If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
In Part One of my look at the coming season’s fright flicks, Pervula in the comments section wisely pointed out that there were actually four genre films opening on October 1, not three. CHAIN LETTER, previously slated for Oct. 8, will now go head-to-head (at least in LA and maybe a few other major cities) with the previously announced HATCHET II, LET ME IN and CASE 39. The smart money’s on LET ME IN emerging as the box-office winner; the remake of the Swedish classic LET THE RIGHT ONE IN won raves after its Toronto Film Festival premiere, with many pundits predicting that the film’s young stars (Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz) may even nab Oscar nominations.
I caught New Films International’s CHAIN LETTER—about a hulking maniac (THE HILLS HAVE EYES’ Michael Bailey Smith) preying on kids who don’t forward his titular e-mail—at last November’s American Film Market premiere (see FANGORIA #290-1), and found this gory mess nothing more than another SAW wannabe. However, since I viewed an incomplete version, I’m hoping that writer/director Deon Taylor has had time to fix all the movie’s problems (various inconsistencies and illogic, overall mean-spiritedness), as CHAIN LETTER’s killer cast (NEW MOON’s Nikki Reed, Keith David, the SAW sequels’ Betsy Russell, DEADGIRL’s Noah Segan, Brad Dourif, etc.) deserves better.
It’s exciting to see Wes Craven back on the screen with an original chiller he calls MY SOUL TO TAKE, opening Oct. 8. The scream great has been busy in recent years shepherding well-received remakes of his past classics (equally effective THE HILLS HAVE EYES and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT; he had nothing to do with last spring’s ho-hum A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), but MY SOUL TO TAKE represents the first film Craven has both written and directed since 1994’s NEW NIGHTMARE. Unfortunately, the film has been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years due to studio and title changes and the commercial decision to retrofit MY SOUL TO TAKE for the popularity-waning 3-D craze. The slick trailer looks promising, albeit a little too reminiscent of both the Freddy franchise and Craven’s SHOCKER. Just the same, the filmmaker seems really jazzed about MY SOUL TO TAKE (see interview in next month’s FANGORIA #298), and on this production, he did not suffer through the studio squabbles that ultimately torpedoed his CURSED and DEADLY FRIEND.
In some cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Phoenix, Miami and Baltimore), MY SOUL TO TAKE will go up against Anchor Bay Films’ I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake on Oct. 8. Kudos to Anchor Bay for releasing an unrated version of this new take on Meir Zarchi’s controversial 1978 film, about a rape victim who gorily avenges herself on the sleazebags who violently abused her. Thanks to some solid direction by Syfy vet Steven R. Monroe (who’d have thought?), vicious SAW-inspired murder scenes and much better performances, the updated I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE emerges as a stronger and more shocking film than the original. In addition to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and MY SOUL TO TAKE, the Lionsgate pickup BURIED will go wider on Oct. 8, following its 10-theater launch this Friday. Directed by Spain’s Rodrigo Cortes, BURIED—about a man trapped in a coffin underground, with time running out—lives up to all the advance hype it has garnered (see Michael Gingold’s review here). BURIED is one of the year’s best films and undeniably cinematic and suspenseful (à la Hitchcock), despite the fact that the camera never leaves that wooden box for 90-plus minutes.
The last person I’d expect to explore supernatural territory is Clint Eastwood, but I’m anxious to see what the Oscar-winning director makes out of HEREAFTER, the Warners film coming Oct. 22. The screenplay, by Britain’s Peter Morgan (of such highbrow fare as THE QUEEN and FROST/NIXON), follows three distinct storylines (not unlike BABEL) of people dealing with death and asking metaphysical questions about the afterlife. Matt Damon plays the John Edwards stand-in, a psychic who talks with dead people, only for real. For the most part, this drama (don’t look for scares here) has earned praise out of the Toronto film fest and will likely intrigue discriminating genre moviegoers. At age 80, the former Dirty Harry can still knock ’em out of the park on a regular basis, like 2008’s GRAND TORINO, and his cinematic skills continue to grow.
