Our horror buddy Elijah Wood is starring in a new title: Cooties. It’s looking to be a genuine horror comedy, written by the strangest of combinations. Ian Brennan, best known for his work on Glee is there…then there’s Leigh Whannell, an experienced horror veteran who worked on Saw and Insidious, plus over a dozen other titles. Even the cast is a hodgepodge. Better-known faces are Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer and Jorge Garcia.
Unfortunately, there’s no word on if it’s going to theatres or straight to home video. We do, however, know it’s coming out October 10th. Strangely, both attached directors, Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion have no titles on their IMDb pages other than Cooties. Just the same it looks to be a fun ride.
Synopsis: A mysterious virus hits an isolated elementary school, transforming the kids into a feral swarm of mass savages. An unlikely hero must lead a motley band of teachers in the fight of their lives.
Every now and then, a sequel comes out with almost no semblance of the source content, particularly in the horror genre. It usually happens when someone aims to make money off a title, like with American Psycho 2. The focus of this list, however, is strictly sanctioned sequels, those special moments when creators and actors decide to cast the original content aside and make something new. Sometimes it’s solid and sometimes we get unadultered crap. Let’s take a look!
Six years after the original, Joe Dante gave clamoring audiences a sequel to his masterpiece, having no issues getting everyone from the originals to come back. Seriously. They didn’t have to replace one actor in the whole thing. Regretfuly, it barely got back $41 million of its $50 million budget. It was a good film, but a total change in tone, location, etc. Dante moved it from a small town to New York, the monsters got impromptu genetic modifications and humor overrode horror. Still, the change was acceptable. It gave the film strong character and identity, making it memorable, albeit different.
While this film is a steaming pile of offal at the script level, original actress Jamie Lee Curtis decided to show up and get her character killed. After surviving so many films and knowing Michael is invincible, she tries to remove his mask, only to get stabbed and thrown off a roof. Beyond that moment, there was no point in watching, but we’d shelled out money and clung to the hope Busta Rhymes running around in the old Strode house would be fun. It wasn’t. Sure, it was sort of creepy, but lost its connection with the source content all too quickly.
Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby
Thankfully, this film doesn’t need to be considered canon. The only link is the return of actress Ruth Gordon, as baby Adrian is adopted and goes through a barrage of issues, such as worrying if he does his daddy proud. Just avoid it as you would a theme park for children if Roman Polanski owned it.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
This follow-up has it all. Robert Englund is himself AND Freddy. Wes Craven is at the helm and Heather Lagenkamp is back in. All we’re missing is Johnny Depp. This time around, everything that has ever happened in the series gets erased. It was all a movie, but Freddy’s spirit is real and he doesn’t like the cast. Gore and fun ensues. While an odd choice, it functioned and made Freddy scarier than we’ve seen in a while. Then Freddy Versus Jason had to come and destroy that.
Lost Boys: The Tribe
Corey Feldman was the only one who wasn’t done with Lost Boys, starring in this 21 years after the glory days of the original. The drama of the original is gone and now Feldman is just seeking out vampires to kill, fearlessly guided by a bad haircut.
Evil Dead 2 (& Army of Darkness)
No matter what anyone says Evil Dead has a continually shifting identity. The issue is the second film is borderline a remake of the original, but it’s still amazing. They added some intentional slapstick, rehashed things and then sent Ash to the past for a 3rd film, one with minimal gore. These, believe it or not, got sequels right by keeping things fresh, albeit intrinsically related. Look up The Evil Dead Experience to see how someone managed to edit the films into one continuous sequence, removing part of the first movie to fix overlapped content.
Jason Takes Manhattan
Kane Hodder is back as Jason, away from Crystal Lake because…he got on a boat? Either way, it’s cool to see him in an urban setting. It made $15 million in theatres – three times its budget – and almost got made into a video game. You read that right.
Leprechaun in Space (and Da Hood)
After Leprechaun 3, they had to look for even stranger locales to send Warwick Davies to. In the world of film, space is apparently less obtuse than the ghetto. Seeing our little Irish friend in the hood actually worked well enough to spawn a sequel. Just like Jason, all horror icons hit up bigger cities, so I’m hoping to see Leprechaun go from the hood to LA or New York someday .
