Escape Room: Tournament of Champions Box Office Predictions

Horror fans have been conjured, purged, and (umm) quiet placed already this summer with their scary sequels. Now it’s time to escape with the release of Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. The original $9 million budgeted effort took in a hefty $57 million back in January 2019 and Sony Pictures aspires to keep the gravy train rolling. The studio wished to capitalize on its momentum more quickly as this was originally slated for an April 2020 premiere before its COVID delay.

Taylor Russell and Logan Miller reprise their roles from part 1 as does director Adam Robitel. New cast members include Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, and Carlito Olivero. Two and a half years ago, Escape Room easily surpassed expectations with an $18.2 million domestic start. It even managed to only fall 51% in its sophomore frame and that’s quite solid for the genre.

Tournament of Champions could risk the weariness of moviegoers who’ve had plenty of fright fest follow-ups to choose from lately. I do think it will still manage low double digits.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions opening weekend prediction: $11.4 million

For my Space Jam: A New Legacy prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/07/07/space-jam-a-new-legacy-box-office-prediction/

The Forever Purge Box Office Prediction

Opening on July 2nd, The Forever Purge is billed as the final picture in the horror franchise that began in 2013 and has now spawned four sequels. It is a direct sequel to 2016’s The Purge: Election Year and follows the 2018 prequel The First Purge. Everardo Gout directs and James DeMonaco (who made the first three entries) serves as co-producer and screenwriter. The cast includes Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, and Will Patton.

Forever sports the highest production budget of the quintet at approximately $25 million (the rest were all in single or lower double digits). The series has been a hugely profitable and consistent venture for Universal with all four pics grossing between $64-$79 million domestically. The high mark came with Election Year while the lowest was actually the original.

We are still at a point pandemic wise where releases are not generating what they normally might under traditional summertime circumstances. The lowest three-day start for a Purge is from 2018 with The First Purge. The Friday to Sunday total was $17.3 million. However, the five-day holiday tally was just over $31 million.

While expectations should be tempered, this franchise has shown an ability to attract an audience. A start in the high teens range is feasible. There would be champagne bottles popping if it somehow manages to top $20 million. Yet I’ll project that this final (?) Purge ends up with the lowest premiere of the bloody bunch.

The Forever Purge opening weekend prediction: $16.1 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my The Boss Baby: Family Business prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/22/the-boss-baby-family-business-box-office-prediction/

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Review

Remember those Brady Bunch episodes when they went to Hawaii and Bobby found the evil tiki that ruined part of their vacation? Similar happenings occur in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It to the Warren bunch – our happily married demonologists Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga). It involves a satanic totem that wreaks even more havoc than Greg wiping out while surfing or Alice throwing her back out during a hula lesson. The latest Conjuring franchise pic delves deeper into the occult than previous entries and it is again based loosely on a true story.

This centers on the 1981 case of Arne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who was the first American to claim demonic possession as a defense during trial. As we learn in the pretty effective opening sequence, his curse was passed like a hot potato from 8-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). That little boy is exorcised by the Warrens and church officials in a body twisting procedure, but his malady is transferred to his sister’s boyfriend. That results in Arne returning home from work and his dogs are barking. His feet are fine. Arne works in a boarding kennel and those pups know something is off with him. The rest of Connecticut figures it out shortly after when he brutally stabs his boss.

Ed and Lorraine are naturally sympathetic to Arne’s forthcoming legal proceedings and seek to discover the backstory of how this came to be. Lorraine’s clairvoyant abilities unveils a tale of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Ed is hampered by heart problems. In fact, he experiences more ticker palpitations than you might as a viewer.

In 2013, the original Conjuring emerged as one of the finest horror pics in recent years. None of the official sequels or spinoffs have come too close to matching it and that holds. Michael Chaves takes over directorial duties from James Wan. Like the first two, this is well-made and doesn’t suffer from the cheap knockoff vibe that, say, Annabelle had. To be fair, even the Annabelle follow-ups improved. The last time we saw the Warrens was in 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home and I would say it had more pure entertainment value than this.

