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Big Budget Films That Flopped at the Box Office
Some movies succeed at the box office while others crash and burn. It’s a real tragedy when studios lose millions of dollars after a major film flops. Highly anticipated films like Justice League and Dark Phoenix tanked at the box office and failed to wow audiences.
Plenty of movies have flopped and the reasons range from terrible scripts to controversial casting decisions. Check out the biggest box office movie flops of all time.
Justice League (2017)
The chaotic plot, underdeveloped script and poorly executed CGI were Justice League’s kryptonite (besides the box office of course). Moviegoers also thought the film’s tone was inconsistent and boring. However, there was some good feedback: People enjoyed Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller’s performances.
Justice League is one of the most expensive films ever made, costing $300 million to produce and another $150 million to market. It’s also DC’s lowest grossing film. After underperforming at the box office, Justice League lost the studio somewhere between $51 million and $102 million. A sequel was planned for June 2019, but that didn’t happen.
Production Budget: $300 millionGross: $658 million
Rush Hour 3 (2007)
The Rush Hour franchise follows two cop buddies, portrayed by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. While the first two installments were fan favorites, Rush Hour 3 gave audiences a sense of déjà vu. Moviegoers grew tired of the same fistfights and life-threatening situations that were already featured in the first two films. Rush Hour 3’s estimated loss was $71 million.
Although Rush Hour 3 wasn’t what fans expected, they still have hope for Rush Hour 4 . In April 2019, Chan and Tucker sparked buzz on social media after posting a photo where the two are each holding up a hand with four fingers.
Is it real or are the two just trolling everyone? We’ll have to wait to find out.
Production Budget: $140 millionGross: $258 million
The Ghostbusters reboot ran into trouble before hitting the box office. When the public and social media users found out that Ghostbusters featured an all-female cast, controversy arose. Many people who opposed the film made misogynistic and anti-feminist comments because the cast was all women. The film received major backlash, including low ratings on its IMDb page.
In May 2016, the Ghostbusters trailer became the most disliked film trailer on YouTube. Hold on; there’s more. After the film’s release, Twitter users attacked cast member Leslie Jones with racist and sexist remarks, forcing her to quit the platform for a while.
Ghostbusters’ director, Paul Feig, believes the public’s resentment of the cast negatively impacted the reboot. The studio lost $78 million.
Production Budget: $144 millionGross: $229.1 million
Power Rangers (2017)
Many fans who grew up watching Power Rangers on TV on Saturday mornings were excited for this film’s release. However, the film didn’t perform as well as expected, losing the studio $78 million. At the theaters, there were barely any youngsters in sight.
The filmmaker, Dean Israelite, believes Power Rangers failed because of its PG-13 rating. He suspects that parents would’ve been more comfortable bringing their children to watch Power Rangers if it was rated PG. Although Power Rangers didn’t do well at the box office, it broke boundaries by becoming the first superhero film to feature LGBTQ and autistic teenagers. Some fans were glad to be represented in the movie.
Production Budget: $100 millionGross: $142.3 million
A-list actor George Clooney and Britt Robertson starred in Tomorrowland , which follows a science-loving teenager and a former boy-genius inventor. The two uncover a mysterious place located in time, space and their collective memories. Sounds original, right?
Well, Tomorrowland’s new concept was the problem. Believe it or not, unique movies struggle at the box office because moviegoers are more likely to spend money on sequels and reboots. Many critics added fuel to the fire by slamming the film’s writing and tone, leading moviegoers to watch anything but Tomorrowland . The film’s misfortune was between $8 million and $159 million.
Production Budget: $180 million – $190 millionGross: $209.2 million
How Do You Know (2010)
There are many great romance movies. How Do You Know is not one of them. Some of Hollywood’s most popular actors starred in How Do You Know , including Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson. But the star-studded cast couldn’t save the movie. The studio, Columbia Pictures, lost between $87 million and $121 million.
In the film, an ex-softball player, Lisa, reevaluates her life and gets stuck in a love triangle. Audiences thought How Do You Know was a predictable and unoriginal story. Critics also say How Do You Know starts off terribly and just gets worse. There was no chemistry between the characters. The story also just keeps going in circles.
Production Budget: $100 millionGross: $48.7 million
The Good Dinosaur (2015)
What if dinosaurs never became extinct? The Good Dinosaur follows a young and easily frightened Apatosaurus who goes on an adventure with a human through a tough and mysterious land. The adorable story was set in an alternate history. The film’s estimated loss was $90 million.
The Good Dinosaur’s production budget ballooned after a script rewrite and a delayed release. However, all that work didn’t pay off for Pixar. The film’s story and animation were beautiful, but The Good Dinosaur was too ordinary and not “Pixar-level imaginative.” Although The Good Dinosaur bombed at the box office, it did top home video sales charts.
