Clockwise from upper left: Splinterheads, Ghost World, An Education, House of the Devil.
Opening. Amiable and pleasant, Splinterheads revolves around a romance between Justin (Thomas Middleditch), an aimless small town dreamer, and Galaxy (Rachael Taylor), a gorgeous grifter who (literally) bumps into him at a gas station. She's more interested in separating him from his money than getting to know the lunkhead within, while he quickly decides that he's met the love of his life -- or, even better, a reason to leave his upstate New York world behind and start living for himself instead of his mother and grandfather.
Brent Sersen (Blackballed) is a better director than writer; the characters hold few surprises and the plot's trajectory threatens to die of old age before it reaches its pre-ordained conclusion. Still, he takes advantage of a visiting carnival and the grifter's obsession with geocaching, a variation on treasure hunting, to string together several lyrical interludes and enough laughs to deserve a recommendation. Dean Winters, Lea Thompson, and Christopher McDonald provide reliable support. Splinterheads opens in New York on Friday and expands to other cities the following week; check the official site for theaters and showtimes. Also opening in New York the same day: Collapse, Chris Smith's latest doc (more from last week and the exclusive poster debut).
On-Demand / Online Viewing. Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' graphic novel Ghost World departs from the source material quite abruptly, but still remains faithful to the dark spirit of loneliness that haunts the characters. Thora Birch, Scarlett Johannson, and Steve Buscemi star. It's now available on FilmBuff, Cinetic's cable on-demand channel; check local listings to watch this essential indie at home.
After the jump: Who educated the devil?
Indie Weekend Box Office. Halloween ate into box office returns, as even the top-grossing film of the week, Lone Scherfig's An Education, averaged less than $10,000 per screen. Don't get me wrong; the average for the critically acclaimed coming-of-age romance -- $9,737 at 48 theaters, per Box Office Mojo -- is strong, and indicates that word of mouth is propelling the film as it follows a classic roll-out release strategy orchestrated by distributor Sony Pictures Classics. But it's an indicator that a fair number of indie supporters spent Saturday night partying rather than moviegoing.
Horror fans supported Ti West's House of the Devil (pictured), however. Riding a wave of good reviews from the likes of the New York Times, Devil averaged $8,398 at three screens. On the other hand, loyal fans of The Boondock Saints: All Saints Day ignored generally tepid reviews and came out for the sequel, to the tune of $8,040 per-screen at 68 locations.
Paranormal Activity expanded again and suffered barely a drop-off in attendance (down only 22.3%), earning $6,817 per-screen in 2,404 engagements, totaling more than $84 million so far. Gentlemen Broncos made a modest bow, taking in $5,751 per location on its two screens. The Coen Brothers' A Serious Man is now playing on 238 screens and is quietly motoring along ($4,355 per screen). Chilean comedy The Maid performed nicely as it expanded onto 13 screens ($4,175 average).
Film Festivals. Free paid off. AFI Fest, which began last weekend in Los Angeles, undertook a calculated risk by offering free tickets to all their screenings. Nearly all the tickets were snapped up in advance, prompting the expected grumblings, but attendance has remained strong even for the most adventurous fare on offer. Bravo! The festival continues through the weekend; rush lines are recommended to grab last-minute seats from no-shows.