Edgar Wright’s latest vehicle Last Night in Soho zooms into theaters October 29th, four years after his massive success Baby Driver. The psychological horror thriller, set in mid 60s London, features Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg in her final role.
Soho premiered at the Venice Film Festival in early September and garnered mixed buzz. The Rotten Tomatoes meter is parked at 70%. The overseas reaction took the pic out of awards contention but Focus Features is hoping horror fans turn out on Halloween weekend.
That could be a challenge. This doesn’t look like your average genre fare and that could keep younger viewers away. It also has Antlers debuting against it and, perhaps most notably, Halloween Kills will be in its third frame. We have seen time and again that original material hoping for an adult crowd has struggled at multiplexes in recent times.
I assume that struggle will apply here. The studio is probably hoping for a $10 million start. Soho may be lucky to reach half of that figure.
Last Night in Soho opening weekend prediction: $4.8 million
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) spends the 12th Halloween experience laid up in a hospital bed after her near mortal injuries incurred from the 11th one. In that sense, Halloween Kills is quite similar to the first official sequel from 1981. The samesies comparisons don’t stop there as this is an inferior follow-up to what came before it. The difference is that the 1978 original was a slasher classic to which all followers have been judged. 2018’s Halloween was not and therefore the letdown isn’t as steep.
Kills takes place (like Halloween II) during the immediate events after its predecessor. Laurie, daughter Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) had left Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) to burn at her tricked out house. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to be mission unaccomplished as the masked one escapes that space and leaves plenty of dead firefighters in his wake.
While Laurie is recovering from her own stabbing, Michael has his knives out for plenty of other townsfolk in Haddonfield. As you may recall, we are on our third iteration of the killer’s most famous prey reuniting with her predator. The 1981 sequel continued John Carpenter’s storyline and revealed that Laurie is Michael’s little sister. 1998’s Halloween: H20 set their sibling rivalry 20 years later.
By the time David Gordon Green and company came around and another two decades passed, 2018’s Halloween ignored all of that. The familial connection was slashed in favor of Laurie becoming a survivalist and waiting for escaped booby hatch patient Myers to find her. Kills allow for other figures in the ’78 pic to return – Tommy Doyle (who Laurie babysat) is now Anthony Michael Hall. Kyle Richards reprises her role as Lindsey, one of the other kids tormented that night. And we catch up with Sheriff Bracket (Charles Cyphers) and Nurse Chambers (Nancy Stephens). We also spend some unnecessary time with flashbacks to 40 years before that don’t add much (though if you want CG Donald Pleasance, you’re in luck).
The phrase “Evil Dies Tonight” is repeated ad nauseam as the denizens of our Illinois murder spot (led by Tommy) seek to end Michael’s return engagement. Of course, we know that ain’t happening. Halloween Kills is the second of a trilogy that will end (?) with next year’s ambitiously titled Halloween Ends. This has the feel of stopgap viewing with no real payoffs and our star player relegated to the sideline. There are a few garish highlights. I was entertained by the couple Big John (Scott MacArthur) and Little John (Michael McDonald… not that one) who live in Michael’s childhood house of horrors and probably should’ve upped their homeowners insurance. A hospital set scene where the residents chase down another of the escaped mental patients is shot effectively.
Ultimately Halloween Kills, for most of its running time, feels painfully average. It’s more violent than part one… which was actually part II if you ignore that other part II. So I suppose this is part III when ignoring nine other movies. The gimmick of Laurie coming back (again) had its pleasures in 2018. Tommy and Lindsey coming back in the mix doesn’t really cut the mustard. Michael cuts the tracheas and tendons with dutiful impassioned restraint. It seldom rises above the mediocrity where most of this series has dwelled since part one (the real one).
** (out of four)
Arriving one year after its COVID delay, Halloween Kills stalks theaters October 15th. The 12th film in the nearly 45-year-old franchise, it’s a direct sequel to 2018’s Halloween, which served as a follow-up to 1978’s original (therefore ignoring everything that came in between). Got all that? David Gordon Green returns to direct. So do Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, and, of course, Nick Castle as Michael Myers. Anthony Michael Hall, Thomas Mann, and Kyle Richards are newcomers.
Three Octobers ago, Halloween blew away expectations with a $76 million opening gross and $159 million overall domestically. The debut weekend alone made it the highest earning feature in the series.
Universal Pictures recently made the surprising choice to simultaneously release this in cinemas and on the Peacock streaming service. I’m not so sure how much that hurts its chances in multiplexes (Peacock still isn’t on the level of its better known competitors). However, it doesn’t help.
Reviews for Kills aren’t as laudatory as part 1… err part 2 (or part 11… I suppose). The 2018 effort nabbed 79% on Rotten Tomatoes while this sits at 57%. Critical reaction shouldn’t determine its fate either. I do think the buzz surrounding Curtis’s return has dissipated. This should contribute to a lower premiere and I suspect low to mid 40s is where this ends up.