Production Budget: $175 million – $200 millionGross: $332.2 million
Pan received many negative reviews, with critics bashing the film’s formulaic plot and overuse of CGI. Warner Brothers spent $150 million on the film’s production budget and used between $100 and $125 million on marketing. However, the studio lost between $91 million and $159 million.
Why did Pan fail? The film was in hot water since casting. Warner Brothers received public backlash after casting Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, a Native American character. Thousands of people signed a petition protesting the casting choice of a white actress for a Native American role. The film also suffered because it didn’t have enough big stars and drifted too far from the classic Peter Pan story.
Production Budget: $150 millionGross: $128.4 million
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending failed at the box office. The studio, Warner Brothers, suffered a loss of $92 million to $127 million. People thought the screenplay was incoherent, boring and confusing. Some moviegoers were frustrated because the movie introduced too many supporting characters.
When the main character, Jupiter Jones, met all of her new family members throughout the film, people quickly lost interest. Critics also slammed the film for relying heavily on special effects. However, there was a small group that actually appreciated the film: a niche of female science fiction fans.
Production Budget: $175 millionGross: $184 million
Rise of the Guardians (2012)
Superstars like Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman voiced characters in Rise of the Guardians , but the studio still lost a whopping $95 million. Moviegoers complained about Baldwin’s Russian accent for Santa Claus, calling it too rough for the character.
Rise of the Guardians also struggled because of its release date. The studio, DreamWorks Animation, typically doesn’t release movies close to Thanksgiving. But the studio did for Rise of the Guardians , losing to films like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 , Skyfall and Lincoln . Although Rise of the Guardians failed at the box office, it was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
Production Budget: $145 millionGross: $306.9 million
The Mummy (2017)
Universal Pictures spent a whopping $345 million on The Mummy’s production and advertising. The Mummy received a whole lot of negative reviews, leading to a loss of $97 million. Critics slammed the film’s narrative, tone and acting. What else went wrong?
Moviegoers reported that the film’s plot was chaotic and hard to follow. Some critics blame the movie’s failure on Tom Cruise, who took control of the production. Cruise guided the script’s rewrite and the film’s editing. Critics believe Cruise’s vision may have clashed with director Alex Kurtman’s.
Production Budget: $195 millionGross: $410 million
When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck (Bennifer) dated in 2003, they also starred in a film together. Their film, Gigli , was a major disappointment. It’s considered one of the worst films of all time, losing the studio an estimate of $98 million.
Gigli’s failure might have been caused by a lack of chemistry between Affleck and Lopez. Because Lopez’s character, Ricki, was a lesbian at the beginning of the film, fans didn’t understand how she fell in love with Affleck’s character, Larry. The chemistry was so bad, Affleck and Lopez won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple.
Production Budget: $75.6 millionGross: $7.3 million
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
Many reviewers complained that Around the World in 80 Days was nothing like the book it was based on. Fans expected adventure and action, but the film mainly just featured weird celebrity cameos. During the fight scenes, the camera zoomed on the character’s facial expressions rather than capturing the actual fight. How much did the studio lose? $98 million.
Critics praised Jackie Chan’s performance in the film, but Arnold Schwarzenegger got heat for his acting. Schwarzenegger portrayed the Middle Eastern character, Prince Hapi. His acting was so bad that Schwarzenegger earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor.
Production Budget: $110 millionGross: $72.2 million
It’s hard for a movie to live up to a book. According to critics, that was definitely the case for R.I.P.D. Critics described R.I.P.D. as dim-witted and formulaic. They called it another buddy cop movie and a bad copy of Men In Black . R.I.P.D.’s studio lost between $98 million and $124 million.
If you thought R.I.P.D. sucked, you’re not the only one. Even Jeff Bridges, who portrayed veteran lawman Roy Pulsifer in the film, was disappointed. Bridges says , “And when I saw it, I was a little underwhelmed. For my mind, the studio made some, uh, choices that I wouldn’t have made.”
Production Budget: $130 million – $154 millionGross: $78.3 million
xXx: State of the Union (2005)
xXx: State of the Union is the sequel to xXx (2002). Vin Diesel starred in the first film, but dropped out of the sequel because he disliked the script. Diesel made a good move because xXx: State of the Union bombed at the box office. The film’s production company, Revolution Studios, was in the hole by $100 million.
Some big names starred in the sequel, including Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe and Samuel L. Jackson. But they couldn’t help xXx: State of the Union succeed. Reviewers criticized the poor acting, illogical story and overuse of CGI-based visual effects. People thought putting Ice Cube in an action movie was a mistake because he struggled to fight and run in the film.
