The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Friday afternoon, it looked like bad news for former Lexingtonians William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman. Their new film, Devil Inside, had not been screened for critics. But after midnight screenings Thursday, the movie intelegensia was weighing in giving it one-star reviews and calling it blunt words in headlines like stupid. The movie was even being assaulted by fans on its own Facebook page.
It looked like the Devil had been injected with an unhealthy dose of box office poison.
Somewhere over the weekend, the movie seemed to have found an antidote as it rolled up a $33.7 million opening weekend take. According to Box Office Mojo, that is the third highest January opening ever behind Cloverfield in 2008 and Star Wars (Special Edition) in 1997.
It is no secret that horror fans have little regard for the pronouncements of movie critics and they tend to actually go to the movies more than other audiences. Devil also had an extensive TV and online ad campaign with trailers that could really get under your skin and probably make genre fans say, I gotta see this.
Still, a $33.7 million opening seems to have taken most people by surprise, particularly in light of a sluggish holiday season at the movies that closed out an overall disappointing year at the box office. Devil Inside performed as well or better on its opening weekend than numerous high-profile holiday flicks like The Muppets and New Year’s Eve, and shot for less than $1 million, it no doubt delivered a greater return on the investment.
The next test will be how it performs over the next few weekends and on video, and that will depend on what moviegoers actually think of it.
(Note: This story originally contained the projected weekend box office take for Devil Inside and was revised when actual totals were released.)
The Devil Inside, the new movie from former Lexingtons William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman, was not screened for critics prior to opening on the first weekend in January, a notoriously slow cinema weekend.
Now that critics are getting a look at it, the reviews are about as pretty as an exorcism.
“If it’s January, it must be low-grade horror season,” writes the Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore, whose reviews we usually run in the Herald-Leader. “And since The Rite cashed in last January, why not roll out a Blair Witchy hand-held ‘We’re making a documentary about my possessed mother’ film?’”
Moore posited, “the ending is such a cheat that you’ll be fighting back the urge to boo the closing credits.”
Some apparently could not suppress that urge as Drew McWeeny wrote on the website Hitfix, “When the director’s credit came up in the theater I was in tonight, people began to boo. Many people. Spontaneously. I read about this happening in other theaters.”
For Reuters, Alonso Duralde wrote, “Mind you, this silly film cost a million bucks to make, and earned twice that in the Thursday midnight screenings alone, so we have only ourselves to blame. Unless the devil made us do it.”
Despite the bad notices, The Devil Inside’s freaky trailer still has a lot of horror fans pumped to see it, if Twitter is a good indicator.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich