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Category: Horror

'Chernobyl Diaries': Horror movie and travel book depict extreme tourism

May 25, 2012 |  2:30 pm

'Chernobyl Diaries'

Twenty-six years after the worst nuclear accident in history, Chernobyl is suddenly hot again — at least culturally. This weekend, "Chernobyl Diaries," a horror movie that follows a group of tourists on an excursion to the abandoned Ukrainian site of the meltdown, hits theaters just as a pollution travelogue by journalist Andrew Blackwell, "Visit Sunny Chernobyl," is arriving in bookstores.

The movie, co-written and produced by "Paranormal Activity" creator Oren Peli and directed by visual-effects supervisor and first-time feature filmmaker Brad Parker, was inspired by the very type of extreme tourism Blackwell undertakes in his nonfiction book: visits to ravaged, sometimes unexpectedly beautiful polluted sites around the world.

Blackwell canoed through Chernobyl while researching his book and also jogged in smoggy Linfen, China, and sailed for the swirling Pacific Ocean garbage patch, all in pursuit of a glimpse of the Earth's contaminated future.

The travelers in "Chernobyl Diaries" embark on a different sort of trip — more akin to disaster rubbernecking. Four Americans, played by Jonathan Sadowski, Jesse McCartney, Olivia Taylor Dudley and Devin Kelly, pack into a van with a former Soviet special forces soldier for an unauthorized day trip to Pripyat, the Ukrainian city that today resembles the set of a post-apocalyptic movie after it was hastily abandoned in the wake of the 1986 disaster.

At first the movie's scares are natural: intimidating guards, eerily overgrown buildings, a hungry bear. But, this being a Peli production, it soon becomes clear Pripyat is inhabited by some unusual and aggressive tenants.

The notion that Chernobyl, which led to radiation exposure for hundreds of thousands of people, has become the subject of a horror film is distasteful to some. There is a Facebook page boycotting the movie, for instance.

But Chernobyl tourism is a real phenomenon. According to the Lonely Planet, a day trip to Pripyat will cost an adventurer $100 to $300, and sightseeing opportunities include a never-used ferris wheel, some forgotten children's toys and sun-faded Soviet-era propaganda. As for the safety issues, the travel guide warns: " 'Hot spots' are scattered throughout the zone, so any visitors are advised to follow guides extremely carefully. No breaking off from the group for a bit of independent exploration here."

Reviews of "Chernobyl Diaries" seem equally foreboding. USA Today's Claudia Puig says, "Avoid a boredom meltdown and give this formulaic scarefest a wide berth." While writing for The Times, Mark Olsen warns, "The lack of suspense and surprise in this dispiritingly rote film becomes its own form of contamination."

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— Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: A scene from "Chernobyl Diaries." Credit: Warner Bros.


Cannes 2012: Brandon Cronenberg takes a (sort of) familiar path

May 22, 2012 |  3:00 am

Brandonc
CANNES, France--Growing up, Brandon Cronenberg got used to things getting a little weird. Like the time he went to a new school and was told by a classmate he'd never met before, "I'd heard you were coming, and I've been excited about it." Or the occasional wacko who would run up to him and say, "Your father's movies are speaking directly to me."

"Like, literally directly," the Toronto native said, smiling incredulously as he leaned back with a glass of water at a Cannes Film Festival hotel on Monday afternoon. “He would tell me exactly what it meant and how it very clearly related to his life, and how my father intended it that way.”

Cronenberg is the son of that Cronenberg, David, the 69-year-old director of classics like "The Fly" and "Scanners" and the master of so-called body horror, which has inspired a nearly religious following. For years Brandon resisted following in his old man's footsteps. He tried video art, poetry, other forms of creative expression. "I loved not being interested when I was younger,” said Brandon Cronenberg, now 32.

It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate what his father did; he just resented the attention and assumptions that came with it.

The switch flipped, he said, when in his late 20s he realized that he actually liked filmmaking, and that a principled stand for its own sake “was just kind of obnoxious.” He began making narrative shorts. Just a few weeks ago completed his first feature, a horror-movie-cum-social-critique called “Antiviral,” which had its premiere this week in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Though famous directors sometimes spawn other directors, David and Brandon Cronenberg have made film history: They are the first father-and-son tandem to premiere movies in Cannes in the same year.  The elder Cronenberg’s movie, the Robert Pattinson-starring “Cosmopolis,” premieres later this week in the festival’s main competition section, as it reimagines a slim novel from the American critical darling Don DeLillo.

