Horror News Network’s Winter 2018 Movie Preview

The winter of 2017 was a banner season for horror films, with Split and Get Out dominating the box office, beginning one of the most profitable years for horror films of all time.  While there might not be a film that reaches the box office heights of either of the aforementioned films, there are a number of intriguing new films, time-tested sequels, and the inevitable stinkers that traditionally appear in this coldest of seasons.

Insidious: the Last Key (January 5): The Insidious franchise returns for a fourth time this January with a slight twist.  The film will chronologically take place before Insidious Chapter 2, focusing on the Lorraine Warren-esque psychic investigator Elise Rainier (portrayed by Lin Shaye) from the original film.  It seems like some “hitchhiking ghosts” have followed the investigator home to get even after the events that took place in the Lambert Household.

This is not a bad idea when it comes to spicing up the fourth entry in a series of successful films, but sequel (and prequel) fatigue is always a concern.  Irregardless, the film should do well on the opening weekend due to the fan base, name recognition, and the fact that no horror film has been released to theaters since Jigsaw in late October.  Insidious: The Last Key was originally scheduled for an October release, but was moved away from a competitive month of October horror films.  The film is directed by Adam Robitel and written by series co-creator Leigh Whannell (who will also appear in the film as the character “Specs”).  The cast also includes Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard, and Spencer Locke among others.

Winchester (February 2):  If you are looking to “class up” a horror film, you could probably do a lot worse than casting Helen Mirren as the lead in your historical ghost story.  The film, directed by Michael and Peter Spierig (Predestination, Daybreakers), is about the famous widow Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, who built a bizarre mansion in San Jose, California to supposedly confuse ghosts looking for vengeance on the family that created the weapon that “Won the West”.  The story has been featured on countless cable television ghost programs for years and should be easily recognizable to fans of ghost hunts and eerie tales.

Winchester was moved from its original release date of February 23, 2018 to February 2, 2018, and now opens before the sure-fire hit Black Panther.  With the removal of the still untitled Cloverfield sequel from the Winchester’s debut date, it allows the film to capture the full attention of those looking for some PG-13 frights.  Along with Mirren, the film stars Sarah Snook, Jason Clarke, and Angus Sampson (who is pulling double-duty this winter, as he also appears in Insidious: The Last Key).

Annihilation (February 23): Alex Garland’s (Ex Machina) latest film based on the first novel in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy has been touched by controversy, but it also arrives as one of the most unique and possibly best horror/sci-fi films of the frame.  It also boasts one of the best casts in any film of the season including Natalie Portman, Oscar Issacs, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson.    

According to an expose featured in the Hollywood Reporter, producers Scott Rudin and Dave Ellison disagreed over the first cut of the film, with Ellison saying that Annihilation “…had a poor test screening this summer that sources say was the root of the conflict. After the screening, Ellison became concerned that the movie was “too intellectual” and “too complicated,” according to sources, and wanted changes made to make it appeal to a wider audience. They included making Portman’s character more sympathetic as well as tweaking the ending.  Rudin, who executive produced Ex Machina, sided with Garland, defending the movie and refused to take notes. Rudin was able to hold his line, according to a source, because he has final cut.”

Although the dispute ended with the  international rights being sold to Netflix, Annihilation will still screen in theaters in the United States, Canada, and China.

Death Wish (March 3): Bruce Willis takes over the role that made Charles Bronson famous as vigilante Paul Kersey in Eli Roth’s remake of Death Wish.  The film’s first trailer offered a strange combination of revenge scenes mixed with arena rock music; not the tone one remembers from the 1974 film by Michael Winner that launched the urban revenge drama.

The second trailer seems to be more in line with the original film (and thankfully, the music has changed).  Roth is still popular with horror fans and his interpretation of a grindhouse staple certainly seems up his alley, but we’ll have to see which trailer reflects the true essence of this film.  It will also be interesting to see if the realistic and horrific violence of the first film is retained, or if it is made more palpable for a general audience.  This one also has the potential to attract controversy, as the original was often branded by critics as racist and many modern critics and bloggers did not react well to the first trailer, leveling the same charges at the new production.  Watch for this discussion to heat up when the film is released.

Strangers: Prey at Night (March 9):  No release this season has the potential to be more polarizing among fans than Strangers: Prey at Night.  The original film has been lauded by critics and horror fans alike as one of the best horror films released in the new century.  The sequel arrives 10 years after the original hit theaters and one has to wonder if casual fans remember it.  Hardcore fans will, but hardcore fans may also be skeptical about the quality of a sequel that no one asked for or needed.  Reboots or sequels to once-hot properties such as Blair Witch and the Ring landed with a thud at the box office in recent years, so it is worth watching to see if Prey at Night can avoid his trend.

The film is co-written by original writer/director Brian Bertino (along with Ben Ketai) and directed by Johannes Roberts (best known for this past summer’s surprise theatrical hit, the once straight-to-video shark tale 47 Meters Down).  The film stars a trio of small-screen actors including  Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Bailee Madison (The Fosters), and Martin Henderson (Grey’s Anatomy).

Pacific Rim: Uprising (March 23):  Many reporters in North America figured that the original Pacific Rim would never get a sequel after a underwhelming $100 million dollar take at the box office against a reported $190 million dollar budget, at least until the world-wide receipts were reported…  Pacific Rim did Kaiju-sized business overseas (particularly in China) and grossed almost $310 million outside of North America, so Universal decided to roll the dice again on the giant robots vs. monsters premise.

While it didn’t do huge business in the U.S., the fans that saw it did enjoy Guillermo del Toro’s futuristic “monster mash” and the sequel will star Jon Boyega (one of the young stars of the Force Awakens and the Last Jedi, and hopefully Uprising is more akin to Force than Jedi in terms of quality and coherence) as Jake Pentecost, the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba).  Jake will reunite with Pacific Rim’s Mako Mori to organize a new generation of Jaeger pilots against bigger and badder Kaiju.  The producers are also doubling down on the international box office by casting international stars Tian Jing and Adria Arjona, along with Scott Eastwood and Charlie Day. Uprising is written by del Toro and Zak Penn and directed by first time feature film director Steven S. DeKnight.  DeKnight (a prolific television writer) has directed a handful of television episodes (Daredevil, Smallville), but it will be interesting to see how he handles a CGI-heavy blockbuster.

We hope you enjoyed the preview and be sure to use it as your guide for all of the horror releases during this chilly season, and be sure to come back to Horror News Network for further updates on these films, as well as the Spring 2018 Movie Preview in late March!

Nick Banks on Twitter
Nick Banks
Staff Writer at Horror News Network
Nick joined the website in 2015. His lifelong love of comics and horror began with Universal Monsters and the Incredible Hulk. He has fond memories of going to Waldbaum’s supermarket with his mother and being rewarded with a 3-pack of sealed comics. It’s been all downhill from there… Since those early days, his life has been immersed in four color action and scares on the silver screen.
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