October box office roundup: Frighteningly good

The October box office has a history of under-performing releases, often mired by overdone horror movies in honor of Halloween. Prior to this year’s record-breaking “Venom” release, “Gravity” (2013) held October’s highest opening weekend, followed by a line of horror films, including most of the “Saw” saga and some random outliers, like “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” (2008). However, the spookiest month of the year is also often a prelude to the Oscars, with nominations entering the public conscious around this time. This year seems to be centered more around quality cinematic experiences and less on low-budget horror flicks.

October isn’t usually the most explosive month for movies, although sometimes, its releases can surprise audiences. 2014’s “Gone Girl” and 2015’s “The Martian” were both Oscar-nominees. “Gone Girl” was virtually carried by Rosamund Pike’s stellar performance, and “The Martian” racked up several nominations and wins. Often, however, October can be a bummer for the box office. “Blade Runner 2049” (2017) was initially projected to gross $43 million to $47 million in its opening weekend domestically, but after disappointing first-day sales, the projection dropped to an estimated $32 million. “Blade Runner 2049” ended up being a box office disappointment but received critical praise. Other films may find box office success but receive lukewarm response, like “The Girl on the Train” (2016).

Of course, the most iconic October releases are the horror films audiences love — and sometimes hate. “Paranormal Activity 3” (2011) broke records for the best opening for a horror film, “Annabelle” (2014) was a critical flop but a box office sensation, and most of the “Saw” saga has done relatively well in October releases. Even thrillers, like “Taken 2” (2012) have fared well. “Kill Bill Vol. 1” (2003) was commercially and critically successful after its October release. But October’s pickings are still slim compared to other months. True, October isn’t necessarily a dump month — that is, a month where the films are slim pickings — but it is a genre month. Most October releases cannot escape the trappings of their respective genre — even “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” and “Shark Tale” (2004), as they were all released for a specific audience.

With that being said, this October has already proven it stands apart, fueled by the release of the aforementioned “Venom.” Unfortunately, while it has already gathered over $200 million in revenue, more than eclipsing its budget of $100 million, the movie itself is less than acclaimed. Not only is the superhero genre over-saturated, but “Venom” also features a train wreck of a plot coupled with terrible acting, screenplay and writing decisions. The supervillian genre is surprisingly sparse compared to films of a more super-heroic nature, but “Venom” utilizes absolutely none of its creative and interesting source material. While there is still a certain charm in watching a giant monster race through the streets of San Francisco, the consensus among critics is a decided thumbs-down.

This October also featured the critically acclaimed and slow-burning “A Star is Born” starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. The film previously received Oscar buzz after its opening at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. “A Star is Born” is the fourth remake of the classic story following a rising star played by Gaga and her relationship with a spiraling legend played by Cooper. In this remake, Cooper’s Jackson sings country rock, and Gaga’s Ally becomes a pop icon. The original music is certainly a selling point — the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, beating out Twenty One Pilots’ “Trench.” The film is also Cooper’s directorial debut, making it a knockout October release that deserves a better spot in the box office.

In another October film, Ryan Gosling stars in the well-received “First Man” as Neil Armstrong in the landmark Moon mission. Gosling’s acting chops look like they’ve come in handy for him — critics are already praising his heartfelt and emotional performance, alongside leading actress Claire Foy, who has garnered acclaim in Netflix’s “The Crown” (2016–). While “First Man” has not received overwhelming notice for accolades (although Gosling looks likely to earn a Best Actor nod), it is nonetheless poised to be another box office success in the usually subdued October race.

Looking ahead to the end of the month, there remains no shortage of movies for fans of every genre. Timothée Chalamet, of “Call Me By Your Name” (2017) fame, stars in the drama “Beautiful Boy,” produced by Brad Pitt and based off of two real-life memoirs about a son’s addiction and his father’s struggle to help. Alongside Chalamet, Steve Carrell and Amy Ryan, both of whom starred in hit comedy show “The Office” (2005–13), feature prominently in the film. While the reviews so far have been mixed, critics have praised the strong performances of Chalamet and Carrell. Even if the movie is no must-see, it appears to be a strong showing regardless.

Finally, rounding out the blockbuster releases for the month is “Halloween,” a soft reboot for the franchise and a direct sequel to the original “Halloween” (1978). Set 40 years after the ending of the first movie, the plot follows Michael Myers as he attempts to track down the now-middle-aged Laurie Strode and kill her once and for all. The roles of Myers and Strode are played by the same actors from the 1978 edition — Nick Castle and Jamie Lee Curtis, respectively. Even more astounding, however, are the preliminary reviews — critics are praising the film’s genuinely scary atmosphere and feminist undertones — so perhaps this is the “Halloween” sequel we’ve all been waiting for.

For fans of low-grade superhero films, heartfelt musical romances, emotional biographical dramas and terrifying slasher flicks, alike, this month has gone above and beyond with providing something for everyone at the theater. It is rare that October produces multiple box-office hits, but 2018 certainly bucks the trend. It’s an added treat that most of these movies are performing well critically, too. Regardless of personal taste, get out to a theater and experience a movie this October. The scary thing is, there truly is something for everyone.