Monday, May 16, 2011

Upcoming Horror and Sci-Fi Movies

The coming months are looking kind of so-so in the fantasy film department, but some of them sound relatively interesting.

I'm sure people are expecting J.J. Abrams' Super 8, produced by Steven Spielberg, to be the breakout hit of the summer in the genre. For me, it could go one of two ways: it'll either be an exciting nostalgia piece (complete with super 8mm cameras!) or it'll be an over-the-top, saccharine Spielbergian type of movie where the kids call each other penis breath and everyone stands around staring at the alien creature in wide-eyed, open-mouthed wonder. I really hope it's the former.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Cloverfield, which Abrams produced, but I didn't watch any of the shows he earned his reputation with. Sorry—Lost just seemed like a dull proposition to me. And the photo from the film at the top of this page shows...that's right, a kid staring in wonder with his mouth open. Sigh. Plus I just know I'll be watching intently to see that those little bastards use the super 8 equipment correctly!

The website Bloody Disgusting is doing an interesting distribution experiment with AMC Theatres this summer, branded Bloody Disgusting Selects. YellowBrickRoad arrives June 1st, and it's a Blair Witch-sounding thriller about a 2009 expedition to try to find out why the population of the entire town of Friar, New Hampshire, walked into the wilderness to face certain doom. In July, cult director Sion Soro's latest film, Cold Fish, about a serial killer, hits the screens. And August brings Fernando Barreda Luna's Atrocious, a "found footage" film (a genre that dates all the way back to Cannibal Holocaust!) Good on Bloody Disgusting and AMC for trying this out, especially in the lucrative summer months when the (yawn) blockbusters are battling for screens.

Jeez, I wish I could build an audience big enough for Weird Movie Village Selects. Just think—we could do big-screen re-releases of films like The Terror of Dr. Hichcock, Schizo and—perhaps most terrifying of them all—Roller Boogie.

20th Century-Fox is hoping that the memory of Tim Burton's awful 2001 Planet of the Apes remake has faded away, so in August they're offering Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a "prequel" that posits how genetic engineering made the monkeys so smart they were able to take over the world. It's sure to be CG-licious, and James Franco took time from his busy college schedule to play the lead. I don't think this is going to do a lot of business. The Boomers were burned by the last sequel of the original series, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and the younger generation are probably not aware of its historical significance at all. Back in the day, the monkey makeup in the first film was truly innovative.

Also arriving in August is Final Destination 5 3D with a brand-new writer and director. Fine with me...I don't mind putting my brain to sleep for a while and enjoying some splattery destruction. But I guess The Final Destination (2009) wasn't the final destination because there's another destination! I enjoyed the fourth installment in 3D in the theatre, but more impressive for me was my enjoyment level when I watched it flat on cable at home. The scene with the douchebag getting his guts sucked out by the swimming pool pump still packs a punch!

One of the more bizarre entries of the summer is Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a remake of a 1973 TV movie (!) starring Kim Darby. The original was about a young couple who inherit an old mansion, only to discover that it's inhabited by tiny demonic creatures. Now, I remember it was a cult favorite back in the day, but where in the hell can you see it now? There are dozens of retro cable channels (and digital channels), but I've never seen it on anyone's playlist. Plus, the remake stars Tom Cruise's personal robot, Katie Holmes. My prediction—kids won't know what the hell it is and adults won't care. Miramax's best hope is to pump up Guillermo Del Toro as co-scripter.

Another bizarre remake is Straw Dogs, with James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and everyone's favorite blond vamp, Alexander Skarsgard. Like the original, it's about a married couple being tormented by the locals when they move to a small Southern town. Hubby is meek and mousy, but when his wife is raped by the thugs, he girds his loins and sets out for revenge.

Unlike the original, it doesn't have Sam Peckinpah's eye for violence or Susan George's enormous teeth. Rod Lurie, a former film critic for Los Angeles Magazine, is the writer-director, and he's a flaming liberal, so there'll probably be a lot of messaging going on during the carnage. Dustin Hoffman played the husband in the original, which is the reason for the iconic image to your right.

I'm really interested in Kevin Smith's Red State, a beatdown of Christian fundamentalism in middle America. Ironically, reviewers have said it's too "preachy," but I enjoyed Smith's anti-organized religion Dogma, and I'm looking forward to seeing him take on the same subject in a horror setting. At least I don't have to see him try to get on an airplane! HA!

Okay, being a product of the 80s, I have to admit that the remake I'm looking forward to the most (wait a minute—"the remake I'm looking forward to the most"?)—is Fright Night. Seeing a "sneak preview" of the original is one of my happiest memories, and I think the reboot could be worthwhile (unlike Rob Zombie's ungodly Halloween "revisualizations").

Things they can improve: Chris Sarandon was fun as Jerry Dandridge, but he's just not a sexy actor. Farrell, on the other hand, with his bad boy image, just exudes sex, and from what I can tell from the trailer, the filmmakers exploit it. I'm sure Yelchin will be fine as Charlie, but it looks like they already need to torture the kid's hairline forward. At least he's not getting ridiculous plugs like Nic Cage. Drive Angry? Me too, if I had to deal with that hair.

Amanda Bearse was too old for her part in the original, although she acquitted herself admirably when she transformed into a bloodsucker. Who can forget the scene where Amy confronts Charley with her vampire version of vagina dentata?

But Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed? Jury's still out on that one. And the 3D is really not necessary unless they do something super amazing with it.

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