Fangoria has reported Phantasm V: Ravager, formerly titled Reggie’s Tales, has already been shot and has entered post. The original director, Don Coscarelli, bowed out on directing and took an executive producer role. New to the director’s chair is David Hartman, who little is known about at this point. Reportedly, the project has been a slow one, with production being piecemealed together in Crestline, CA since 2008. Fortunately, previous cast members are involved. No word has been given on if they’ve retained the original tall man, Angus Scrimm, but it doesn’t seem unlikely. More recently, the 87-year-old had parts in John Dies at the End, Satan Hates You and I Sell the Dead. Here’s hoping!
While I appreciate good old horror and gore, there’s a place in my heart for the stuff I watched as a kid. Sadly, shows like Goosebumps haven’t stood the test of time too well. They were kids shows designed with kids strictly in mind, toned down because adults believed kids couldn’t handle much else. In Stine’s case, there was a short-lived follow-up called The Nightmare Room. It was decent, studded with stars like Tippi Hedren, Amanda Bynes, Shia LaBeouf and so on, but didn’t get beyond 13 episodes. Finally, in 2010, a lasting series came out, though it’s baffling full season DVD’s aren’t out, only volumes with select episodes. The Haunting Hour is an extreme step up from prior entries in Stine’s hall of shorts. The difference in tone is substantial and the characters tend to be in real danger, pushing beyond its TV-PG rating. The first episode alone includes a doll intent on switching souls with a little girl, and it achieves said goal. Her brother also gets threatened with a hacksaw to the neck. The follow-up includes the doll putting a bird’s cage in a tub in an attempt to drown it and a man getting shoved down the stairs with malicious intent. There’s even an attack with a knife against a child.
All that aside, whether characters are fighting demons, dodging ghosts or seeking supernatural ice cream, the tone is darker than expected. It pushes beyond the depths of what most PG-13 horror films do, not holding back on the eerie sounds or shadows. Even the acting is good for once! As a matter of fact, many of the children have been in movies before, such as Baillee Madison from Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Connor Price from Cinderella Man and the Carrie remake, Jodelle Ferland from Silent Hill and The Cabin in the Woods, and Ariel Winter from Killers, now on ABC’s Modern Family.
As an aside, the story quality is usually ramped up. Not all are up to par, but the standard is good, as they select from a barrage of short stories to see what comes out up top. This isn’t just Stine’s work.
Upon seeing a trailer for The Giver released, I had to give it a view. I’d been excited for the film since my undergrad years when Gary Oldman was rumored to be assigned the titular role. That being said, the movie rights have been in the air for 15 years, so it’s about time. While the trailer got several aspects right, it seems almost too futuristic for what the book had in mind, especially with planes capable of lifting people into the sky with a beam of light. That, of course, can be a stylistic choice, but it seems problematic when the way they introduce the jets is…one lifting Jonas into the sky with a baby? For those of us who’ve read the book, we know the final scene involves Jonas running through the snow with the baby, escaping Community to reach Elsewhere. He goes on a sled toward the lights of a house below, Christmas tree in sight and music playing…though with questionable perspective.
My issue is none of these elements line up with the book except the baby. It’s not winter, the plane has a “suction beam,” and Jonas looks well beyond his age in the book. He went from 12 to in his twenties! The whole puberty and coming-of-age metaphor has been replaced with hunky Twilight and Hunger Games imagery – their goal is to give the world another heartthrob actor, not tell the tale Lowry created. Yes, changes are bound to happen and I hate to call myself a purist, but it looks like they’ve likely gone too far.
The internet is ablaze with lists of movie suggestions. Unfortunately, those lists tend to include either the blatantly obviously or the extraordinarily obscure. With this one, I’ll try to bridge the gap. These are titles you may have flipped past in your younger years, which would’ve been a mistake. Others are on the slightly rare side, but are on this list because I can’t help but suggest they’re added to one’s collection, especially if there are kids around to watch. Here we go!
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show (1997-2000)
This one invariably completes my childhood, because every episode I saw stuck in my memory for decades to come. As a child, I stayed up to see episodes of Tales from the Crypt, and even those failed to make the impact this series did. In this show, the Szalinksy family undergoes a gauntlet of perils as a result of the father’s half-baked inventions. These involve physical modification machines in a parody of The Fly, another machine that brings items on pages into real life (in this case all urban legends), and the father being possessed by the ghost of a mobster. The hilarity is hardly anyone ever comes to lasting harm in the end, but that doesn’t negate the dark content. One episode features Bryan Cranston acquiring a touch that turns people in to cheese, and he goes around doing it to those he’s spiteful against. For all he – or we – knew, he was killing them. I’ll leave the end to that one a mystery.
