BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: THE SUMMER 0F 2016

FROM BOX OFFICE SURPRISES TO BOX OFFICE BOMBS TO NEW LEVELS OFF ONLINE VITRIOL, THIS SUMMER HAD A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

With Labour Day right around the corner, another movie summer season is officially in the books. So with that in mind, lets take a look back at this summer’s winners and losers at the box office. 2016 was considered a down year for the annual summer spectacle, but among the disappointments and the controversies there were a handful of bright spots.

Read More . . .

Advertisements

BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: GHOST CAN’T CATCH PETS

DESPITE A STRONG OPENING, SONY’S GHOSTBUSTERS REBOOT CAN’T CATCH REIGNING BOX OFFICE CHAMP SECRET LIFE OF PETS

Sony’s much maligned, female centric Ghostbusters reboot was the center of attention this weekend as insiders and trackers were keeping a close eye on the controversial movie’s box office performance. But while everyone was watching what could be the most talked about movie in years, Universal/Illumination Entertainment’s animated blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets snuck past the supernatural comedy to claim box office supremacy for the second weekend in a row.

Read More . . .

GHOSTBUSTERS ANSWERS THE CALL

FORGET ALL THE HATE (AND THE TRAILERS), THE NEW GHOSTBUSTERS IS AN ENTERTAINING AND SATISFYING SUMMER RIDE

Perhaps the most hated movie of the century has arrived in theatres. The release date for Ghostbusters: Answer The Call has been Christmas in July for online haters and trolls and this movie has been mercilessly skewered the last year and a half (especially after Sony’s underwhelming trailers started to see the light of day). But if you can divorce yourself from your nostalgia for the original 1984 classic and accept that the world has changed over the last thirty years, you’ll likely leave the theatre both surprised and entertained.

Read More . . .

BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: SECRET SUCCESSFUL

SECRET LIFE OF PETS FINALLY DEFEATS FINDING DORY AND GIVES HOLLYWOOD A MUCH NEEDED SHOT IN THE BOX OFFICE ARM

Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory has been killing the competition since it was released last month, dominating the box office three weekends in a row (and the first two weeks weren’t even close as Dory doubled and even tripled the next closest titles). Few doubted that Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets would open in the top spot this weekend, but the question was by how much and would Dory prove to be a speed bump on Pets way to box office dominance. The answer to both those questions were“a lot” and “no.”

Last summer should have proven to everyone that there were plenty of dollars in the animated movie kitty to go around as Pixar’s Inside/Out and Universal/Illumination’s Minions squared off in a battle of the animated titans, with Minions coming out on top (though both movies made insane amounts of money). Insiders were keeping a close eye on this year’s rematch and the two heavyweights didn’t disappoint.

Pets silenced the doubters with a whopping 103.2 million dollar debut at the North American box office, the third highest opening in what has been an otherwise disappointing summer (the average box office debut of this summer’s new releases are down an estimated 27% from this time last year) and laid waste to conservative predictions of a debut in the 80 to 85 million dollar range. It is the sixth highest opening this year and breaks the box office record for the highest opening gross for an original property (non sequel, prequel, remake, reboot or adaptation). The previous record was set last year by, you guessed it, Inside/Out. Trackers will now be watching to see what kind of legs Pets will have and what kind of profit margin it can generate against a very reasonable 75 million-production budget.

The Legend of Tarzan narrowly held onto second place, snaring an extra 20.6 million in its second weekend. Warner Bros. revisiting of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic has netted 81.5 million since its debut last week but will need a strong overseas performance to balance its 180 million dollar production budget.

Despite being bumped from the top spot, this was hardly a bad week for Finding Dory. The sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo unseated The Lion King as Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time and it passed Captain America: Civil War to become 2016’s reigning box office champ. Currently sitting at just over 422 billion, the race is on to see if Dory can reach the elusive half billion domestic box office mark. If it can, it may well be the only 2016 release to do so.

Fox’s R-Rated comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opened fourth, outperforming some expectations but still only pulling in 16.6 million on its opening weekend (with grim long-term prospects). Has the raunchy comedy genre run out of steam, or is it the raunchy comedy starring Zac Efron’s abs genre that has run its course? Efron’s other two adult comedy efforts this year-Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and Dirty Grandpa-were both disappointments. It may be time him to try and expand his resume a little.

