What makes a movie successful? Is it ticket sales? Critic’s ratings? What if it has one but not the other? All of these questions come to my mind after I watched one of Blumhouse Productions latest entries, Upgrade. Reminiscent of the sci-fi movies of the 80’s and 90’s, Upgrade takes me back to the movies I most love from my childhood. The film itself is more of a cautionary tale of the times being very topical and something that I could see happen in the not too distant future. But I won’t give too much away because box office sales suggest that not too many people saw it in theaters. I want to pose a couple of questions; does Upgrade fit the mold of a cult classic? Will Upgrade go the route of some of the great’s like The Big Lebowski, Evil Dead, and Blade Runner?
A major ingredient in the recipe for a Cult Classic, which is not a good thing, would be a lack of marketing the films get before and during release. I remember having to actually search for a trailer for the movie because I wanted to see what some of the smaller studios were up to. I don’t remember seeing any TV spots, Web ads or printed material, just a trailer that I had to search for. It is understandable when smaller studios don’t advertise a ton because of the small budgets the movies have but if this film had the slightest amount of traction before release it might have “upgraded” its status with the general public. This kind of marketing pretty much mirrors other cult classic movies that had hardly any budget left for advertising and road on their hopes and dreams that the film would have good word of mouth after release.
That brings me to the thing that ties into both the budget and marketing, the casting. When you look at any summer blockbuster, those movies sell themselves with usually just a name. When people talk about these movies they aren’t saying the name of the movie, 9/10 times they are saying something like, “are you seeing the new Tom Cruise movie?” or “did you see what the Rock is coming out with?”. Even though Logan Marshall-Green was excellent in the role and the performance probably opened some doors for bigger projects in the future, his name is not putting people in the seats. This, in many ways, parallels Evil Dead. Bruce Campbell’s name was definitely not selling tickets, but he was perfect for the role. Would Upgrade have had more success in theaters if Tom Hardy was the lead, possibly? Would the movie be as good as it is with him, I don’t think so. Logan Marshall-Green made that movie and may have cemented Upgrade as a Cult classic with his stellar performance in such a low-budget movie for the times.
Let’s talk numbers. Released on June 1, 2018, Upgrade had an opening weekend (USA) of $4,670,905 and a Gross Box office (USA) of $11,871,365. This was all done on an estimated budget of $5,000,000. Not too bad but in my opinion nowhere near what sales should have been with the positive reviews it was getting at release. Currently, Rotten Tomatoes® has the movie listed as Certified Fresh with a Critics rating of 85% and an Audience score of 86%, IMDB.com has it at 7.7/10 (7,664 user reviews) and if you keep looking around you will keep finding solid praise for the film. Much like the aforementioned films, Upgrade made its budget back but did not have overwhelming box office ticket sales. Does this similarity point to positive home video sales? The Big Lebowski, Blade Runner, and Evil Dead survived and are still thriving on DVD’s, Blu-Ray and now digital release sales. The fan bases keep growing for each and the films are finding their way back to theaters for special showings, which is pretty amazing considering no one wanted to see these great films when they were out the first go around and now they are packing theaters. Could this be the same fate for Upgrade? It seems to have the makings for good home sales, but only time will tell.
This film to have the whole package when it comes to staying power. The story is good and plausible in a very scary way. It was the perfect amount of gore in a grindhouse kind of way and Logan Marshall-Green as the Lead is excellent in the role and I foresee many more great roles from him in the future. The movie itself has a well-balanced mix of action, horror elements and a great use of dark comedy, just wait till he gives STEM control. To me, Upgrade has the makings of a Cult Classic and I hope to keep hearing about it for years to come. If you passed this movie up or you didn’t even know about it while it was in theaters, please Buy, Rent, Stream this film and let me know what you think of it. Have you already seen Upgrade? Do you think it could be the next Cult Classic? Upgrade releases on Blu-ray and DVD on August 28th.