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WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2010

Happy International Women's Day! My retrospective is still topical! WOOO!

This was an intriguing year for horror. Pickings were slim this year, but there's an overall uptick in quality that started in the late 2000s, after we got tired of torture porn and remaking stuff from Japan and Korea. (Although remaking stuff from the '70s is still an issue.) Also, with David Slade at the helm for the third entry in the Twilight saga, we got some actual terror, tension, and action thrown into the mix along with the romance, and Melissa Rosenberg did such a solid job with the script that the line reads are intentionally funny in all the right places.

Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $300.5 million
Black Swan - $106.9 million
Paranormal Activity 2 - $84.7 million
(A Nightmare On Elm Street - $63 million)
Resident Evil: Afterlife - $60.1 million
The Last Exorcism - $41 million
The Crazies - $39.1 million
(Vampires Suck - $36.7 million)

As I said, we didn't get much, but what we did get was truly unnerving and truly above the bar. I'm talking, of course, about Black Swan.

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WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2009

Since I'm me, I figured it would probably take longer than just the whole of February to get through this project of mine. And here we are, only up to 2009, and it's the last day. So I made a decision: I'm gonna plow ahead and go through 2014 anyway, and we'll see where we end up. Cool? Cool.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon - $296.6 million
Paranormal Activity - $107.9 million
(Zombieland - $75.6 million)
(The Final Destination - $66.5 million)
(My Bloody Valentine - $51.5 million)
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - $45.8 million
The Unborn - $42.7 million
Drag Me to Hell - $42.1 million
Orphan - $41.6 million
(Halloween 2 - $33.4 million)
(The Last House on the Left - $32.7 million)

Finally, some fresh blood! Not much, but it's there in the top end--where it counts. Still not a lot of diversity in the casting, unfortunately, but things are getting . . . interesting.

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So, we seem to have not only a wealth of truly original stories here--and this isn't even counting stuff that didn't make the cut, like Jennifer's Body and Thirst and Dead Snow--but an emphasis on "twist" endings that I honestly did not expect. So here's a question: when is a movie only as good as its ending? Are you the kind of moviegoer who likes to watch things over and over, like me? Or do you feel satisfied having only gone through it the one time? If you do like rewatching, does knowing the ending beforehand make the rewatch more interesting, or less? If you're the kind of person who's good at guessing twists, does it "ruin" the ending for you, or do you still feel like you get something out of it?

Curious minds want to know! Tell me your thoughts in the comments, and I will see you in March with 2010!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2008

Once more, I'm in the awkward position of NOT being able to talk about some amazing movies that also came out this year, and have become cult favorites in the aftermath of their initial release--Martyrs, Splinter, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Let the Right One In, The Midnight Meat Train--all because they did not meet various of my criteria.

Twilight - $192 million
(The Strangers - $52.6 million)
(Prom Night - $43.9 million)
(The Changeling - $35.7 million)
(Quarantine - $32 million)
(The Eye - $31.4 million)

Remakes were big this year too, but mostly foreign imports, (there are more that didn't break the box office, by the way), whereas before this the big remakes had been a mix of foreign imports and retreads of old classics. Whether you count the original Prom Night as a "classic" is up for debate I guess, but that's the one that surprised me the most. As for Changeling, I'm actually not sure if it's a remake of the 1980 movie with George C. Scott or a completely original story.

Read more...Collapse )I'm a bit at a loss for what to ask this time. Since I have been noticing so many remakes, and this trend doesn't seem to stopping anytime soon, I might as well mention: sometimes the remake can be better than the original. Not always, but it does happen. It's certainly the case with The Thing--both the Kurt Russell version and the Mary Elizabeth Winstead version. I wouldn't go that far for the ones on this list, but let me ask: What remake pleasantly surprised you, either by being not as bad as you feared, or actually surpassing the original? What movie do you think would benefit from a reboot, even if you're close to the original? What remakes do you think should never have happened?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments, and I'll try not to let so much time pass before 2009!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2007

This was a frustrating year to work with, because so many movies that I'd rather talk about fell outside the parameters I set for this project. Such as movies that grossed somewhere in the $20 million range (Grindhouse, The Reaping), movies that had either a very limited release or went straight to video (Trick 'r Treat, Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door), or were big overseas but never had a theatrical release in the US (Inside, [REC]).