Production Budget: $113.1 millionGross: $71 million
Audiences and critics are hissing at Cats . Over the holidays, the film crashed and burned at the box office, grossing only $38.3 million against production costs of $100 million. Experts estimate the loss is at least $70 million. Ouch!
The studio hoped the casting of Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and Idris Elba would draw in audiences, but they just weren’t “feline” the film. Before hitting theaters, the film’s trailer caused an uproar on social media because the CGI and human cats creeped people out.
Production Budget: $100 millionGross: $38.3 million
Dark Phoenix (2019)
The latest installment of the X-Men franchise, Dark Phoenix , was one of the most anticipated movies of summer 2019. However, the film tanked at the box office, having the worst opening weekend in the franchise’s history. The film was in the red by $100 million to $200 million.
Fans say Dark Phoenix was underwhelming and boring. Some viewers said that the cast looked like they’d rather be anywhere than in the film. Reviewers also complained that the film lacked character development and a plot. But not everything was bad. People appreciated Hans Zimmer’s score.
Production Budget: $200 millionGross: $209 million
The Lone Ranger (2013)
Although The Lone Ranger featured international star Johnny Depp, the film still flopped at the box office (especially overseas). Before hitting theaters, the movie experienced many problems. The Lone Ranger struggled with budget issues, causing the film to stop production temporarily. Its estimated loss was between $102 million and $204 million.
The Lone Ranger also faced racial controversy after casting a white man (Depp) in a Native American role. Audiences were disappointed in the film’s use of stereotypes, including the Native American character, Tonto, communicating with animals and speaking in incomplete sentences. They also weren’t happy with Tonto’s costume, which featured white face paint and a dead crow hat.
Production Budget: $225 million – $250 millionGross: $260.5 million
47 Ronin (2013)
Variety magazine called 47 Ronin one of “Hollywood’s biggest box office bombs of 2013.” And they weren’t wrong. The film got its butt kicked by other films that were released at the same time, including The Wolf of Wall Street , American Hustle and Her . 47 Ronin’s production company lost between $104 million and $161 million.
Some critics say 47 Ronin lost momentum after taking too long to reshoot and edit. 47 Ronin was originally supposed to hit the box office in November 2012. But the good news is: Viewers applauded 47 Ronin’s action sequences and visuals. So maybe the reshooting and editing was a little worth it?
Production Budget: $175 million – $225 millionGross: $151.8 million
Evan Almighty (2007)
Evan Almighty is considered one of the worst sequels of all time. Its loss? $106 million. Reviewers criticized Evan Almighty’s overuse of special effects. They also thought that the movie was dry and lacked humor. Although the film’s star, Steve Carell, is a successful comedian, viewers didn’t find his performance funny. Carell’s jokes just didn’t land in this film.
While Evan Almighty was a disappointment, Bruce Almighty received more love from audiences. Bruce Almighty’s lead, Jim Carrey, is well known for his idiosyncratic characters and jokes. He was praised for declining to reprise his role, which was definitely a good idea because Carrey avoided the almighty disaster.
Production Budget: $175 millionGross: $173.4 million
Battlefield Earth (2000)
People disliked almost everything about Battlefield Earth , including the acting, cinematography, story, special effects and visual direction. Battlefield Earth excessively used skewed camera angles. The film was also visually ugly with its dismal color palate. Warner Brothers was in the hole by $107 million.
Battlefield Earth won eight Golden Raspberry Awards, which was the most Razzie Awards a film received until 2012. It’s no surprise that Battlefield Earth is considered one of the worst movies ever made.
Production Budget: $73 million – $103 millionGross: $29.7 million
Mars Needs Moms (2011)
Mars Needs Moms failed because it lacked imagination and heart, losing the Walt Disney Pictures an estimate of $111 million to $160 million. Moviegoers complained that there was no character development. The main character, Milo, was a brat and his mom was unconscious during the majority of the film. As a result, no one got to know the characters (or even care about them).
Critics also believed that kids struggled to watch Mars Needs Moms because it used motion-capture technology. Some found it creepy and scary for kids. Do kids really want to see a film about a mom getting kidnapped?
Production Budget: $150 millionGross: $39 million
Treasure Planet (2002)
Treasure Planet led to a loss of $118 million. Many critics thought the visuals in Treasure Planet were beautiful, but the characters lacked creative development. Audiences struggled to connect with the main character, Jim. They found Jim flat, weak and predictable. His character didn’t charm moviegoers.
