Only a pessimist would write off 2016 after 6 weeks, but if you’re a horror fan, the year’s highest profile releases don’t inspire much confidence. Once again, sequels and reboots look set to dominate multiplexes, or if they don’t float your boat there’s always an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Cell. Yippee.
On VOD, things aren’t much better. Released on 12 February, Travis Zariwny’s remake of Cabin Fever (2002) currently holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was dismissed by the Los Angeles Times as “perfunctory and insipid.” Variety called it a “repurposed dud” while Nick Allen said it was “one of those questionably greedy, Xeroxed remakes, where its business is in restating, not just restarting or rebooting, what the original has done.”
Nobody believes that these films are going to be good, so pointing out that they’re not up to much feels like a redundancy. Far more interesting than the pictures themselves are the curious economics behind them: the pulse to prolong a franchise is financial rather than creative so expectations are never high, and when audiences turn up to see how bad the results are, their curiosity is mistaken for enjoyment and helps greenlight another instalment.
The following films are perfect examples, ranked according to curiosity.
The last time a sequel to The Ring was in multiplexes, the idea of a ghost who uses a videotape to kill people didn’t seem so dated, so the third instalment in the franchise must be a prequel, right, gang?
No, because director F. Javier Gutierrez promises his movie will pick up after the events of 2005’s The Ring Two and will once again feature Samara, the long-haired ghost with a serious vitamin deficiency. Most terrifying of all, the film will also have a “teen friendly” rating.
The plot focuses on a different set of characters, so Aimee Teegarden (Scream 4) stands in for Naomi Watts as lead damsel in distress, with support from Johnny Galecki, aka Leonard Hofstadter in The Big Bang Theory. The script is co-written by Batman & Robin’s Akiva Goldsman, and if this all sounds like a joke, be aware that the film is scheduled for release this October.
8. Ouija 2
Despite a barrage of hostile reviews (USA Today called it “a deadly dull and overly familiar movie about summoning ghosts that draws upon nearly every horror movie cliché”), Ouija made $102 million on a $5 million budget, so a sequel is in production, due for release in October.
Directed by Oculus helmer Mike Flanagan from a script he wrote with Jeff Howard, Ouija 2 stars Lin Shaye and Elizabeth Reaser, which should help bring in the audience for the Insidious and Twilight franchises.
Plot details are sketchy, but if previous cheap horror sequels like Hostel II are anything to go by, it’ll be the same story all over again with a different cast. More teenagers you couldn’t care less about, more false scares, more people walking down dark corridors saying, “Hello? Someone there?” With a Ouija board.
7. Underworld 5
Currently shooting in Prague ahead of an October 2016 release, Underworld 5 brings back Kate Beckinsale as Selene, who this time reportedly battles half-breeds created by Alexander Corvinus.
Rumours persist that Scott Speedman will return as Michael, who regains his memory and begins searching for Selene and his daughter. Also returning are Theo James as David and Charles Dance as Thomas, the vampire elder.
The script is credited to Cory Goodman, who also penned Priest and The Last Witch Hunter (uh oh), and in the director’s chair is Anna Foerster, who directed 2nd Unit on The Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 BC and was director of photography on White House Down. Hopefully she learned something from Roland Emmerich and will make Part 5 an improvement over Underworld: Awakening.
In the wake of the e-mail scandal, the firing of studio head Amy Pascal and a summer that saw the company receive only a 3.9% market share of the box office (their biggest success was Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2), Sony badly needs a hit, so they’ve pinned their hopes on this much-publicised all-female reboot.
If you want a taste of how the movie will turn out, watch The Heat, director Paul Feig’s previous attempt to put a female spin on familiar material. Described by Rolling Stone as a “dead battery of a movie”, the film is little more than a checklist of buddy cop movie clichés. “I’d like to say there were some surprises in this mismatched pairing,” claimed The New York Daily News, “but if you’ve seen Lethal Weapon, you know how it goes.”
The Heat made $230 million on a $43 million budget, and if Ghostbusters proves similarly successful, Sony has plans for Marvel-style ‘cinematic universe’ that will also include TV shows as well as features involving an all-male ghostbusting team. Novel, that.
Not to be confused with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which also told the origin story, Leatherface is a direct prequel to 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre rather than the 2003 reboot or whatever the Texas Chainsaw 3D was supposed to be.
What saves it from being consigned to the dustbin of horror prequels is the casting: Lili Taylor (in a role originally earmarked for Angela Bettis) is the matriarch of the infamous Sawyer clan and Stephen Dorff is the unhinged lawman intent on tracking down teenaged Leatherface, who’s just absconded from the loony bin with 3 other inmates.
The directors are Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who made Inside (2007) and Among The Living (2014). TCM movies aren’t known for skimping on the red stuff, so here’s hoping those crazy French filmmakers haven’t begun censoring themselves.
4. Amityville: The Awakening
Because Amityville is an actual place, the name can’t be copyrighted by filmmakers and is therefore free to use, hence the existence of Amityville Dollhouse, Amityville Death House, Amityville Playhouse and – why not? – The Amityville Asylum.
Due in April, Amityville: The Awakening is the 14th film in the series and the first to receive a theatrical release since Andrew Douglas’s 2005 movie, which was a remake of Stuart Rosenberg’s 1979 movie, which was based on a book by Jay Anson, which was “based on actual events.” It’s yet another ghost franchise from producer Jason Blum, who also gave us the Paranormal Activity, Sinister and Insidious movies, so you know exactly what to expect.
The director is Franck Khalfoun, who also remade Maniac from a script by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur – the writers of the remakes of Mirrors and The Hills Have Eyes. They also wrote P2, Franck’s first feature, which starred Rachel Nichols, who was in the 2005 Amityville Horror. One day, someone will create a game called Six Degrees Of Sequelisation.
3. The Purge: Election Year
The original Purge movie was an anomaly for Platinum Dunes – it wasn’t flat, sluggish or a remake, so you can see why the company turned it into a franchise.
Or you could look at it this way: if The Purge was director James DeMonaco’s tribute to Assault On Precinct 13 (he scripted the remake, after all) and The Purge: Anarchy was his tribute to Escape From New York, will The Purge 3 pay homage to They Live?
There’s some potential for satire in DeMonaco’s script, which picks up 2 years after the events depicted in Anarchy. Frank Grillo’s cop character, who’s still billed as “Sergeant”, is now the head of security for a Senator with Presidential ambitions who, through a variety of contrivances, ends up on the streets on the night of The Purge. So the privileged end up fighting the poor in order to survive, a premise that offers more food for thought than you’d expect in a sequel.
Will it be the best movie in the franchise or just a rehash of Anarchy? Find out in July.
2. The Conjuring 2
Set in 70s London, The Conjuring 2 is, like all the best ghost movies, based on a “true story”, in this case the claims that a poltergeist was behind some bizarre goings on at a council house in Enfield between 1977 and 1979. A single mother called the police after two of her four children claimed to have heard demonic voices and seen furniture move by itself, which was written off by members of the Committee For Sceptical Inquiry as a hoax.
Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated and concluded that the children were possessed, which led to them being derided by other investigators as “overly credulous” (the Warrens also claimed the Amityville haunting was genuine). Hoaxes don’t make for compelling movies, though, so expect the movie to take a different approach.
James Wan reportedly turned down Furious 8 in order to return to this franchise, which should go some way to making amends for 2014’s Annabelle spin-off. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga also return as the Warrens, and the script is once again credited to Chad & Carey Hayes, who will one day be forgiven for writing House Of Wax and The Reaping.
1. 10 Cloverfield Lane
A cynical mind has to wonder if 10 Cloverfield Lane will be all sizzle but no steak: the teaser dropped in the wake of the release of The Force Awakens, shamelessly trading on J.J. Abrams’ name while associating itself with Cloverfield. It didn’t make the relationship explicit, so Abrams stated that the film is a “blood relative” of the 2008 movie, further teasing the curious.
Judging by the trailer, 10 Cloverfield Lane owes more to The Divide (2011) than the original, telling the story of a group of people sheltering in a basement while the outside world goes to . It shamelessly teases the viewer with the question of whether or not Mary Elizabeth Winstead will ignore John Goodman’s advice and venture into the outside world, though we know she will. Lauren German did in The Divide, and her character regretted the choice.
All questions will be answered when the movie opens on 11 March 2016.