The younger Cronenberg brings his own degree of invention. Set in a science-fictiony near-future, “Antiviral” tells of a world in which people pay to have viruses from ill celebrities implanted in them. “People say it’s a horror movie, and I guess in a way it is, but when you look at the lengths our society goes to with celebrities, it’s not that big a jump,” Brandon Cronenberg said, citing an incident he’d heard in which Sarah Michelle Gellar told a talk-show audience she had a cold--only to find audience members cheering and leaning forward in the hope of catching it.

The “Antiviral” director said that despite some thematic similarities to his father’s work, he doesn’t see himself as being particularly interested in body horror; it just worked out that way for this film. “There’s a cultural fetish of the body that in a way I find grotesque, so it fit nicely with the fetish we have for celebrity,” he said.

Though “Antiviral” has received a mixed response, even the lukewarm reviews note the younger Cronenberg’s directorial chops.

For his part, David Cronenberg said he didn’t steer his son toward his line of work. “I had no dynastic ambitions for Bran particularly,” he told an audience during a panel he sat on with his son and Toronto Film Festival honcho Cameron Bailey. “Whatever he wanted to do was going to happen naturally.” (Brandon Cronenberg also has a sister, Caitlin, and a half-sister, Cassandra, from his father’s previous marriage.)

The veteran director said he did realize his son was taking to certain aspects of the filmmaking process. Even at a young age, David Cronenberg said, “I noticed he was incredibly sensitive to the music of film.” Cronenberg also said he observed that his young son shared his own fascination with nature and “the strangeness of animal life,” which he said informs many of his own films.

As for their shared cinematic experiences, Brandon said one of the first movies they recalled watching together was not a genre title but “Airplane.”  “He didn’t laugh, though, which I thought was interesting,” David Cronenberg deadpanned.

With a nose ring and a slightly nervous but still down-to-earth manner, there is, like his wisecrack-prone father, nothing terribly prepossessing (much less creepy) about Brandon Cronenberg. That made childhood a slightly odd experience; strangers were hardly expecting something so normal. "They brought preconceptions about me based on preconceptions they had about my father," the younger Cronenberg said.

Some of those awkward encounters haven’t abated. After a Cannes screening of “Antiviral,” a man with a foreign accent walked up to Brandon and suggested a very...particular read on the film.

“He was just convinced that, because of how the word was said in his language, that the title was a play on ‘Andy Warhol.’ And nothing I could say could convince him that I wasn’t thinking of that.”  Cronenberg paused. “I guess I’m getting some of those strange interpretations now.”

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-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Brandon Cronenberg. Credit: Cannes Film Festival

Growing up, Brandon Cronenberg got used to things getting a little weird. Like the time he went to a new school and was told by a classmate he'd never met before, "I'd heard you were coming, and I've been excited about it." Or the occasional  wacko who would run up to him and say "Your father's movies are speaking directly to me."

"Like, literally directly," the Toronto native said, smiling incredulously as he leaned back  with a glass of water at a Cannes Film Festival hotel on Monday aftrernoon. “He would tell me exactly what it meant and how it very clearly related to his life.”

Cronenberg is the son of that Cronenberg, David, the 69-year-old director of classics like "The Fly" and "Scanners" and the so-called master of body horror. For years Brandon resisted following in his old man's footsteps. He tried video art, poetry, other forms of creative expression. "I loved not being interested when I was younger,” said Brandon Cronenberg, now 32.

It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate what his father did, just that he resented the attention and assumptions that came with it.

The switch flipped, he said, when in his late 20’s  andhe realized that a principled stand for its own sake “was just kind of obnoxious.” He began making narrative shorts, and just a few weeks ago completed his first feature, a horror movie-cum-social critique called “Antiviral,” which had its premiere several days ago in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Though famous directors sometimes spawn directors, David and Brandon Cronenberg are the first father-and-son tandem to have movies in Cannes at the same time. The elder Cronenberg’s movie, the Rob Pattinson-starring “Cosmpolis,” premieres later this week in the festival’s main competition section.

