By Sarah Sluis
Happy Halloween! For those seeking thrills at the box office (and who already saw Saw V last weekend), The Haunting of Molly Hartley (2,652 screens), and Splinter (4 screens, NY/LA) open today. Our critic
panned the zombie-porcupine creature feature, but A.O. Scott was nice enough to call the film "diverting." The Haunting of Molly Hartley has teen heartthrob Chace Crawford ("Gossip Girl") as a draw, as well as its compelling take on teen angst. Starring Haley Bennett as a girl whose parents may have sold her to the devil, payable on her eighteenth birthday, the film transforms teen-parent discord and fears of growing up into a horrific premise. Anyone who has seen Gingersnaps or teen werewolf movies can attest that depicting puberty as a horrific transformation is familiar territory, but I like this film's emphasis on the parents as villains: the idea that Molly Hartley's destiny has been totally determined by her parents, forcing her to break free from their constraints, strongly speaks to teen audiences whose choices conflict with their parents' wishes.
The much-hyped Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2,735 screens) releases today, to unanimous agreement that the movie is not nearly as objectionable as the title. Kevin Smith likes drape his romantic comedies
with gutter language and objectionable premises, but also takes care not to involve his female romantic leads in the antics. A.O. Scott notes that "Ms. Banks is forced to be funny on a pedestal. She has to be the nice girl with the naughty mouth, just uninhibited enough to play along with Zack's schemes but not so daring as to tarnish his idealized image of her." Perhaps this is why Zack and Miri has been called "the cuddliest porno flick of all time" by our critic Ethan Alter, who also points out that Kevin Smith's movies are "deeply moral stories."
Clint Eastwood's Changeling (1,850 screens) and British import RocknRolla (826 sceens), both limited releases, make their first round of expansions this week. With an impressive per-theatre gross last week, Changeling will definitely vault into the top ten, but I have a feeling RocknRolla will fall short of "10." Even director Guy Ritchie's impending divorce from Madonna has failed to give the film a round of mentions in the tabloids.
Lest we forget, High School Musical 3: Senior Year will finish at #1 again this weekend, probably dropping less than 50% to rake in at least $20 million, a sweet finish to the Halloween weekend.