In recent years, studios have loaded up their summer release schedules with a wide range of horror films. This was never more apparent than in 2016 when Lights Out, Don’t Breathe, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Purge: Election Year, and the Conjuring 2 made large sums of cash (for the most part on austere budgets) and helped to shore up an otherwise lackluster summer for movies. 2017’s list of summer horror films were not as notable, with the two exceptions being the surprise hit 47 Meters Down and the prequel Annabelle Creation.
This season’s crop is again a little underwhelming, with studios shifting the majority of their horror releases to the traditional season for horror films, the fall (most likely due to the record breaking success of last year’s It, which was released in September). Nevertheless, there are some potential hits (and the inevitable misses) in this summer’s schedule.
Bad Samaritan (May 4): Producer Dean Devlin is not someone who people associate with small, low budget films, but he is trying his hand at directing one this summer with Bad Samaritan. The producer of such box office spectacles as Stargate, Independence Day, and 1998’s much maligned Godzilla reboot has never ventured into the realm of horror per se, and certainly not the type that takes place in a single family home. The film starring David Tennant (known for his work on Jessica Jones and one of many former Doctors of the Who variety) and up-and-coming actors Kerry Condon (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Robert Sheehan (Geostorm), looks to take a page from 2016’s “home-robbery-gone-wrong” tale Don’t Breathe, with a middle-aged weirdo having abducted a woman in his home that some misguided kids unintentionally discover. This film’s screen count has dropped dramatically in the last few weeks (it will open on 1,800 screens), with both A Quiet Place and the monster hit of the summer Avengers Infinity War taking away a lot of their potential business, so this may be a film that is easier to find on home video or a streaming service in coming months. (Rated R)
Breaking In (May 11): If you can’t get a reservation at your favorite restaurant this year for Mother’s Day, don’t worry, because Breaking In is the perfect movie for mom this season! With a tagline like “Payback is a Mother”, how could any mom not enjoy this film? The film stars the prolific Gabrielle Union (Sleepless, Being Mary Jane) as a “mama bear” that will stop at nothing to protect her home and family from a group of devious home invaders. If this sounds a little like an update of David Fincher’s 2002 film Panic Room, you are probably not far from the mark, although I would imagine that this film ventures a little further into exploitation territory.
The film is directed by the hard to pin down James McTeigue, who has directed everything from the well regarded V for Vendetta as well as some notable misses such as Ninja Assassin, The Raven, and Survivor. His recent foray into television with Netflix’s Sense8 appears to have put the director back on track, but we’ll have to take a wait and see approach with Breaking In (especially since audiences have certainly seen their share of home invasion thrillers in recent yea…well, last week actually). (Rated PG-13)
Hereditary (June 8): Although a lot of horror films have been touted as “the Real Deal Holyfield” in recent years, Hereditary may be the one that will finally live up to the hype. Hereditary has a lot going for it. First off, it is being released by the hottest independent film studio in recent years, A24 (Green Room, the Witch, It Comes at Night, Lady Bird). It is directed by young filmmaker Ari Aster who commands a a fine mix of veteran and emerging actors such as Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine), Gabriel Byrne (Miller’s Crossing, In Treatment), and Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, My Friend Dahmer) among others in a harrowing tale that mixes family drama, mental illness, and the supernatural. Many critics are comparing the film to a modern take on the Exorcist and A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd has warned viewers that “If I struggle to recommend the movie without reservation, it’s because I suspect plenty of viewers may have trouble even handling this mixture of tough, bleak family drama and impeccably staged, nightmare-inducing horror.”
Like A24’s the Witch, this film may be hard for a general audience to endure, so be warned. I don’t imagine that Hereditary will appeal to fans of jump scares or horror of the PG-13 variety or fans only looking for a bloodbath ala the later entries in the Saw franchise. Because of these factors, the film may end up being a critical darling, but not embraced by the population as large. Either way, it certainly sounds like it will be a jarring experience at your local multiplex. (Rated R)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (June 22): Ready to wash Hereditary out of your system? What better way to do so than a film starring a lot of dinosaurs and chock full of jump scares! Jurassic World took everyone by storm in 2015, when everyone forgot that young boys love dinosaurs more than anything else in life (even super heroes). Universal rode that T-Rex right to the bank in what was essentially a rehash of Steven Spielberg’s original film. It appears that Universal is ready to return to the same playbook as they will this time remake the original Jurassic Park’s financially successful, but much more forgettable sequel The Lost World.
