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)

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/

Batman Forever Ago: A Quarter Century Box Office Report

Earlier this week (on Tuesday), Batman Forever celebrated its 25th anniversary of release. For those who may not recall, this was when Joel Schumacher took over the franchise from Tim Burton and Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. Tommy Lee Jones (coming off an Oscar for The Fugitive) and Jim Carrey (the hottest comedic star in America after the one-two-three punch of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber) costarred as villains Two-Face and The Riddler, respectively. Nicole Kidman was in the mix as Bruce Wayne/Batman’s love interest and Chris O’Donnell was introduced as Robin. Sounds like a recipe for a box office bonanza right? Indeed it was.

In mid June 1995, Forever scored the best opening weekend of all time and was the first feature to make over $50 million in its first three days. The $52.7 million tally topped the previous record holder from two summers before (a little something called Jurassic Park). Forever would hold the title for two years before being toppled by… The Lost World: Jurassic Park. 

The all-time premiere record has since changed 11 times, including in 2008 with another Batflick The Dark Knight at $158 million. The current holder is Avengers: Endgame at $357 million. And that right there shows how much times have changed. In a quarter century, the first frame of Endgame made 7x that of Forever. Higher ticket prices are certainly a factor. Yet in 25 years, Val Kilmer’s grapples with Jim Carrey went from a highest ever start to now 225th. By the way, 224th place belongs to… The Lego Batman Movie! And now, Forever lags behind such forgettable material as The Nun, The Karate Kid remake, Valentine’s Day, and DC’s own hugely disappointing Green Lantern.

Speaking of disappointing, I’m certainly of the opinion that Forever was just that as far as quality. It’s not nearly as bad at what followed with Schumacher’s sequel Batman & Robin. However, it was a big letdown from what Burton accomplished before and what Christopher Nolan achieved a decade later with the start of The Dark Knight trilogy. What remains is an interesting snapshot in time when a $50 million debut was new territory and it took the Bat Signal (even a rather mediocre one) to get there.

The Nun Movie Review

We aren’t exactly blessed with a new horror classic in The Nun, the latest entry in the seemingly endless possibilities for spinoffs in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe. It does, however, manage to rise above the Annabelle creations before it with some style points and an occasional identity of its own. While both Annabelle and its sequel often felt like unnecessary cash grabs, I’ll give director Corin Hardy a bit of credit for creating something a little different. Let’s call it maybe a B- for trying.

The title character here first appeared in The Conjuring 2. She’s a demonic nun possessed by evil spirit Valak. Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) had to put up with her sister acts of violence in that picture. This prequel and spin-off (preoff?… spinquel??) takes it back two decades earlier to the 1950s in Romania. A nun has committed suicide in a monastery after making the acquaintance of Valak and the Vatican enlists Father Burke (Demian Bechir) to look into it. He’s paired up with Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), who’s still in the novitiate (or training) stage before taking her vows.

Once they reach the scene of the death, Father and Sister are subject to lots of shadowy lurking, visions of terror, and charming local Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet) who provides a couple moments of genuine comic relief. That’s not something often found in this particular Universe and it’s welcome because these pics aren’t worth taking seriously.

2013’s The Conjuring was a very entertaining and scary genre exercise. The direct sequel and the offshoots haven’t come close to its power. And The Nun is nowhere near as entertaining or scary. Yet I wouldn’t classify this one as lazy. The monastery setting creates a sometimes effective claustrophobic feel. We know this franchise is all about jump scares and they’re in bountiful supply. I’ll give Taissa Farmiga props for her ability to act as terrified as her big sister Vera in the main series flicks. Calling this the best spin-off thus far isn’t praise of the highest power, but I’ll confess to it holding my interest better than the doll.

**1/2 (out of four)

Annabelle Comes Home Box Office Prediction

2019 has seen a number of franchises stumble hard with their sequels and reboots. Yet Warner Bros has one of the sturdiest series in recent memory with the Conjuring Cinematic Universe. Next week brings the third edition of the Annabelle entries and I don’t see fatigue among horror fans happening here.

Annabelle Comes Home marks the directorial debut of Gary Dauberman, who penned both predecessors and last fall’s spin-off The Nun. Mckenna Grace and Madison Iseman star and this time Conjuring leads Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga join the doll party.

As mentioned, this has been a mighty profitable franchise for its studio. After five pictures, the lowest opening belongs to Annabelle: Creation at $35 million two summers ago. However, it legged out better than 2014’s Annabelle ($102 million vs. $84 million). Any thought of the series dwindling was dispelled last fall when The Nun took in $53 million for the best premiere of all.

What might give this Annabelle the lowest debut yet is a matter of logistics. This one opens on Wednesday and that will certainly eat into its traditional weekend haul. I still foresee a high 20s Friday to Sunday gross and high 40s when factoring in the extra two days.

