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The start of the year has a notorious and well-earned reputation for being a not-so-great season for movie-going, as studios have traditionally used weekends in January and February as a time for jettisoning projects in which they don’t have a tremendous amount of faith. In this regard, 2020 has been no exception, but it has also particularly been an unfortunate period for horror fans, who have seen multiple releases recently that have been serious levels of rough.
This isn’t to say that there have been zero quality scary movies thus far this year, as Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge is fantastic, and folks are in for a real treat with Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man (stay tuned for my review on the site tonight). However, we are only eight weeks into 2020 thus far, and it’s been surprising to already see as many as five features get notably negative receptions from professional critics and/or audiences:
Brahms: The Boy II
Rotten Tomatoes: 9% CinemaScore: C-
Let’s start with the most recent, shall we? When it comes to this past weekend’s William Brent Bell’s Brahms: The Boy II, we’re not talking about a burgeoning series with a strong legacy when it comes to criticism, as its predecessor earned a 30% Rotten Tomatoes score and a “B-” from CinemaScore, but the reaction to the sequel has been heavily downbeat. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of appreciation for the way in which the movie changes elements of the first for its own purposes, and words like “dull” and “lazy” crop up in multiple responses. It’s not exactly hard to see why this one wasn’t given preview screenings for critics.
Rotten Tomatoes: 12% CinemaScore: F
Full disclosure: I am actually one of the 12 percent of critics who gave Floria Sigismondi’s The Turning a pass – but the majority of my professional colleagues did not, and a film really can’t do much worse when it comes to the CinemaScore survey. It’s not easy to find a whole lot of love for the movie online, with many pointing to what can be described as its “WTF ending.” Hopefully we’ll see a much more positive reaction to the next adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn Of The Screw when it comes out later this year in the form of Netflix’s The Haunting Of Bly Manor.
Rotten Tomatoes: 10% CinemaScore: C-
Blumhouse Productions has been behind some of the best horror movies released in recent years, including Jordan Peele’s Get Out, David Gordon Green’s Halloween, and Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day, but Jeff Wadlow’s Fantasy Island wound up being a huge swing-and-miss. The development strategy is fine, as the classic TV series does lend itself to being injected with a touch of terror, but the end result is just awful and dumb. The critical reception is one of the lowest of all movies released in 2020 so far, and it will likely hold that title for the rest of the year given that it’s hard to do much worse.
Rotten Tomatoes: 20% CinemaScore: F
Nicolas Pesce's The Grudge was the first wide released movie of 2020, being the only new title to hit 2,000-plus theaters on January 3rd, and it got our year off to a really terrible start. This is a film that, given the shape of its narrative, has five different opportunities to tell a scary story, and every single one of them is just boring and bad. It’s not scary, which is one of the worst sins a horror feature can make, but it’s also just a shame to see so many talented people – including Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, and Jacki Weaver – go totally underutilized.
Gretel And Hansel
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% CinemaScore: C-
As you can see from the numbers, the reception of Oz Perkins’ Gretel And Hansel wasn’t nearly as bad among film critics as some of the other titles mentioned here (achieving what qualifies as a “Fresh” Rotten Tomatoes score), but it’s not a great look for the film that it earned the same response from audience surveys as two other titles on this list. With a PG-13 rating that seriously cuts down on the scary content, and a pacing that isn’t exactly rapid, it’s not totally unclear why this fairy tale adaptation didn’t really click with audiences.
The good news is that while we have seen a really bad number of subpar horror movies thus far in 2020, there can be hope that Hollywood was just purging them from its system ahead of dropping some really exciting titles in the coming months. There definitely are plenty of exciting genre titles set to hit theaters between now and the end of December, so be sure to keep coming back here on CinemaBlend as we try to shine a spotlight on the best of the best.