This film will undoubtedly make a brontosaurus-sized haul at the box office, but will it be any good? It will certainly satisfy a new generation of five year old boys, but will it capture the nostalgia again for those that grew up with these films? One positive choice made by Universal was in hiring director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls). The filmmaker doesn’t seem like a typical choice for a film that would require a less talented director, so hopefully Bayona will inject some of his craft into this guaranteed hit. The film brings back the majority of the cast from last time, most notably Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. For fans of the original, Jeff Goldblum will make an appearance as the famous nay-saying Doctor Ian Malcolm and for fans of fine acting everywhere, “Buffalo Bill” himself Ted Levine will appear as well (in a currently unnamed role). (Rated PG-13)
The First Purge (July 4): Horror prequels have done pretty well lately, so it is no surprise that Universal decided to use this method on the fourth film in their popular Purge series. In this installment, the origins of the all night crime spree are revealed. I’m not sure if people were wondering how it came about in the first place, but after Election Year, the franchise has pretty much run out of places to go.
The film is directed by Gerard McMurray whose only other film to date is the fraternity hazing drama Burning Sands. McMurray’s involvement certainly can’t hurt, as many talented young directors such as David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) and David Robert Mitchell (It Follows) have parlayed success in the horror genre into opportunities with films in other genres with bigger budgets. The film stars Marissa Tomei as the architect of the Purge, along with Steve Harris (Justified), Mo McRae (Empire), and Luna Lauren Velez (Dexter). (Rated R)
The Meg (August 10): If you didn’t get your fill of prehistoric monsters earlier in the summer, The Meg arrives just in time to keep you at your local pool instead of making that trip to the beach. The Meg is based on Steve Alten’s Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (originally released in 1997). As detailed in our initial report on the trailer, the film has “…not had an easy road to the silver screen and the history of the property since the novel’s release rivals Amityville: The Awakening. Originally, the film was slated for a 2008 release date and was to be made by New Line Cinema, which acquired the rights from Alten. Some of the diverse names connected to the project ranged from Jan deBont to Guillermo Del Toro, but New Line never made the film and the rights reverted back to Alten. After the success of Jurrasic World in 2015, studios scrambled to find more ancient monsters to throw up on screen and it was quickly announced that Eli Roth would direct the film adaptation, but Roth left the project and that ole’ shark swam out to sea yet again. In March of 2016, the crusty shark surfaced again, but this time director Jon Turteltaub (the esteemed director of National Treasure) came on board for good.”
The film stars Jason Statham as an angst-ridden U.S. Navy deep sea diver who naturally knows a lot more about giants sharks than your average frogman. Statham is joined by an eclectic cast, including Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black), Rainn Wilson (The Office), Cliff Curtis (Fear the Walking Dead), Bingbing Li (I Do), and Jessica McNamee (Sirens). (Rated PG-13)
Slender Man (August 24): Hoping to capitalize on an internet sensation and true crime case, Sony Pictures is making a movie based on the Creep Pasta character Slender Man. As can be imagined, the choice was not without controversy, as the father of one of the girls involved in the attempted murder accused Sony of “popularizing the tragedy“. Others have wondered if the film will create more problems for Sony as a Wisconsin teen recently sent an e-mail to her classmates claiming that a girl in the school was a threat and was the “daughter of Slender Man”.
Controversy aside, the case and story have a high recognition level, especially with young people (who also happen to be the group that consumes the largest amount of horror films). Sylvain White (The Losers) will direct the film which, to no one’s surprise, consists of mostly actors in their teens and twenties such as Joey King (The Conjuring), Javier Botet (It), Annalise Basso (Ouija: Origin of Evil), and Julia Goldani Telles (The Affair).
The film also moved away from a May release and the same opening day as Deadpool 2 recently. While this decision was certainly wise, and a late August opening should provide much less competition and the opportunity to snare bored teens before school starts again, the film will now open just two weeks before the latest Conjuring spin-off The Nun debuts. Despite this fact, Slender Man should capture the attention of their target audience the same way that It capitalized on videos of strange clowns on Youtube. (Not Yet Rated)
We hope you enjoyed our Summer Horror Movie Preview Guide and be sure to keep checking in with Horror News Networks for reviews and news about all of the films of the hottest season and don’t forget to return in late August for your official Fall Horror Movie Preview Guide!