Summer 2017 Horror Movie Preview

by Nick Banks

Coming off of an unusually busy (and profitable) winter season, this summer’s slate of horror films brings some well-known franchises, properties, and directors, as well as some expensive and inexpensive gambles to your local multiplex.  These films will not only be competing with each other for horror fans’ dollars, but they will naturally also have to contend with the usual high profile tent-pole action and super hero films.  Let’s take a look at the upcoming releases and trailers below and please use this as your Horror News Network guide for the summer season:

Alien: Covenant (May 19th):   This one seems like a sure-fire hit as it is directed by series creator Ridley Scott, takes place directly after Prometheus, and boasts a star-studded cast with the likes of Michael Fastbender, James Franco, and Danny McBride to name only a few.  However, fans may want to be cautiously optimistic, as Prometheus was not the box office bonanza ($126 million domestically) it was expected to be and the trailer does boast a lot of CGI for fans of the original and its action-filled sequel.  20th Century Fox and Scott have a lot riding on the success of Covenant, with multiple sequels planned if all goes according to plan.

The Mummy (June 6th): Talk about expectations!  Universal Studios has bet the farm on this potential “world-building” film, hopefully ushering in a new age “of Gods and Monsters” for the classic Universal Monsters pantheon.  Fans of the seminal black and white monster films cheered when they heard that Universal would be building a “Marvel-style” shared universe, but many traditional fans were surprised by the action-filled trailer which looked a little too much like Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise.  Whatever happens, fans will most likely be talking about this film and with numerous other monsters slated for a 21st century make-over,  the fate of a successful launch is in the resin-soaked hands of the lead monster (played this time around by Sofia Boutella).

It Comes at Night (June 6th): In a perfect example of counter-programming, indie hit factory A24 (the Witch, Green Room) is releasing a very creepy, harrowing tale of a family trapped in the woods by an unknown, unnatural force on the same day as Universal’s The Mummy.  For fans looking for a smart, challenging, and frightening film, this may be the best bet of the summer and it appears that it is no coincidence that it is being offered as this type of choice to more selective, older fans.  With independent, low-budget horror experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment (It Follows, The Witch, Split, Get Out), this film does have a chance to capture hardcore fans’ interest, but it also has a packed summer film season to contend with.  The Trey Edward Shults film may have been better suited for a mid-August run ala last year’s Don’t Breathe, but fans should pay attention to this one.

47 Meters Down (June 16th): One thing we enjoy as much as movies in the summer are sharks!  Whether it is the original summer blockbuster Jaws or the Discovery Channel’s long running Shark Week, people are still fascinated by these denizens of the deep.  After the financial success of Blake Lively’s The Shallows, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures seems to be following the same formula to a tee; a young, attractive star (Mandy Moore), a low budget, a shark or two, and a PG-13 rating. Strangely enough, the film was originally titled In the Deep and set for a home video release in 2016.  The re-branding of the film and theatrical release may have everything to do with the Shallows success for this very reason.  The trailer does look both claustrophobic (and familiar), but 47 Meters Down should attract young viewers to see another “shark-tale”.

Amityville: The Awakening (June 30th): If you think 47 Meters Down took a serendipitous route to the silver screen, it has nothing on Amityville: The Awakening!  The only thing more shocking than the film’s troubled past is the fact that is going to be released at all.  It all started in 2012 when the film was called Amityville: The Lost Tapes and was designed to capitalize on the popularity of “found footage” films such as Paranormal Activity. By the time production began, the Weinstein Company got the memo that they missed the “found footage” window of opportunity, and decided to scrap the whole project and make a traditional horror film.  The original trailer was released in August of 2014(!) and the film’s release date was set for January of 2015.  It was then mysteriously removed from the studio’s schedule and then resurfaced, moving to April of 2016.  Once people finally saw the film at test screenings, the feedback was so negative that the studio yet again moved the film to a different date (and also had star Bella Thorne return for additional filming), this time January of 2017.  Think it’s over yet? Nope.  The studio finally (we think) moved the release to June 30th, 2017, where it sits at this very hour.  Will it stay there? Time will tell.  Should you pay money to see this movie?  That’s a better question…