That’s not to say Devil is bad. It’s just another so-so example of creaking sound effects and jump scares that intermittently possesses a genuine scare. This even gets a little gooey towards the conclusion with its love conquers all theme. You can’t blame the filmmakers. Ed and Lorraine, in real life apparently and certainly on screen, have been through a lot. It’s too bad they weren’t in Hawaii back in the seventies. Maybe Alice would have had a far more pleasant hula lesson.

**1/2 (out of four)

Annabelle Comes Home Review

The first Annabelle spinoff in 2014 felt like a cheap and quick money grab after the success of The Conjuring the year before and I’d say it stands as the worst experience in this cinematic universe. Three years later, Annabelle: Creation managed to slightly improve on its predecessor as it told the 1950s set backstory of the demonic doll. Some horror aficionados felt it was a significant improvement, but I wouldn’t go that far. Annabelle Comes Home, which takes place about a year after the events of The Conjuring, accomplishes what very few trilogies can. I think this is the best of the trio and about on the level with The Conjuring 2 as far as effectiveness. That means it’s nowhere near the quality of the film that kicked the whole shebang off, but it’s well-crafted and feels like some effort got put into it.

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are back and they basically bookend this latest haunting. The real focus is their daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) as she deals with that supremely creepy looking title doll. Her parents have recently acquired Annabelle and locked her in a case that explicitly warns others to keep it closed. When the Warrens go off somewhere investigating what will probably be a Conjuring flick someday, Judy is left in the care of high school babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman). Her friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) joins the party and is curious if there are evil spirits lurking in the Warren household. She’s also desperate to connect with her recently deceased father.

As we know, Daniela has found the right house to do just that. Her actions unlock a whole lotta spirited occurrences which come with the franchise’s now well-known and precise sound effects editing. Home marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who wrote the first two Annabelle‘s and The Nun (he also penned both It pics). This walks a sometimes pleasurable line between the terrorized babysitter premise while being steeped in Conjuring lore. We briefly see several other spirits awakened and that includes a dog who’s a bad boy and a board game with a mind of its own.

Yet Annabelle Comes Home never turns into Ouija or Cujo. Most of the focus is on Annabelle. And despite her still scary appearance, no Conjuring sequel/spinoff has quite nailed the key objective: being consistently scary itself. With the exception of Annabelle’s first 2014 starring role, they look good and sound really good. They’re also far cries from what started it all.

**1/2 (out of four)

Ranking the Saw Movies

As of this week, I have now completed my rewatch of the Saw franchise from the 2004 original through this year’s Spiral. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen more grisly traps, body parts flying, endless flashbacks, and more tape recorders than a Radio Shack in the 1980s than I care to remember.

Of course, my reviews of this ennead was brought on by the release of Spiral, Chris Rock’s foray into a reboot. I was hopeful that it would stand as one of the bright spots in this dark group of bloody tales. It wasn’t to be. With each placement on this list, you will find my longer post.

Opinions are varied on the overall placement of the Saw pictures in terms of quality. There’s not much debate that the first is the best and it’s a sentiment I certainly share.

After that we see plenty of debate. I still maintain that the first three (in which Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is alive though not well in health or mind) stand above anything that followed. There are ardent admirers of part 6, but I feel IV-VII represented a considerable dip in quality and the sixth is not immune to that criticism. 2017’s Jigsaw was more successful in rebooting the films than the recent Spiral, though it has plenty of flaws.