The Purge 3: Election Day’s box office performance dropped an eye popping 63 percent, but it was still able to claim fifth spot with 11.7 million in earnings, bringing its two week total to 58 million. Considering it only cost 10 million to make, every dollar Purge rakes in at this point is pure gravy for Universal. And the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart buddy movie Central Intelligence passed the 100 million dollar mark this week, raking in another 8.1 million to bring its four week total to a shade over 108 million. Holding the sixth spot this week, Intelligence should hold onto a spot in the weekly top ten for at least one or two more profitable weeks.

Independence Day Resurgence continues to (barely) hang onto a spot in the top ten, adding 7.7 million to a dismal total of 91.5 million domestically. How bad has it been for 20th Century Fox’s pricey (165 million) sequel? According to IMDB, the original Independence Day made over 306 million dollars domestically; the sequel could be hard pressed to hit 100 million despite IMAX showings, 3D ticket prices and two decades worth of inflation. Ouch. And speaking of bombs, The BFG brought in only 7.6 million on its second weekend for a total of 38.7 million against a production budget of 140 million. Fortunately Disney has four billion dollar properties under its belt so far this year and has a few big bullets left in its chamber (plus Walden Media shouldered some of BFG’s swollen budget, meaning Disney won’t take as big of a bath on it).

Sony’s small budget suspense The Shallows also continues to swim with the box office sharks, adding 4.8 million to a 45.6 million total that is nearly triple the film’s production budget. And just to add a surprise to the mix, Bollywood import The Sultan ranked tenth among North American box offices this weekend, bringing in 2.2 million on only 287 theatres. Not too shabby.

With Secret Life of Pets breathing some much needed life into a stagnant 2016 summer box office; distributors can breath a small sigh of relief. Attention now turns to Sony’s Ghostbusters opening next weekend. The female centric remake/reboot is one of the most hated things on the Internet (and has been since it was first announced in 2014) and responses from both Sony and director Paul Feig have only added fuel to the online fire. A lot of eyes will be on Ghostbuster’s bottom line this time next week. Stay tuned.

Shayne Kempton

 

 

 

BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: DORY REIGNS SUPREME

If Pixar decides to make a third installment in the Finding Nemo franchise, they should consider making the main characters piranhas, because they’re devouring everything in their path. Not only did Finding Dory defend its title as current weekend box office champion against three new high profile releases, but it also became the first movie to rule the box three weekends in a row since Zootopia (also a Disney property) did it last March. Dory added over 41 million to its domestic coffers over the holiday weekend and has now grossed over 372 million since its release three weeks ago. It’s well on its way to becoming the highest grossing movie of the year and will have no problem becoming Disney’s fourth billion dollar title of 2016 (it’s already made 538 million world wide). It has equaled Batman Vs Superman’s entire North American gross in just three weeks, it will likely pass Captain America: Civil War in a week or two and still has plenty of steam heading into July. And none of this takes into account all the Finding Dory merchandise currently flying off store shelves (just in time for summer vacation) or the fortune the home release will inevitably make when it hits DVD and Blu-Ray players next fall. If someone isn’t making a documentary titled “The Power of Pixar” yet, they should be.

One of those new releases, The Legend of Tarzan, opened in second with a healthy 38.1 million debut. But Warner Bros is already keeping a close eye on the weekly ticker tape considering Tarzan’s pricey 180 million dollar production budget. The Purge 3 was this weekend’s big winner, opening in third place with just over 30 million in ticket sales. Universal’s third (and final?) entry in the hyper violent film series tripled its ten million dollar budget in just its first weekend and it should prove interesting too see what kind of legs the action flick (which slyly paraphrased its tag line Keep America Great from Donald Trump’s xenophobic presidential campaign) has moving forward.