Set in a science-fictiony near-future, “Antiviral” tells of a world in which people pay to have viruses from ill celebrities implanted into them. “People say it’s a horror movie, and I guess in a way it is, but when you look at the lengths our society goes to with celebrities, it’s not that big a jump,” Brandon Cronenberg said, citing an incident he’d heard about in which Sarah Michelle Gellar told a talk-show audience she had a cold only to find audience members cheering and leaning forward in the hope of catching it.

The “Antiviral” director said that despite some thematic similarities to his father’s work, he doesn’t see himself as being particularly interested in body horror; it just worked for this film. “There’s a cultural fetish of the body that in a way I find grotesque, so it fit nicely with the fetish we have for celebrity,” he said. Though “Antiviral” has received a mixed response, even the lukewarm reviews note the younger Cronenberg’s directorial chops.

For his part, David Croneberg said he didn’t steer his son toward his line of work. “I had no dynastic ambitions for Bran particularly,” he told an audience from a panel he sat on with his son and Toronto Film Festival honcho Cameron Bailey earlier on Monday. “Whatever hje wanted to do was going to happen naturally.” (Brandon Cronenberg also has a sister, Caitlin, and a half-sister, Cassandra, from his father’s previous marriage.)

The veteran director did say that he noticed his son taking to certain aspects of the filmmaking process. Even at a young age, David Cronenberg said, “I noticed he was incredibly sensitive to the music of film.” Cronenberg also said he noticed that his son from an early age shared his own fascination with nature and “the strangeness of animal life,” which he said informs many of his own films.

Brandon said one of the first movies they recalled watching together was not a genre classic but “Airplane.”  “He didn’t laiugh, though, which I thought was interesting,” David Cronenberg deadpanned.

With a nose ring and a slightly nervous but down-to-earth manner there is, like his wisecrack-prone father, nothing terribly prepossessing, much less creepy, about Brandon Cronenberg. That might have made a childhood spent fending off assumptions from strangers even more difficult. "They brought preconceptions about me based on preconceptions they had about my father," he said.

Some of those awkward encounters haven’t abated, though. After a screeing of “Antiviral,” a man with a foreign accent walked up to Brandon and suggested his own read on “Antiviral.”

“He was just convinced that, because of how the word was said in his language, that the title was  a play on ‘Andy Warhol,’ and nothing I could say could convince him that I wasn’t thinking of that.”  Cronenberg paused. “I guess I’m getting some of those strange interpretations now.”

Chat with 'The Raven' actor John Cusack on Thursday

April 24, 2012 | 12:55 pm

Edgar Allan Poe and John Cusack
Romantic comedies of the 1980s like "Say Anything" and "Sixteen Candles" launched John Cusack's career, but since then, his acting resume has continued to broaden -– from the thriller "1408" to the dark comedy "Being John Malkovich" to the quirky dramedy "Martian Child."

Now Cusack is preparing for the release of "The Raven," in which he plays 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe. And at noon Thursday (Pacific time), you can chat with Cusack live on 24 Frames about "The Raven" and his other films.

Opening Friday, "The Raven" mixes the "history, fantasy and legend" of Poe, the actor told an audience at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books over the weekend.

A period mystery/thriller, the film follows the crimes of a madman inspired by Poe's dark and horrifying poems and tales. A Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) recruits the expert on these stories — Poe himself, of course — to get inside the mind of the killer and help track him down.

The role "was a great opportunity to immerse myself in Poe's mind. It's not a place I'd want to immerse myself in year-round, but it's a nice place to visit," Cusack said at the Festival of Books.

Cusack began visiting that mind in August 2010, when he was cast in the film and spent several months researching the author before a two-month shoot in Eastern Europe.

Sign up for the live chat with Cusack below.

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— Emily Rome

Photo: The real-life Edgar Allan Poe, left, and John Cusack in "The Raven." Credit: Larry Horricks / Relativity Media.


'Chernobyl Diaries' mines nuclear disaster for horror thrills

March 21, 2012 | 11:10 am

Chernobyl

"Ever heard of Chernobyl?" an American tourist (Jonathan Sadowski) asks his friends in the new trailer for the upcoming horror movie "Chernobyl Diaries." "It's where the nook-yoo-ler disaster happened," answers a fellow traveler (Olivia Dudley).

Audiences will get a history lesson of sorts from "Chernobyl Diaries," a movie due in theaters May 25 that follows a group of young Americans in Europe on a jaunt to the abandoned Ukrainian site of the 1986 nuclear meltdown.

