As I´ve already pointed out horror went down a storm in 2017 but back in January I wrote a preview of some of those films and more. So how did they turn out? Were our hopes and dreams realised, or just dashed across the tarmac with lower intestines dripping down the storm drain?
The Autopsy of Jane Doe – Soon!
I SAID: As has been the case for the last few years one of the first films out of the block is one that has been getting a lot of buzz from the festival circuits. Following The Witch, It Follows and The Babadook before them, can The Autopsy of Jane Doe survive the over-hype to be a genuine horror classic? Certainly it has a good pedigree with Andre Ovredal of Trollhunter fame, and stars Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox bringing some class to the tale of a strangely perfect female corpse being brought into the father-and-son morticians, with one night to discover who she is and how she died. I can tell you now (as I’ve already seen it) it lives up to the hype… which might be me over-hyping it again, so now you will think its over rated… damn it!
AND? Yes it was truly great. What happened to it though is another matter. It never got much of a release and here in the UK finally ended up on Netflix where, hopefully, at least a lot of people can now watch it. Just do it late at night with the lights off okay?
Split – 20th January
I SAID: M. Night Shyamalan has realised that instead of messing around with different genres he should just stick to what he is amazing at. So we get, hot on the heels of The Visit, another potential classic, this time involving split personalities, kidnapping and James McAvoy acting his socks off as 24 characters (in the same body obviously).
AND? It another winner, great for Shyamalan, Blum House Productions and us at large. Also if you liked Unbreakable then this will please you hugely too. When a film is mostly set in one small cellar and can still be epic in scope and scale then clearly the director knows what he is doing. Welcome back M. Night.
Don’t Knock Twice – 3rd February
I SAID: There’s not lot of British horror this year (hello Hammer? Where are you when we need you?) but Don’t Knock Twice has some very strong imagery in the trailer and witches are all the rage at the moment, so let’s hope it can hold our flag up proudly this year and be less of an embarrassment than the people who voted for Brexit.
AND? Well its a solid, well made and fairly spooky little tale that deserves to be seen.. shame no one did. I know that unless you´re coming from Blum House you won´t get much of a release these days but surely there must be a way to let people know a decent scare-fest is coming out. This just limped onto Amazon for rental with little to no flurry at all which is a real pity. There´s not even Fangoria Magazine around any more to draw in the hardcore fans. Sad, as the horror in the Whitehouse would say.
A Cure For Wellness – 24th February
I SAID: Director Gore Verbinski may have tested his audience’s patience to the limit with the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels and the bizarrely dull The Lone Ranger, but whatever you think of him you have to agree that he is a visual master of mainstream cinema. The trailers for A Cure for Wellness certainly backs this up and with Jason Isaacs and Dane DeHaan in the cast what could possibly go wrong? Okay IMDB says the running time is 146 minutes which seems to suggest Verbinski is still making over long, flabby stories and I’m not sure the tale of a mysterious spa can sustain such length. But hey! What do I know, this is just a preview list, let’s judge it when it comes out yeah?
AND? Well I have yet to see it, mostly because of that running time but word has it that its just what I feared: looks great, is too long and doesn´t have enough story to sustain that run time. Maybe I will try to watch it in three chunks and pretend its a mini series.
Kong: Skull Island – 10th March
I SAID: King Kong is back and is ALWAYS welcome in my books even if he is clearly played by a man in a monkey suit. Sadly, those days have long since gone but this new version is setting up not only a new franchise but also will serve as a prequel to a grudge match between our giant furry friend and Godzilla. When did the studio system embrace B-movie silliness so fully? Next they’ll be making a big budget remake of… actually you know what? I was trying to think of a ludicrous cheap movie for a studio to remake but I think they’ve done them all now. Hey, I ain’t complaining!
AND? It delivers all the wild monster action you could be hope for. Samuel L. Jackson makes for a great villain and its nice to see Kong be a bit less soppy this time round and more into just beating eighteen types of shit out of various types of weird creatures. The film is maybe a bit too frantic in its pacing and is a bit more preoccupied with big action and big visual effects than anything else but then this is King Kong we´re talking about here. If we got to know all about the different characters before the mighty monkey pulled all their limbs off we´d end up with the snorefest that was Peter Jackson´s effort.
Get Out – 17th March
I SAID: Directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele, Get Out stars the very likeable Daniel Kaluuya travelling to his white girlfriend’s parent’s house only to discover some nasty goings on. At a time when race relations are at a very low point in America, this horror version of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? couldn’t come at a better time.
AND? Well it wasn´t quite what anyone expected at all (unless you´ve seen The Skeleton Key) and was all the better for it. One of the most tense, funny and thought provoking films this year, the world is now Jordan Peele´s oyster. What will he give us next?
The Belko Experiment – 17th March
I SAID: The poster says this is a cross between The Office and Battle Royale so that is the plot basically. I can’t say I’m that excited about such a premise but then it is written by James Gunn and is getting lots of whispers of greatness so we’ll find out soon enough whether its worth getting all worked up about or not.
AND? It was EXACLTY a cross between The Office and Battle Royale and whilst it was well made and relativity entertaining too watch it was maybe a bit too grim and downbeat for most people to embrace. Clearly that reflected in the box office takings as it was a rare financial misstep for the seemingly unstoppable Blumhouse. It had some great character actors being really horrible in it though, if that´s your kind of thing.
Raw – March
I SAID: This French horror movie has a young vegetarian forced to eat meet during a hazing ritual, after which her taste for flesh gets somewhat out of control. Every few years a horror movie comes out which claims that people passed out during a screening or had to be carried out on a stretcher or even died. Raw is the latest in this fine tradition so I’m hoping to see it at an OAP or mother-and-baby screening to see what happens.
AND? Well I missed THAT screening so had to watch it by myself at home (well, with my dog sitting next to me, worryingly licking his lips). I guess its pretty grim here and there. I suppose for a non horror audience it must be pretty shocking but for us hardened gorehounds it barely touched the sides. Outside of the gore it is an EXCEPTIONALLY well made movie with the images of freshers being splattered with blood and paint bringing these university days vividly to life. It is hard to fathom that director Julia Ducournau has never made a film before, so assured is she with scenes involving nightmares under the sheets and dark, chaotic parties in the faculty basement. The acting is also uniformly great and interesting especially Garance Marillier as the lead. However I found all of the characters completely obnoxious and repellent (and not just when they were eating each other) so whilst I appreciated how well Raw was made, I can´t say that I liked it in any way. Still, I´m in the minority here.
Alien: Covenant – 19th May
I SAID: Being one of maybe two people who had no problem with Prometheus I can’t wait for Alien: Covenant. Obviously 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott are making sure people know this is an Alien prequel rather than a Prometheus sequel and if they haven’t had a panic-stricken rewrite of the script a month before shooting then this shouldn’t have the problems that had so many folks up in arms last time round. Really people: characters doing stupid things in terrible situations is the bread-and-butter of horror movies, get over it. Also, judging by the poster and trailer this Alien movie is really getting back to it’s horror roots. I LOVE the Alien franchise when its at its best, let’s hope Scott, in his twilight years, can pull another classic out of the bag.
AND? Talking of being in the minority… I loved the new film, but it is certainly not the full-on Alien film people were hoping for. It is by all accounts Prometheus 2 right down to the continuing decent into monomaniacal madness of android David and the humans being incredibly stupid. But, despite moments of extreme stupidity, it is a film of great ambitions. Ridley Scott, hopefully nowhere near the end of his life despite being 80, is clearly contemplating the big questions of what is life and what is our role in the universe. The answer to that one, so far, seems to be to be fodder for greater intelligences to experiment on, so Scott is clearly off his rocker – in the best way imaginable.
The Mummy – 9th June
I SAID: Although yet another big budget Mummy movie in theory isn’t that exciting, especially after the Brendan Fraser/sand particle years, Universal is trying to kick start a movie monsters shared universe franchise with this new version. What self respecting horror fan isn’t interested in that? Plus Tom Cruise rarely does bad films so there’s real hope here. There still seemed to be a lot of sand particles in the trailer though so I’m not getting my hopes up too much.
AND? Sadly this was a big budget disaster. It killed the monster universe stone cold dead so we will now (probably) never see Bill Condon´s labour of love version of The Bride of Frankenstein with Angelina Jolie as the Bride. It may be easy to say this now with the benefit of hindsight but clearly Universal misread what people wanted from a monster movie by a country mile. We basically got a darker, modern version of those Brendan Fraser movies but with Tom Cruise instead – all action set pieces, big visual effects and big stars when what people actually would prefer would be, well, you know, a monster movie.
The Dark Tower – 28th July
I SAID: The King revival starts here… this time with a massive budget, a franchise stretching over cinema and television, and some of the best Hollywood stars acting today. I’ve not read any of the horror fantasy western epics this is based on but I have only ever heard amazing things about them. Lots of fingers crossed here.
AND? Another total catastrophe from a studio spending a lot of money. Clearly things were awry when up until two months before the film came out there was STILL no trailer. When the trailer finally did arrive it was blah at best. Then news came that the film was only an hour and a half. Usually I´m all for less bloat but considering the size of the source material this was obviously a case of a lack of confidence and the studio hacking it to death trying to get it to work. The film itself shows this with too many flashbacks and exposition but in fact the bare bones of something half decent is there. Having never read any of the books I wasn´t invested in the fanboy anger and its not actually that bad considering. It does just about make sense, its just that it is a very slight horror western adventure.
Annabelle 2 – 11th August
I SAID: Another sequel to a film no one but me liked but you know… suck it. This time the director is David F. Sandberg who did a very solid job with Lights Out so things are looking up. Plus the setting is an orphanage and orphanages are ALWAYS creepy places. At least it isn’t a family being harassed by a demon which I have had enough of, and if it has one scene that is half as good as the basement sequence from the first movie then I’ll be happy.
AND? It had loads of scenes that were almost as good as the basement scene in the first movie. In fact this was a much better film than Annabelle 1 all round. The two main orphan sisters are terrific in it and indeed the orphanage setting is a total freak out. Plus for those that didn´t like the first film this one actually make that one much better by the end in a oddly clever way. Plus now the Conjuring universe is in full swing with The Nun (who cameos here) coming out next summer. We´re in horror heaven folks.
It – 8th September
I SAID: The novel It is probably Stephen King’s best work and turning it into a film has been a long and painful process. Folks have fond memories of the TV miniseries from 1990 but really, apart from an amazing turn from Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown, it has not aged well. Things were looking very much up when True Detective‘s Cary Joji Fukunaga was attached to direct but a lot of hopes were dashed when he was replaced with Mama‘s Andres Muschetti. This seems a little unfair as Mama was very good entry in the haunted kid sub genre, and as long as the studio hasn’t interfered too much, this It could still turn out rather good. The story, characters and the town of Derry are so strong and well defined in King’s novel that it would take a real load of numpties to bugger this one up. Please let this be good.
AND? It wasn´t just good, it was great! It will probably go down in the annuls of cinema as a horror classic. Plus it made bundles of cash for the studio which is great for Warner Brothers and great news for horror in general as all the other studios will jump on the band wagon and try and make their own spooky successes. Bill Skarsgard, whilst not wiping the memory of Tim Curry (nor should he), gives great Pennywise and the child cast is simply amazing. It makes my heart swell when I think how well Muschetti has done bringing the Loser Club to life. Roll on Part 2.
Friday The 13th – 13th October
I SAID: After a weird and unnecessary EIGHT year wait we are finally getting a new outing for Jason Voorhees. Little is known about the plot but hopefully they haven’t spent all this time over-thinking things: just give us Jason, some hot teenagers, some outrageous kills and a bit of a twist and we’ll be quite happy. If it turns out to be an origin story then that WILL be depressing (it didn’t work for Michael Myers, Hannibal Lecter or Darth Vader so why would it work for Jason?) On the positive side it is directed by Breck Eisner who has done solid work in the past so lets see how this latest entry turns out. I mean there have been so many of these films now, and so many terrible ones, that it can’t really be that bad, can it?
AND? In fact it was nothing at all… after the Rings reboot and some others flopped horribly at the box office, it was decided that horror revivals were clearly not wanted at the moment so it was cancelled, or delayed or who knows what. Come on guys, you can make these films for next to nothing. Even the name alone should at least be enough to break even. Sort your shit out. I guess when the Halloween sequel is a hit this October it will be green lit again. And the cycle will continue…
Before I Wake – One Day!
I SAID: Mike Flanagan’s career is going great and it has been since Oculus hit the screens. Immediately after that modest hit he set to work on the follow up, shooting Before I Wake at the end of 2013… and here it is four years later after various production and distribution companies have gone bust whilst handling it. Will the story of a boy who’s dreams and nightmares manifest themselves in real life be worth the wait? Well it has Kate Bosworth in it so… um… let’s see huh?
AND? Actually Kate Bosworth is great in this, as is everyone else. The film, finally arriving onto Netflix, is a solid little chiller. No great shakes in Flanagan´s library but a worthwhile watch all the same.
Gerald’s Game – When Netflix feel like it
I SAID: Mike Flanagan is back, again, working with Netflix to make one of Stephen King’s least filmable novels. The plot centres on a woman tied to a bed after her husband drops dead in the middle of some rumpy pumpy. You couldn’t get much less cinematic than that. But then last year’s Hush was clearly a dry run for Flanagan’s attempt at horror experimentation. Plus with Netflix willing to take a few risks let’s hope this turns out to be the next Misery, rather than, say, the next Dreamcatcher.
AND? Who´d of thought it, you wait for ages for a decent Stephen King adaptation and then two come along at once. Along with It this is an out and out classic.
Sadako Vs Kayako (AKA Ring Vs Grudge) – Soon!
I SAID: Okay, there is an American sequel to the remakes coming out at some point this year but who cares about that when you have a verses movie! Here you have the black haired ghost of the Ring movies having a fight with the black haired ghost of the Grudge movies. This is what trashy horror flicks are all about, and this as silly as you can get… in a good way.
AND? Its surprising how many of the films on this list actually delivered on their promise. And here is yet another one. Yes it is silly but its also a great bit of fun just like I hoped. Hurrah!
Suspiria – This Year
I SAID: Last year the remake no one wanted was Martyrs, and so it proved. Not only did no one watch it but no one even notice it quietly slop onto VOD like a dying fish. This year we have Suspiria. The original is one of Dario Argento’s finest and remaking it seems quite, quite pointless: the plot barely made a scrap of sense and the film’s main selling point was Argento’s magical set pieces and visuals. No one wants a new version of the story of a girl sent to a ballet school which turns out to be run by a coven of witches. Sure witches are in, and sure ballet was in the other year when Black Swan came out but… really? Okay so its got a good director in Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) and a solid cast… and lets face it we were all wrong about the Evil Dead remake so I’ll still probably see it, and maybe, with a bit of luck, even love it.
AND? Well still no sign but you know what? Fuck it. I´m super excited about this remake now. Guadagnino is super hot right now; his last two films have been terrific. So when it eventually does come out I will be first in line on opening day. Possibly wearing a tutu.