After an underwhelming slate of summer horror films, we enter the season that horror films were made for: fall! The fall line-up is much more robust than recent years and starts with some highly anticipated films and includes a strong month of October releases, right in time for some Halloween scares. Let’s take a look at the upcoming releases and trailers below and please use this as your Horror News Network guide for the jack-o-lantern season.
It (September 9th): This film not only has the chance to perform well at the box office by horror film standards, but if the $60 million dollar debut weekend tracking is correct, it may be a qualified blockbuster by any film standard. The remake of It by director Andy Muschietti (Mama) has a “perfect storm” of buzz and hype behind it. It is set in the 1980’s and features a group of pre-teen protagonists (ala Stranger Things). It features a demonic clown in an era where bizarre clown sightings burn up the internet. It arrives at the box office at the end of one of the worst summers for studio profits in years and will have virtually no similar competition for weeks. If the reviews are positive for It, the film has the chance to dominate the fall box office like no other horror movie has since some of the biggest grossing ones of all time. And if you want to see It on the first weekend of release, our advice is to get your advance tickets now.
Mother! (September 15th): Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is being marketed as a “thriller” due to the all-star cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeifer) and the prestige that the acclaimed director brings to the project, but this film sure looks like a classic 1970’s horror film in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby or Straw Dogs. The disturbing, claustrophobic imagery and paranoia displayed in the trailer should not come as a surprise to Aronofsky’s fans (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream), but this is the first time he has directed a pure horror story. Hopefully fans of Jennifer Lawrence know what they are signing up for with this one, as the director is sure to deliver an atmospheric and shocking film.
Flatliners (September 29th): Director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-2009) brings a remake of the 1990 film Flatliners to theaters, featuring a cast of young Hollywood stars. The first film was most notable for featuring the hottest stars of the early 90’s such as Keiffer Sullivan, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Bacon. The original was definitely a product of its time and it will be interesting to see if Oplev and the new cast (Nina Dobrev, Ellen Page, Diego Luna) can breathe some life into a film many may have forgotten. The timing isn’t the best for the release of this film, as it will have to contend with a sure-fire fan favorite in It and the choice for a more sophisticated audience in the form of Mother!.
Blade Runner 2049 (October 6th): While not technically a horror film, perhaps no genre film has had more influence on film makers than Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Released in 1982, the film has a storied history (painstakingly documented in the three and half hour making of film Dangerous Days) and a legion of discerning fans. No film this season arrives with greater expectations than the continuation of the story that still defines the modern dystopian landscape. Dennis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) takes over the directing reins from Scott and the film is written by original script writer Hampton Fancher and Michael Green (Logan, Alien: Covenant). Leading an all-star cast, Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard and Ryan Gosling will portray the mysterious “Officer K”. All of the elements are in place for a successful return to form, but fans will be especially critical if it does not live up to the lofty expectations.
Happy Death Day (October 13th): Happy Death Day mixes two staples from the 1980’s and 1990’s: Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day and a slew of holiday and birthday themed horror films. This film looks to capture a teen audience on the scariest day in October besides Halloween, but will they care about or be drawn in by elements that older movie goers will understand, but not necessarily be attracted to anymore? A PG-13 film horror film in October is never a bad idea, as many pre-teens and teens want to scream in movie theaters, but they are also aware that it is a relatively “safe” environment/experience due to the rating. The film is directed by Christopher Landon (who is best known for the forgettable Paranormal Activity sequel “The Marked Ones” and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) and stars a number of fresh faces such as Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard.
The Snowman (October 20th): This season offers many more “prestige” horror films than in recent (or any) years with entries like the aforementioned Mother! and the soon-to-be-mentioned The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman also fall into this category. Alfredson is best know to horror fans for the original Let the Right One In which added a refreshing and terrifying twist to the standard vampire tale. He followed his young vampire film with the well-reviewed and complex Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, directing a competent spy thriller. Expectations are high for his third film which looks to combine elements from his previous two. Based on a novel by Norwegian crime-writer Jo Nesbø (who has actually written seven novels featuring detective Harry Hole who will be played by Michael Fassbender), the film was originally attached to Martin Scorsese in 2013 and went to Alfredson in 2014. Joining Fassbender in the cast are Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Life), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and James D’Arcy (Dunkirk). Fans haven’t had a solid serial killer film in ages and with both an accomplished director and stellar cast, this one looks to be a sure fire hit that will have wide appeal.
Jigsaw (October 27th): Speaking of serial killers, the serial killer who dominated the horror movie landscape for most of the 2000’s was Tobin Bell’s pig-masked mastermind Jigsaw. Totaling seven movies from 2004 to 2010, the one constant for Halloween releases in this time period was always a new Saw film. The entire franchise amassed over $873 million dollars in world-wide ticket sales, but the declining quality of the films and box office (and the unwilling “passing of the torch” to hot, new horror franchise darling Paranormal Activity) doomed the series. The big question this October is : do fans still care about this series after a seven-year hiatus? Recent reboots or continuations of other films from this time period have not fared well at the box office. Not only did The Blair Witch and Rings not resonant with ticket buyers but they also suffered brutal beatings by critics. Horror is a cyclical animal and these days the license to print money is reigning franchise champ The Conjuring and its series of affiliated films. It will be very interesting to see if original fans of the series turn out and if a new generation of teenagers go gaga over the bizarre traps and torture devices.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (October 27th, Limited): The last entry in the trifecta of director-driven horror films this fall is the intensely creepy medical horror story The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The film is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos who received a mountain of praise for his 2015 film The Lobster. Lanthimos reunites with the star of The Lobster Colin Farrell for a story that will certainly send people running from the theater (and perhaps also running out of their doctor’s office after their next check-up). Farrell is joined in the film by co-stars Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, and Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk). Sacred Deer comes from indie hit maker A24 which is well-known to horror fans due to their string of atypical horror stories such as Green Room, The Witch, and It Comes at Night. The film does enter a crowded market place, and will only be released in major metropolitan areas to start. I would expect the screen count to increase when some of the other October releases start to fade out, before the arrival of a slew of super hero films debut in November (Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League). Fans of Cronenberg’s “body horror” will certainly be at home with The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Polaroid (December 1st): Polaroid was originally scheduled for an August 25th release, but moved away from the date to most likely avoid competition from Annabelle: Creation. Whether this strategy worked or not will have to be seen since this past August was one of the slowest and least profitable in years and could have used another film on the schedule. Since I already did the leg work for this one, I’d like to share my opinions from the summer preview, which haven’t changed much. In May I stated that Polaroid was ” …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?”
The Shape of Water (December 8th): Like Blade Runner 2049, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water isn’t technically a horror film. In fact, it is mostly being described as a fantasy drama, much more closely related to del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth than Crimson Peak. Critics at the Venice International Film Festival just previewed the film and the praise is already sky-high. The film stars Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), Doug Jones (Hellboy), and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) just to name a few. Horror fans love del Toro because he is a staunch defender of horror and a life-long super fan. If this is his monster version of “beauty and the beast” with a cold war subtext, sign me up. The Shape of Water may prove to be a perfect break from mega budget blockblusters this holiday season, and hopefully we will get to see del Toro on stage again in early March adding to his Oscar collection.