Co-written and produced by "Paranormal Activity" creator Oren Peli and directed by visual effects supervisor and first-time feature filmmaker Brad Parker, "Chernobyl Diaries" was inspired by the real phenomenon of "extreme tourism," according to Alcon Entertainment co-Chief Executive Andrew Kosove, whose company purchased the North American rights to the film based on the script in January.

In 2002, Ukraine opened the city of Prypiat, where about 50,000 workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant lived, to tour groups. Travelers on a day pass can visit the abandoned, rotting buildings -- the whole city was evacuated in just 40 minutes -- and see an eerie time capsule of 1980s Soviet life.

"It's not like going to Club Med in Barbados," Kosove said. "It's frozen in time, and it's visually arresting. The idea of a film set there sounded intriguing to me."

Early marketing for the film, which was shot in Serbia and Hungary, seems designed to stoke curiosity about the disaster. The trailer includes newsreel footage about the accident, and the film's Facebook page features a photo album with bleak pictures from Prypiat and invites audiences to "experience the fallout."

"Chernobyl Diaries" isn't the first pop culture property inspired by the world's worst nuclear accident. Last year's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" began with an alien robot mission to the disaster site, and in the "S.T.A.L.K.E.R." series of video games released starting in 2007, players attempt to survive Chernobyl's post-meltdown conditions and an eruption of mutant creatures.

The movie is the first to be fully financed by the independent production and international sales company FilmNation Entertainment, and will be released in the U.S. under Alcon's deal with Warner Bros. 

A spokeswoman for FilmNation said the company has sold rights to the film in the Commonwealth of Independent States -- the former Soviet Republics that were most directly affected by the accident -- but the distributor there has not yet set a release date.

Kosove, whose company also purchased the Japanese, Spanish and German rights to "Chernobyl Diaries," said he was not worried about the movie offending Chernobyl survivors, or those affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan last March.

"It's a popcorn film," Kosove said. "I don't think the movie takes itself so seriously as to tread on those real disasters." Check out the trailer below:

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-- Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Tourists come to the Chernobyl site in a van and get stranded there as night approaches in "Chernobyl Diaries." Credit: Warner Bros.


Sundance 2012: IFC Midnight buys 'The Pact'

January 26, 2012 |  2:25 pm

The pact sundance

IFC Midnight on Thursday acquired the North American distribution rights to "The Pact," a horror film written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy that premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival.

IFC Midnight paid in the high six figures for the rights, according to a source familiar with the negotiations who added that the company plans both a video-on-demand release and a theatrical run in several cities.

The deal marks a milestone for McCarthy, who was featured in a Times story last week. After years of struggling in Hollywood, he is offering up "The Pact" as his first feature film. “My whole life I have wanted to make movies that people will see and now that is going to happen,” McCarthy said shortly after the deal was completed. “Now I know it is going to be seen by thousands and thousands of people after this festival. It’s a great vote of confidence.”

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance

Based on a short McCarthy film that played at Sundance in 2011, "The Pact" stars Caity Lotz and Casper Van Dien. It focuses on a woman struggling to deal with the tangled aftermath of her mother’s death while discovering terrifying truths about her family’s past and the house she grew up in. 

The film’s distribution rights to the Japanese, British and Australian markets have also been sold at this week’s festival, according to Ross Dinerstein, who produced "The Pact. "

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-- Kurt Streeter

Photo: A scene from 'The Pact.' Credit: Sundance Film Festival


Sundance 2012: Real-life scares at screening of 'V/H/S'

January 25, 2012 |  1:41 pm

000003.15825.VHS_filmstill3_KateLynSheil_byTiWest-300dpi

A late-night screening of the found-footage horror film "V/H/S" at Sundance yielded disturbing news: Shortly into the screening, one person had left the theater and fainted in the lobby while another had exited with nausea.

Producer Roxanne Benjamin, posting on Twitter, said that EMTs were called to the scene, that the event was not staged and "it was scary and not fun, and everyone is grateful the guy and his girlfriend are OK. And they wanted to go back in the theatre!" Benjamin would later post that the cause of the couple's problems were "altitude sickness, exhaustion, dehydration and alcohol” and not directly related to the film.

