Friday, August 23, 2013

<i>You're Next</i>: Can a Well-Reviewed Horror Movie Make Money?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Youre Next movie Adam Wingard
You're Next: This star-free home-invasion horror movie was made a couple of years ago, picked up for distribution by Lionsgate, and promptly stayed on the shelf for almost two years as the company searched for the right way to release it. The timing of horror-movie releases must be a far more complex algorithm than I can understand; here I am, thinking that if you have one, you put it out in January, late August, or October; failing that, uh, pretty much any other month besides December will probably do (there was some received wisdom that horror couldn't perform in the summer with so much competition for young eyeballs, but The Purge and The Conjuring did prime horror business off of high-competition release dates this year). Then again, nothing seems to terrify studios more than a horror movie with positive reviews, and You're Next garnered an enthusiastic enough response at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011 that Lionsgate execs must've shot upright in their beds in the middle of the night, drenched in cold sweat, terrified over the prospect of arranging for press screenings. The reviews have been crazy good; it's probably (way) too much to hope that this is the new Cabin in the Woods, but hey, Saw-man James Wan just released a critically acclaimed $130 million-grossing haunted house movie and got hired for Fast and Furious 7, so I guess even the most familiar-sounding horror movies can still surprise us.

The Worlds End Edgar Wright Simon Pegg
The World's End and Drinking Buddies: It's a cinematic pub crawl at the movies this weekend, as Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost wrap up their genre-comedy trilogy with a movie that starts out about a bunch of blokes reuniting and going out drinking and ends up, you know, sci-fi/fantasy/horror stuff. Our own Nicolas Rapold calls it the team's first miss, while on the other hand plenty of movie geeks pretty much pre-love it. I actually prefer Hot Fuzz to Shaun of the Dead and Wright's Scott Pilgrim to either, so who knows where this one will leave me. Those inclined can stumble on over to the Landmark Sunshine for Drinking Buddies, which follows social lushes and brewery employees (same difference?) Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde and has an encouraging notice from our own Henry Stewart. It certainly would be nice for Olivia Wilde to finally justify my semi-inexplicable liking of her (but if not, the extremely likable Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick are there to pick up the slack). This is the second of three movies costarring Ron Livingston to release in an eight-week period; I have no idea when it suddenly became a few years after Swingers again, but good for Livingston for making it happen all these years later—even if, by virtue of him costarring in Swingers, he seems somewhat out of the Wilde/Johnson/Kendrick age bracket.

Short Term 12 Destin Cretton
Short Term 12: I'm not always a fan of the handheld-poetry-of-kitchen-sinks style of indie drama, but Destin Cretton's Short Term 12 won me over with its sure-handed depiction of a foster facility for at-risk youth run by the troubled Grace (Brie Larson), who masks her pain by committing herself fully to her work. There's not a whole lot more to the movie than that: we meet Grace's boyfriend/coworker, and a few of the kids at the home, and watch as she tries her best to help them, and shuns others' attempts to help her. It could have been a slog, but Cretton shows such sensitivity and warmth toward his subjects that it's almost impossible not to get involved. He also gets great performances from his cast, particularly Larson (also quite good in The Spectacular Now). It's the kind of movie that's easy to overhype, but also brings some nice social realism to a month filled with a variety of decent indies: this, Spectacular Now, In a World, and Ain't Them Bodies Saints have made up for the wide-release doldrums.

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Early box office numbers for this YA fantasy adaptation have only been slightly stronger than the likes of Beautiful Creatures and The Host, which surprises me only because I had thought the Screen Gems route might make financial sense for a low-rent-looking would-be franchise-starter. Its slate is typically a mix of Underworld, Resident Evil, Nicholas Sparks or Sparks-like romances, African-American ensembles, teen comedies and/or dance movies, and genre movies that look like Underworld and Resident Evil fucked and had an aggro baby; that is to say, Screen Gems does lucrative, mid-level genre movies that a lot of the big studios toss aside in pursuit of four-quadrant megahits (you know, like RIPD) and the occasional awards bait. But Screen Gems has been quiet this year; Mortal Instruments is their first release in 11 months. I hope they're not tying all of their resources up in this movie, promotion for which began ridiculously early for something coming out on August 23 (probably the weirdest choice for a long-lead campaign since The Odd Life of Timothy Green), not least because it's looking like City of Bones will perform more like Screen Gems nonstarters like Priest or Legion than the Twilight or Hunger Games numbers movie executives clearly and explicably had in mind. Then again, no Screen Gems movies ever cost more than $70 million, so I don't know that they've ever really taken a bath on any of their B or C-movies.

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