People also disliked the character of John Silver. Was he a villain, hero or both? Audiences also had a hard time connecting with Silver. Although critics ripped Treasure Planet apart, it received a nomination for the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Production Budget: $140 millionGross: $109.6 million
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
There are many movies based on King Arthur, but this is the only film that made the biggest box office movie flops list. King Arthur was supposed to be the first in a six-film franchise, but Warner Brothers canceled the sequels after the movie flopped at the box office. It was a one-and-done film, losing between $118 million and $157 million.
Reviewers criticized King Arthur’s poor pacing and planning. Critics also noted that the viewers found the movie boring. There’s a lack of successful blockbusters based on King Arthur, suggesting that people aren’t interested in the subject.
Production Budget: $175 millionGross: $148.7 million
Stealth is about three top fighter pilots working on an automated stealth aircraft project. The film is considered one of the worst failures in cinematic history, losing $123 million. People thought the movie performed poorly because it was dull. The action scenes weren’t even exciting.
Film critic Roger Ebert called the film “an offense against taste, intelligence and the noise pollution code — a dumbed-down Top Gun crossed with the HAL 9000 plot from 2001.” Stealth was also predictable. People knew that one of the main characters was going to die and saw a love story coming.
Production Budget: $135 millionGross: $76.9 million
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
A Wrinkle In Time featured some big names, including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling. It was also the movie adaption of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved book of the same name, but the movie didn’t dazzle viewers. Fans of the book were very disappointed.
Critics disliked the film’s confusing plot holes and overuse of CGI. Transitions between scenes were choppy and awkward. Viewers also struggled to understand the story’s villain, IT. Why is IT’s home planet so creepy? How and why does IT travel? A Wrinkle In Time’s production company was in the red by $131 million.
Production Budget: $125 millionGross: $133.4 million
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
Final Fantasy was based on a video game series. The movie used the most advanced processing capabilities available for animation, driving the film’s budget to $137 million. Popular stars like Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi and Ving Rhames worked on the film, but it still couldn’t turn a profit, losing $133 million.
Hardcore Final Fantasy fans found many things missing in the film. Where were the magical materia and chocobos? Instead, the film gave audiences a confusing story. Who are the bad guys? Why do the ghosts engage with humans? Final Fantasy performed so badly that some critics blame it for shutting down its production company, Square Pictures.
Production Budget: $137 millionGross: $85.1 million
Titan A.E. (2000)
Titan A.E. roped in some big stars, like Matt Damon, Nathan Lane and Drew Barrymore, but still couldn’t manage to break even. Its studio was in the red by $145 million. Before hitting theaters, Titan A.E. faced many problems. After 18 months of production, the film changed directors. Titan A.E. also had to drop its use of 2D animation in the middle of production when 3D animation became popular.
After two weeks at the box office, the film lost 60% of its audience. Titan A.E failed to compete with Disney’s Fantasia , Shaft and Boys and Girls . Although the movie flopped at the box office, it landed eight nominations for awards, including an Annie Award and Golden Reel Award.
Production Budget: $75 million – $90 millionGross: $36.8 million
John Carter (2012)
John Carter led to a loss of $133 million to $218 million. Critics had nothing but bad things to say about John Carter . Some reviews slammed the film’s uneven pacing, confusing plot and terrible character development. Where were the characters’ backstories? Why was Dominic West’s character obsessed with Barsoom? Why was Mark Strong’s character manipulative? We may never know why.
Moviegoers also struggled to understand the complicated plot. The story was too much to get through. The strange terminology and confusing concepts were hard to grasp. John Carter performed so poorly at the box office that Disney had no choice but to pull the plug on the sequel.
Production Budget: $263.7 millionGross: $284.1 million
Cutthroat Island (1995)
Cutthroat Island was cursed since the beginning. The troubled and chaotic production included several rewrites and recasts. Before Matthew Modine was cast as the leading man (Shaw), Michael Douglas had originally agreed to play the part. But Douglas quit. Oliver Reed was fired from the cast after fighting at a bar and trying to expose himself to Geena Davis.
Reviewers criticized the script and acting. Cutthroat Island’s star, Davis, failed to charm audiences. She flunked in delivering wit and humor. Some critics also called the film’s stunts unrealistic. Others blame Cutthroat Island for the demise of its production company, Carolco Pictures. The company lost a whopping $146 million.
Production Budget: $98 millionGross: $18.3 million
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
Sinbad is the biggest box office flop on this list, losing $170 million. The studio, Dreamworks, lost so much money from Sinbad that it almost went bankrupt. People hammered Sinbad for removing Arab and Muslim context from the story. The film replaced Arab references with Greek references.