HEREAFTER will duke it out with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 on Oct. 22, though the former will obviously skew toward an older audience than the quickie sequel inspired by last year’s surprise hit. You could take a soiled napkin, call it PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 and put it up on the screen and still expect record box office. This low-budget sequel to the no-budget original will kill no matter what, based on the huge phenomenon that last year’s massive sleeper became. I was not a fan of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY—I found it hokey, boring and not very scary—yet I salute writer/director Oren Peli’s talent at making something out of nothing and the brilliant marketing campaign and grassroots strategy that captured the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT lightning in a bottle a decade later. Beyond the trailer, not much has been divulged about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. Peli scripts again, but handed off the directorial reins to Tod Williams, who helmed the obscure Kim Basinger movie THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR. Though the found-footage [REC] movies and CLOVERFIELD worked for me, I’ve grown weary of this aesthetic. I wish PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 sailed in a completely different direction (like the ambitious failure BLAIR WITCH 2: BOOK OF SHADOWS did), instead of pulling out the palm-sized digital cameras again.
On the specialty circuit, Oct. 29 welcomes two prize indies. First, New Yorkers (and others later) should keep their eyes peeled for AMER, from novice distributor Olive Films. This is technically a French/Belgian co-production, co-directed by Belgian Hélène Cattet and Italian Bruno Forzani, but the movie was so heavily inspired by the Italian giallo films that you may think it is some lost treasure from the Argento/Bava ’70s heyday. The film pays tribute to the giallo form (from its moving split-screen opening credits to Manu Dacosse’s SUSPIRIA blue/red-lit cinematography to its Ennio Morricone/Stelvio Cipriani-sampled soundtrack) without slavishly ripping it off. The story follows a traumatized young girl named Ana, her decaying dead grandfather in the bed upstairs and a vicious murderess on the loose in the final act. It’s all here: the black-gloved killer, the sexy, wind-blown minidresses and the close-up straight-razor face-carving. As with many gialli, AMER favors images and sensations over dialogue and plot. See a Cattet and Forzani interview in Fango #298.
Arriving on VOD from Magnolia this Friday before venturing out into theaters on Oct. 29 (a distribution model that still has me scratching my head), British writer/director Gareth Edwards’ MONSTERS is one of my favorite movies of the year, and the best creature feature since THE HOST and THE MIST. The movie tags along on the journey of a journalist (Scoot McNairy), who must escort his boss’ daughter (Whitney Able) through Mexican jungles and wasteland, following the accidental introduction of giant space critters into our ecosystem. The accent in the beginning of MONSTERS is on character and the verisimilitude of its story, and then those big mofos show up for an amazing (and strangely moving) final act. Produced on a fraction of the budget of any studio genre film, MONSTERS’ terrific visuals (parsed out to avoid overkill) can stand up to any Hollywood production, but unlike the usual corporate CGI fest, MONSTERS means something (a subtle statement on our country’s illegal immigration controversy, perhaps?) and the leads (the actors are an item in real life) have weight. Go here to see if MONSTERS is comin’ to your town.
Finally, also on Oct. 29, Lionsgate gives SAW a final (?) run through the slaughterhouse, this time—predictably—in 3-D. This franchise ran out of blood a long time ago, but the previous entry, SAW VI, wisely avoided the convoluted plotting of some of the other sequels in which you needed a scorecard to keep track of everything. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY kicked SAW’s Halloween ass last year, but the filmmakers hope that the added 3-D cachet (if that’s still an incentive anymore) will put Jigsaw back on top again. It’s cool that series vets Kevin Greutert (back as director) and scripters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton re-enlisted survivor Cary Elwes from the first film, and I’m curious about the addition here of actor Sean Patrick Flanery (of the BOONDOCK SAINTS movies and MASTERS OF HORROR’s THE DAMNED THING; see his sequel comments here) as a self-help guru (!). And let’s see how they work in both deceased masterminds Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) for this go-round.
As you can see, there’s lots to keep us busy this fall season. So support the genre and see a scary movie today!
Bloody Blogs -
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment