Time to get out your sippin’ sherry, cause it’s time to hunker down for another column from yours truly. I don’t care if you’re at work, or currently operating heavy machinery. Priorities.
A GRAND HORROR TRADITION
Paranormal Activity Deuce is hitting theaters this weekend only a year after the first film became a phenomenon and grossed over $100 Million dollars on a reported nothing budget. Like a lot of supposed low budget movies, it’s real cost is unknown, as there were a number of reshoots, and a heavy word of mouth marketing campaign.
Regardless, what the little low budget picture had was actual, honest to god scares. People jumped. And when you look at most horror movies, that traffic in the continual abuse of “just a cat!” moments, the filmmakers and cast deserve a ton of credit. You can’t call the film a cheater. No film that makes over $100 Million dollars these days can be left alone, so in the grand horror tradition, a sequel was greenlit, and a sequel appeared a year after initial release. The Saw movies have been clipping along at one a year. The first three Friday the 13th movies were each done a year apart, and New Line had a Freddy sequel less than a year after the release of the original.
But the easiest comparison to make here is Blair Witch II: Book of Shadows. The reason is simple: there appears to be no narrative continuation. But where that sequel was slaughtered by audiences and critics alike, this film – as of last night – has had a number of critics comment (on Twitter, natch) that this is a strong sequel, and just as – if not a little less or a little more – effective as the original.
What the second Blair Witch is best known for in industry circles – besides helping end Artisan (which was bought by Lionsgate) – is having hugely inflated tracking numbers. Tracking has always been theoretically good, but like any polling, it can be subject to error, and where Artisan thought they would have a $30 Million dollar-ish opening weekend, instead they opened to a paltry $13 Million, and barely doubled their opening. Paranormal 2 was a rush job, so they didn’t have the time to go with the word of mouth screenings, but also that might have diluted their opening weekend. Paramount isn’t stupid, they know they’ve got the weekend, and since there’s no real names – but definitely some pay out – they might have kept the budget under control (which means under twenty million for a sequel to a film that supposedly cost $15,000). This will be a win for Paramount. The good news is that the film might actually be good. And if it makes money, maybe they’ll close out the trilogy next year.
YOU MUST BE USED TO ME PREDICTIN’. ALL THAT SWEET WINING AND DINING.
Paranormal should take the weekend, the question is how well Jackass holds. The dailies have been good, and it should get to over $80 Million this weekend, which will make it the highest grossing of the franchise, and all but assures that it will hit $100 Million sometime next weekend. If it drops less than 50% it’s going to have a better theatrical shelf life than expected (these are considered opening weekend pictures).
The other opener – as it were – is Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. It was on a handful of screens last weekend, and now goes wide. Older critics have been nicer to it. I like the cast, but it sounds dreadful. Clint Eastwood has directed three great movies (The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven, and A Perfect World if you ask me), but the last fifteen years have been as busy as they’ve been inconsistent. That’s why I find it hard to consider Eastwood a master. He’s not a world beater, more in line with a George Cukor than a John Ford. Eastwood has become the subject of some bitter critical feuding, as there are a number of critics who will defend him as a national treasure, while others want to tear down everything. I think the truth is more with the former, but when critics are made partisans, it’s bad news bears. Eastwood unquestionably has an eye, but his process may favor working on something lesser than not working at all. You can compare him to Woody Allen, though Allen has more periods of greatness and more great pictures, but likely just as many bad and/or misguided movies.
1. Paranormal Activity 2 - $26 Million
2. Jackass 3-D – $24.5 Million
3. Hereafter – $13.7 Million
4. Red – $12.5 Million
5. The Facebook Movie - $7 Million
And then Sunday, we’ll do the freak-spank.