00′s Retrospect: Star Power Pushes Over 2007

Y2K, 9/11, war and a a horrid recession, a major escape we had this decade was in the form of film, notorious for thriving during National crisis. Leading up to New Year’s Eve where we’ll ring in 2010, Bloody Disgusting will be looking back at the entire decade year by year through the eyes of various staff writers. Check back each day for a profound reflection from Ryan Daley, David Harley, Tex, BC and yours truly. Inside you’ll find Tex’s personal look back at the year 2007, the year Will Smith proved his star power! Please share your memories for each year below, there are so many stories to be told!

’00 | ’01 | ’02 | ’03 | ’04 | ’05 | ’06 | ’07 | ’08 | ’09

More Retrospects:
-Top 20 Films of the Decade: 21-16 | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
-Dead on Arrival: Ten Horror Duds of the Last Decade

2007

I guess depending on the way you want to look at it, 2007 was perhaps the best box office year for horror of the decade. Of course, it assumes your definition of horror is broad—servicing all manner of supernatural beasties, next door neighbor killers and haunted hotel rooms. But what a year it was on the fringes of the mainstream as well. It also serves as the year I took my 3rd trip to the annual SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. And, the first year, I decided to cover the entire thing (in a massive article) for all you readers. But more on that later, let’s jump right in with the big question of 2007. Did Will Smith make a horror film?

That’s right…I Am Legend opened in 2007. December 14, 2007 to be specific, so its Box Office take for the final 3 weeks of 2007 are generally all that is assigned to it for the calendar year. Normally, this would kill most end of the year films (which tend to make more cash over the longer course of their run…as opposed to summer where they bank all the big bucks in about 2 weeks then die the death of the next week’s onslaught) But that hardly matters in this case. I Am Legend turned frosty December returns into summer movie madness and took in an overwhelming $206,129,574 by December 31st! With a total box office take of $256,393,010, that bang for your buck technically makes it the third highest grossing horror film of all time—behind The Exorcist, and Jaws (assuming you—like I Am Legend—consider Jaws a horror film). One thing we don’t doubt is that Richard Matheson’s source material is one of the great genre tomes. We hardly even dispute the horrific nature of the previous versions of the film, but plugging a box office glory bound, all-American Fresh Prince behind the wheel of a Mustang and sending him off into a deserted Manhattan to save the world and kill some zombie/vampire hybrids does not necessarily a horror film make. So, take sides and decide for yourself if “Will Smith’s a Legend” can be chalked up as a horror film. But if you find yourself sanity fraying at that thought then the runner up is gonna damn near push you over the edge.

Back in March at SXSW I got a chance to see an advance screening of Director DJ Caruso’s latest film, Disturbia. The flick starring Shia LaBeouf (who would have a stellar 2007 when Transformers hit the multiplex) was being touted as a pretty low-key teen rip-off of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Rear Window. To say that I wasn’t exactly doing back flips about checking out the film was an understatement. In fact, the only thing that drew me to the screening was the fact that LaBeouf was starring. I’ve always found the actor likable since I first took notice of him in 2003 on Season 2 of Project Greenlight (and the subsequent movie that was manufactured that year; The Battle of Shaker Heights). LaBeouf had a couple of genre–type roles to follow up, with I Robot in 2004 and Constantine in 2005, but the kid hardly had anything interesting to do in either one of those flicks. So, I was excited to see him front and center in this film, even if it looked like a poor attempt to dupe unsuspecting audiences (a target demographic that was all born years after old Hitch headed off to that great cinema in the sky) into believing they were seeing some original work. But surprise, surprise, for what it was Disturbia turned out to be a pretty taunt little teen thriller, wowing audiences to the tune of 80 million and turning a newly 21-year old LaBeouf in 2007 box office gold.

If you don’t think PG-13 horror ruled the roost in 2007 then you probably forgot that one of the best ghost stories in years came out that year and banked a tidy $71,975,611. Everyone loves a good Stephen King story, but it’s been years since King was big money at the multiplex. 1408 gave the master of the macabre his highest grossing horror adaptation ever (King’s only film to make more bank was Frank Darabont’s 1999 version of The Green Mile). In fact, at the time of release it was John Cusack’s highest grossing starring role (he made a bit more with the Julia Robert’s led ensemble America’s Sweethearts and as a U.S. Marshall chasing down Nick Cage and cast of Con Air). In fact, King had himself a banner year at the box office when on November 21st, he added another $25,593,755 to his movie bankroll as Darabont’s version of The Mist barricaded audiences behind theater doors. With that one/two punch Stephen King got a lot more relevant a lot faster and more importantly, gave strict horror fans something to agree on that I Am Legend and Disturbia didn’t— those films were clearly horror films.

