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Massacre time at the USBO!

By Arthur J Pais
October 20, 2003 16:02 IST
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A still from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre It was savaged by major critics, with New York Post's Lou Lumenick warning, 'Just remember not to eat beforehand.' Yet, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre grossed a huge $29 million in three days at the box office.

It resoundingly kicked the more promising Runaway Jury to third place, where it had an anaemic opening. And while there was excellent tiding for Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, which had its first full week of wide release, Veronica Guerin, starring Cate Blanchett as the crusading Irish journalist, fizzled in its limited opening.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which cost less than $10 million, will be profitable for distributor New Line in its first week. Expect a sequel to be announced soon. This is yet another slasher hit for the company, which is owned by Time Warner. Its Freddy vs Jason has grossed $81 million in North America. Even with severe declines that usually happen to sci-fi and horror films, Chainsaw could end its bloody orgy with an awesome $70 million. A bigger fortune awaits it in video stores.

Grossing far better than expected, video director Marcus Nispel's debut film is the remake of the 1974 cult survival drama against a brutal killer in rural Texas. Television star Jessica Biel of 7th Haven heads the cast of five youngsters hounded by Leatherface, a mad monster.

Erin (Biel) and her boyfriend, Kemper (Eric Balfour), return in a Volkswagen van from a pot-purchasing trip to Mexico with a super-sexed couple, Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) and Andy (Mike Vogel). And then there is the nerdy Morgan (Jonathan Tucker).

They pick up a hitchhiker who ends up killing herself in their van, but there is more to come. A demented sheriff won't let them go away with a corpse. Soon, it is time for the disfigured and chainsaw-wielding Leatherface.

The 1974 original, directed with considerable verve by Tobe Hooper and inspired by a true and horrible real-life story, led to a Texas-size slasher movie genre. The Hooper film, which cost about $200,000, ended up grossing over $80 million worldwide and became one of the most profitable films of all times.

Hooper's film was raw. It was technically deficient but there was plenty of menace in it. The new film is technically more polished and bloodier than the original. But, in the final reckoning, it is yet another slasher film about besieged teenagers.

The gory movie gave a powerful blow to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, which received many positive reviews; it had to move to second place with $12.5 million. Down by about 43 per cent from the previous week, it held well with a $ 43.3 million gross in 10 days. The film stars Uma Thurman as a severely battered woman who wakes up from a long coma to avenge her tormentors.

The courtroom thriller Runaway Jury, based on John Grisham's seven-year-old novel, faced numerous delays, cast changes and script rewrites. Despite the formidable cast and well-etched performances from the principal players, especially John Cusack, it could win only a $12.1 million verdict. The third highest grossing film of the week, it was followed by the teenager-friendly School Of Rock, which gathered $11.3 million. The rock 'n' roll comedy fantasy has grossed $55.2 million in 17 days.

Though the expanded run for Clint Eastwood's much-hailed Mystic River placed it at fifth position, its $10.5 million gross is considered encouraging. For the film, despite its riveting narration, is quite grim and many of its characters have no redemption. Expanding from 13 screens to 1,476 screens, the film is expected to take on more screens next week. On the other hand, Chainsaw screened in 3,016 theatres and Runaway Jury in 2,815.  

A still from Veronica GuerinThe Cate Blanchett film, Veronica Guerin, which not too long ago was considered an Oscar hopeful, was not well received by major reviewers. While some of them agreed that the story of a woman journalist who crusaded against the tough Dublin drug lords was well-intentioned, director Joel Schumacher was faulted for his execution. The film opened in about 470 screens and made just about $800,000. There will be no expansions for this box office turkey. 

The box office this week:



Weekend gross


of weeks


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

$29 million




Kill Bill Volume 1

$12.5 million (less 43% from the previous weekend)




Runaway Jury

$12 million




School Of Rock

$11.3 million (less 25% from the previous weekend)




Mystic River

$10.3 million (less 50% from the previous weekend)


2 (including one week of wide release)


Good Boy!

$9million (less 40% from the previous weekend)




Intolerable Cruelty

$6.8 million (less 45% from the previous weekend)




Out of Time 

$4million (less 50% from the previous weekend)




Under The Tuscan Sun

$3.4 million (less 40% from the previous weekend)




The Rundown

$2.8 million (less 45% from the previous weekend)



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Arthur J Pais