And with that, here are my rankings in the Saw cinematic universe:

9. Saw 3D (2010)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/21/the-jigsaw-files-saw-3d-2010/

8. Spiral (2021)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/02/the-jigsaw-files-spiral-2021/

7. Saw IV (2007)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iv-2007/

6. Saw VI (2009)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/16/the-jigsaw-files-saw-vi-2009/

5. Saw V (2008)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-v-2008/

4. Jigsaw (2017)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/22/the-jigsaw-files-jigsaw-2017/

3. Saw III (2006)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/10/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iii-2006/

2. Saw II (2005)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-ii-2005/

1. Saw (2004)

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

The Jigsaw Files: Spiral (2021)

The choice that Lionsgate and Chris Rock (of all people) made to let the Saw franchise live and not die turns out to be a poor one with Spiral. Four years after Jigsaw managed to improve a bit on episodes IV-VII (which mostly felt like one long grim tale), the idea behind ninth installment Spiral (subtitled From the Book of Saw) at least turned some heads. In fact, the story behind its green lighting is far more unexpected and interesting than anything during its 93 minutes. Rock, one of the all-time great comedians, apparently had a chance meeting with a studio exec at a Brazilian wedding and pitched his take on a way to revive the series. The rest is history that will be mostly forgotten based on the weaker than expected box office returns. I bet camera footage of Rock’s pitch would be more satisfying and there would be a wedding reception and Brazil.

While this is the first Saw flick without Tobin Bell, we do have some regulars back. Darren Lynn Bousman (who made II-IV) returns to direct while Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger (Jigsaw writers) penned it. Rock is Detective Zeke Banks and he’s mostly hated by his fellow officers since he turned in a dirty cop years ago. His father (Samuel L. Jackson, who’s slowly but surely appearing in every franchise known to man) is a former Captain who’s revered by his peers. Max Minghella plays the eager rookie gumshoe tasked to work with the hesitant Zeke.

And there are, of course, Jigsaw type killings. Except this time Jigsaw is not mostly dead, but actually dead. There’s no Tobin Bell flashbacks. There are, however, still lots of flashbacks and some of them remind us of plot points that we literally saw about 15-20 minutes prior. A copycat killer is offing coworkers from Zeke’s precinct while reminding them of their workplace sins just before their brutal demises. This naturally involves the kind of traps we’ve grown accustomed to that slice skin and sever spinal cords. The first game begins with a tongue lashing to the nearly departed victim and ends with a tongue slashing.

If the whole idea of a brilliant comedian planting himself in a Saw like universe sounds like it might be weird… well, it is. Rock struggles with being believable in the role. His punch-ups to the screenplay aren’t hard to pick out as there’s mostly unfunny riffs on Forrest Gump and the time of day cheating habits of men vs. women. The bulk of the script veers back and forth between trying (I suppose) to make some statement on police corruption and just being a regular old Saw pic. It surprisingly fails on both fronts. And like every entry preceding it, there’s a twist ending. Some of them (especially in the original) packed a wallop. In Spiral, it’s a shrug inducing one that you can easily see coming.

Jigsaw was the first attempt to revitalize these twisted pictures. It was certainly no horror classic, but I admired moments of it. Spiral, despite the sharp talent involved, is a massive misfire.

My previous posts on the Saw pics can be accessed here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-ii-2005/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/10/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iii-2006/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iv-2007/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-v-2008/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/16/the-jigsaw-files-saw-vi-2009/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/21/the-jigsaw-files-saw-3d-2010/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/22/the-jigsaw-files-jigsaw-2017/

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Box Office Prediction

America’s favorite paranormal investigating peeps The Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are back in theaters and on HBO Max next week in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. This is the second sequel to the 2013 horror hit and the eighth overall entry in the Conjuring Universe. Michael Chaves (who made the previous series effort The Curse of la Llorona) takes over directorial duties from James Wan, who produces and shares a story credit. Costars include Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, and Julian Hilliard.

Originally scheduled for a September 2020 premiere before its COVID delay, Devil will attempt to reach an opening weekend gross commensurate with its predecessors. That could be a helluva task. Both pics with Conjuring in the title made just over $40 million for their starts. The first two Annabelle spin-offs took in over $30 million out of the gate. Another spin-off, The Nun, actually holds the series record with $53 million. Yet the past two flicks couldn’t match up. The third Annabelle made just over $20 million while the aforementioned la Llorona hit $26 million.

