After a busy, but underwhelming summer for horror films, this fall season offers a few less offerings than this past summer (and last fall). The upside for horror fans (and studio executives) is the fact that this fall will bring two heavyweight Stephen King adaptations to the table, with one that is all but guaranteed to do some major damage at the box office: the jump-scare machine entitled It: Chapter Two. The fall will also see the debut of King’s sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, by the fan favorite creator of The Haunting of Hill House, Mike Flanagan.
And while this season’s slate of horror films does appear to be top heavy, there should be enough variety to keep horror fans coming to the theater through September, October and November.
It: Chapter 2 (September 6): Very few horror films are review-proof on the first weekend of their release, but the follow-up to the first It film adaptation by director Andy Muschietti is the 700 pound gorilla of the fall season in any genre. The buzz surrounding It: Chapter Two has been so strong that rival studios scrambled to move their films away from the opening date, and even slowed their releases for weeks leading up to the date. The film is currently estimated for a $95 million to $110 million opening weekend, which is shockingly less than the first film opened with in 2017 (which broke all horror records with a $123 million debut). It’s super hero style box office numbers helped the film become the highest grossing horror film of all time with $327 million in the US, and over $700 million worldwide (although The Exorcist still hold the inflation adjusted figures for the top spot ever), so to say that expectations are high for the sequel would be the understatement of the year.
The nearly three hour long second installment will flood theaters the first weekend of September and will most likely play into November, curbing the profits of any and all films in its wake. As reported by HNN in July, It: Chapter 2 will feature grown-up versions of “…all of those “little rascals” from the first film…and include James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough, Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom, Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh, Bill Hader as Richie Tozier, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon, James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak and Andy Bean as Stan Uris (Bill Skarsgård will naturally be reprising his role of Pennywise). The youngsters from last time (Finn Wolfhard as young Richie, Jeremy Ray Taylor as young Ben, Jack Dylan Grazer as young Eddie, Chosen Jacobs as young Mike and Wyatt Oleff as young Stan) will all be returning for the sequel, in flashback sequences.” The young cast will even by de-aged in the sequel, restoring them to their youthful looks of two years ago.
Like last time, It: Chapter 2 will prove to be a film not so much for horror fans, but for many fans for whom It may have been the first horror film they ever saw. With a much wider audience base, success is an after-thought, but will the film please fans of the original King novel and the original TV adaptation starring Tim Curry? Critical reviews of the first It were sky high with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86% fresh, but even with a large dip in percentage points, It: Chapter 2 should rule the box office and send novice horror fans screaming every time Skarsgård’s smiling face appears on the silver screen.
3 From Hell (September 16-18): Rob Zombie’s highly anticipated sequel to his most financially and critically successful original film Devil’s Rejects (not counting either of his Halloween films), arrives smack in the middle of It-Mania, but this is probably not the reason Zombie’s film will be available on a limited theatrical basis.
The last film that Zombie released in theaters was 2013’s The Lords of Salem (which screened in only 354 theaters nation-wide). Following Salem, Zombie took the crowd funding route to finance 2016’s 31 and released it as a special Fathom Event (the company responsible for live opera, classic re-releases, and other specialty offerings). This choice speaks to a number of factors including the difficulty of getting edgy films that don’t fit the mold of the average blockbuster screened in a cinema, as well as the love/hate affair that fans have with Zombie’s films. Out of any of his films, it appeared that 3 From Hell would be able to garner a wider release than most, but fifteen years after Rejects, and with a whole generation unfamiliar with his work who are more likely to choose the safe scares of It: Chapter 2, Zombie once again turned to Fathom to release a film that any fan of Zombie would be interested in.
Story elements have been veiled in secrecy (with the biggest one revolving around how any of the original three survived in the fist place) but 3 From Hell sees the return of Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), along with more of “The Rob Zombie Players” such as Danny Trejo, Richard Brake, Dee Wallace, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Clint Howard. One look at the trailer below promises many of the flourishes that Zombie is known for including a number of shots of a Lucha Libre gang of desperado. Again, if you are a fan of Devil’s Rejects, be sure to check Fathom Events listings for a showing in your area (over the course of three days with one showtime each day, including a double feature of 3 From Hell and Rejects on September 18) because the likelihood of a wider release is even slimmer than Richard Brake’s torso.
The Addams Family (October 11): Offering something a little lighter for old school fans and parents and kids, MGM brings back The Addams Family for a new generation. The kooky family has remained in the pop culture consciousness through re-runs on day time television and the films and TV series of the 1990s, but it has been a hard time getting The Addams Family on their feet in the 21st century.