Here's what did fall inside my parameters:

(Halloween - $63.3 million)
Resident Evil: Extinction - $50.6 million
(Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem - $41.8 million)
The Messengers - $35.4 million

So I'm slightly annoyed. But like I said in my introduction, these are what packed the theaters, and that's not always the mark of quality. For the record, the highest-grossing horror movie this year was I Am Legend, at $256.4 million. Now, it's not lost on me that, this being February, it's also Black History Month, and somehow I Am Legend is the first movie I've so much as mentioned with a black protagonist. The fact that it's Will Smith, who comes with his own box-office-friendly fanbase no matter what he stars in, isn't lost on me either. I'm stretching my own rules (grossed over $30 million domestically AND starring a woman) bringing him into the discussion at all. That bothers me. I'll come back to this in the Honorable Mention.

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Here is one of the trickiest things about being a fan of horror movies: no matter how many awesome characters you get, you can never be sure until the credits roll whether they'll survive. The reason the Women In Horror project exists, and the reason Black History Month exists, are because representation and visibility are lacking for both of them. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but have the numbers actually gone down since the turn of the century? We like to think that as the years progress, we're automatically progressing in other ways too, but I don't believe that's true. We have to keep having these conversations, and really look at what the trends are doing from one year to the next, to see if anything's changing. Not to mention, even with the female characters I've managed to find so far, I still haven't found many female or POC screenwriters and directors. I might be able to draw a more solid conclusion when I get to the end of the month, but what do you guys think? How far have we come? Are we still moving forward, or have we taken several steps back? Also, going back to one of my previous questions, since this is a niche genre we're talking about, when you do find feature films that tell the stories of minorities and women, why is it so hard to find them in the top box office spots?

Just some food for thought. Share your opinions with me in the comments, and I'll be back with 2008 next time!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2006

When I started tallying up numbers, one of the first things I noticed is that horror cinema with female protagonists from the past ten years has been completely dominated by four franchises: Resident Evil, Underworld, Twilight*, and Paranormal Activity. They all started at slightly different times, and they're all catering to a slightly different audience demographic, so I find it interesting that they've all been as wildly successful as they have for as long as they have. And they're all still going. That's a substantial amount of sustained marketability, all starring women.

*I know, save your garment rending. I have a reason for including it on this list, and I'll get to it later. First, the top money-makers with female protagonists for 2006:

Underworld: Evolution - $62.3 million
The Omen - $54.6 million
(Final Destination 3 - $54.1 million)
When a Stranger Calls - $47.9 million
Silent Hill - $47 million
(The Hills Have Eyes - $41.8 million)
(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning - $39.5 million)
The Grudge 2 - $39 million
Pan's Labyrinth - $37.6 million

Again, lots of remakes and sequels, and a fair few I haven't seen. In fact, there are only two original stories in this year's lineup, and I'm almost not sure they qualify--Silent Hill because it's technically an adaptation, and Pan's Labyrinth because I'm not sure it counts as "horror." But we're going to talk about them anyway, because it's my retrospective and I Do What I Want.

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The reason I decided to include Pan's Labyrinth in the end (apart from the fact that I asked Twitter for input), is because I tend to be a bit more generous than some when drawing the line between "horror" and "fantasy" and "sci-fi." For me, it doesn't matter that much because I watch all three genres for the same reasons: I want to be taken out of my comfort zone. I want to question my perception of reality. I want to see ordinary people transform into heroes when faced with impossible circumstances. I want to see worlds and creatures I've never seen or imagined before. Mostly, I want to be entertained. If I happen to get scared out of my wits in the process, as long as those other criteria are met, I'm okay with that. But I'm also okay if a movie calling itself "horror" doesn't actually manage to scare me.

So here's my question for this post: Where do you draw the line between "horror" and other genres? Do you come away disappointed if a horror movie doesn't scare you, or do you watch it for other reasons--and if so, what are those reasons?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments, and I'll be back next time with 2007!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2005

WiHM 2015, Box Office Retrospective: 2005

First, an explanation: I'm listing the year-end domestic box office gross of the most successful horror movies with female leads of each respective year in this retrospective. I'm using a combination of BoxOfficeMojo.com, The-Numbers.com, and IMDB to arrive at these numbers, with an arbitrary cut-off at $30 million to count as "successful." I could try to average everything out to see the overall take globally, and/or compare the gross against the budget to see which films are raking in a decent profit, but that would require me to Math, and nobody wants that.

