Sunday, October 25, 2009

David VS Goliath

How fitting is it that a horror film with a budget estimated somewhere between $11-15 thousand dollars would be the movie to knock off the almighty Saw? Paranormal Activity came in first place this weekend with a solid $22 million in what is essentially its fifth week. Saw VI "saw" very little in terms of business for an opening weekend with $14.8 million (and played in over 1,000 theaters more than P.A.), only barely beating out Where the Wild Things Are which took in $14.4. I am not a fan of the Saw films and I admittedly have not given the entire series much of a chance outside of the first film and about half of the the third movie, but it's just not my thing. So, I am thrilled that an independent film, made for peanuts, was the one to take Halloween back from the franchise that is as far as you can get from the Halloween spirit in my eyes.

Even more impressive is the difficult road that Paranormal Activity has navigated to get to where it is today. I remember seeing trailers for it way back in late 2007 when Paranormal Activity was grouped in with a slew of other handheld horror films like Cloverfield, Diarrhea of the Dead, [REC], and the still yet to be released, The Poughkeepsie Tapes. I was excited for all of these films, and two out of the three that were released really delivered for me...but still, Paranormal Activity, the one I wanted to see the most, was nowhere to be found.

This homemade horror film was almost an unfortunate remake victim partially due to Steven Spielberg loving it after he had gotten his hands on a copy through DreamWorks (Spielberg also thought the film was haunted...dork.). After a strong showing at a screening the original film was set to be released in 2008, but issues with DreamWorks and Paramount yet again halted the release of the film. And finally, about a month ago, the movie was released in a very limited amount of theaters with the whole Demand It! marketing strategy that eventually got the film released in more and more theaters. The more theaters it got in, the better Paranormal Activity performed at the box office, the better it performed, the more theaters it got into. Until now, where the film is released wide and beating fucking Saw VI on its opening weekend, on its own turf nonetheless.

I may come off as bashing Saw, and I kind of am, but I'm just so tired of so many formidable movies getting left on the back burner, while another Saw film comes out and is successful. Successful because of the lack of head to head competition the Saw films have had by other horror movies the past five Halloweens. I'm completely over the annoying, and ridiculously terrible commercials stating "If it's Halloween, it must be Saw!" That's not the Halloween I celebrate, Mr. Man! It's almost poetic that Paranormal Activity would travel the long and difficult path it has to make it to where it is now, being the number one film in the country just before Halloween. Until a few days ago, the nearest theater that was playing Paranormal Activity was an hour and a half away - now with its strong box office showing, it is playing at a theater much closer, still 45 minutes from home, but I'll take it.


  1. If anyone at Warner Bros. had brains, they could've toppled the Saw franchsie last year with Trick 'R Treat. I still haven't had a chance to watch that film yet but even if it's lousy (which most reports say it isn't), I think audiences were already eager for an alternative Halloween viewing option and would've jumped at something else before now.

    While I'm not as taken with Paranormal Activity as some of it's fans, I did like it a lot (I think I'll have to see it again before I make a final judgement) and it's really what Paranormal symbolizes that makes me happy. Like you say, it's a dirt-cheap, indie movie that gets back to the basics of what's scary - and that's all it needed to hand Saw it's ass. How cool is that?

    Now it'll be interesting to see how the fallout from Paranormal will affect the horror genre. On the upside, more horror movies will be made but on the downside it's questionable if studios and filmmakers will realize that it's up to them to make effective, original horror movies and not just try to clone Paranormal.

  2. Ah, here we go again. Something that forces me to defend the Saw series when it's not even something I love.

    I'm happy for Paranormal Activity. I still haven't seen it yet, but the very idea that an original horror indie is such a success makes me happier than when I eat a bag of pumpkin candy corn.

    But I honestly don't like the fact that so many genre fans are now getting so giddy to dance on the grave of Jigsaw. How is the Saw franchise, in theory, that different from Final Destination, a franchise that the majority of horror fans I know have no shame in admitting to enjoy? For those who've followed the films, they have an actual plot, interesting characters, and some pretty inventive kills.

    Like any franchise, each film follows a formula so sure, the innovation in stand alone films is naturally not going to be there. But still, each film has done a pretty decent job of taking its story in interesting directions, much more so than Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, F13, or any other major horror series.

    So yeah. Sooner or later, we knew the era of Saw would end. I just don't get why so many people are so happy about it.

    love you matt!

  3. I know there's a reason why H2 came out in August, but I couldn't be bothered to keep that information in my head. I'm pretty sure H2 would have given Saw a run for its money, but there is simply no way any film could compete with the brilliant campaign Paramount dreamed up for PA.