Those dwindling earnings could continue here. I’m a bit surprised that Warner Bros is releasing this just one week after A Quiet Place Part II, which should still be making loud noises at multiplexes. Furthermore, some fans with Max subscriptions will opt to view it in the comfort of their home. This franchise, on the other hand, has often shown an ability to over perform (The Nun hitting $50 million plus was not anticipated). Yet for the reasons described, I believe Devil could end up having the lowest domestic debut of the whole bunch.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opening weekend prediction: $19.8 million

For my Spirit Untamed prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/27/spirit-untamed-box-office-prediction/

The Jigsaw Files: Jigsaw (2017)

Parts IV-VII of the Saw experiences mostly felt like one long slog of a movie as the devious trappings torch was passed from Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, still seen in flashbacks) to Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). The look of the films remained drab and cheap. By the time 3D technology was utilized in 2010 with the seventh edition, the series had worn out its welcome with audiences (though they were still profitable due to their minor budgets).

Lionsgate (despite titling the previous pic The Final Chapter) decided to reinvigorate the franchise seven years later with Jigsaw, which brings in new players while finding a way to keep Bell briefly onscreen. The Spierig Brothers join the fold to direct and there’s new screenwriters in Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger. Some things have not changed. From beyond the grave, John/Jigsaw still expects his subjects to talk and he ultimately expects them to die.

Taking place a decade after Kramer’s demise, it seems a copycat killer is among us. Detectives Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Hunt (Cle Bennett) investigate as do forensic pathologists Logan (Matt Passmore) and Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson). Everyone but Hunt seems to be a suspect at different junctures. Logan’s backstory involves torture in the Middle East. Eleanor is more thrilled by Jigsaw’s past exploits than repelled by it. Halloran is a dirty cop. This constant game of who’s behind the mayhem coincides with a more familiar one taking place in an abandoned barn.

Jigsaw, or whoever is paying homage to him, toys with five unlucky players in the farmhouse setting. Their backstories, as we anticipate by now, involve their own nefarious activities that their captor seeks confessions to. Reading these plot points might lead you to believe there’s nothing much new in this reboot. You wouldn’t be far off. However, Jigsaw does manage to have more of a sense of humor about itself than what we’re used to. The behind the camera work from the Spierig Brothers exhibits a bit more energy than anything in the preceding four flicks.

On the other hand, the plot twists in the third act are rather eye rolling and that’s been an issue since the genuinely shocking one in the original. Let’s face it – every Saw sequel has tried to wow us in the last several minutes and only part 1 truly succeeded. The games deployed in Jigsaw are rather run of the mill as well.

Simply put, part VIII of the Saw saga is a small step up from its immediate precursors, but not a giant leap. Per usual, Jigaw’s faith in mankind still needs some work.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Spiral (2021)…

My other Jigsaw Files can be accessed here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-ii-2005/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/10/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iii-2006/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iv-2007/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-v-2008/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/16/the-jigsaw-files-saw-vi-2009/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/21/the-jigsaw-files-saw-3d-2010/

The Jigsaw Files: Saw 3D (2010)

The Jigsaw Files continues with 2010’s Saw 3D (also known as Saw: The Final Chapter) and it is of course not the final chapter as evidence by Spiral currently being #1 at multiplexes. Lionsgate termed it the endgame after the disappointing financial performance of Saw VI. Like all horror series, it’s never truly dead. As in all Saw flicks, even if characters are dead, they still manage to appear in the abundance of flashbacks we have seen time and again.

In the early moments of the seventh entry, we do see something very rare and that’s daylight. One of the traps from Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) actually happens in a setting that’s not a dingy dungeon. It happens in a crowded business district where spectators get to witness Hoffman’s handiwork. I must admit it was odd to see one of these games play out in a location that doesn’t make the grossest porta potty you’ve ever experienced look like the Taj Mahal.