If a movie is in (parentheses), that means I haven't seen it and can't quite figure out who the protagonist is from the cast listing and plot summary.

I'll be briefly discussing my thoughts on a few of these movies, but in broad strokes so as to avoid spoilers.

Shall we?

(Saw II - $86.8 million)
The Ring Two - $75.8 million
The Exorcism of Emily Rose - $75.1 million
The Amityville Horror - $65.2 million
Red Eye - $57.9 million
Hide and Seek - $51.1 million
The Skeleton Key - $47.8 million
(House of Wax - $32 million)

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Throughout this retrospective, I'd like to keep in mind that horror fans (well, geeky types in general, really) tend to latch onto things that aren't necessarily at the top of the queue in critical or commercial circles. So, what movies stood out for you this year? What did the box office overlook that should've seen more love? What were some of your favorite performances/monsters/things that scared you/made you think?

Let me know in the comments, and I'll be back with 2006 next time!

Women in Horror Month 2015 - Introduction

Now that we've all had some time to recover from Halloween, let's get revved up for another Women In Horror Month! Last year, I took a look at some box office numbers to see what the genre looks like right now. And first of all, let me apologize. I don't remember what search engine I was using to get those numbers, but I clearly did something wrong because I somehow overlooked World War Z, The Purge and Warm Bodies while gathering my data, which should have bumped half my original contenders off the list. It's still a pretty cool list, but I'll get back to that later.

So this year, instead of looking at just one year's box office results, I decided to look at the overall trends since 2005. The reason I'm focusing squarely on box office numbers is because money and audience demand are what drive the industry. Nothing gets changed if the status quo isn't challenged in a recognizable way. And for better or worse, looking at box office numbers is a way to quantify what people wanted to see in a given year. Otherwise, I'd just be talking about my own personal tastes, and while I'll never stop recommending cool, under-the-radar stuff like Stoker, We Are What We Are and The Moth Diaries, that's not the point of this project.

Whenever I get excited about a new short story collection/TV show/movie/book with positive female representation either in the characters or behind the scenes, inevitably someone makes the argument that it's not enough that women be present in this type of media. It has to also be good, high-quality, intelligent, thoughtful media. Now, I don't have any problem with asking for good quality stuff, but I feel like this argument is asking for female creators and characters to be that much "better" than their male counterparts in order to make up for the fact that they're female. Which I don't think is fair. Get them into the rotation in the first place, and we can worry about whether they're awesome enough to deserve their places later. More to the point: horror fans in general, myself included, sometimes develop a taste for really appalling, cheesy, low-grade trash. I don't want to see that stuff go away. It is awesome in its own way. If the boys are allowed to have their cheese and eat it too, then dammit, so should we.

I asked Twitter and Absolute Write who were their favorite Horror Heroines prior to 2005, just to get a starting baseline. Here are the top 5 results, in descending order from most chosen to least:

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Alien
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Halloween
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), Silence of the Lambs
Alice (Milla Jovovich), Resident Evil
Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), A Nightmare on Elm Street

These are the golden oldies, the ones we've looked up to and cheered on for decades--with no leading on my part, and no parameters specifying any particular definition of "heroine." And I gotta say, Alice surprised me. I didn't realize she was so well-loved, since she's the relative newcomer to the lineup here. I also thought Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, Terminator) would get more votes--when I started asking, she was only mentioned once. This is all very informal of course, and my sample pool is very small, so the net I'm liable to cast isn't but so wide.

Still, here's my question: Who are the new Horror Heroines? Who have we, the viewing public, deemed worthy successors to the badass, monster-fighting ladies of yore? And who does the horror community, always with its ear to the ground for cool, under-the-radar stuff, wish more people knew about and celebrated?

The results might surprise you. Stay tuned, and I'll be back with the numbers from 2005 next time!
Hello, my name is Laurel, and I am a Fangirl. I want to tell you a story.