Halloween Kills opening weekend prediction: $41.2 million
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M. Night Shyamalan’s latest is Old and it plays like a long Twilight Zone episode which rapidly puts its subjects in that time frame of their lives. If you’ve seen the trailer or TV spots, what you see is essentially what you get. The writer/director is responsible for putting this uninteresting group on a gorgeous beach. That’s in the figurative sense since he created them. It’s also in the literal way because Shyamalan casts himself as the driver who takes them there.
Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps) are on the verge of splitting up and they take their 6-year-old boy and 11-year-old daughter on a tropical excursion before they break the news. They know this is meant to be a short-lived paradise, but they get more than they bargained for. You know how parents say their youngsters act like teenagers before they should? It happens here.
The Cappas are taken to a secluded area of the island for R & R. Joining them are a surgeon (Rufus Sewell) and his snotty wife (Abbey Lee) and their 6-year-old going on 11…13…15 (eventually played by Eliza Scanlen). There’s a nurse (Ken Leung) and his wife (Nikki Amuka-Bird) that’s prone to seizures. In the latest example of eye rolling character choices, we also have a hemophiliac rapper (Aaron Pierre) who goes by the name of Mid-Sized Sedan. This might an even more cringe worthy use of a hip hop reference than James McAvoy’s MC skills in Split.
Once placed in the breathtaking locale, all the vacationers discover they’re aging approximately one year every half hour. This is, of course, first noticed with the children. The Cappa kids morph into Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff. Their elders fall prey to the typical signs of advanced age – disease, Alzheimers, low calcium content. Poor Mid-Sized Sedan never gets the chance to trade in for a cooler sounding vehicle name.
In Shyamalan’s best features (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), the auteur created pretty interesting characters to place in his twisty tales. That is just not the case with this group. Even a coasting Shyamalan is reliable for a few thrills, but they don’t roll in too often.
Too much of Old is filled with his clunky dialogue. The kids talk like adults before they actually are a few hours later. The surprise developments toward the end (which aren’t all that shocking) hint at a larger picture. They may have been engrossing had we not been subjected to an hour and a half of watching this dull lot waste away. This could have made a nifty Twilight Zone episode because that program ran 30 minutes. In Shyamalan’s labored production, it feels closer to a year.
** (out of four)
Malignant is exactly the kind of movie you get to make if you’re responsible for the success of three hugely profitable horror franchises like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring Universe. That’s James Wan and he’s also dabbled in other cinematic series by directing Furious 7 and Aquaman. Here he gets to return to his roots and clearly do whatever he pleases. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I volleyed between wanting to commend and condemn him for it.
A prologue set in 1993 introduces us in dimly lit fashion with Gabriel. He’s a young psychiatric patient who can control electricity and speaks in a manner where he sounds like he’s on a bad Zoom conference call. There’s also some serious killing skills involved.
In the present day, he reappears in the visions of Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis). The Seattle native lives in a creepy home with her creepy abusive husband Derek (Jake Abel). She’s preggers and anxious after suffering previous miscarriages. A fight with Derek results in the appearance of Gabriel that leaves her a widow.
Turns out that Madison shares a connection with the murderer that’s stronger than his cell phone connection when he threatens victims. Writing a proper review would spoil the surprises of what’s to come, so I’ll be careful. Gabriel is exacting revenge on some medical professional who scarred his childhood. The adopted Madison must exorcise repressed memories from her own upbringing to solve the mystery. Helping our central figure is sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson). Searching for the bloody connection between Madison and Gabriel are two detectives – sympathetic Kekoa (George Young) and no nonsense Regina (Michole Briana White).
Much of the backstory is told via grainy videotapes. That seems appropriate as Wan is paying homage to 1980s slashers that would have went straight to the aisle for your VHS perusing. There’s cheesy dialogue, a reliance on splatter over scares, and I never had a doubt that Wan is having a ball getting away with making it. This might have gotten a lengthy writeup in Fangoria magazine and I bet its maker would’ve loved that. The magazine still exists but the article woulda been cooler in 1985.
Malignant is bound to be debated by genre fans for its WTF twist that occurs in the third act. I won’t lie – I grinned ear to ear when first revealed. Yet it was more of a reaction to the filmmaker getting a $40 million budget to put this out to unsuspecting viewers. Wan is a master craftsman and there are a few moments of technical bravura. Conversely there’s plenty of times where it looks like his cheapest pic since Saw and that’s not an accident.
I could never fully escape the thought that Wan is having more fun than I was. The first half of Malignant isn’t much different than your run-of-the-mill sound effects laden fright fest. Once it reaches the aforementioned nutty turning point, I admired the brazenness more than the execution.
**1/2 (out of four)
A time travel thriller mixed with horror, Venice fest goers have been highly anticipating Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. Hitting theaters in late October, this is the auteur’s follow-up to 2017’s Baby Driver. That sleeper hit managed three Oscar nominations in both sound races (when there were two) and Film Editing.
Thomasin McKenzie headlines a cast that includes Anya Taylor-Joy (hot off The Queen’s Gambit), Matt Smith, Diana Rigg (in her final role), and Terence Stamp. Though the genre doesn’t lend itself often to awards attention, it seems like Wright could eventually break through with an Academy player.