Annabelle Comes Home opening weekend prediction: $27.4 million (Friday to Sunday); $38 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Yesterday prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/06/21/yesterday-box-office-prediction/

The Curse of La Llorona Box Office Prediction

Next weekend could provide an interesting answer to a question not posed before – how much can a Conjuring series picture gross if a lot of moviegoers may not be aware it’s actually part of the franchise? I give you The Curse of La Llorona, the sixth entry in this scary supernatural cinematic universe. The 1970s set ghost tale is directed by Michael Chaves in his feature-length debut (he’s slated to be behind the camera for the third official Conjuring flick next year). Linda Cardellini headlines a cast that includes Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Tony Amendola (reprising his Annabelle role), and Sean Patrick Thomas.

Llorona premiered last month at the South by Southwest Festival. Early reviews are mixed to negative with a current 44% Rotten Tomatoes score. At the time of its unveiling, it was a bit of a surprise that this even existed in the billion dollar worldwide franchise. It’s a legitimate question as to whether the marketing campaign has had enough time to establish that fact.

In my view, that almost certainly means this will experience the lowest debut of the series so far. Horror fans have certainly had options lately with Us and Pet Sematary. That said, it’s a risky group of films to bet against. Just last fall, The Nun unexpectedly set the franchise opening weekend high mark at $53 million. The lowest start belongs to Annabelle: Creation at a still impressive $35 million. That creepy doll, by the way, is back this June with Annabelle Comes Home.

Tracking currently has this at $20 million and that sounds about right.

The Curse of La Llorona opening weekend prediction: $20.1 million

For my Breakthrough prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/09/breakthrough-box-office-prediction/

For my Penguins prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/04/10/penguins-box-office-prediction/

Halloween Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (10/12/18): A week before its premiere, I’m revising my estimate up from $67.2 million to $75.4 million

Next weekend, the latest Halloween entry arrives in theaters and this one does so with a twist. While this is the 11th installment in the 40-year-old franchise, it ignores everything that happened in parts 2-10 and serves as a direct sequel to the 1978 John Carpenter classic. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode with Nick Castle (the original Michael Myers) donning the mask once again. David Gordon Green, known for pics as varied as Pineapple Express and last year’s Boston Marathon drama Stronger, directs and is co-writer along with comedic actor Danny McBride. Blumhouse Productions is behind this and they have proven themselves as masters of making low-budget horror flicks hugely profitable ventures (the price tag is only a reported $10 million). Costars include Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, and Will Patton.

This is actually Curtis’s fifth time playing her iconic character when including Halloween II, 1998’s Halloween: H20, and Halloween: Resurrection. Just pay no mind to anything that happened to her in those follow-ups. The release date timed for the actual holiday and the return of the series best known player has created some serious buzz. So did its screening at the Toronto Film Festival where it premiered to solid reviews (Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 85%).

Add all that up and Halloween appears primed to scare up big business. The current record holder for biggest horror debut of all time belongs to last year’s It at $123 million and that mark seems unattainable. However, this seems poised to top 2018’s The Nun, which premiered with $53 million. I believe a mid 70s gross is where Laurie and Michael will stake their claim, which would give it the second highest October debut behind Venom. 

Halloween opening weekend prediction: $75.4 million

Box Office Predictions: October 5-7

The October box office gets underway this weekend with a strong likelihood that the month’s record will be broken as the comic book adaptation Venom and Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga Oscar hopeful and musical drama A Star Is Born open. You can peruse my individual detailed prediction posts on them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/25/venom-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/25/a-star-is-born-box-office-prediction/

Both are expected to post impressive debuts. The current October record holder is from five years ago when Gravity made $55.7 million out of the gate. Venom is tracking to open between $60-$70 million. I believe it will match expectations and premiere on the lower end of that range, taking the all-time monthly debut with it.

While Venom could always fail to meet projections, I believe the real wild card here is A Star Is Born. Ever since it screened on the film festival circuit, praise and awards buzz has been loud for Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and third remake of a tale that began in the 1930s. My initial estimate last week was $37.6 million and it has now risen to $48.6 million. It’s not out of the question that the projection could continue to rise during the week.

The two newcomers will easily take the top spots. As for holdovers, Smallfoot seems destined to experience a smaller drop than current champ Night School. I expect them to place 3rd and 4th, respectively, with The House with a Clock in Its Walls rounding out the top five.

And with that, my top five take on the big record-breaking weekend ahead:

1. Venom

Predicted Gross: $62.5 million

2. A Star Is Born

Predicted Gross: $48.6 million

3. Smallfoot

Predicted Gross: $13.6 million

4. Night School

Predicted Gross: $12.7 million

5. The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Predicted Gross: $7 million

Box Office Results (September 28-30)

As expected, the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy Night School opened in first place with $27.2 million, a bit under my $31.6 million prediction. While not reaching the heights of some other Hart laughers, it’s still a solid start. I do expect a fairly large drop this weekend.