2010’s musical brought the family back for nearly two years on Broadway, but failed to deliver the reported stop-motion film from Tim Burton or a new animated version. On October 31, 2013, it was announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would take a shot at reviving The Addams Family as an animated film, but the film lingered in development hell, changing screen writers and directors before settling on director Conrad Vernon in 2017, based on the original 2013 screenplay written by Pamela Pettler. Oscar Issac will voice Gomez Addams, with Charlize Theron taking over the coveted role of Morticia Addams. The rest of the family will be portrayed by Finn Wolfhard (Pugsley), Chloe Grace Moretz (Wednesday), Nick Kroll (Uncle Fester), Bette Midler (Grandmama), and Snoop Dogg (Cousin It).
The trailer seems like the familiar set-up for any Addams Family property (or The Munsters for that matter) with the family moving into a new neighborhood and shocking the more “traditional” residents with their creepy ways and hijinks. The film may appeal to youngsters who have grown up on the Hotel Transylvania franchise, but the new Addams Family may have a hard time entering those lofty halls of box office success if parents and kids find the new offering to be too similar to the previously mentioned “monster-mash” or any run-of-the-mill animated feature. It also releases one week before Disney’s Maleficent sequel (which appeals to the same demographic and tweens with goth sensibilities) which may very well cut into a profitable second weekend.
Zombieland: Double Tap (October 18): Ten years after the first Zombieland entered into the zombie comedy hall of fame, the sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, will finally hit theaters with an older, grown-up cast. The fact that all cast members are returning (especially Emma Stone who certainly signed a much bigger contract this time around) is a feat in and of itself, but will fans remember the glorious days before The Walking Dead jumped the shark and zombies were certifiably cool?
Original director Ruben Fleischer will also return after a financially successful Venom film to work with the veteran cast including Stone, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray, and new cast members Rosario Dawson, and what is likely to be a zombiefied version of Murray’s Ghostbusters alum, Dan Aykroyd. With all of the pieces in place, fans of the original have a lot to be excited about, but will they return to theaters for the sequel after a long gestation period? The target audience were in high school and college the last time around, so it is possible that some have moved on from the horror genre, but the trailer is generating a lot of views online (over 12 million hits and counting) and the cast has only grown more famous. If Double Tap is able to break “the delayed sequel slump”, it may encourage more studios to return to well-loved films like this one. Judging by the trailer, the gags and satire appear to be just as sharp as the original, so let’s hope Fleischer delivers another critical and financial hit.
The Lighthouse (October 18): The Witch’s Robert Eggers returns this fall with his sophomore effort The Lighthouse, and it looks equally eerie, strange, and terrifying. The A24 release is essentially a two-man play (starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) set in a black and white world of nautical trouble. The trailer suggests everything from claustrophobic terrors, natural disasters, and Lovecraftian nightmares.
As with the majority of A24 releases, this one is not for everyone. Just the fact that The Lighthouse is filmed in black and white is enough to send younger fans screaming down the aisles, even before any of the complex storytelling starts. Critics have loved The Lighthouse (at film festival screenings) and it currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98% fresh. The Lighthouse may not have the largest release schedule (especially with Zombieland: Double Tap opening on the same day), so you may have to search for a theater near you, but according to the buzz so far, if you like atmospheric horror, this one looks to be the pick of the fall season.
Doctor Sleep (November 8): The second most anticipated film (and King adaptation) of the season is director and writer Mike Flanagan’s return to the world of The Shining, Doctor Sleep. Flanagan is no stranger to King adaptations, with his first being Netflix’s Gerald’s Game, and he also brings perhaps the best horror pedigree of any working director, primarily built on his breakout series, The Haunting of Hill House.
King’s distaste for Stanley Kubrick’s original is well-documented, but if the trailer is any indication, Flanagan does not share the same view. Multiple scenes from Kubrick’s classic have reportedly been recreated for the film (and on display in the trailer). Flanagan has received the blessings of both the Kubrick estate (who granted the director access to many of Kubrick’s original designs for The Shining) and King so far, which is no small accomplishment. If Flanagan can also please the die-hard devotees of Kubrick’s film, the director will most likely have the biggest hit of his career.
Doctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor as the adult version of Danny Torrance, Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, Zahn McClarnon as Crow Daddy, Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorann, Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone, Bruce Greenwood as Dr. John Dalton, Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrance, Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi, Jacob Tremblay, and Jocelin Donahue. King’s novel features a team-up between Torrance and a young psychic as they battle a tribe of insidious villains who live off of the life force of those who posses the gift of “the shining”. While the premise may seem like a difficult follow-up for fans of the original film, many have been encouraged by Flanagan’s stewardship, and are willing to give the sequel a chance based on the director’s recent body of work.
Be sure to check back with Horror News Network for more updates on all of these upcoming films.