Spring brings warmer weather, longer days, and seasonal allergies to one and all, but it is also brings a healthy amount of horror films in the season of rebirth. While the fall is the traditional season for all things that go bump in the night, there are enough horror films in April and May to satisfy fans of all persuasions, whether you are in the mood for some highly anticipated remakes and reboots (Pet Sematary, Hellboy), ghostly women (The Curse of La Llorona), super-powered, evil children (Brightburn), stalkers (The Intruder, Ma), or giant lizards (Godzilla: King of the Monsters).
Pet Sematary (April 5): April kicks off with one that has been on many horror fans’ calendars for quiet some time: the new version of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. This time around the film is co-directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer and features Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz as the grieving parents as well as John Lithgow, who steps into the very big shoes of the kindly Jud, formerly portrayed by Fred Gwynne of Herman Munster fame.
Buzz has been extremely positive for the film so far, getting the seal of approval from King himself, and an 74% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Pet Sematary, similar to It, has the potential to capture the fans who remember seeing the 1989 original in theaters, as well as a new generation of teenagers who were not living in 1989 (or are aware that it is even based on a novel, although many millennials are starting to connect horror with the name “Stephen King” in the same way that their parents did). In terms of box office returns, Sematary will certainly face stiff competition right out of the gate, with Jordan Peele’s Us still delivering ticket buyers to theaters, and the debut of Hellboy the following weekend.
Hellboy (April 12): After the popularity of Tim Miller’s Deadpool and James Magold’s Logan proved that R-rated superhero fare could not only attract audiences, but also critical acclaim, every studio in Hollywood starting preparing their “adult superhero lists”. At the top of the list, was one that moviegoers and comic fans alike have familiarity with in the form of “Big Red”, otherwise known as Hellboy.
Lionsgate/Summit are returning to Mike Mignola’s famed character, who was originally brought to the big screen by the prolific Guillermo del Toro over 15 years ago. Del Toro’s made two modest hits (including the sequel Hellboy and the Golden Army) with the character, bringing Hellboy to a whole new audience outside of your local comic shop. 2019’s version looks to capitalize on this built in fame with a decidedly modern approach, featuring a director known for horror (Neil Marshall) and the promise of more carnage and adult gags than the previous PG-13 films. The film also has the added bonus of Stranger Things star David Harbour (taking over the role from Ron Perlman) and other fan favorites such as Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich on board.
The film did face some controversy in the early stages of the production, when producers were accused of “whitewashing” the role of Ben Daimio (an operative for the BPRD who is an Asian character in the source material, and more importantly, also a were-jaguar). Ed Skrein was originally cast as Daimio, but the actor withdrew himself from the role when the casting choice began to attract negative attention. Daniel Dae Kim stepped into the role of Daimio shortly after Skrein exited the production.
With the controversy behind them, Hellboy has a chance to attract the adult audience that Lionsgate is looking for, but without a lot of positive goodwill from fans and critics, the film may have an uphill climb with a lot of other choices in April than usual for both horror and comic book fans. Hopefully, the film can pull off the difficult feat of pleasing the original fans of Mignola’s comics (and much of the film is supposedly directly based on his work) and an audience looking for fun and gore at their local cinema.
The Curse of La Llorona (April 19): Director Michael Chaves’ The Curse of La Llorona (written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis) arrives smack in the middle of a crowded marketplace, but the film (loosely based on a spooky character from Mexican folklore who also appears to enjoy a nice shampoo session in a bath tub) has the potential to appeal to the Friday and Saturday night crowds that it is intended for like few this spring have the chance to.
La Llorona is certainly the most standard entry and the most similar to other popular horror films such as The Nun, meaning heavy on jump scares and ghostly ladies. Due to this fact, the cursed spirit may attract the most teens this spring, as La Llorona is the type of character that they are familiar with seeing in a horror movie and the film looks like it offers the most opportunity to jump out of your seat this season. It may also provide some movie goers with some counter-programming in the face of the titanic Avengers End Game which comes out one week after La Llorona. The film is produced by James Wan who has also tapped Chaves for the third film in his Conjuring franchise, The Conjuring 3, due out in 2020 .
La Llorona stars Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou, Linda Cardellini, Patricia Velasquez, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Raymond Cruz.
The Intruder (May 3): Would you buy a house from Dennis Quaid? The man who has appeared in almost 100 different films and television series such as Dreamscape, Great Balls of Fire!, and The Parent Trap? Before you answer yes, take a gander at the trailer below which portrays Quaid as less a lovable dad, and more like a psycho stalker.
Deon Taylor (Traffik) is getting a name for himself as a filmmaker that can deliver scares in a “realistic environment” and also as one of the busier directors currently working in Hollywood, with five more films ready to go into post-production at this point. Taylor has yet to have a break-out hit, and it won’t be easy with the stiff competition that May brings, but The Intruder can serve as another alternative for big budget blockbusters, especially those looking for a 90s style suburban thriller.
