After a rather lackluster spring, studios are ready to start churning out horror films for the starving, sweating masses this summer. At least eight films in the horror genre are slated for release in June, July, and August this year (a slight increase from year’s past) in hopes that one or two can capture the attention of movie-goers who are already worn out by sequels and mega-budget action and sci-fi epics.
Horror fans have a lot to choose from this summer; everything from classic 1980’s remakes (Child’s Play), another entry from the ever-popular Conjurverse (Annabelle Comes Home), giant critters with a taste for human flesh (Crawl, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged), Ari Aster’s creepy follow-up to last year’s critical smash Hereditary (Midsommar), and a host of supernatural and survival horror originals.
Child’s Play (June 21): Right out of the gate is a remake of a 1980’s film that spawned six sequels and also introduced the world to one of the most famous slashers to come out of the MTV decade: the pint-sized killer doll, Chucky. Chucky quickly became a household name among horror fans (and an easily recognizable character for even casual viewers), and Child’s Play ended up becoming the second highest grossing horror film of 1988 (behind the even more famous Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master).
While people certainly remember the character, after seven films (most recently 2017’s Cult of Chucky) are fans ready for a reboot of the franchise? This time around, United Artists is banking on a fresh take on the plastic killer for the Alexa generation, with Lars Klevberg taking on directing duties (Polaroid). The film stars the always engaging Aubrey Plaza as the caring mother who purchases the buddi doll for her son Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out). Mark Hamill will be voicing Chucky instead of the original’s Brad Dourif. Hamill certainly has “big” shoes to fill, but let’s remember that the man most famous for portraying Luke Skywalker made a name for himself as a voice actor in the 1990’s and beyond, most famously as the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.
Are movie-goers ready for more 80’s nostalgia? Recent films like Pet Sematary have not been able to capture the attention of a fickle audience, who either don’t remember the originals or who don’t want a new interpretation of films that worked better in different decades. If Child’s Play makes any impact on ticket buyers, it has to do it fast, as another doll is waiting right around the corner to knock Chucky clean out of his suspenders…
Annabelle Comes Homes (June 26): Ever since 2013’s The Conjuring, any tale borrowed from the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren has been a license to print money, and the series has become the most pervasive horror franchise in the decade. The two previous films in the Annabelle series have delivered cheap scares for huge profits and it appears that Annabelle Comes Home could be the biggest hit so far for the porcelain devil doll.
One of the key factors for Annabelle Comes Home’s success rest squarely on the shoulders of the return of Vera Fermiga and Patrick Wilson, as both make their first return to the series since the The Conjuring 2. In the past, the Annabelle films have not included Fermiga and Wilson (only in brief cameos or references if at all), so the return of Ed and Lorraine to the scene should certainly bring people to the film who may have skipped the two spin-off films. How much Fermiga and Wilson appear in Annabelle Comes Home has yet to be determined, but the trailers have certainly sold their involvement as a major part of the story.
Speaking of story, this one takes place at the home of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and more specifically, in the Warren’s famous haunted museum. Mckenna Grace (last seen as Young Theo on Netflix’s smash hit The Haunting of Hill House) portrays the Warren’s daughter Judy, who is left alone in the house (along with an over-curious baby sitter’s friend portrayed by Katie Sarife. Madison Iseman plays the more responsible child-care provider). Naturally, “all Hell breaks loose” when Annabelle is awakened, as she also activates a number of other ghosts and ghouls who are attached to the numerous cursed objects in the museum.
It is hard to believe that Annabelle Comes Home will not come out as the horror champ of the summer season, as the name recognition alone will bring fans into the theater (and it also doesn’t hurt that every film has proven to be “review-proof” since The Conjuring initially scored with critics). Don’t be surprised if the some of the critters in the museum get their own spin-offs as well, because until the Conjurverse is vanquished by declining sales, expect to see a whole crop of new films on the horizon.
Midsommar (July 3): Ari Aster’s Hereditary became a critical hit (and modest financial success) last summer, but it divided the horror community with some siding with the critics’ take and others siding with the D+ Cinemascore. This effect has been seen in recent years with other horror film’s such as Robert Eggers’ The Witch. In both cases, people who knew what they were in for loved them, and those that were looking for standard jump scares were dismayed at the nuanced, atmospheric horrors on the screen.
Midsommar appears like it will be as equally polarizing as Hereditary, as this time viewers will be treated to Aster’s take on pagan cults. The Wicker Man comparisons have been running wild since the first trailer was released and the look and feel of the over-washed out film stock certainly evokes these type of films from the 1960’s and 1970’s. The film stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor as the unsuspecting couple who find themselves wrapped up in a very unusual festival (even worse than the horrors of Coachella) which quickly takes a turn for the worse.
Aster’s slow burn style of skin-crawling narrative pacing is sure to make some people wish they hadn’t bought a ticket to see Midsommar, and only some will likely leave the theater satisfied. As far as counter-programming, Midsommar will probably be the film critics and film buffs are talking about this summer, even if it has difficulty finding its footing in a saturated horror market. Will this film please a general audience? Absolutely not, but it may be the best horror film this summer has to offer.