Sinbad had a star-studded cast, including Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer. Sinbad had all that star power, but still failed to compete with one of Pixar’s highest grossing films, Finding Nemo , which was released around the same time. Although Brad Pitt voiced Sinbad, people still disliked the character because he was an unappealing, cocky and greedy pirate.
Production Budget: $60 millionGross: $80.8 million
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Tv/streaming, collections, great movies, chaz's journal, contributors, coming home in the dark.
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"Coming Home in the Dark" initially feels like another entry in that subcategory of horror films where soft pampered city folk go out into the country to be terrorized by locals. But while it cleaves to that template for a little while, this debut feature from New Zealand filmmaker James Ashcroft soon reveals another story layer that complicates our sympathies. Throughout, the savage intensity of the central predicament keeps tightening the thumbscrews on the audience, raising questions of how far a film can go to make viewers anxious and fearful before it starts to feel like abuse posing as something more rarified.
The story starts with a slow tracking shot across a desolate highway, revealing a car abandoned by the side of the road, personal effects scattered about, driver's side door cracked open. It's a stunning opening shot, and there are plenty more moments like it: beautiful, ominous, unsettling, using the landscape in a way that's simultaneously menacing/desolate and possessed of otherworldly beauty. Ashcroft—who co-wrote the script with Eli Kent , from a short story by Owen Marshall —has that David Cronenberg gift for icy precision and tonal control, where the filmmaking fills the viewer with dread before the credits have even finished. Something horrible is going to happen, probably more than once, and you're gonna have to wait for it.
The car belongs to a family on holiday. The father, Hoaggie ( Erik Thomson ), is a white man of Dutch descent who has worked as a teacher and a professor for a long time. His wife Jill ( Miriama McDowell ) appears to be Indigenous, and their tousle-haired teenaged sons, Maika and Jordan (Billy and Frankie Partene), are handsome, talkative, and obviously very close to each other and their mother (though one has unarticulated issues with his dad). The family's two tormentors, who emerge from the brush as the family is relaxing after a picnic, demographically echo the family: there's a charismatic, chattering white sadist named Mandrake ( Daniel Gillies ), after the magician; and a stone-cold-silent Indigenous man known as Tubs (Mathias Luafutu).
I mention the culture-clash aspect of the casting not because the film does a lot with it, but because it fails to really delve into it. This is the biggest missed opportunity of the movie, which has style to burn but (alas) questionable control over the larger meaning of what it shows us. It's hard to tell if this is a case of simple neglect and obliviousness or if the filmmakers were afraid to go there because they didn't want to overcomplicate the dynamic of tormentor/tormented (or if they cast the movie diversely because that's what filmmakers are expected to do now, without pausing to think through the implications of that casting). The bad guys have an agenda and come ready to spring a few narrative twists with ripped-from-the-headlines resonance. But their motivation is ultimately pretty straightforward. It's probably best to leave it to the viewer to figure out exactly what I mean by that, as this is a rare film where merely to discuss it is to give away its reason for being.
Regardless: the film settles into a sort of " Desperate Hours " or " Funny Games " or " Cape Fear " or "Key Largo" mode, with a self-absorbed, cruel man verbally and physically tormenting hostages with assistance from one or more hench-persons who keep their own counsel and harbor their own secrets. The opening act of the film is so devastatingly cruel that I don't know if the movie could've recovered from it even if it had taken a more nuanced and sensitive approach to the dynamics of the kidnappers and their hostages. The movie just dies and never entirely returns to artistic life except as a grindingly cruel abstraction, with Mandrake's discount Max Cady serving up sardonic one-liners and musings (when he talks to other characters, he often seems to be saying what he'd say to himself if nobody else were around) and occasionally commanding or participating in a savage act.
The filmmaking and acting talent on display is undeniable. You should expect to see the names of editor Annie Collins and cinematographer Matt Henley on big-budget action and horror films, and Gillies playing verbose, vicious bad guy roles if he wants to go that route. Nevertheless, even accounting for each viewer's mileage varying, "Coming Home in the Dark" settles into the memory as a mesmerizing missed opportunity at worst, a promise of future classics at best. It's a razor-edged calling card.
Now playing in theaters and available on demand.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of RogerEbert.com, TV critic for New York Magazine and Vulture.com, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.
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Coming Home in the Dark (2021)
Daniel Gillies as Mandrake
Erik Thomson as Hoaggie
Miriama McDowell as Jill
Matthias Luafutu as Tubs
Frankie Paratene as Jordan
Billy Paratene as Maika
- James Ashcroft
Writer (based on the short story by)
- Owen Marshall
- Matt Henley
- Annie Collins
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Coming Home in the Dark
2021, Horror/Mystery & thriller, 1h 30m
What to know
Smart, well-acted, and above all scary, Coming Home in the Dark finds first-time director James Ashcroft making his mark with a white-knuckle ride for horror fans. Read critic reviews
Where to watch Coming Home in the Dark
Watch Coming Home in the Dark with a subscription on Netflix, rent on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, or buy on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV.
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Coming home in the dark videos, coming home in the dark photos.
A family's idyllic outing at an isolated coastline descends into terror when high school teacher Alan 'Hoaggie' Hoaganraad, his wife Jill, and stepsons Maika and Jordon unexpectedly come across a pair of murderous drifters -- the enigmatic psychopath Mandrake and his hulking man-child accomplice Tubs -- who thrust them into a nightmare road trip. At first, the family's terror seems to be born of a random encounter with two sociopaths, but as the night drags on, Hoaggie and Jill realize that this nightmare was set in motion 20 years earlier.
Genre: Horror, Mystery & thriller
Original Language: English (Australia)
Director: James Ashcroft
Producer: Desray Armstrong , Mike Minogue , Catherine Fitzgerald
Writer: James Ashcroft , Eli Kent , Eli Kent , James Ashcroft
Release Date (Theaters): Oct 1, 2021 limited
Release Date (Streaming): Oct 1, 2021
Runtime: 1h 30m
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
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‘Coming Home in the Dark’ Review: No Picnic
A family outing attracts mysterious, menacing uninvited guests in this grinding New Zealand thriller.
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By Glenn Kenny
Not infrequently, films set and shot in the Antipodes make a convincing case that one ought to never leave one’s house. Think of the scenarios of “Wake In Fright” (kangaroos and lunatics running amok), “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (girls-school adventurers disappear), “A Cry in the Dark” (dingo, baby). Directed by James Ashcroft from a script he wrote with Eli Kent (based on a short story by Owen Marshall), “Coming Home in the Dark” doesn’t take long in demonstrating that sometimes a day trip to high New Zealand spaces is not worth the views.
Beginning with an ominous shot of a Mercedes abandoned at roadside, “Coming Home” picks up with a family of four in a different vehicle. In the back seat, the sons of Jill (Miriama McDowell) and Hoaggie (Erik Thomson), bicker about music. Aside from that, all is friendly and well. Until the family lays out blankets at a picnic spot.
Then along comes Mandrake (Daniel Gillies), a hirsute fellow whose long, earth-colored overcoat makes him look as if he’s stepped out of a spaghetti Western. Lagging a little behind him is a Maori man, Tubs (Matthias Luafutu). Tubs is exceptionally taciturn. Mandrake totes a rifle and has enough talk for the both of them.
So begins an appalling feature-length ordeal connected to Haoggie’s past. Between excruciatingly suspenseful set pieces, the themes of sin, guilt and expiation get an oblique workout.
While the whole thing is ruthlessly well done, it also sometimes seems to lean into a kind of moral relativism. Gillies’s performance as Mandrake, while remarkable in its way, radiates a kind of movie-killer cool that doesn’t quite square with the vengeful indignation that ostensibly motivates the character.
Coming Home in the Dark Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV , Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
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Coming Home in the Dark (2021)
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Coming home in the dark, common sense media reviewers.
Graphic violence in thoughtful, disturbing horror-thriller.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Witnessing evil actions and doing nothing to stop
Lead character is a teacher who, early in his care
Set in New Zealand. One of the lead characters is
Two kids are shot and killed at point-blank range.
Strong language throughout, including "f--k" and "
Talk of a carjacking and killing of a person drivi
Villain smokes cigarettes throughout. Villains tal
Parents need to know that Coming Home in the Dark is a 2021 horror-thriller in which a family outing to the countryside takes a horrific turn as the father is forced to reckon with his past. There's violence throughout -- much of it graphic and disturbing. Two kids are shot and killed at point-blank range…
Witnessing evil actions and doing nothing to stop it is just as bad as being involved in the evil actions.
Positive Role Models
Lead character is a teacher who, early in his career 30 years prior, witnessed physical and sexual abuse in a reform school and did nothing to stop it.
Set in New Zealand. One of the lead characters is of Samoan ethnicity.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Two kids are shot and killed at point-blank range. Teens shot and killed while inside their car. Gas station attendant choked and then bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. Man bludgeoned with a rock before being shot and killed at point-blank range. Character jumps off a bridge, presumably to their death. Graphic talk of physical abuse perpetrated by teachers in a reform school, some insinuation of sexual abuse as well. Man beaten, shoulder dislocated. Car door to head.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.
Strong language throughout, including "f--k" and "c--t." Also: "Jesus f--king Christ," "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.
Products & Purchases
Talk of a carjacking and killing of a person driving a Mercedes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Villain smokes cigarettes throughout. Villains talk of going to the pub once their work is finished.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Coming Home in the Dark is a 2021 horror-thriller in which a family outing to the countryside takes a horrific turn as the father is forced to reckon with his past. There's violence throughout -- much of it graphic and disturbing. Two kids are shot and killed at point-blank range while their parents watch. Teens inside a car are shot and killed. A gas station attendant is choked and then bludgeoned to death by a fire extinguisher. A man is bludgeoned in the head with a rock. Man shot and killed at point-blank range. Character jumps off a bridge, presumably to their death. Graphic talk of physical abuse perpetrated by teachers at a reform school, as well as hints of sexual abuse as well. Strong language throughout, including "f--k" and "c--t." Cigarette smoking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .
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- Parents say (2)
Based on 2 parent reviews
Uncomfortable but crafted beautifully
Dark..figuratively and literally, what's the story.
In COMING HOME IN THE DARK, Alan (Erik Thomson) is a high school teacher on a road trip to the New Zealand seaside with his wife, Jill, and her teenage sons, Jordan and Maika. They stop for a picnic as the sun is starting to set, but after taking a family photo and settling in to enjoy the evening, they're accosted by two drifters who rob them at gunpoint, the wickedly eloquent Mandrake ( Daniel Gillies ) and his sullen sidekick Tubs. They are about to leave after robbing them, but when one of the kids calls Alan by his nickname, it sets off a more violent altercation. After two family members are killed, Mandrake and Tubs steal Alan's car, and Mandrake begins asking probing questions about his career as a teacher. Mandrake gets Alan to admit that when he was starting out as a teacher, he worked as an assistant in a reform school where students were sadistically abused by their instructors. As Alan is forced to confront his past, he must also find a way to survive Mandrake's horrifying night of reckoning.
Is It Any Good?
This incredible horror-thriller from New Zealand has unrelenting suspense and a provocative message. Coming Home in the Dark dispenses with the slow build of other horror-thrillers, and once the first shocking moment of violence happens, the gruesome action takes increasingly darker turns and doesn't let up until the credits. All the while, the movie never loses sight of its reflections on the idea expressed in the quote attributed to Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." This message comes through, brutally, time and time again, even as it exists in the gray areas of justice being meted out by a pair of psychotic drifters.
While the story is incredible on its own, the acting is what makes this a truly unforgettable movie. Mandrake, the savagely eloquent bad guy drifter played by Daniel Gillies, comes across as a less cartoonish chip off the old psychotic cellblock populated by the murderous gang members of the first two Mad Max movies. And with its recurring shots of the white lines of desolate highways scrolling through the course of a traumatic night, it's hard not to be reminded of the second half of Mad Max , as Max drives all night in the "Last of the V8 Interceptors" in search of vigilante justice. But the comparisons stop there, as Coming Home in the Dark isn't so much about justice or the lack thereof from a society that is falling apart, but rather from injustice as a result of individual cowardice, indifference, or apathy. This is a message that should linger long after viewing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the theme of Coming Home in the Dark . What comment is the movie making about how it's just as bad for good people to do nothing when witnessing evil as it is for evil people to commit horrific acts? What are your thoughts on this?
How does violence, or the threat of violence, propel the story? Is it too much, or is it necessary for the movie's overall message?
This movie is based on a short story. What would be the challenges in adapting a short story into a feature-length film?
- In theaters : January 30, 2021
- On DVD or streaming : November 30, 2021
- Cast : Daniel Gillies , Erik Thomson , Miriama McDowell
- Director : James Ashcroft
- Studio : Light in the Dark
- Genre : Horror
- Run time : 93 minutes
- MPAA rating : NR
- Last updated : February 17, 2023
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Summary A teacher is forced to confront a secret from his past when a pair of ruthless drifters take his family on a nightmare road-trip.
Directed By : James Ashcroft
Written By : Eli Kent, Owen Marshall, James Ashcroft
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Miriama mcdowell, matthias luafutu, billy paratene, frankie paratene, desray armstrong, traffic patrol officer, alan palmer, male tourist, ten year old boy, bailey cowan, timon zeiss, tioti o'donnell, kaira o'donnell, critic reviews.
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Movie Review: Coming Home in the Dark (2021)
Title: Coming Home in the Dark
Director: James Ashcroft
Actor(s): Daniel Gillies, Erik Thomsen
Runtime: 1 hour 33 minutes
This bleak, vicious little film definitely had some things some things going for it but ultimately not enough for me to recommend it. The main character, Hoagie (Erik Thomsen) is a middle-aged husband and father whose family is targeted by two maniacs during an isolated picnic. The leader of the two men (Daniel Gillies) recognizes Hoagie and is hell-bent on making him pay for events that happened in his childhood.