In a rare misstep, Disney’s other family friendly summer release, The BFG, opened fourth with a disappointing 19.5 million. The big budget BFG seemed to have everything going for it; based on the popular Roald Dahl book (and released on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, a fact Disney made sure to play up in the film’s promotion), it was directed by Steven Spielberg (his first Disney title) and had the full weight of the Disney hype machine behind it. Lukewarm reviews, a narrow target audience (seriously, this one was just for the kids) and a weekend full of competition combined to kill BFG’s prospects and the race is now on to see which will be the bigger Disney bomb; BFG or last April’s Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Speaking of disappointments, Independence Day: Resurgence took a near 60 percent hit to it’s weekend performance, tumbling from second place to fifth and only adding 16.5 million to it’s total. Resurgence came with a 165 million price tag (before promotional spending) and at its current pace it will be lucky to hit 100 million in domestic gross (it currently sits at just over 72). It will need a crazy overseas performance just to break even, which is currently looking unlikely. At best, 20th Century Fox is now looking to minimize the bath they’re going to take on this tent pole release.

Central Intelligence continued its strong run, holding down sixth spot with 12.3 million. Intelligence has made Fox over 95 million since it’s June 17th release and the Dwayne Johnson/Kevin Hart buddy movie should have no problem hitting the 100 million milestone later this week, effectively doubling its production budget. And speaking of doubling budgets, the Blake Lively thriller The Shallows, which was made on the cheap for 17 million, made a cool nine million in it’s second weekend of release, bringing it’s total performance to over 35 million. Not a bad July 4th present for Sony.

Civil War period piece The Free State of Jones failed to capitalize on the July 4th weekend, falling to eighth spot with 4.1 million. The Matthew McConaughey vehicle has been a disappointment since it’s release last week, earning a total 15.2 million despite a 50 million dollar budget. Jones might hold on to a spot in the top ten for another week but is likely to be relegated to a box office memory by the time Ghostbusters hits theatres July 15th. This will be the second big write off studio STX is forced to make this year after Hardcore Henry bombed last March.

A pair of sequels rounded out the top ten, with The Conjuring 2 scaring up another 3.85 million. The latest title in the James Waan/Warner Bros. horrorverse has totalled 95.2 million on North American shores and all but guarantees a third Conjuring, not to mention an already announced spin off featuring the movie’s demonic protagonist, a la Annabelle. But while that sequel is doing gangbusters at the box office, Now You See Me 2 sits on the exact opposite side of the spectrum. The Lionsgate sequel only managed another 2.95 million in what is likely its last weekend in the top ten, brining its domestic total to a little over 53 million. Lionsgate needed Now You See Me to be a success after the disappointing performance of Allegiant last March and the appalling bomb Gods of Egypt last February. The combined losses on those three titles (and the absence of any more Hunger Games movies) may have severe consecequences for the studios future.

Also worth mentioning is Warner Bros. romantic drama Me Before You. The adaptation of JoJo Moyes bestselling book has not been without controversey but it has proven to be fairly resilient. Five weeks after release, it has grossed over 53 million at North American box offices on a humble 2o million dollar budget. Could some of the controversy have  translated into box office dollars? If so, perhaps that may bode well for Sony’s incredibly maligned Ghostbusters remake.

Next weekend presents a rematch of last summer’s animated Battle Royal. Can Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory fend off Universal/Illumination’s Secret Lives of Pets and hold the title for a fourth week in row? Or will Pets succeed where others have failed and be the movie to finally put Dory down? Last year’s battle between the two animated giants was definitely one for the books. Pixar’s Inside Out was yet another blockbuster but couldn’t handle the juggernaut that was Illumination’s Minions. Round two should be a blast.

 

Shayne Kempton

MOVIE SEASON MADNESS

MY TOP TEN LIST FOR THIS SUMMER MOVIE SEASON

Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? It’s summer movie season, Christmas time for movie fans and buffs. Four months of tent-pole releases, franchise films and blockbusters from every genre. We’re already a few weeks into this year’s summer buffet of movie goodness, and one of the titles on this list has already broken the box office, but these are the ten films I’m looking forward to the most this summer. I spoke about a few of them with Dr. Ted on his podcast a few weeks ago (check it out here) but we ran out of time to touch on all of them. So without further adieu . . .