Either way, the movie is not for the faint of heart. Benjamin and fellow producer Brad Miska brought together six directors -- Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glen McQuaid, Joe Swanberg and a collective known as Radio Silence -- to create six short horror films based on the notion of “found footage.”

The frame story follows a trio of hoodlums who come across a cache of videotapes after they break into a house; each of the shorts portrays what the burglars supposedly see on the tapes. The shorts each have a unique style and offer the requisite twists and gore.

Wingard shot the hoodlum story, while Bruckner tells the tale of three young men who get more than they bargain for when they film a night of carousing. West created a home movie of a couple whose road trip goes off course. Though all the filmmakers worked independently of one another, there are recurring themes and images involving such subjects as voyeurism.

During the Q&A after the screening, with all the directors present, Bruckner summed up many of the shorts in the anthology when he said his inspiration was to make a viewer "feel guilty, maybe, about the things that you thought about doing with a camera, maybe things you've done with a camera, things you plan on doing with a camera and punish you severely for it.”

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-- Mark Olsen in Park City, Utah
twitter.com/indiefocus

Photo: Kate Lyn Sheil in "V/H/S" by Ti West . Credit: Sundance Film Festival

 


Does 'Devil Inside' suggest a new studio-filmmaker relationship?

January 9, 2012 |  8:30 am

 

"The Devil Inside"  is an unusual Hollywood phenomenon
Say what you will about "The Devil Inside" -- and judging by its "F" CinemaScore, plenty of people did -- but however harsh the words, the movie is an unusual phenomenon. Hidden beneath the box-office puns and the industry euphemisms is something rare: an out-of-nowhere, did-that-really-just-happen, Tim Tebow-style success.

Films can quietly build word of mouth, especially in the genre community. But not like this.

"Devil," an exorcism tale that an obscure filmmaker named William Brent Bell made on a shoestring before a pair of Hollywood producers helped him sell it to Paramount, featured no stars. Nor did it boast any festival-enabled grass-roots support a la "Saw" or "Paranormal Activity." And critics? Forget about them. They gave the film -- which uses the shopworn "Blair Witch"-like found-footage conceit to tell of a woman who travels to Italy to explore the mystery of her murderous and possessed mother -- a 7% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Yet the film attracted a constituent base that would make any Republican nominee envious. So robust was its audience, in fact, that "Devil" not only won the weekend with an eye-popping $34.5 million -- it became the third-biggest January opening in history.

That would have been an astonishing feat even if the movie hadn't been so vehemently disliked; as it was, the numbers were even more impressive.  (By comparison, the 2009 Cameron Diaz thriller "The Box," the last wide release to be given the scarlet "F" by CinemaScore respondents, opened only to $7.5 million.)

The "Devil" base was not only strong, it was hidden -- so much so that pre-release projections underestimated the total audience by as much as half.

Pundits have understandably been struggling to make sense of it all. No matter what explanation one settles on, it's clear that the marketing team at Paramount, which retailed the movie from its low-budget Insurge division, pulled off some nifty tricks.

Continue reading »

Around Town: Halloween horrors await

October 27, 2011 |  6:00 am

Creature

With All Hallow’s Eve upon us Monday evening, a number of local theaters have plenty of ghouls, ghosts and gruesome gremlins ready for Halloween fans

Julie Adams is best known as the object of Gill Man’s affections in 1954’s 3-D horror classic “Creature From the Black Lagoon.” And Thursday evening, Adams will be appearing at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre for a screening of “Creature,” as well as her 1952 Anthony Mann-directed Western, “Bend of the River,” with Jimmy Stewart. Adams will discuss her long career with film historian Alan K. Rode and sign copies of her autobiography, “The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections from the Black Lagoon,” before the screenings.

Jason Patric, the Coreys-Haim and Feldman-and Kiefer Sutherland headline Joel Schumacher’s Brat Pack vampire flick, 1987’s “The Lost Boys,” Friday evening at the Egyptian. Saturday evening, the Cinematheque’s Aero kicks off its sixth annual “Dusk-To-Dawn Horrorthon,” which begins purr-fectly with 1989’s “Pet Sematary." Also in the offing are 1979’s “Tourist Trap,” 1981’s “The Pit” and 1983’s “Videodrome.” Americancinematheque.com

Continue reading »

Wingard, West headline new Bloody Disgusting film

October 13, 2011 |  8:25 pm

Next

EXCLUSIVE: Pretty much every list of hot young horror directors includes two names: Adam Wingard and Ti West. Now they're getting behind the camera on the same film, according to the movie's producer.

