It looks like 2012 is going to be another boom year for horror movie remakes and sequels. 3D is going to be a big factor—and frankly more than a few of them seem like potential stinkers. But there are some intriguing projects coming out. Here's a brief overview.
Vincent D'Onofrio (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) stepped behind the camera for Don't Go in the Woods, a film about a rock band that heads into the sticks to write new music and, as IMDB says, finds itself "in the middle of a nightmare beyond comprehension." It's a cliched-sounding plot, but D'Onofrio is agreeably quirky and could possibly do a good spin on the retro story. He directed and co-wrote the screenplay for this horror musical backed by DeNiro's Tribeca Film.
The curiosity factor on this one is actually relatively high—there's just enough strangeness involved. Check out this NYT article for more proof. Made in 2010, it's finally getting a limited release this month.
Another release with an old-school title is Cabin in the Woods with Chris Hemsworth (before Thor) and Bradley Whitford. It's the old "kids stranded in a remote location where bad things happen to them" trope, and even though Joss Whedon is co-writer, it's been sitting around since 2009. And if the comments on IMDB can be believed, the ending is really stoopid, which may have something to do with its release lag—although the filmmakers insist that upconversion to 3D and distributor MGM's financial woes are to blame.
The third dimension is the order of the day for remakes of two authentic '70s classics: Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (now known as Leatherface 3D). Patrick Lussier is directing Halloween, which piques my curiosity a bit. He did the fun 3D remake of My Bloody Valentine in 2009 (and Todd Farmer, that film's scripter, is also on board), so he knows his way around the process. Rob Zombie is not involved this time. I'm tired of his grungy '70s vibe. It works with some films like The Devil's Rejects, but his sleazy "reimagining" of Halloween was just silly.
Texas Chain Saw is another matter. It has been sequelized and reinvented in every possible way. Hell, even the original director, Tobe Hooper, made a terrible sequel (Part II). Marcus Nispel's 2003 remake was actually pretty good, so unless these filmmakers have something interesting to say, 3D isn't going to be enough to bring in the punters.
The TV soap series Dark Shadows was a big deal back in the 60s and proved to be a sustainable cash cow for one of the earliest independent home video companies—MPI—that's still going strong today.
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are collaborating on the new film adaptation, with a high-powered cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller and Chloe Grace Moretz, who played a vampire herself in Matt Reeves' 2010 Let Me In.
Burton's significant other, Helena Bonham Carter, plays Dr. Julia Hoffman, a role originated by the hilariously hammy Grayson Hall and reprised by Barbara Steele in the short-lived '90s series. Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas, will also be on board, as well as other original cast members David Selby and Kathryn Lee Scott.
I don't think Burton is going to take the straight horror approach with this one. He even said "It's a funny tone, and that's part of what the vibe of the show is, and there's something about it that we want to get." The photo above sure looks like it's going for Burton-style weirdness. And thankfully he insists that it won't be in 3D.
Ridley Scott is going back to outer space for Prometheus, his first sci-fi film since Blade Runner, and fans are anxious to see if he can outdo 1979's Alien. It has an impressive cast, including Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Michael Fassbender, but the trailer spells out the film's title exactly as Alien's was spelt out in its opening credits.
And one of the screenwriters is the co-creator of the Lost TV series, so I wonder if it's going to be an Alien wannabe or indigestible claptrap.
Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a 3D comedy thriller directed by Norwegian Tommy Wirkola, his first since Dead Snow, a film with a great premise (Nazi zombies) that just didn't follow through. Here, the now-grown-up siblings have become full-on bounty hunters intent on eliminating all witches from the world. Again, great premise...but how good will it be?
Yet another 3D oddity is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, based on the popular 2010 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, whose earlier book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, started the mashup craze. It looks like this one will be of the dark-humored variety, especially with Tim Burton on board as co-producer. Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are in the cast, as well as comedian Benjamin Walker as Lincoln. Here, our beloved president vows to rid the world of vampires after his own mother is killed by one of the bloodsuckers. Oh...and slaveowners are the vampires' human assistants.
Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal helms The Possession, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers) and Kyra Sedgwick. It's the story of an ornate box, purchased at a yard sale, that makes life hell for an unsuspecting family. Once known as Dibbuk Box, named for the malevolent spirit of Jewish folklore which inhabits it, the film now has a more family-friendly title. I liked Bornedal's Nightwatch very much (both the Danish and English-language versions), so I'm interested in this one.
Since the Saw series came to an end, it looks like the Paranormal Activity franchise has snatched up the Halloween releasing slot, and what a shame that is. I've said in these pages many times how ridiculously unscarily little-girl-screamily dumb these movies are, and I'm confident Part 4 will be more of the same. Many "found footage" movies can be good—I liked Quarantine and Cloverfield—but this series is just lame. And speaking of Saw, last year's mashup of both franchises, Insipid...whoops, I mean Insidious...was just ridiculous.
Speaking of franchises that have certainly passed their sell-by date, Scary Movie 5 is also being released in 2012, for those who care. I think Anna Faris is a terrific comedy actor, but she needs to move on. She probably got a nice check, though. I can't blame her.
Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio and James Ransone star in Sinister, another "found footage" film that sounds like it could go either way. Hawke's most recent genre entry was the enjoyable Daybreakers, but that doesn't necessarily mean this one will be good. Nevertheless, my curiosity is semi-piqued.
But we can't let the year go by without zombies. The high-profile entry is the Brad Pitt-starrer World War Z, which is set to be the biggest-budget living-dead movie of all time, but the more conservative Warm Bodies also sounds intriguing. Based on Isaac Marion's novel of the same name, it's the romantic (?) tale of a zombie who falls for the girlfriend of one of his victims. Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class) stars as said zombie, and John Malkovich and Rob Corddry are also along for the ride. Handled correctly, it could be bizarrely moving, like the ultra-low budget I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain, from 1999.
In summary: I'll be there for The Possession and Abraham Lincoln. I also like the idea of Warm Bodies and World War Z. D'Onofrio's film looks like it'll be easy to catch (either On Demand or in Los Angeles limited release), but who knows? And if everyone gets carried away about Prometheus, I may be persuaded. I'm definitely passing on Paranormal, Scary Movie and the two '70s 3D reboots. Well, maybe I'll check out Halloween.
And Dark Shadows? To quote Mr. Moviefone: "I'm in!"