images-26

  1. Suicide Squad (August 5): Of all the movies on this list, this is the one that makes me the most nervous. I wasn’t a fan of the Suicide Squad comics (never read a single one, in fact) and after the sour taste that Batman Vs. Superman left in my mouth, my confidence in Warner Bros./DC is more then a little shaken. The fact that after the success of Deadpool (or more importantly the comedy in Deadpool), Warner Bros. ordered extensive reshoots for Suicide Squad to make it “lighter” isn’t exactly reassuring (when a movie is doing significant re-shoots six months before its release date, that’s a rarely a good sign). And honestly, is a movie about a team of super villains carrying out near impossible black ops missions in return for having their death sentences commuted the kind of film where you want a laugh a minute? But DC continues to build hype around Squad, there’s buzz that they plan to spin off Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn into her own movie and there’s no shortage of audience anticipation to see Jared Leto’s Joker. Could this be DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy: an obscure property that hits big in the steamy days of August? After the critical and box office disappointment of Batman Vs. Superman, they need it to be.

images-27

  1. Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27): When Alice in Wonderland hit theatres back in 2010, my niece had just graduated to being a toddler and I was becoming a little desperate looking for strong female role models in current media. I found one in Alice. Returning a teenage Alice to a broken and bleak Neverland as she’s essentially being pimped out to some high society husband so she can spend her days as an obedient, doting wife and mother was a brilliant stroke of storytelling. Making it so she had to overcome her self-doubt as well as her amnesia about the fantastic Wonderland before she could face the evil threatening it was even better. By the end of the movie, Alice was no princess needing rescuing or a damsel in distress; she was a sword-wielding warrior saving an entire world by slaying the ancient and dreaded Jabberwocky in battle. Toss in Johnny Depp’s performance as the Mad Hatter and Tim Burton’s signature visuals and Alice in Wonderland was a solid hit. Here’s hoping the sequel, with Burton producing instead of directing, lives up to the original.

warrrr_Open

  1. Warcraft (June 10): Based on the uber popular online game, this Universal release has a reported 160 million dollar production budget. And by the looks of it, it was all invested in the special and visual effects department. Make no mistake, I’m not expecting any brilliant storytelling (the trailers seem to have already given away the plot), but I fully expect this movie to be sold on the basis of its breath taking visuals and the scope of its world design. What other movie are you going to see this year that includes knights, sorcerers, orcs, griffins, monsters and maybe a dragon or two? What it all boils down to is this is the perfect movie to satisfy my inner geek. It should also be interesting to see how Warcaft is received by moviegoers in general; while the game is still popular it’s not the global phenomenon it once was and video game movies have a pretty bad track record in Hollywood (let alone ones that have a 160 million dollar price tag). One thing’s for sure though, the producers of next December’s Assassins Creed will be paying very close attention to Warcraft’s box office performance.

1233835_Jason-Bourne-poster

  1. Jason Bourne (July 29): I was never really a Jason Bourne fan-never read Robert Ludlum’s books and I still haven’t seen the last two movies-and besides, how often does the fifth film in a franchise rise above mediocre on the quality scale? But Jason Bourne looks like a smart, inventive action flick, reminiscent of last summer’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (my favourite action movie of 2015) and the fact that Matt Damon was lured back to the property by the script is a pretty good sign as well. It may very well be a dud, but it looks smarter and sharper then the rest of the action fare Hollywood is churning out these days.

finding-dory-wallpaper-movie-poster-nemo

  1. Finding Dory (June 17): I was never really that pumped to see Finding Nemo. As much as I love Pixar, a movie about a talking fish searching for his lost son didn’t exactly captivate my imagination (I had the same feelings about Cars and Ratatouille). But when I finally sat down and watched Nemo the whole way through, I spent the entire time smiling like I was in the fifth grade again (and yes, I had similar reactions to Cars and Ratatouille when I took the time to watch and appreciate them). To this day, the mantra of the seagulls (Mine! Mine!) is one of my more favoured catch phrases (it just never gets old). So while the idea of Dory may not excite my imagination the way The Incredibles or Wall-E did, Pixar’s bar of excellence remains the highest in the animated film industry and I’ll walk into the theatre with an open mind and an inner child jumping up and down for joy.