Warner Bros animated Smallfoot premiered in line with expectations at $23 million. My prediction? $23 million! I foresee a second weekend drop around 35-40 percent.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls dropped to third with $12.6 million, falling further than my second weekend estimate of $15.3 million. It’s made $44 million thus far.

A Simple Favor was fourth with $6.5 million (I said $7 million) for a three-week tally of $43 million.

The Nun rounded out the top five with $5.4 million (I said $5.5 million) for an overall gross of $109 million.

Halloween themed horror pic Hell Fest yielded unimpressive results in sixth place with $5.1 million, in line with my $5.6 million projection.

Finally, the Pure Flix version of Little Women was a total bust this weekend with just $705,000 for 16th place. I was more generous at $1.1 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Box Office Predictions: September 28-30

**Blogger’s Note (09/27/18): My estimates for Night School and Smallfoot has risen slightly to $31.6 million and $23 million respectively.

It could be a battle for the #1 spot at the box office as September closes with the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish comedy Night School and the animated Warner Bros family pic Smallfoot debuting. We also have the Halloween theme park set horror flick Hell Fest opening. You can peruse my detailed individual prediction posts on the trio here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/18/night-school-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/18/smallfoot-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/20/hell-fest-box-office-prediction/

Before we get to the heavy hitters, the Pure Flix version of Little Women is also out Friday on a low 600 or so screens. I didn’t do a separate post for it and I’m not expecting much out of it. I’ll put its premiere at just $1.1 million.

Kevin Hart has shown his potency at the box office repeatedly with several openings north of $30 million. I don’t have Night School reaching quite that high, but my mid to late 20s estimate is enough to project it will top the lower to mid 20s gross of Smallfoot. 

Competition for Smallfoot will include the second weekend of The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which performed on the higher end of expectations out of the gate. It should drop to third place with A Simple Favor in fourth.

The five-spot is where I expect Hell Fest to compete. Horror movies always have the capacity to outdo expectations, but I’m not seeing much fanfare for this one. My mid single digits prediction could put it in range with the fourth weekend of The Nun.

And with that, a top 6 take on the weekend ahead:

1. Night School

Predicted Gross: $31.6 million

2. Smallfoot

Predicted Gross: $23 million

3. The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Predicted Gross: $15.3 million

4. A Simple Favor

Predicted Gross: $7 million

5. Hell Fest

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

6. The Nun

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

Box Office Results (September 21-23)

As anticipated, The House with a Clock in Its Walls topped the charts with a solid $26.6 million (ahead of my $23.2 million take). The Jack Black family pic, as mentioned, hit the better end of estimates. Considering its reported $40 million budget, this should be a nice hit for Universal.

A Simple Favor elevated from third place to second place in its sophomore weekend with $10.2 million, in line with my $10.6 million projection. Its total stands at $32 million.

The Nun crossed the $100 million mark placing third with $9.9 million (ahead of my $8.4 million estimate). Only Annabelle of the Conjuring Cinematic Universe didn’t manage to join the century club and The Nun appears poised to be the franchise’s second largest earner behind The Conjuring.

The Predator dipped mightily in weekend #2 to fourth place with a 63% fall and $9.1 million (I said $10 million) for $40 million overall.

Crazy Rich Asians was fifth with $6.3 million (I went with $5.9 million) for $159 million overall.

The newcomers besides Clock all failed to connect with moviegoers. Michael Moore’s doc (despite significant publicity) was a flop. While Fahrenheit 9/11 took in nearly $24 million in its first weekend in the summer of 2004, 11/9 managed a paltry $3 million for 8th place. I predicted $5 million.

Life Itself couldn’t overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews and the drama from “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman was 11th with a putrid $2.1 million. I was a bit higher at $3.8 million.

I didn’t make a prediction on the blog for Assassination Nation (though I said $1.2 million on Fantasy Movie League), but it was another bad opening in 15th place with $1 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Hell Fest Box Office Prediction

Set in a Halloween theme park, the horror flick Hell Fest will attempt to bring in genre fans next weekend. It’s directed by Gregory Plotkin, who’s known more for his work as an editor (Get Out, Happy Death Day). He did make Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. The cast includes Amy Forsyth, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Reign Edwards, and Tony Todd (otherwise known as Candyman from that franchise).

Hell Fest debuts in the middle of considerably more high-profile fright fests The Nun and Halloween. Opening on approximately 2200 screens, awareness seems rather low. That said, horror fans can sometimes cause larger than expected grosses.

I’m not seeing it here. I’ll project a mid to maybe high single digits premiere.

Hell Fest opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my Night School prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/18/night-school-box-office-prediction/

For my Smallfoot prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/18/smallfoot-box-office-prediction/