Elijah Wood's horror remake Maniac premieres tonight in Moscow, nearly a full month before its theatrical launch on 3/21, and the Lord of the Rings star was in Russia to promote the film, which screened in Cannes last May but has yet to pin down a U.S. release date despite solid reviews. The quirky conceit of the slasher about a disturbed man who pins human faces on his mother's mannequins is that it's meant to feel like a first-person thriller where the audience sees through Wood's eyes. As a result, he explained to Moscow fans that shooting it was "kind of a puzzle," as he had to be visible in mirrors and reflective surface, not to mention figure out his hand movements. Russian tabloids also reported that Wood was very complimentary toward the local women, saying, "I've never seen so many beautiful women in one place! Seriously, it's like a parallel universe!"
Watch the trailer for Maniac:
With the Valentines Day weekend coming to an end, the first numbers coming in from Russia indicate that A Good Day to Die Hard should take the weekend in a clean sweep with $6.7 million across 1,693 screens, the Bruce Willis flick's third-highest international opening after the UK and Japan. However, in both of those two countries, A Good Day to Die Hard opened on half the screens -- 845 and 641 respectively -- indicating much lower per-screen interest in the fifth installment of the franchise, despite its Russian setting. The early word was the negative reviews may have affected Good Day's box office in Russia, however the film's opening has already outpaced the better-reviewed Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, which opened at $5.9 million during Christmas 2011.
Earlier this week, the Russian Parliament announced a bill that will severely restrict the number of foreign films shot in Russia. But Hollywood studios have already made peace with anchoring stories in Russia, but filming them elsewhere -- take A Good Day to Die Hard, which is set in Moscow but was actually shot in Hungary. Still, strengthening ties to the growing Russian audience is a smart move. Box office analysts can measure just how smart by tracking the gross of A Good Day to Die Hard, which looks likely to break the $8.6 million total intake of 2007's Live Free or Die Hard. The fifth film in the Bruce Willis franchise made $1.5 million on this Thursday alone, though that number should be taken with an asterisk given the Valentine's holiday. The risk, however, is that Good Day may turn off Russian audiences by bungling its use of the setting. The film annoyed American critics by, among other errors, suggesting that Willis could drive from Moscow to Chernobyl, Ukraine in an afternoon. Russian film fans may be even more sensitive to mistakes, which means word of mouth could crush box office expectations.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Russian director Boris Khlebnikov spoke out about the unusual conditions of filming in his country and the curiously cynical tastes of local audiences. Khlebnikov, the director of festival hits Free Floating and Help Gone Mad, will have his latest film, A Long and Happy Life, screen this week as part of the Berlinale Film Festival. He describes his agricultural drama about a farming community that wages bureaucratic war against the government as being inspired by High Noon, but went on to stress the differences between Western and Russian filmgoers as one of optimism and open-mindedness:
"I thought that if I changed the characters around and changed their positive attributes to negative attributes, I would get a purely Russian story. Things are so mixed up in Russia. There are no well-established positive role models. People do not trust the police or the government. Therefore, there can be no clear-cut protagonist. We do not have a clear moral compass, and that's why we have such a problem with heroes in movies. Because our enemy is hidden and could be anywhere!"
Khlebnikov went on to mention that he had yet to receive the Visa that would allow him to visit the Berlinale festival in person. Read the full interview here.
Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained has made $14.5 million to date in Russia, far exceeding the take of his last film, Inglourious Basterds. In its entire run, Basterds -- a World War II satire with more explicit ties to Russian history than his latest pre-Civil War slavery indictment -- made just $5.9 million. Now in its fourth week of release, Django continued to pull in just under a million during the weekend, enough to rank 7th in the box office charts. Though that rate will dip next weekend, if Django continues to stick around in theaters, it's possible that it can rake in three times more than Basterds, giving Tarantino a personal box office best in Russia that will be hard to beat.