ID4R

  1. Independence Day Resurgence (June 24): Hitting theatres almost 20 years to the day that the original Independence Day enthralled movie audiences, Independence Day Resurgence is following the same formula Star Wars: The Force Awakens did with its characters; it mixes some of the golden oldies from the original with a handful of new faces (although hardcore fans are already disappointed with Will Smith’s absence). The original Independence Day broke tonnes of new ground with its mind-blowing special effects and it looks as though the long awaited sequel is following in those same award-winning footsteps. And while I fully expect Warcraft to appeal to my inner fantasy geek, I expect the story of the human race fighting for its collective survival against a second, more pissed off wave of world conquering aliens to do the same for my inner sci-fi nerd. And while I doubt that a Mac power book will save human civilization this time around, I’m kind of hoping we’ll get to see the White House atomized again. Because let’s be honest, twenty years later that’s still everyone’s favourite scene.

8143718_x-men-apocalypse-promotional-images-highlight_73920f5b_m

4.  X-Men Apocalypse (May 27): There are plenty of reasons to look forward to the next installment in the X-Men film franchise. When Fox made the prudent decision to erase the reviled X-3 (and possibly the two Wolverine solo films) from continuity with 2014’s Days of Future Past, they made a lot of fans-both of the X-Men comics and movies-very, very happy. After Wolverine’s time hopping in DoFP, many of the original X-Men are back, and we get to see them during their formative teenage years during the 80’s, aka the Decade of Absurd Excess. Storytelling wise, it was a time in the character’s lives when most fans fell in love with them (the ultimate teenage outsiders fighting off one world threatening menace after another) and in real world time, the 80’s were when the X-Men exploded in popularity and became Marvel’s comic cash cow juggernaut. My anticipation for this is also equaled by my curiosity-how do they plan on weaving in that curious Wolverine cameo they’ve been teasing us with? Freed from the cumbersome storytelling baggage of the previous X-Men movies, the special effects in Age of Apocalypse look amazing, you just know Jennifer Lawrence is going to kill it in what could be her final turn as Mystique (whose run the gamut between reluctant hero to villainous sidekick and back to reluctant hero again, with a stop as a world saver in between) and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto, skating the tragic line between salvation and villainy, is always worth the price of admission. And Olivia Munn’s Psylocke looks like she could be this movie’s Black Panther or Wonder Woman, a breakout character that steals every scene she’s in.CVvJUtwWoAAO2Z5.jpg-large

  1. Star Trek Beyond (July 22): Hey, did you know that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise? Did you know there’s a new movie coming out this summer to celebrate it? No? Don’t sweat it, because few people outside outside of Trek’s hardcore fan base or TV aficionados seem to. Up until last weekend, Paramount barely promoted it, dropping a handful of stills and a single trailer before this month’s fan event. You’d think that a summer tent pole release during Trek’s big 5-0 would have the studio bringing out and then breaking all the proverbial stops, but Paramount’s campaign has been the exact opposite so far. I love Star Trek. I don’t speak Klingon or own a classic Trek uniform but I’ve always enjoyed the various versions of Gene Roddenberry’s classic science fiction vision. But there are plenty of red flags about this movie already-Simon Pegg, who co-wrote it in addition to playing everyone’s favourite Scottish starship engineer, reportedly quit a number of times and had to be talked into returning by J.J. Abrahams (who remains with the franchise as a producer). Combine a possibly disgruntled Pegg with persistent rumours that the budget was slashed just before filming began and a head scratching lack of promotion and it could all add up to disaster for one of Hollywood’s greatest entertainment properties. I really hope I’m wrong, or at the very least my affection for Trek can blind me to any warts, no matter how big. Besides, Idris Elba as the big bad? That promises to make everything better.

Marvels-Captain-America-Civil-War-2016-Official-Wallpapers-HD

  1. Captain America: Civil War (May 6): This one has already dropped (you can read my review here) and it was everything I hoped it would be (which was primarily a much needed palate cleanser after the bleak, steaming mess that was Batman Vs. Superman). The third and final Captain America standalone film was everything BvS wasn’t; fun, bright, exciting, funny and it only needed two weeks to bury DC’s much maligned movie at the box office, beating both it’s domestic and international gross on its third weekend of release. It has also provided plenty of fuel for the online hate wars that have been raging over BvS since it was released last Easter. Seriously, the people who loved watching Batman and Superman beat the snot out of each other for five minutes in a two and a half hour movie need to find lives, get out of the house more and work on their blood pressure.

