The smashing success of G.I. Joe ($122 million and counting!), despite Paramount’s refusal to screen it for anyone other than handpicked critics, means ignoring critics is now Good Business for nervous studios. In fact, neither of this week’s two wide releases — Halloween II or The Final Destination — are screening for critics anywhere. The Weinstein Company and Warner Bros. are apparently convinced that reviews won’t help their movies, and are steering clear of critics as a result.
But is that a big mistake? Would critics actually like these two horror sequels? Surprisingly, maybe so!
Halloween II might be directed by Rob Zombie, but New York’s own David Edelstein previewed the movie with some enthusiasm, calling Zombie’s first Halloween movie “underrated” and Zombie himself “an amazing filmmaker.” (That preview briefly, and inaccurately, wound up on Rotten Tomatoes as a review, leading to Rob Zombie’s first-ever 100 percent Tomatometer rating.)
As for The Final Destination, count me as one critic who was really excited about reviewing it for my newspaper, the Washington Post — and really disappointed when it was snatched away by Warner Bros. and their overcautious marketing staff. The studio is underestimating the level of critical support for the Final Destination series, which is viewed by many film writers as a refreshing, no-frills variant on the current vogue for dark, overpsychologized horror. For cripes’ sake, the New York Times just ran a thousand words from Dennis Lim — that’s New York Film Festival Selection Committee Member Dennis Lim — about the pleasures of the Final Destination series. (Its thesis, appropriately for “Arts & Leisure,” is “Let me explain the Final Destination series to you, New York Times reader.”)
Hey, maybe The Final Destination is an awful departure from the well-loved FD formula. It seems unlikely; FD seems like the rare series that would be made better by 3-D, what with the delight it takes in the threatening topography of the everyday world. Or maybe Warner Bros. is happy that thanks to “A&L” they’ve already got a great blurb (“Elegant! Refreshing! Echoes the Bergman classic The Seventh Seal!”). But I can’t help thinking that Warner Bros. doesn’t know how much people like their series — and have missed out on a chance to make this the series’ breakout, blockbuster moment.
On the other hand, probably The Final Destination will do $30 million without a single review, in which case I’ll just pay for a ticket, choke on a piece of popcorn, stumble into the projectionist’s booth, unwittingly wrap a length of film around my neck, and accidentally behead myself.