Wingard is the filmmaker behind “You’re Next,” the well-received breakout  in Toronto about a couple who fight back against some ghastly threats in the woods. West is the 31-year-old director of the minimalist “The Roost,” the buzzy  “The House of the Devil” and the upcoming haunted-hotel pic “The Innkeepers.”

They'll each direct segments in "V/H/S,” a feature-length picture  composed of six linked short films from a slew of horror comers. "V/H/S" will be produced by Bloody Disgusting -- yes, that Bloody Disgusting -- the popular horror site that's getting into the production and distribution game.

“The Signal” co-director David Bruckner, mumblecore pioneer Joe Swanberg, “I Sell the Dead” helmer Glenn McQuaid and YouTube breakouts Chad Villella and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin direct the other four segments in the movie.

Described as "The Shining" meets "The Blair Witch Project" by producer and Bloody Disgusting founder Brad Miska, "V/H/S" is a found-footage film about oddballs who burglarize a country house only to find tape filled with cryptic video. Wingard's piece is the wraparound segment that ties all the others together.

The micro-budget film, which is currently in production, grew out of relationships Miska develoepd with filmmakers in his years covering the horror world; it's being financed and produced by the Hollywood management company The Collective, which co-owns Bloody Disgusting. The principals say that if "V/H/S" is well-received, they may produce other movies as well.

BD, as we explore in tomorrow' s Times, is also getting into the distribution business. Through a program called Bloody Disgusting Selects, it's releasing Lucky McKee's "The Woman," the controversial Sundance film about a man who captures a feral woman, to theaters this weekend, also with the help of The Collective.

Low-budget horror has enjoyed a vogue not just with hardcore fans but in mainstream Hollywood, with the microbudget "Paranormal Activity" turning into a blockbuster franchise that to date has grossed more than $370 million worldwide.

The Collective was founded by Michael Green, a former partner at the Hollywood powerhouse the Firm. It has used social media effectively before, appealing to fans of the band Linkin Park and the comedian Eddie Izzard with tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

The management company is adept at looking for alternative ways to get attention for its films too: On the day we visited the offices, Ron Artest was there, and principals suggested that a copy of "The Woman" be given to the Lakers star so he could help spread the word.

 

ALSO:

Bloody Disgusting now a producer, distributor

Horror sleeper You're Next acquired by Lionsgate

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "You're Next." Credit: Toronto Film Festival



Daniel Craig film 'Dream House' seeks to avoid critics

September 21, 2011 |  2:10 pm

Dream
Over more than two decades making movies, Jim Sheridan has had a remarkable career. He's been nominated for an Oscar six times, including twice for best director, and come to embody smart, upscale entertainment with films such as "In the Name of the Father" and "My Left Foot."

So it's more than a little surprising that his latest movie, a supernatural thriller called "Dream House" that's being distributed by Universal Pictures, won't screen for critics before it's released next Friday. That's an evasive move usually reserved for very marginal genre films (or worse) -- movies for which distributors believe critical response would be so poor they'd rather have no opening-day review at all. (Most outlets respond by running a shorter review, often from a backup critic, after the film opens.)

"Dream House" tells of a New York power couple (Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig) who relocate to a picturesque New England town in the hope of a quieter life, only to find that the house may be cursed by its former inhabitants, who were murdered there. (You can check out the trailer below.)

Part of the surprise of "Dream House" not screening for critics is that the film has A-listers as its stars (besides Weisz and Craig, there's Naomi Watts) and there's added interest because Craig and Weisz are a real-life couple. Craig didn't exactly light the world afire, critically or commercially, with "Cowboys & Aliens" this summer, and neither did Weisz in "The Whistleblower." But he's still a fan favorite who can open a James Bond picture. He's not usually shunted to the no-review heap. Neither is Weisz or Watts.

A spokesman for Morgan Creek, which financed and produced the picture, declined to comment, as did a Universal spokeswoman.

The movie may have come under a hex of its own: the film was originally set to come out last February but the release date had to move when the film required weather-related reshoots.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A still from "Dream House." Credit: Universal Pictures



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