The film stars actors known primarily for TV series such as the leads Meagan Good (Californication, Minority Report and Deception) and Michael Ealy (Secrets and Lies, Being Mary Jane).
Brightburn (May 24): Ever wonder what would have happened if a young boy from space turned out to be a little “off the reservation” in terms of his moral center? Director David Yarovesky and the writing team of Brian and Mark Gunn are ready to show all of us what happens when even the best parents in our world can’t curb the natural tendencies of a visitor from another world in the James Gunn production, Brightburn.
The obvious horror take on the Superman mythos (starring Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) is surprising for the very fact that no one has attempted to tell this version of the well-known story until now. Due to everyone’s familiarity with the tale of the orphan from Krypton’s upbringing, it seems like the right time to craft a more frightening version of the story (especially at a time when Superman can’t even sustain his own film franchise). The concept is an easy one to communicate and the trailers have generated a lot of good press and an increased interest from both horror and superhero fans.
Does Brightburn have a chance to capture audiences who may be looking for more traditional superheroes during the month of May? While the content may be too intense for the average superhero fan, James Gunn’s track record and name recognition do stand out (even if the film is directed by Yarovesky and written by his brothers). Does this film run the risk of being too scary for Superman fans and not scary enough for horror fans? Perhaps, but if you were picking one group that this film will satisfy, it might be the horror crowd based on the intense trailer below.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31): Although Godzilla gets top billing in this sequel (and the title of king, before the other “King” named Kong gets a crack at the title in 2020), Godzilla: King of the Monsters promises a plethora of Toho’s finest kaiju warriors in an all-out battle royale. Talk about headliners! Godzilla’s friends and foes this time around include not only Rodan and Mothra but also his arch nemesis, the three headed dragon Ghidorah!
Michael Dougherty (a fan favorite for his work on Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus) takes over for the director of 2014’s Godzilla, Gareth Edwards. Dougherty’s penchant for practical effects and monsters is sure to bring in many of his fans, but let’s be honest, the majority of people who see Godzilla 2 may not be familiar with his previous work (or care for that matter). Godzilla: King of the Monsters is sure to be marketed towards an international audience (only $200 million of the franchise starter’s total gross of $530 million came from North American sales) and will appeal to the flash over substance CGI-fests that play so well over seas. Hopefully, King of the Monsters will also contain some much needed exposition before the battles begin or at the very least, some believable use of graphics for all of those titanic rumbles.
Other than the aforementioned monsters, the cast list is impressive, with actors representing all ages and interests such as Millie Bobbie Brown (producers are certainly hoping to lure a younger audience to Godzilla who are dedicated to all Stranger Things), Kyle Chandler (Peter Jackson’s King Kong), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Ken Watanabe (returning to his role from Godzilla), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Bradley Whitford (Get Out), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), and O’Shea Jackson (Straight Out Of Compton). Godzilla: King of the Monsters can certainly improve on 2014’s box office this time around, and Warner Brothers appears to be pulling out all of the stops in what should prove to be a jumping off point for the highly anticipated rematch between Godzilla and his furry friend next year.
Ma (May 31): The month of May wraps up with two very different types of monsters. One is the aforementioned sky scrapper sized critters and the other is Octavia Spencer, an actor and person who most people don’t associate with horror films. Spencer was, of course, in Del Toro’s Oscar award winning film The Shape of Water, but most of her other work is decidedly more dramatic and miles away from the horror genre with such hits as The Help and Hidden Figures. Tate Taylor is also not a director who is known for horror films (the closest he’s come to horror was 2016’s mystery adaptation, The Girl on The Train), but he has worked with Spencer before, so both may be looking to expand their horizons.
Judging from the trailer, we will be getting a very different performance from Spencer in Ma, which portrays her as an obsessive “mommy dearest” type figure, if she were a stalker. There are also subtle hints that Ma may have a background in voodoo with some craven idols, white face paint, and a unique (and painful) use of her sewing skills on display in the preview.
Ma is one of the few horror films this spring to target a teen/high school audience, both with the premise and the young cast featuring McKaley Miller (who is the lucky one that Ma takes a fancy to in the film), Diana Silvers, and Corey Fogelmanis (and if you’re a tad bit older older than the main cast and target audience, don’t worry, there are plenty of adult actors in Ma as well such as Juliette Lewis and Luke Evans in parental roles). Ma may have an uphill climb in a busy marketplace, but it also may be able to separate itself from a lot of blockbuster material the same way 2016’s summer sleeper hits Lights Out and Don’t Breathe did.
Be sure to check back in mid-June for our Summer Movie Preview, covering all of the horror coming your way in June, July, and August!