It’s nothing new that the top 3 grossing horror flicks of the year were adaptations or remakes (or rip-off’s if you’re bitter) and with Saw IV dropping another $63,300,095 into Lionsgate’s coffers 2007 wasn’t gonna be the year we saw a slowdown in unoriginal work. In fact, reboots, and sequels of reboots were all over the board starting with Rob Zombie’s update of John Carpenter’s Halloween ($58,269,151) which turned out to be much more successful in box office returns than in artistic achievement. Hostel II ($17,544,812) and The Hills Have Eyes II ($20,804,166) which were more or less bombs, but hardly the death kneel for Torture Porn (although the release of After Dark Film’s Captivity surely did its darndest to kill the subgenre off in July) . Zombies ran wild in England once again as 28 Weeks Later scared up another $28,637,507 and even though it wasn’t nearly as successful as the studio had hoped, it was none-the-less a high point for the series as far as the story goes. The zombies of Resident Evil: Extinction on the other hand bested the original film’s gross by about 10 million with Alice and company taking in a rock solid $50,648,679 for what was easily the worst film in the franchise. Aliens battled Predators again in the terrible sequel Requiem which opened on Christmas day but only grabbed about half of what the original match-up made. Even the second installment in the Night Watch trilogy: Day Watch (The 3rd film is apparently never coming) popped up on 64 screens and pulled in a respectable $450,686—a reminder that small films are often where it was at.

2007 also saw its fair share of great horror films that made their mark on DVD more than they did at the Box Office. Still, in an effort to get those films out there (even in a few theaters) the newly formed theatrical division of genre favorite Anchor Bay spun out Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon on 72 screens for a gross of $69,136 and then on September 7th they unleashed Adam Green’s Hatchet on 93 screens to the tune of $175,281. Scream alumni David Arquette’s Reagan 80′s slashfest The Tripper tripped its way to just under $21,000 on 50 screens while some additional SXSW flicks Black Sheep ($82,987 ) and Fido ($298,110 ) took even more zombies (including zombie sheep!) in a few new directions.

2007 was also the year fans of the grue began their new old love affair with all things Grindhouse. Unfortunately, Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof double-feature and the assorted trailers of Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright didn’t do much to scare audiences into the 3 hour and 11 minute double feature when the flick opened on its head-scratchingly bizarre Good Friday release date. With just $25,031,037 in grosses, the 50+ million dollar b-movie was DOA at the multiplex. The film was split up for international markets where it pulled in another 25 million, and fans still await the complete theatrical experience to be released on DVD.

Serial Killers may have cleaned up on the silver screen with Hannibal Rising, ($27,669,725) Zodiac ($33,080,084), Vacancy ($19,063,007), The Hitcher ($16,379,582) and Mr. Brooks ($28,476,219) all arriving to slay the charts, but it was Spanish ghost stories that really cemented their place in cinema lover’s hearts with the Guillermo del Toro directed Oscar Nominee Pan’s Labyrinth ($37,065,974) which technically opened on December 26, 2006, and the del Toro Production The Orphanage (which like Pan‘s did in 2006 just barely eked it’s way into the year by opening on December 28, 2007).

And speaking of Ghosts! Last but not least, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert’s Ghosthouse Pictures had a pretty successful theatrical run in 2007 with the February release of The Messengers ($35,374,883) starring a then relatively unknown Kristen Stewart who would later go on to love a vampire—but, not the vampires of Raimi’s October production of Steve Niles cult comic book 30 Days of Night ($39,568,996) which sees the bloodsucker’s descending on a small Alaskan town as it’s enveloped in a month of darkness.

2007 might have been marked by some of the more assorted horrors, and even leaving off serious duds like Skinwalkers ($1,018,965), Blood and Chocolate ($3,526,588), Dark Castle’s lame The Reaping ($25,126,214) and the Christmas killer pair of P2 ($3,995,018) and Black X-mas ($16,235,738)–which finished most of it’s 2006 holiday run in 2007–still turned out to supply some pretty memorable additions to gorehounds best and brightest lists.