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Horror films enjoy Halloween

Last updated on: November 01, 2004 19:43 IST

A still from 'Saw'The soul-stirring biopic Ray, probing the life of legendary singer and musician Ray Charles, made sweet music at the box-office, even as it couldn't dislodge last week's champ The Grudge from the top position.

Ray, in development for 15 years, couldn't interest a Hollywood studio until last year, when Universal saw the completed film. It earned a solid $20 million over three days, trailing the horror movie The Grudge by about $2.2 million.

With a career-defining performance by Jamie Foxx amply conveying the exuberance and agony of Ray Charles, the film stands an excellent chance of attracting top Oscar nominations. With over half a dozen of Ray's most loved songs including Georgia on my mind expertly lip-synced by Foxx, its soundtrack could also be huge. Foxx also gets to do some singing of his own: watch out for Mary Ann and I got a woman.

Having opened in about 2,000 theaters, unlike most wide releases, which arrive in over 3,000 theaters, Ray is going for several expansions, starting with a 500-theater addition this Friday.   

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In its second week, The Grudge showed some resilience. Usually, horror and sci-fi films lose about 50 percent of their box-office clout, following a solid opening, but The Grudge came down by just about 43 percent. More remarkable is that it did so in the face of stiff competition from the British import Saw, which, at number three on the chart, did quite well with $17.4 million. Halloween also aided both films' box-office boost. 

But the holiday was of no help to Nicole Kidman, whose Birth, released in just about 550 cinemas, earned $1.7 million and was 11th on the box-office chart. The reviews were far from ecstatic, too. Kidman plays a widow in the supernatural film about to remarry when she meets a 10-year-old boy claiming to be her husband reincarnated.

Like the $10 million The Grudge, British import Saw is another inexpensive production to become a solid hit on home ground. Now in America, it is headed for at least $40 million. It tells the story of a serial killer who puts victims through grisly trials.

At the start of Saw, we find young Adam (Leigh Whannell, who also wrote the script) waking up chained to a rusty pipe inside a decrepit room. Chained to the opposite is another captive, Dr Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). Between them is a dead man in a pool of blood, holding a .38. As the two men wonder what is happening to them, instructions on a micro-cassette order Gordon to kill Adam within eight hours. Otherwise, both men will die, and Gordon's wife, Alison (Monica Potter), and his daughter will also be killed. As he recalls a recent investigation by a police detective (Danny Glover), Gordon realizes that he and Adam are the next victims of a perverse genius known as Jigsaw.

Many reviewers complained the film was too gory and overdrawn. Even among those who liked the film to a certain extent there were many who found that it did not hold well in the last quarter.

'Saw is an efficiently made thriller, cheerfully gruesome,' wrote Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun-Times, 'and finally not quite worth the ordeal it puts us through.'

Writing in Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck thought the film had 'an undeniably original premise and clever plot machinations that lift it several notches above the usual slasher film level.'

Other prominent critics disagreed. In The New York Post, V A Musetto slammed the film calling it 'a dull blade.' And in The New York Times, Stephen Holden thought 'the movie is seriously undermined by the half-baked, formulaic detective story in which the horror is framed.'  

At fourth position, Shark Tale swam energetically, accumulating about $147 million in five weeks, followed by Shall We Dance? The Richard Gere movie, while nothing like his previous hit Chicago, is nevertheless heading for a mid-range hit status, possibly earning $60 million in North America.

While Friday Night Lights and Ladder 49 continue to draw fans, Surviving Christmas, which opened to weak receipts last week, just could not save itself. It came down by about 42 percent and in a week or two could exit of most theaters.

Sliding from the 10th position last week to 12th and losing about 34 percent of the audiences despite adding over 100 theaters, the critically hyped I Heart Huckabees earned a disappointing $1.6 million from 900 theaters. With just about $8 million grossed, the comedy isn't appealing beyond art-house ghettos, but could have a better life in video and DVD stores. Even by art-house standards, the $20 million Huckabees, doing excellent business during its first weeks in a handful of cities, could earn just half of what Garden State, a genuine small budget hit, has made. Produced for about $10 million, Garden State is ending its North American run with about $26 million.

Box office estimates for North America, October 29-31

Rank Film Weekend gross Total gross Number of weeks
1 The Grudge $22.4 million (down by 43%) $71.2m 2
2 Ray

$20 million 

$20m New 
3 Saw $17.4 million $17.4m New
4 Shark Tale $8 million (down 44%) $147.3m 5
5 Shall We Dance? $8.5 million (down 27%) $34m 3
6 Friday Night Lights $4.1 million (down 40%) $53m
7 Ladder 49 $3.3 million (down 37.5%) $66m
8 Team America: World Police $3.1 million (down 55%) $27m
9 Surviving Christmas $2.7 million (down 41.5 %) $8m 2
10 Taxi $2.1 million (down 48%) $32.7m
Arthur J Pais