ghostbusters

  1. Ghostbusters (July 15): This movie started receiving record amounts of hate the second it was announced, most of it due to the fact that it has an all female cast. The haters don’t want to admit it but that’s what all the fuss boils down to. I love the original Ghostbusters and even the (admittedly inferior) sequel too-watch them every Halloween in fact-but unlike the Internet, I was thrilled to hear there was more on the way, female cast or no. It’s been both amusing and saddening watching the logical knots the haters have gone to trying to disguise their woman bashing. “Women can’t be Ghostbusters because the proton packs are too heavy and we all know how much realism we need in our movie about busting ghosts!” Or one of my favourites, “why can’t they leave such a classic alone?!?” Like I said guys, I love me some Ghostbusters, but this is a movie where New York was almost destroyed by a fifty story Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. This ain’t the Godfather, so calm down. Hopefully Ghostbusters is a box office success despite all the venom from the men’s rights idiots, #Gamersgaters and closet misogynists, who can then stick all those dollar bills in their collective pipes and smoke them until they run out of hate tears.

HALLOWEEN MOVIE MADNESS

(Originally Posted on Hautnews.com October 24, 2015)

So here we are, all Hallows Eve, when the shadows fall longer and we can be our true selves a little more while pretending to be someone (or something) else. The dark becomes a little more seductive while a restless moon whispers long forgotten secrets to those brave enough to listen. No doubt you’ve seen AMC and Peachtree TV running the same offering of horror movies over and over (and over) this past month, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to list my ten personal favourite Halloween flicks. Make no mistake, I don’t consider these the top ten horror movies of all time, but rather the ones I try to cram in before the trick or treaters hit the streets. It just doesn’t feel like the Devil’s witching hour until I’ve caught these bad boys. Enjoy.

  1. SINISTER: The most recent entry on this list, the 2012 flick starring Ethan Hawke was surprisingly effective. When true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Hawke) moves into the home of a murdered family to research his new book, he inadvertently becomes the next link in a chain of bloodshed and murder that spans the entire country. What I loved about Sinister was that the protagonist was the victim of his hubris and arrogance just as much as the murderous supernatural forces that were gathering around him. That and a killer of a primal soundtrack made this a memorable horror movie.
  1. SHAUN OF THE DEAD: Before this comedic parody of the well-worn zombie movie hit theatres in 2004, no one this side of the Atlantic had any idea who Simon Peg was. For that fact alone this movie deserves celebration, but SoTD manages to offer plenty of patented dry British chuckles at the genre’s expense while still delivering some genuine pathos (the scene where Shaun has to shoot his mother in the head after she turns into a zombie is particularly memorable).

 

  1. DAWN OF THE DEAD: You know, I never gave Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of George Romero’s classic a second thought and ignored it when it hit theatres. But after a glowing recommendation from a friend of mine I gave it a shot. I still wasn’t initially impressed with it but this movie, full of frantic zombies that ran you down instead of stumbling around aimlessly, got in my head somehow, and I actually had zombie inspired nightmares for a week afterwards. So naturally I have to watch it once a year (have fun with that little nugget armchair psychoanalysts).

 

  1. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2: You’d be forgiven if this choice makes you groan; the Paranormal franchise has pretty much worn out its welcome but just keeps on churning out films. But PA2 was actually a pretty effective little fright fest. There were no CGI ghosts or flesh eating zombies commanding the screen, but the second chapter in the story of a pair of sisters being haunted by a relentless and malevolent demon (turns out their grandmother may have auctioned them off to the highest satanic bidder in return for successful business advice-and you complain about your family) has more than a handful of chilling moments. The scene where the family’s German shepherd-who knew something was up the whole damn time-was dragged whining and crying into the dark cave-like basement to have who knows what done to it by a pissed off demon was the scene that truly made me uneasy. One golden lesson I’ve learned from horror movies is to always pay attention to your pets.

 

  1. ZOMBIELAND: Focusing on a handful of unlikely survivors trekking across Zombie ravaged America (everyone’s favourite apocalypse); Zombieland is carried by Columbus’ (played with tongue-in-cheek perfection by Jesse Eisenberg) list of tried and true rules for survival (“Double Tap” and “Cardio” are my personal faves), Woody Harrelson’s bad-assery, Emma Stone’s smart sexiness and a brilliant cameo by Bill Murray. This comedy was also responsible for a spike in global Twinkie sales, courtesy of Harrelson’s persistent quest to find the last perfect cream filled pastry among the ruins of the United States. Say what you want about Zombies, at least they keep their rotten hands of the Hostess goodies.