This past Saturday, December 6th, 2014, at my favorite rock club (the NorVA), I saw the Black Veil Brides in concert. And they kicked ass. My personal Best Rock Show Ever is My Chemical Romance at the same venue in 2006. The BVB show was not better than that, but they were pretty damn amazing. They gave everything they've got and then some, and I had a total blast.

If you aren't familiar with the Black Veil Brides, they're a Hollywood-based rock group that's been around with the current line-up for about five years and four albums, although the earliest songs came a few years prior with frontman Andy Biersack and a rotating shuffle of other musicians. I first heard them when my dear friend Christine sent me their third album, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, this Halloween. (Thank you, Christine, thank you thank you THANK YOU.) I'm not quite sure how to classify them genre-wise--there are elements of punk, metal, and glam rock, but nothing that defines them as any specific type. I mean this as a compliment, by the way--genre-blending is one of my favorite things. Personally, I see them as a throwback to the brazen, audacious fabulousness of '80s hair metal, with a gothic visual aesthetic and a thematic emphasis on believing in yourself and following your dreams.

What's ironic is I've occasionally heard these guys described as the "new" My Chemical Romance. So what do I think? As someone who's seen them both live at this point, I should be able to make that call, right? I don't really think that's fair to either of them--not to mention intellectually lazy. They're both great bands, but they're great in different ways despite the similar uniforms of their respective fanbases (which I suspect is why those lines are drawn in the first place). So why even bring it up? Well, because it's the first and only rock show I've seen since the MCR show eight years ago that's come anywhere close to matching it.

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FOTB: Carrie

This is not my usual format for a "Film of the Book" review, because there's just one aspect of this story I want to get into today.

One thing you probably know about me by now is I watch a lot of horror movies. So this is a fun time of year for me. Among my more recent traditions is the 31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon wherein I try to watch a movie a day for a solid month--all horror, all stuff I haven't seen before--and see how far I get before the blessed day itself.

One thing you might also know is that October, in addition to being the month of candy, costumes and creepy things, is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Which makes it the month of pink ribbons. There was a time when this really annoyed me, because when I'm marathoning scary movies, I don't really want to be surrounded by pink everywhere I go. My relationship with the color is . . . complicated. For a long time, I hated it on principle because it was "girly" and therefore "stupid" and "bad." More recently, I started to question why exactly I associated it with those latter two. Why does "girly" equal "stupid" and "bad," I wondered?

Carrie1
(Image property of MGM)


This year, the first movie in my marathon queue was the 2013 version of Carrie directed by Kimberly Pierce and starring Chloe Grace Moretz. Counting the TV movie with Angela Bettis that came out in 2002, it's the third on-screen adaptation I've seen of Stephen King's novel, but also the first I've seen since I actually read the book. All three movies are very similar--nothing marks this one as different except a posting-horrible-things-on-the-internet side plot that I was expecting to go way further than it did. I think this is a good thing since the story is so universal, so timeless, yet so particular to the unique hell that is life as a teenage girl, that it wouldn't be the same if you shifted it too much in another direction.

What jumped out at me this time, however, was the use of color. I'm not talking about the blood-drenched finale or the harrowing shower scene in the beginning--red is an obvious go-to in stories like this. I'm talking about Carrie's prom dress. If you're only superficially familiar with the story, then there are two things you need to know about that dress: 1) Carrie makes it herself. 2) It's pink.

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A Life Worth Remembering: Brandon Lee

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1994 adaptation of James O'Barr's The Crow. Which, sadly, makes it also the 20th anniversary of star Brandon Lee's untimely death.

I feel like The Crow is one of those movies like Jacob's Ladder and Silent Hill that I've seen dozens of times, and I talk around it every so often without going into a lot of depth. This week, before realizing thanks to an article in the current issue of Rue Morgue that it has been twenty years now (!), I had already started a mini-marathon focusing on Bruce and Brandon Lee's movies. I'm taking it as a sign. I'm also going to assume you've seen it already, and leave out my usual plot summary partly for the sake of brevity, but mostly because the plot is not really my main talking point here.

Let"s talk about The Crow. . .Collapse )

Cross-posted to rhoda_rants.

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