That’s about the only new development to be found. Saw 3D brings back director Kevin Greutert for the second time in a row along with familiar screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The plot primarily hinges on Hoffman’s freshest game targeting Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery). He makes his living by claiming to be a Jigsaw survivor and reaping the book sale profits. The problem is he’s lying and that doesn’t sit well with Hoffman. The investigator trying to halt everything is Gibson (Chad Bonella, overacting even for a Saw pic).

Since this is the “last” chapter, we do finally get some answers on just what the heck happened to Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). He was last seen footless all the way back in the 2004 original. Yet the answers provided aren’t exactly satisfying. This is also marks the least screen time for the OG gamesman Tobin Bell. His ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) easily doubles his minutes. As mentioned before, the switch from Bell’s Jigsaw to Hoffman always marked a shift in quality for this franchise.

In 2009, a little movie called Avatar set all kinds of box office records. This may have been a factor in the 3D technology being employed here. I didn’t see this in the theater and I suppose the flying body parts coming at you on a giant screen could have added something…

I kind of doubt it. Seven features in, the Saw productions have run out of creative juice. One could argue that happened after the third one and I wouldn’t argue. The return of Elwes isn’t the boost as you may wish. Saw 3D has one foot planted in monotonous traps and departed voices from the past. That other foot is long sawed off and sought after thrills from #7 are tough to find.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Jigsaw (2017)…

My previous Jigsaw File posts can be accessed here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-ii-2005/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/10/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iii-2006/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iv-2007/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-v-2008/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/16/the-jigsaw-files-saw-vi-2009/

The Jigsaw Files: Saw VI (2009)

The Jigsaw Files continues with Saw VI and it’s often cited as one of the better (if not best) later entry in the franchise. Rotten Tomatoes says so as its meter (39%) falls only behind the 2004 original. Me? I don’t really fall into that category. The sixth edition certainly improves upon IV and a bit over V, but my complaints in this midsection remain the same. Chief among them is that the handoff from Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw to Costas Mandylor’s Detective Hoffman as the mastermind behind the games is a bumpy one. Nothing in Saw VI changes that dynamic.

Speaking of changing dynamics, a little side note about this blog series. Back in 2009, I purchased the first five Saw flicks on DVD and did a little mini marathon back then. 2021, since Spiral was coming out, warranted this blog group. I had, however, only viewed the quintet of these devious blood spattered experiences. So Saw VI and the three pictures that follow are original viewings.

When we last left Hoffman, he had dispatched FBI agent Strahm to a brutal demise and he seemingly has the keys to Jigsaw’s demented kingdom. The central game in this entry involves the medical industry and that does provide for a slightly fresh dynamic. William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) is an executive in that profession who made the unfortunate decision to deny John/Jigsaw’s requested experimental procedure post cancer diagnosis. As you can imagine, Jigsaw enlists Hoffman to exact revenge and this involves William having to play God in considerably more violent scenarios.

Meanwhile the various subplots continue to pile as high as the body count. Jigsaw’s ex-wife (Betsy Russell) becomes more of a central figure. Shawnee Smith’s Amanda gets some posthumous attention. And those flashbacks (a common occurrence in the franchise) go into overdrive here. It’s almost as if screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan were struggling to justify VI‘s existence and that’s likely true. Kevin Greutert, who edited all five earlier pics, gets his shot as director. Oh… and Steve Martin’s son-in-law from Father of the Bride and its sequel pops up in a key role.

At this point as a Saw watcher, it’s all about how compelling the games are. The characters have ceased to be very stimulating. There’s one involving a playground roundabout that gets a couple points for creativity. Despite the corporate greed angle (predatory lenders get their comeuppance too), Saw VI is once again a mundane ride that plays on mostly familiar ground.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)… as if…

You can peruse my previous postings in this series here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-2004/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/09/the-jigsaw-files-saw-ii-2005/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/10/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iii-2006/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-iv-2007/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/11/the-jigsaw-files-saw-v-2008/