After a mild summer, the fall heats up with a cornucopia of films for horror fans. The fall schedule brings us highly anticipated remakes and sequels such as Halloween, Suspiria, and The Predator, potential franchise starters such as The Nun, Venom, and Overlord, as well as some scary movies that the whole family can enjoy including The House With the Clock In It’s Walls and Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. So it is time to get ready for some cinematic treats (and inevitable tricks) this Halloween season with your favorite annual guide!
The Nun (September 7): The horror film season starts early this year with the second spin-off from the most successful horror franchise in recent years, The Nun. Originally featured in The Conjuring 2, the Nun is a character that resonated with fans of the sequel and she is ready to take her place next to that pesky doll Annabelle as the next potential star of the Conjure-verse. Newline Pictures hasn’t been shy about marketing this film, utilizing every gimmick in the book, from multiple teaser trailers, a “banned” Youtube video, and director Corin Hardy’s tales of real-life hauntings on the set of the film.
The Nun is certainly looking to capitalize on the success of It’s early September release last year (originally the film was scheduled for a mid-July release, but the studio quickly moved the opening to the very same weekend that It conquered a year ago), in an attempt to set the bar for scary movies early in the fall and separate itself from the competition, but will it share in the same fortunes? The Nun will undoubtedly score big on its opening weekend (with current estimates putting the film in the $35-$40 million range), but it will have a hard time capturing the It mania that occurred last fall. Nevertheless, despite what reviewers may have to say about this film, it is almost a guaranteed hit for the studio (and will most likely spawn a sequel in coming years).
The Predator (September 14): Although fans are supposedly looking forward to the latest film in the Predator series (according to Fandango, The Predator is the second most anticipated horror film of the season, second only to Halloween), the space alien enters the fall line-up with the most baggage of any film on the schedule. The Predator has been rescheduled three times already (moving from February to August to September) and many stories have been written about extensive re-shoots and an entirely rewritten third act. And while cast members have defended the changes made to the film, Shane Black’s The Predator could under perform at the box office with stiff competition from The Nun and an audience that has seen the original Predator film remade again and again. 2010’s Predators could not jump start a new series, and The Predator will be facing an uphill battle if the delays and re-shoots did not improve the film substantially. Then again, that critter is a popular and recognizable movie monster, so fan reception, reviews, and word-of-mouth could potentially help the film if the initial reactions are positive.
The House with a Clock in its Walls (September 21): Offering a respite from the two R-rated films that precede its release, The House with a Clock in its Walls offers scares for all ages. The film is an adaptation of yet another young adult fantasy novel (this one by the late John Bellairs which was originally published in 1973), although Clock contains more frights than your average middle-school novel. Readers of the original novel may also remember the creepy illustrations of Edward Gorey that accompanied Bellairs’ story, adding to the spook factor, and influencing the film as evidenced by the trailer. Ironically, a man known for extreme horror, Eli Roth, handled the directing duties on this film and it also boasts a strong cast including Jack Black and Cate Blanchett as the quirky, magical surrogate parents.
This one may have a hard time finding its audience however. It looks too scary for some elementary school kids and not scary enough for those tough pre-teens (who will probably buy a ticket for this and sneak in to see The Nun). Young adult adaptations have not fared well over the last few years unless “Potter” or “Hunger” were in the titles, so we’ll have to see if parents who loved the book bring their children to see this film. It was also just announced “…that Michael Jackson’s estate and the IMAX company are partnering to digitally remaster Michael Jackson’s Thriller 3D for a special theatrical presentation ahead of director Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls.” Adding the most famous music video ever produced in front of your film, by one of the biggest pop stars ever, at a time when 80’s nostalgia is at an all time, certainly can’t hurt ticket sales, and may be the additional marketing boost that Clock needs to bring those parents and kids to the theater.
Hell Fest (September 28): Offering up a “fun house” of frights (kind of similar to Tobe Hooper’s 1981 film of the same name), Hell Fest hits theaters complete with an actual amusement park tie-in with Six Flags (at three of their biggest parks including Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA, Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ and Great America in Gurnee, IL) . The concept is an easy draw for horror fans, but the timing of this release is a curious one, as it is smack dab in the middle of a bumper crop of horror offerings, with many more to come. It is uncertain at this time what the rating will be, but judging by the young cast and the Six Flags tie-in, don’t be surprised if this film ends up shooting for a PG-13 rating to capture the teen audiences that help fill seats in theaters on a Friday night.
Director Gregory Plotkin mans the camera for this killer carnival tale. We last saw Plotkin’s work in Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, so he has hopefully had time to hone his craft since. The film is being released by Lionsgate through CBS Films, a company known for picking up some hits and misses in recent years. Gale Anne Heard of recent The Walking Dead fame was one of the producers, so hopefully she was able to guide the production somewhat. Hell Fest will have to be “scary as Hell” to carve out some real estate in a super competitive fall season.
Venom (October 5): For fans who came of age in the 90’s, not many comic characters were as prevalent as Venom at your local comic book store (and featured on as many lenticular and hologram covers either). Sony’s stand-alone entry into the back catalog of Spider-Man characters that they still have the sole rights to begins here with a story featuring the fan favorite villain/anti-hero. Last time we saw the black symbiote on screen, his appearance was a bit underwhelming in Sam Raimi’s last Spider-Man film (and we thought this was rock bottom for the wall-crawler at the time, until we got a good look at Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2), portrayed by That 70’s Show goofball Topher Grace.