It’s a storyline we’ve all seen before (a nice clean-cut family on a trip are terrorized by deranged psychopaths) but the question of the father’s culpability makes it feel a little fresher than your average hack-and-slash fare. It touches on themes of on whether being a bystander gives you a moral advantage over people who do horrible things. The acting is also very good, especially Miriama McDowell as Hoagie’s wife Jill. Her screams of pain and suffering broke my heart, and Daniel Gillies as ‘Mandrake’ is also a chilling and dynamic villain with a sick sense of humor.
However, the storyline of the film really drags (it probably would have been better suited as a short film, because the whole plot probably could have been covered in thirty minutes.) As is the case with most of these kinds of movies, the main characters are poorly developed, and the screenwriters don’t go the extra mile with really making you care about them.
Their situation is obviously terrible (and there are children involved) but I didn’t really feel like I knew them all that well, instead fitting comfortably into the role of ‘family in peril.’ If it had had a kickass ending, I might have recommended it, but the conclusion just made me go ‘huh?’ It just felt like it kind of ended and I was left with tons of questions and felt a little bit cheated.
Other than a certain violent event that occurs at the beginning that I didn’t expect would happen until MUCH later (if you see the film you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, but it was really jarring) most of what happens in this movie is pretty predictable. There’s a lot of scenes where the camera just focuses on the road while they drive and discordant music plays, and I found myself wishing the pacing was less disappointing. This isn’t a bad movie and the actors do an excellent job with the somewhat thin material they’re given. It just wasn’t anything particularly unique within the genre (despite certain plot elements that had a lot of potential.)
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Published by indiefan20
I am a 26-year-old aspiring writer who has written six manuscripts over the past few years. I am also a huge movie buff and my other interests include listening to music, spending time with my dog Drax, reading, and blogging. I'm an introvert, so I prefer communicating online to communicating in real life. I'll be looking forward to hearing from you! View all posts by indiefan20
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Review: New Zealand thriller ‘Coming Home in the Dark’ opens old wounds
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Though it was made in New Zealand, the raw psychological thriller “Coming Home in the Dark” resembles a movie from the heyday of Australia’s 1970s and ’80s “Ozploitation” wave, when a handful of creative, fearless filmmakers told intense and violent stories, often rooted in the country’s complicated history.
Directed by James Ashcroft (who also co-wrote the script with Eli Kent, based on an Owen Marshall short story), “Coming Home in the Dark” doesn’t reveal what it’s about right away. The film starts as the story of an ordinary family — high school teacher Alan “Hoaggie” Hoaganraad (Erik Thomson), his wife, Jill (Miriama McDowell), and her teenage sons Maika (Billy Paratene) and Jordan (Frankie Paratene) from a previous relationship — who are out for a picnic at a scenic location when they get accosted at gunpoint by an eloquent oddball named Mandrake ( Daniel Gillies ) and his sullen sidekick Tubs (Matthias Luafutu).
At first, this seems like a random act of mayhem: two psychopaths who stumble across some nice folks in the middle of nowhere and decide to take advantage. But as Mandrake forces his victims to hop into their car and go for a ride, it soon becomes clear he and Tubs are targeting Hoaggie for a reason.
Ashcroft puts a little too much narrative weight on the secret connection between Hoaggie and his abductors. Though the movie does fairly quickly hint that there’s more going on here — related to an old national scandal — a lot of the conversation in the back half of “Coming Home in the Dark” becomes repetitive, as Mandrake and Tubs poke at their prey. They’re trying to get him to admit that decades ago, he may have been a part of something awful; but the payoff to all this grilling isn’t quite as cathartic as it was probably intended to be.
Still, the parts of “Coming Home in the Dark” about confronting guilt aren’t what make the movie so harrowing. Instead, what matters is that Ashcroft and his cast — and especially Gillies as the menacing and charismatic Mandrake — excel at drawing out the moment-to-moment tension of a crime in progress.
From the second Mandrake and Tubs wander up to Hoaggie’s picnic spot — unnerving the family with talk about how being someplace so private is both a gift and a hazard — “Coming Home in the Dark” challenges the audience to think and feel along with Hoaggie.
Can he make a move against Mandrake? Is there even a move to make? How complicit is Hoaggie in any harm that comes to the people he loves? This is ultimately a movie about a man weighing — and often regretting — his increasingly narrowing choices.
'Coming Home in the Dark'
Not rated Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes Playing: Available Friday on digital and VOD
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