 

  1. THE CONJURING: The Conjuring is based on real life supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s attempts to help a Rhode Island family combat a bloodthirsty (and royally pissed) demon hell bent on all kinds of unpleasant shenanigans. This movie is pure crafted creepy, from the spooky countryside to the grim and dismal house (with faded wallpaper, rusty faucets and screen door hinges that just won’t shut up). Special effects are kept to a minimum but used effectively when they make an appearance as director James Wan goes old school for his scares, using clever cut shots and well timed music. And wouldn’t you know it, the family dog seems to know the whole thing is going south way before anyone else and suffers because of it. When your dog is acting like Michael Vick is lying in wait for him, take the hint and hightail it the other way people.

 

  1. INSIDIOUS: While this inventive flick of a boy who can travel the astral plane while he sleeps (attracting all kinds of scary and unpleasant things in the process) threatens to go off the rails once or twice, it’s a solid movie that pays homage to the likes of Poltergeist and the Exorcist. The first sequel was pretty flat despite some decent writing and Chapter 3 was just plain forgettable but we have Insidious to thank for (briefly) refreshing the horror genre with smarts and originality. Anyone else who thinks there should be another Constantine movie but with James Wan in the director’s chair raise your hands. Anyone? Going once . . .

 

  1. BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA: I was lucky enough to catch this one in the theatres back in the day, and the one thing I will remember until I take the dirt nap is the scene where one of Dracula’s vampiric brides chows down on Keanu Reeves man goods. The entire row I was sitting in doubled over and shrieked in pained sympathy as her fangs bore into his vulnerable and unsuspecting manhood. But seriously, how Gary Oldman didn’t get any Oscar love for managing to portray the world’s most famous vampire as both an evil bastard and a sympathetic, tragic figure is one of modern cinema’s greatest crimes. Almost equally memorable was Anthony Hopkins borderline sociopathic portrayal of infamous vampire hunter Van Helsing. While occasionally over the top, BSD is probably the best movie portrayal of the horror classic (without all the racist undertones). And ladies, in case you ever needed a reminder, just stay as far away as possible from the tall, dark and handsome strangers. It never ends well.

 

  1. THE CROW: “Its justice for victims.” That was how Brandon Lee, who played The Crow’s titular character, summed the movie up just before he was tragically killed in a stunt gone wrong. It’s Devil’s Night in the desolate urban wasteland of Detroit, and Eric Draven watches helplessly as his fiancé is raped and tortured to death before he’s thrown out the window to his death. A year to the day later, guided by an all-knowing crow, Eric returns from the dead. And he isn’t happy (hint: things don’t end well for the people who put him and the love of his life in their graves) and The Crow indulges in some dark poetry when it comes to meting out vengeance. Dark, violent, prophetic and at times beautiful, this cult favourite should be on everyone’s must see Halloween list.
  1. GHOSTBUSTERS (THE ORIGINAL): Turning 31 years old this year (feel old yet?), this comedy classic is so beloved that people have been clamoring for a third Ghostbusters flick since a somewhat disappointing sequel in 1989. The recent loss of Harold Ramis has, pardon the pun, laid to rest any chances to see the original quartet of ghost hunters strap on their proton packs again, but the surviving cast are all set to make cameo appearances in Paul Feig’s Ghostbuster remake next summer (circle July 22nd on your calendars). This movie screams Halloween. Fun, witty and irreverent, Ghostbusters embodies everything that makes this time of year magic. The chemistry the original cast shared was lightning in a bottle and it was highlighted by Bill Murray’s cool charm and pure smart aleciness (yeah, I invented that word, sue me). His trademark smirk alone was worth the price of admission. And what Zombieland did for Twinkies sales, Ghostbusters did for marshmallows, turning the Staypuff Marshmallow Man into the most absurd instrument of human extinction ever conceived. That alone sums up the spirit of this classic.

Shayne Kempton