    I for one love PA, though I dread the fallout--a series of bastardized clones and the inevitable spoof. But I'm also kind of a Saw fan. Truly, I can't fathom why Saw is synonymous with Halloween, but that movie factory from whence these films come guarantees a familiar horror movie every Halloween. Maybe that's why these films keep getting made: because it's a no-fail way to get asses in seats in what should be a lucrative time of year for the horror industry. Ultimately, PA was a bit of a gamble, but one that paid off.

  4. Jeff: Well, there's already talk of a sequel to Paranormal Activity! I still am surprised after the success of Blair Witch so many years ago, that P.A. had so much trouble getting a wide would think that someone would have thought of marketing it as "The next Blair Witch Project!"

    I also thought that Trick 'r Treat would be the perfect movie for Halloween and it's too bad it never got the chance in theaters. However, I wounder how well it really would have done against a Saw film?

    Emily: I knew you would chime in on this one, and I love you too Emily!

    I remember being so excited for Saw when it came out...then the word was all pretty much negative from the horror community when it did, but still, I was eager to see the film. I didn't even see it until it was out on DVD and I was so let down by it. It is one of the very few films that I have actually turned off while watching, I disliked it so much.

    So, I have always been opposed to the Saw films and the kills are one of the biggest reasons for that lack of love. Its not even the actual idea of the kills themselves, because there are some cool and creative ideas at play with each of them - it's how they are shot and stylized. That crazy hyper stylized camera work is as unappealing as it gets and very amateurish to boot.

    Even having a plot can't help with something I would rather not look at visually, and that is where Final Destination does it right. It doesn't try and spill out a mumbled mess of a plot just to have a plot, the films focus solely on pretty well shot and creative kills instead of trying to be smart.

    I still would like to sit down and watch the entire series - as a horror fan I feel it is my duty to eventually do so. I do think it's funny that this Saw film is getting pretty good reviews (Jeff up there isn't a huge fan of the series, but gave the new film a great review at Shock Till You Drop...plug!), more so than most of the other entries, yet, as soon as there is another option, people jump ship. I wouldn't be too surprised if the movie did better next week, but if it doesn't...does this mean the end for Saw in theaters?

  5. Thanks for commenting, The Divemistress!

    It's not really Saw that is to blame for being so successful every Halloween when no studios have had the balls to go up against it. And having a Halloween movie come out in August is the worst idea ever...especially when they ended up head to head with The Final Destination of all films. At least if it had come out on Halloween, people would have had a little more interest in the film.

    Still, H2 was pretty weak, so I don't know how well it would have done against Saw VI - but at least being a movie based around Halloween, it would have had a decent chance to do better than it did in August!

    I haven't seen P.A. yet, I should be this week sometime. I do think there will be a little fallout from the movie, but there was still fall out from Blair Witch when P.A. was fact, I think P.A. is a portion of that Blair Witch left overs. Now the whole cycle begins again, but will be even bigger this time as this is the second movie in a decades time to be a dirt made film that became an underdog darling/box office success.

  6. Another great post, Matt. I can't wait to see this film. And I'm not talking about Saw VI...

  7. I don't think H2 would have fared very well against Saw, simply because the word of mouth would still have been acidic. The hyper editing of Saw does bother me some. I found it to be most annoying in Part III, which, oddly enough, is a lot of people's favorite. My problem though was that I found the angry man protagonist so awful, I couldn't take watching him hold his head and scream as the music and spin-cam kicked in.

    Aside from that, however, the plotting of Saw doesn't bother me. I understand the simple joy in Final Destination and I enjoy the hell out of those films. For Saw, I love the fact that each film has managed to pack two twists in its ending. I'm also still surprised that last two films did as well as they did since so much of the story was reliant on the previous films. If you haven't seen a Saw film since Part II, you probably wouldn't understand what was going on. That's where my beef comes in with naysayers who use it as a punching bag without having seen the middle segments.

  8. Now it is official that H2 is going back into 1,000 theaters for the Halloween weekend, something that I find very interesting in terms of strategy. I wounder if it will drum up any default business being that it is a Halloween movie? It still sucked balls either way, so I doubt it.

    As for Saw, maybe I will sit down and watch all of the entries and do a blogathon! I'm more than open to having my opinion sway and it's not like I have any real expectations for the series. Thanks for the cornucopia of comment content, Emily. That's always a big reason for writing stuff like this.

  9. I did my part this weekend and went and saw the flick, but I wont pay to see SAW until it hits $.75 on DVD. I dont even remember a single thing about 5, I only saw it once. At this point I only watch them because I want to maintain my integrity and follow through with the series, but Im checked out.

  10. Yeah, I can see what you mean. As a horror fan, I feel obligated to watch the films. It's funny, when I talk to non-compulsive movie fans - ya know, regular people, and I talk about how I love horror films, they look at me in disbelief when I saw that I haven't seen every one of the Saw films. However, that is usually the first film that comes out of those peoples mouths, which almost kinda says something by itself.

    And ps...that is a baby!


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