After their first strike with the character, Sony made the wise choice to cast Tom Hardy as the tortured reporter this time around, immediately establishing credibility with fans and critics alike. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams and directed by ZombieLand’s Ruben Fleischer. The pedigree concerning the talent attached to the project seemed to have been established early, but some fans balked at the wonky CGI in the first trailer. The second trailer eased some of their fears, but at this point it does not appear that the film will receive an R-rating ala Deadpool or Logan. Although some more blood-thirsty fans were disappointed by Sony’s decision, it does make sense for the company as they have a lot riding on this film in relation to future Spider-Man spin-offs (not featuring Spider-Man). Expectations are high for this film and the initial box office (which is being projected for an opening weekend anywhere from $40 to $80 million) and reviews could make or break this one.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (October 12): A film in direct competition with The House With a Clock in its Walls arrives just a few weeks later to court the same pre-teen audience. The advantage that Goosebumps has, of course, is the much more recognizable source material and a previously successful first film. Director Ari Sandel (The Duff) takes over for Rob Letterman this time around, indicating a shift to a story that features older teens, including It’s Jeremy Ray Taylor, Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle), and Caleel Harris (Castle Rock). The adult cast also features a number of actors with comedic pedigrees including Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs, Reno 911), Ken Jeong (The Hangover), and Chris Parnell (Hot Rod).
It appears that Jack Black will not be returning to reprise his role as the author of the Goosebumps series, R.L. Stein (and he is in fact competing with the film in the aforementioned Clock). The fresh new cast and marketability of the series (which served as an entry way into the horror genre for many youngsters who grew up in the 90’s) should draw a suitable amount of tweens to the theater and may very well perform better than Clock due to these factors.
Halloween (October 19): Expectations and anticipation could not be higher for David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s return to Haddonfield, Illinois and the legacy of Michael Myers. The film (which is being sold as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original story) arrives as the heavy weight contender of the season and it appears that Michael isn’t only scary on screen, but he’s also scary in the board room. Rival studios scrambled to run away from Halloween’s release date with Hell Fest moving to September and Overlord moving to November, giving the film a wide berth and weeks of reduced competition at the box office.
While initial fan reactions to the choice of David Gordon Green as the director, with a script penned by Green and frequent collaborator McBride, the duo has made it clear that they are both huge fans and are dedicated to treating the property and Carpenter’s legacy with respect. HNN’s John Evans reported last December that the duo “…have repeatedly expressed their desire to deliver a motion picture which will rely on dread and atmosphere over senseless gore, a testament to the original classic film.” Couple this with the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to the role that made her famous, the return of Nick Castle to the white shape mask, and the return (and blessing) of John Carpenter’s iconic score, and it would appear that Halloween is a “can’t-miss” film. The original film and characters are some of the most recognizable in cinema, so get your tickets early for this one!
Suspiria (November 2): Speaking of classics, in the words of Kiss’ Paul Stanley, “There are classics and then there are classics.” And while Stanley was certainly referring to some of his band’s biggest crowd-pleasers, Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a classic that is more of an acquired taste for a very specific group of horror fans. In the same vein, Luca Guadagnino’s remake (starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, and Chloe Grace-Moretz) is sure to polarize horror audiences just as Hereditary and The Witch did. Unlike Halloween, which has the potential to appeal to a wide audience, Suspiria is not for everyone (and God forbid anyone who wanders into the theater thinking this is a film about ballet dancing. Can you imagine if some wayward ballet fan’s last experience in the theater before Suspiria was Black Swan? Hopefully their therapist is on speed-dial).
Suspiria’s tale of witchcraft, murder, and ballet never reached an large audience in its initial theatrical run in 1977, and Argento himself became a much bigger star and influence in the video tape era on the 1980’s. While Argento fans have been mostly positive about the information and footage that has been released so far, the average viewer not as familiar with the Italian Giallo film may find this one hard to swallow. Suspiria recently debuted at the Venice International Film Festival and the crowd reaction was mixed, featuring both applause and people storming out of the screening. If an audience familiar with Italian film making and avant garde stylings greeted Guadagnino’s re-imagining with as many boos as cheers, how will U.S. audience react to a remake of a cult classic? The film will roll-out in New York and L.A. on October 26, before November’s wide release, and Suspiria will undoubtedly continue to delight some and disgust others.
Overlord (November 9): Despite initial reports, it has been confirmed by producer J.J. Abrams that Overlord is not another Cloverfield spin-off (and after the mess that The Cloverfield Paradox turned out to be, that it probably a good thing). Instead, we get a good ole’ fashioned Nazi Zombie splattfest in the form of Overlord. The film is directed by Julius Avery (in his sophomore effort after Son of a Gun) and stars veteran character actor Bokeem Woodbine and a host of young, unproven talent such as Wyatt Russel (Shimmer Lake), Jovan Adepo (Fences), and Pilou Asbæk (Ghost in the Shell).
Overlord probably arrives a few years too late with Walking Dead fatigue already starting to settle in and popular horror culture beginning to turn away from the over-used zombie. This film also comes out after a slew of other other fright films, so audiences may still be turning up for Venom, Halloween, or Suspiria. This one could surprise movie goers, but the odds are stacked against Overlord, which resembles many other films that we seen in recent years.
Be sure to use this guide all season long and be sure to come back this winter for our annual winter Horror Movie Preview for the new year!