Wish Upon (July 14th): Targeting the same audiences that 47 Meters and Amityville: The Awakening are pursuing, Wish Upon could be this year’s Lights Out.  With a young lead (Joey King) and a supernatural threat in the form of an Asian-style dibbuk box, this one is set to be a standard teen-age scare fest and will benefit from a lack of competition from similar films in July.  With Wish Upon’s “wish-fulfillment” and punishment of bullies, the film is sure to remind some viewers who were teenagers in the 90’s of The Craft.   The target audience is sure to be pleased with these tropes, but not all audiences may be.

The Dark Tower (August 1st): Stephen King’s long gestating epic fantasy will finally get a release on August first, originally slated for February of this year.  While the story does have horror elements, the tale is a genre-bending mix of western, fantasy, and science fiction elements.  Like Alien: Covenant and the Mummy, Sony has visions of turning The Dark Tower into a franchise.  If this film is a success, it could very well lead to future adaptations of King’s series, but if not, it may not only mean trouble for the series, but for the company itself.  As reported by HNN’s John Evans, Sony has considered selling their movie division due to a long string of financial disasters at the box office.  The success of The Dark Tower (as well as this summer’s Spider-Man Homecoming and shockingly, the Emoji Movie) could determine the fate of Sony’s movie division.

As far as the film itself, director Nikolaj Arcel comes to the property with an international pedigree, but literally no experience with mainstream (or fantasy) films.  The Dark Tower does feature Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey as the Gunslinger and the Man in Black respectively, bringing needed star power and acting chops to the property.  Surprisingly, no trailer has been released at this time, so please enjoy the picture below.

Annabelle: Creation (August 11th): One thing you can count on in the movie business is the profitability (and frequency) of horror films related to Warner Brothers’ Conjuring franchise.  After the Conjuring took the summer of 2013 by storm, outpacing a number of more expensive summer action films, any films related to The Conjuring have been “a license to print money”.  This was never clearer than the success of the evil doll spin-off Annabelle.  The little “demon doll” made an ungodly amount at the box office, taking in $256 million dollars at the world-wide box office on a $6.5 million dollar budget.

The original film was also “review proof”, garnering only 29% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. While all signs point to another “cash grab” during the mid-August frame, the original film did only receive a “B” Cinemascore and the Conjuring Two did not impress fans as the first one did. Annabelle: Creation is directed by David F. Sandberg of Light’s Out fame and stars Miranda Otto (Homeland, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers). Sandberg brings some buzz to the property, and the undoubtedly austere budget should make this a hit at the box office, but the jury is still out on if this prequel will correct some of the flaws of the first film.

Polaroid (August 25th): Rounding out the summer season is Polaroid, a film that started as a 25 minute short film by Norwegian director Lars Klevberg (who is also on board for the American re-make/extension).  Critics raved about the short film, and Variety described the new film as “the story of a high school loner, Bird Fitcher, who stumbles upon a vintage Polaroid camera tainted with a dark secret. She soon discovers the camera’s special power: those who have their picture taken are destined to have a tragic fate.”  If this sounds a bit like a new take on The Ring concept, you’re not alone.  Do horror fans want another film that focuses on antiquated technology stealing your soul?  We’ll see, but if The Ring remake is any indication, this potential franchise starter may leave the cinema “over-exposed”.  The remake stars Madelaine Petsch (Riverdale) and genre favorite Mitch Pileggi (The Shocker, X-Files). Again, the target audience appears to be teenagers, but will they care about or even comprehend a film about a camera that was last used 40 years ago?  No trailer is currently available (or pictures for that matter.  Maybe the producers are afraid of them after watching this film).

Enjoy the summer season and be sure to keep checking The Horror News Network for further updates and reactions to this summer’s horror film slate.



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