Based on the early buzz, Soho doesn’t seem to be it. While some reviews are gushing, others are mixed to negative and the Rotten Tomatoes meter is currently 71%. I would say the only races where it could contend are Production Design, Costume Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling. It’s also entirely possible the Academy ignores it altogether. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…
**Blogger’s Note (09/09): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising from my prediction down from $10.2 million to $7.6 million**
The drawing power of director James Wan and a horror audience that’s had plenty to watch lately will be put to the test on September 10th with Malignant. The fright fest comes from a genre filmmaker who kickstarted the Saw, Conjuring, and Insidious franchises. Lately he’s been dabbling in other series as he helmed Furious 7 and Aquaman. The cast includes Annabelle Wallis (who starred in the Conjuring spin-off Annabelle), Maddie Hasson, George Young, and Mckenna Grace.
Originally slated for late summer 2020 before its COVID pause, the Warner Bros property will premiere simultaneously on HBO Max. As mentioned, moviegoers have been inundated with scare tactics in the last few months. This includes sequels to A Quiet Place, Escape Room and Don’t Breathe, a third Conjuring, another Purge, and the new Candyman.
Malignant has a couple of disadvantages. It’s not based on a known property (though one could argue Wan’s original forays into his now well-known franchises weren’t either). The other is the over saturation of the market. My biggest concern is a lack of buzz and its availability at home. That said, horror fans continually demonstrate their willingness to show up.
The previous Conjuring experience also hit HBO when it landed at multiplexes and it took in $24 million. I have a feeling the prognosis for Malignant is that it may earn about half of that figure and maybe a little less.
Malignant opening weekend prediction: $7.6 million
Who can take the final weekend of August and turn it into a #1 opening? Oh, the Candyman can and likely will when it debuts August 27th. The long in development horror sequel arrives nearly 30 years after the 1992 original scared audiences into avoiding saying its name five times in a row. Nia DaCosta directs from a script cowritten by none other than Jordan Peele. With its source material based on a short story from Clive Barker, it stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo. THE OG Candyman Tony Todd makes an appearance as does Vanessa Estelle Williams from the ’92 tale.
Billed as a direct follow-up to the first and therefore ignoring two sequels that followed in the mid to late 90s, Candyman was first slated for release in June of 2020 before its series of COVID delays. It arrives during a summer where horror fans have had plenty of options and most of them were sequels. I don’t see this generating anywhere near what, say, A Quiet Place Part II or The Conjuring: The Devil Made Do It achieved. I do think if Don’t Breathe 2 managed just over $10 million, this should get beyond that.
Candyman could be poised to capitalize on the familiarity of its title character. That could propel it to a start as high as $20 million. My hunch is that it falls lower in the mid to high teens range (with the caveat that this genre is known to over perform).
And now I dare call its name for a potentially deadly fifth time and say…
Candyman opening weekend prediction: $17.3 million
David Bruckner’s The Night House is a fascinating place to live… at least for awhile. Its sturdy foundation is a hauntingly grief-stricken central performance from Rebecca Hall’s Beth. There are desirable features such as loud audio jump scares that genuinely do surprise. Its mystery focused on an ambiguous suicide note leaves us guessing for some time. For all we are given to buy into and do, the screenplay from Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski ultimately struggles to close the deal. And that’s where the remorse might settle in.
High school teacher Beth is reeling from the out of nowhere self-inflicted demise of husband Owen (Evan Jonigkeit). Her best friend (Sarah Goldberg) and kindly widowed neighbor (Vondie Curtis-Hall) try to say the right things, but Owen’s final correspondence leaves her baffled and wanting answers. Such acknowledgements come in ways familiar for the horror genre. Her nights are filled with ominous noises and creaks that suggest a presence at the lakeside abode that Owen built.
Beth’s digging into her late partner’s past (usually via his electronic devices) discloses a secret life that involves more architectural designs and a penchant for women that closely resemble her. So what does it all mean? Those reveals are where the script leaves a bit of its own ambiguity. When it becomes clearer on closer examination, the reveals are a letdown.
The Night House is certainly carried by Hall’s work. She isn’t your typical helpless heroine living in a place with a demonic mind of its own. We learn Beth has already had a brush with death years before and that informs her behavior. A stereo coming on full blast at night by itself tends to not scare her as much as the audience. The generous imbibing of brandy also assists with her liquid courage.
I wish the screenplay solved a way to deserve her superb performance. It mostly does for about two-thirds of the showing and, for that, the filmmakers deserve credit. The final act? It’s a bit of a fixer upper.
**1/2 (out of four)
There has been no shortage of horror offering for audiences this summer (almost all sequels), but Searchlight is hoping the masses turn out for another with The Night House. Directed by David Bruckner, the ghost story premiered all the way in January 2020 at the Sundance Film Festival. It stars Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, and Vondie Curtis-Hall.
Reviews from Sundance were encouraging and it stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the recent glut of genre titles (Don’t Breathe 2 is out the weekend before with Candyman the frame after) could cause this to get lost in the shuffle.
Opening on a fairly low 2000 screens, prospects for The Night House look dim. I foresee this debuting between $2-4 million and foreclosing in theaters quickly.
The Night House opening weekend prediction: $3.1 million
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