Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Mama Mia! Horror films in January

This post could also have been called “the unstoppable Jessica Chastain”. Snow permitting, I will be  in London on Monday to talk to that actor about her performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s (to say the least) controversial Zero Dark Thirty. We …

Sun, Jan 20, 2013, 21:36

   
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This post could also have been called “the unstoppable Jessica Chastain”. Snow permitting, I will be  in London on Monday to talk to that actor about her performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s (to say the least) controversial Zero Dark Thirty. We also need to chat about her current turn in The Heiress on Broadway, her work (later cut) for Terrence Malick in To The Wonder and the 400 other films she has made since 2010. And what’s this? As we begin our chat, she finds herself in the number one film at the US box office. Not only that. She’s beaten herself into second place. The intriguing horror film Mama is at number one. Zero Dark Thirty is in the second spot.

Never mind that. We can ponder Chastain fever later in the week. What’s interesting here is the confirmation that horror flicks perform particularly well at the US tills in January. Last year, The Devil Inside managed to grab top spot. Mama is, would you believe, the second horror picture to take the title this month. The unlovely Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D also leapt ahead of the pack in 2013. What we need to consider here is the competition. January is, essentially, the Oscar fallout period. Middle-brow pictures galore crowd the charts and less demanding fare can thus slip unnoticed up the inside rail. But it’s funny. Mama — presented by the reliable Guillermo del Toro — has somehow zoomed past such potential hits as Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand and Mark Wahlberg in Broken City. Do the long nights invite consideration of spooky stories? Does January depression inspire thoughts of death and despair? Surely not. Contrary to what idiots may think, horror fans are no more morbidly depressive than are fans of Katherine Heigl.

This all strikes me as a coincidence enhanced by Hollywood’s notorious habit of positioning carts before horses. You recall the old conundrum about Oscars. Hollywood analysts rage that only films released in the latter part of the year have a chance at the Academy Awards. The voters forget about them otherwise, you see. Of course, given that Hollywood now positions all films likely to win Oscars in that time frame, the prophecy has inevitably become self-fulfilling. You may as well state that Easter Eggs sell particularly well at Easter. Have you ever tried to buy a Malteser Egg in June. It’s a battle, I can tell you. Anyway, January now rivals Halloween as a time to release horror flicks. If Mama had come out in March it may have done equally as well.

Okay, mid-level shockers would find themselves crowded out in the summer. The pontification about release dates is not complete nonsense. But Hollywood is now actively in the business of making January shock central.

Mama has got only so-so reviews in the US. This moves me not a jot. As we have mentioned before in this place, US critics are much harder on horror than are their UK and Irish colleagues. We all remember Orphangate. Well, I do anyway. Mama will be with us on February 22nd.

 

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