Landline phones are looked upon by the new kids of Scream like they’re phonographs, but some things never change with this fourth sequel to the 1996 original. Unlike other horror franchises, I would say there hasn’t been a bad Scream follow-up nor has one come close to approaching the quality of the first. My reception for parts II-IV are fairly similar – passably entertaining and ultimately forgettable. Part V – call it Scream if you want but it’s Scream 5 – is no different and a tad more underwhelming since its new characters add little.
When the ’96 version of Scream came out, Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson deftly satirized the slasher genre while also making a scary movie. It’s why Scary Movie four years later didn’t work for me – it was trying to parody something that had already cleverly done it. The rest of the Scream efforts have struggled with the mix as it continually invents new family connections to reveal new Ghostface killers.
In this Scream, Sam (Melissa Barrera) fled the town of Woodsboro five years ago. She makes a hasty return when her high school age sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) is attacked by the now iconic villain. With Sam’s boyfriend Richie (Jack Quaid) and Tara’s student clique as potential suspects, we soon see familiar faces besides Ghostface. Dewey (David Arquette) is divorced from Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) and no longer the sheriff in town. He reluctantly accepts Sam’s offer to get involved. Sidney (Neve Campbell) has no desire for a hometown return but we know that won’t last.
Sam’s genealogy allows for some slightly more surprising cameos as we try to deduce who the killer(s) are this time around. Some of Tara’s schoolmates fill the Scream bingo card. There’s the Jock, the Movie Buff, and the Virgin. Some of the roles are given a modern update (one of the guys is given the potentially fatal shower scene).
Of course, these characters talk endlessly about sequels and reboots and “requels”. This was a pretty fresh concept a quarter century ago (even if Craven had mined similar territory in New Nightmare). Now there’s precious little more meta to mine. Like the sequels, there’s also the fact that this Scream just isn’t a very scary movie.
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett take over the reigns as Craven passed in 2015. They clearly have reverence for the series and especially part one. That’s understandable. So did the other ones. Some of them landed their plot points with more precision (Scream 4 managed to have a decent killer reveal and fun third act). All of them were duller cuts and this one strains to properly explain its reason for being despite endless attempts.
A home invasion horror flick where the home invaders are kind of the good guys, Don’tBreathe is a pretty nifty and sometimes nasty little experience. It comes from Fede Alvarez, who’s shown himself as a gifted filmmaker in the genre after making 2013’s EvilDead remake.
We open with three Detroit youngsters who earn some pocket change ripping off nice cribs. It’s rather easy work for them because nice guy Alex (Dylan Minnette) has a dad with a home security business, giving him access to precious info. There’s the harder edged Money (Daniel Zovatto) and his gal Rocky (Jane Levy), who Alex has a crush on. Rocky is our central heroine character. She lives in a low income Motor City neighborhood with a very trashy mom, her loser boyfriend, and a sweet younger sister that she wants to show a better life. I half expected Eminem to rap during her background scene.
The trio get a tip on a new property to focus on and it’s not a typical one. The new mark is a military vet who resides in a poor neighborhood where the homes around him are abandoned. Yet they believe there’s a lot of green there as he received a big settlement after his daughter was killed in an auto accident. It’s a large enough potential payout to send them California dreamin’, so off they go.
What they discover is this robbery victim is unlike any other. First, he’s blind. He’s also got a vicious dog and a casa with all kinds of surprises in store. This sets up a scenario where the criminals become the hunted in The Blind Man’s twisted playhouse.
The occupant is played with supreme creepiness by Stephen Lang. A character actor who’s impressed in all kinds of roles, it’s a kick to see him let loose here. As a side note, he was also the best thing in the long forgotten Michael J. Fox/James Woods buddy cop comedy TheHardWay 25 years ago in which he also played one disturbed dude. The rest of the cast looks appropriately mortified during their during their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad burglary. For that reference, look up Minnette’s filmography. I had to in order to remind myself what I’d seen him in before.
There’s some twists that come later and the main one is a demented doozy. With its grindhouse title and lower end budget to match, Don’tBreathe should please slasher enthusiasts with its welcome uncomplicated story. When we are introduced to one character unexpectedly, the levels of plausibility are stretched greatly if you seriously ponder it. However, we don’t go into pics like this holding our breath for that nor should we care. This delivers enough of the goods that we honestly don’t.
****BLOGGER’S UPDATE #2 (08/25/16): Finally relenting with Don’t Breathe to give it the #1 spot at $12.4 million. That’s not as high as most prognosticators, but it basically assures it the top spot. The change is reflected below.
Next weekend, the makers of the Evil Dead reboot are back with Don’t Breathe, a horror pic that is garnering early positive reviews. Fede Alvarez directs with Sam Raimi producing in this tale of some teenagers robbing a blind man’s home. That man (played by veteran character actor Stephen Lang) turns out to be quite a force to be reckoned with. Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette costar.
The film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival this past spring to good notices. It currently stands at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s been a solid summer for horror – as The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out both performed well (especially the latter considering its tiny budget). Lights benefited from a simple concept and critical acclaim, yet I’m not sure that will be repeated here. The late August release date has not been kind to the genre over the past few years. Last summer’s Sinister 2 managed just $10.5 million and that was a sequel to a well-regarded predecessor. The best comparison might be 2013’s You’re Next, another well-reviewed title that only grossed $7 million for its start. I’ll say this manages to top that, but not by too much.
I’ll predict Don’t Breathe tops that meager figure, but not by much at all.
Don’t Breathe opening weekend prediction: $12.4 million
For my Mechanic: Resurrection prediction, click here:
Nearly a quarter century after the wildly popular R.L. Stine’s children’s books were first published, Goosebumps finally makes its way to the silver screen. After dozens of the novels and a TV show, it’s a bit surprising it took so long to get this adaptation off the ground. Tim Burton was attached to helm in the late 90s when Goosebumps was considerably more popular.
Yet here we are and the long gestating Goosebumps has arrived with a simple and sometimes clever concept. Jack Black plays Mr. Stine himself, who lives in a quiet Delaware town with his teenage daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush). When new kid in town Zach (Dylan Minnette) arrives from New York City, he strikes up a friendship with next door neighbor Hannah while Dad strenuously disapproves and doesn’t even want him crossing the fence to visit. We soon find out why. It turns out that Stine’s original manuscripts for his works are locked down and if they’re opened, the many monsters he wrote about escape. This, of course, occurs. For fans of the series, this means a treasure trove of familiar creatures including zombies and werewolves and giant insects and so forth. Leading them is Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy (don’t call him a dummy though), voiced by Black. It also means a lot of CGI that is decent, but nothing special.
While Tim Burton didn’t direct (Rob Letterman did), this sure sounds like one of his pictures with its Danny Elfman score. Black seems to be having a good time and hams it up a bit. Other performances are adequate (though Minnette is a bit bland). The exception is Jillian Bell as Zach’s love seeking aunt. She seems to stand out lately in everything she does. Amy Ryan has little to do as his mom and Ryan Lee has a couple funny moments as his girl crazy new best bud.
Kids should eat this up and there’s enough fun to keep the adults from checking out. Goosebumps eventually wears a little thin and runs out of interesting situations to put all these dastardly creations (a ho hum sequence with a werewolf terrorizing a mostly empty supermarket doesn’t really cut it). Lovers of these books that have sold 400 million copies have waited quite a while to see Stine’s imagination on the big screen. The results are neither frighteningly good or howlingly bad.
Based on the well known series of children’s books by R.L. Stine, the family friendly Goosebumps opens in theaters next weekend, hoping to bring in a sizable kid crowd. The film is directed by Rob Letterman and Jack Black, who teamed up in 2010 for Gulliver’s Travels, which failed at the box office to the tune of $42 million.
This time around, they appear to have fairly positive word of mouth on their side with an 82% Rotten Tomatoes score and a sequel possibly in the works. It also doesn’t hurt that its release date is close to Halloween. Family audiences turned out big time for Hotel Transylvania 2, however, so whether there’s a major clamor for scarily themed entertainment remains to be seen.
I could envision this opening to around the same number that Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day made last October: $18.3 million. I’ll say Goosebumps just tops that for a respectable start and we’ll see how it plays in future weekends.
Goosebumps opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million