Crawl (July 12): When was the last time an alligator took center stage in a horror film? For the answer to that question, you have to travel all the way back to 1999 and David E. Kelly’s Lake Placid. While sharks have reigned supreme as the animal of choice for horror lovers, the distant relative of the dinosaur has also been featured in many a horror film, but not with the same results (financially or critically).
Director Alexandre Aja is hoping to reverse this trend with his latest offering, Crawl (which stars Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper). The film’s set up for alligator mayhem involves an isolated town in the eye of a hurricane and a father and daughter trapped between salvation and a toothy-reptile. Viewers can expect plenty of splashing and jump scares from this one if the trailer is any indication of what is in store, and Crawl has the potential to draw young adults looking for some excitement on a warm weekend night.
Aja has had a rocky track record ever since he burst onto the horror scene with High Tension. His remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes turned a modest profit, but the filmmaker has struggled to find his footing since then with high profile misses like Joe Hill’s Horns (which also happens to be the last film he directed, marking a five year hiatus). Most people who buy tickets to Crawl won’t be worrying about who is behind the camera, but they will know if the film delivers the man vs. nature action that they seek. Crawl has the potential to break out due to everyone’s fear of denizens of the deep, so let’s hope this film is more akin to Aja’s Piranha 3-D than Lake Placid.
Brahms: The Boy 2 (July 26): (Update 6/23/19: As predicted, Brahms: The Boy 2 has been shifted to December 6, 2019.) As of press time, there is little information about this sequel to 2016’s The Boy (which starred The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan). Even more troubling is the fact that no trailer has been released for the film which is only one month away from its scheduled debut date. This sign usually point to one of two possibilities: either Brahms: the Boy 2 will soon move to a later release date somewhere else this year (or next) or the film is being purchased by a streaming service for home viewing. In either case, the Katie Holmes lead sequel’s future is certainly in doubt. This would also mark the third “evil doll” story of the summer after Child’s Play and Annabelle Comes Home, so it might not be a bad idea to shift the release date.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (August 9): As far as late summer releases, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has the potential to clean-up at the box office due to a number of factors. For one, the film is based on the widely popular, yet often criticized (and banned in some cases) children’s books by author Alvin Schwartz and illustrator Stephen Gammel. Scary Stories is also directed by André Øvredal (Troll Hunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) and produced by Guillermo del Toro, one an acclaimed director of decidedly more adult fare and the other one of the most loved genre figures of all time.
The film is also shooting for a PG-13 rating, which always widens the audience for a horror film. Del Toro has said on many occasions that he wants the film to be a horror movie for the whole family, but one that does not skimp on the scares. Del Toro recently told Vulture that he (and Øvredal) “…want this to be a nice family horror film. Family is horror in itself, but sometimes, with milk and cookies, you can find something nice to watch.”
Scary Stories is not an anthology, but is instead constructed from Schwartz’s stories into a single narrative, featuring many of the most famous scares and scenes from the book series. The film also takes place in the late 1960’s, removing all modern conveniences such as cell phones from the stories and setting them in a more (at least on the surface) innocent time period. Will families turn out for this much more “scary” film? Will pre-teens pack the theaters for this entry point into horror? The timing of the release is also advantageous, and if well-received, Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark could play in theaters well into September.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged (August 16): 47 Meters Down breached the box office like “Air Jaws” in 2017, emerging as a surprise low budget hit. What made the success of the film even more significant was the fact that 47 Meters Down was set for a home video release in 2016, until some savvy executive decided to throw it into the deep end of the summer movie pool. Surprisingly, 47 Meters Down swam upstream, earning over $65 million worldwide, and a sequel was all but assured.
Uncaged again places four teen girls in jeopardy in a ruined underwater city in Brazil when the ladies make the bad choice to explore a series of submerged caves. Drowning in the caves would be bad enough, but when you add sharks to the equation, the situation quickly goes sideways. Director Johannes Roberts returns for the sequel (which is being promoted by Entertainment Studios via the twitter tag #Sharkbait) in what will most likely follow the similar pattern of any shark horror film since Jaws. July’s Crawl is certainly targeting the same audience, but who says there isn’t enough room for both gators and sharks? Expect to see 47 Meters Down prominently featured in advertising during Discovery’s annual Shark Week (running from July 28 to August 4) which is the best type of direct advertising any film can hope for.
Ready or Not (August 23): A young bride’s perfect wedding day takes a surprising turn in Ready or Not when her new in-laws decide to make her a full member of the family, by making her play a deadly game of hide and seek.
The Fox Searchlight film stars Margot Robbie look-alike Samara Weaving and her loving husband played by Mark O’Brien. Ready or Not is co-directed by VHS alumni Tyler Gillett and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, and their new movie will get the widest release of any film of either of their careers so far. The dark comedic notes may play well in late August, or they could be lost on a weary audience that has already had their fill of horror this summer (or those that are waiting until It: Chapter 2 hits theaters two weeks later). Either way, the trailer includes some bloody hijinks and well as some biting humor.
Be sure to keep coming back to Horror News Network this summer for reviews and updates on all of the new releases that make summer the hottest film season.