A remake of the acclaimed 2014 Swedish comedic drama Force Majeure, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell headline Downhill this weekend. From directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the pic debuted last month at the Sundance Film Festival to mixed reaction. Costars include Miranda Otto, Zoe Chao, and Zach Woods.
Downhill is the first official release from the newly coined Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight), which is now owned by Disney. I’m not sure this release gets the moniker off to a solid start. With just 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is slated to roll out on a smallish 1500 screens over the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend.
Despite its well-known two leads, the muted buzz and lack of theaters has me thinking double digits is out of reach or even $5 million.
Downhill opening weekend prediction: $4.1 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
The 2014 Conjuring spin-off Annabelle didn’t exactly leave me clamoring for an origin story of the motionless demonic doll, but here we are with Annabelle: Creation. Set 12 years before the events of its predecessor, this prequel manages to be a slight improvement. Unfortunately that isn’t saying much.
A prologue documents toy maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) tragically losing their young daughter. Dad’s profession reveals that he’s the creator of the doll that first appeared in 2013’s TheConjuring. We suspect his child’s demise will later tie into Annabelle’s evil ways.
We skip ahead to a dozen years later in the mid 1950s as six orphans and their nun caretaker (Stephanie Sigman) are looking for a home. They are taken in by the Mullins family on their sprawling country property. Janice (Talitha Bateman) is crippled by polio and quickly stricken by a feeling that something isn’t right with the creepy doll she finds at the house.
Those familiar with the franchise know the technicians involved in the film’s making pretty much take it from there. Creation wishes to generate its suspense through sounds and lighting reveals. David F. Sandberg, who last directed LightsOut, is behind the camera.
The original Annabelle felt like what it was – a quick cash grab to build on the success of TheConjuring. It also looked a little cheap. This doesn’t. It’s just not very scary. If you add up all the time throughout several pictures where the camera lingers on its title character, you might have enough screen time for a fifth entry in the series.
The makers of Creation succeed occasionally at putting together a fast scare, but it’s nearly two-hour runtime seems drawn out and routine. All the camera tricks and sound works cannot ultimately make Annabelle seem more than a mostly dull ploy to keep the franchise rolling.
The demented doll made famous four summers ago is back in Annabelle: Creation, a prequel to 2014’s original, which itself was a spin-off of 2013’s breakout horror smash TheConjuring. This follow-up is from director David F. Sandberg, who made last summer’s well-received LightsOut. Stars include Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto.
There is one major difference between the 2014 spin-off and its sequel. While Annabelle only obtained a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this one is surprisingly at 100% and is obviously said to be a marked improvement.
How will that translate to box office dollars? Annabelle opened to a better than anticipated $37.1 million and was front loaded in its business with an eventual $84 million domestic gross. TheConjuring2 from last summer couldn’t quite match its original’s debut (though it was awfully close at $41 million vs. $40 million).
Competition is relatively light, but even with the solid reviews, I don’t expect Creation to quite match the premiere of its predecessor. However, it may leg out better. I’ll say a high 20s to low 30s debut is most probable.
Annabelle: Creation opening weekend prediction: $31.4 million
For my The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature prediction, click here: