer if you could find it. With VOD becoming more and more enticing for trickier fare (i.e. original horror movies), the limited releases are VERY limited - often only playing for one week at even more out of the way venues - Neil Jordan's Byzantium, for example, played for a week (two showings a day) at a tiny theater here in LA called Arena Cinema, which seats a whopping 92 people. Even higher profile fare like V/H/S/2 suffered the same sort of shrug of a release - I don't even know where it played in LA (I assume the Nuart, where most Magnet releases show, also for one week only) but wherever it was, it only made about 1/5th as much theatrically as its original, despite being a superior film in just about every way.

The biggest surprise was Aftershock, produced and co-starring Eli Roth. Radius/TWC put it out on over 100 screens (a huge release compared to these others - V/H/S/2 only played on 12 screens, for example), and Eli was pushing it hard, but no one showed up - it grossed a mere 40k on its opening weekend and was gone by the next. I didn't love the film - the unnecessary rape scene and uneven tone were a bit hard to forgive, but considering Roth's clout and the unique blend of disaster and horror, I figured it would at least pull in a few hundred thousand. I was somewhat surprised to see such a poor showing for No One Lives, which was from WWE (their first horror film since See No Evil) and had plenty of geek appeal thanks to director Ryƻhei Kitamura. It fared better than Aftershock (they were released a week apart), but not enough to entice Anchor Bay to continue releasing movies like this on more than a dozen or so screens to fulfill contractual obligations.

Then there's a bunch of stuff I honestly didn't even know had gotten released theatrically; I'm a big fan of 100 Bloody Acres thanks to an AFM screening last year, and thought it was a VOD only release, but according to Boxofficemojo it played on 13 screens and grossed $6,248. Ben Wheatley's Sightseers is another that completely passed me by; I ASSUME one of its 10 screens was in LA, but maybe not. I DID know about Detention of the Dead, having watched it on DVD right around the time it got released on 2 screens, which was about 2 more than it deserved. Dark Sky put a pair of films onto a few screens; the found footage curiosity Frankenstein's Army and sequel Hatchet III, but I assume neither of them performed very well as neither of them have reported grosses. And if you were one of the 300 or so brave souls that saw Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan in theaters, please tell me about your experience!

But the real sad thing is that this is actually a GLUT compared to the months ahead - there are currently only TWO horror films scheduled for wide release for the rest of the year, neither of them original (Insidious 2 and the Carrie remake). All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is finally seeing the light of day here in the US after a nightmarish distribution process, but I doubt that'll be on more than a couple hundred screens (if that), and thanks to import DVDs and such I'm pretty sure there isn't a horror fan left that hasn't seen it. I'm sure there will be a bunch of smaller fare from the likes of IFC and Magnet, but otherwise if not for the festivals (Fantastic Fest, Screamfest, AFI, etc) I'd be pretty starved for big-screen horror excitement for the rest of the year. Guess I'll just play GTA 5...