Undoubtedly, if you’re iffy on the show and only want to see the high points, you should go with episode 17, Honey, the Bear is Bad News. In summary, a high-tech toy bear is taken over by a computer virus and becomes bent on destroying humanity. Modifications include gattling guns and rockets.
Jim Henson’s Stoyteller (1988)
Though older, this show isn’t hard to come by. Frankly, it needs little description. In each episode, the storyteller goes through a fable, the most common of which is Stone Soup. Others, such as The Soldier and Death take on the darkest of tones and the creepiest of puppets. Show this to your 6-year-old and get ready for the nightmares to start.
Bone Chillers (1996)
Back in the day, Betsy Haynes decided to write a series of horror books for kids, something like Goosebumps. The 13-episode TV show was written with obvious humorous intent, but the darkness prevails over all, largely due to the way it was filmed. The color tone is dark, the school it takes place at would’ve been shut down for a few hundred safety violations before episode one and the camera angles are oppressive in every shot. Every. Single. Shot. It’s like Tim Burton did LSD and had the worst trip ever. Monsters drawn in a pad come to life, a teacher becomes a mutant frog who eats people and kids (in theme at least) are turned into cafeteria food. Regretfully, Youtube is one of the few places this warped gem can be found.
Okay, so this may not be targeted to the youngest of kids, but it sure doesn’t look meant for adults at a glance. Given how it’s Bryan Fuller, things are bound to be crass and bizarre. I’d avoided this one a while, because it seemed so light. The main character lives by Niagara Falls and sees inanimate objects with animal faces talk to her. They give her directions she must follow in order to get through tough situations. These orders, however, become more disquieting and risky. The content reaches far beyond its TV-PG rating with dialogue so blunt (though “clean”) it’d make a grown man blush. Under the guise of a comedy, horrific scenes play out, including one with a nun tying down the main character and threatening to cut the evil out of her with a knife.
By the by, Fox only aired four episodes of it, but the whole first season is available on DVD.
Nightmare Ned (1997)
This TV show didn’t last long for budgetary reasons. Somehow, it was expensive to make compared to other shows. Based on a game of the same title, released the same year, Nightmare Ned is about a 10-year-old learning life lessons and overcoming fears by enduring horrifying dreams. However, the imagery seems to do more to bring fears to life than explain them away. Showing a fawn that eats human flesh and a headless guy putting a child through a saw aren’t the kinds of images that’ll help much. It usually all ends with it all being a nightmare, as is the theme, which does nothing to make the fears seem less possible.
The remake of Poltergeist has always been like the remake of The Crow…everyone has heard about it for ages, but no one has seen a tangible trace of it. Someone holds a license, claims they intend to do something with it, but nothing happens. Poltergeist has now moved out of that limb. Filming is done. Yes, you read that correctly. Sam Raimi is the producer and the lesser-known Gil Kenan is directing. Kenan’s greatest achievement was getting an Academy Award in 2006 for his stop-motion/live-action short The Lark, which was part of his graduate thesis. That attracted Zemeckis and Spielberg, who gave him the director’s seat in Monster House, a flick with a $75 million budget. Talk about putting pressure on an amateur! Well, he managed to gross $140.2 million on it. That opened the door to directing City of Ember in 2008. Despite getting a 6.5 on IMDb and featuring class acts like Bill Murray and Tim Robbins, the picture tanked, making $18 million on a $55 million budget. Critics were lukewarm to it. He then vanished from film (aside from working on some screenplays, like A Giant) untilPoltergeist got kicked up again.
Looking at the chain of events, it seems obvious knowing Spielberg gave him an in to being able to take the project, though Sam Raimi has taken the producer’s seat. While we know Kenan can produce quality material, the issue of a remake happening puts a sour taste in the mouths of many. Remakes and reboots do make sense when ample time has passed and the original wasn’t a mainstream hit that became a classic. That or if technology/industry has changed so much it can pull off what the original couldn’t. It was 30 years between the original Cape Fear and Scorsese’s remake, yet Scorsese was met with acclaim, big profits and awards. It’s nearing 32 years since Poltergeist was released, so why are we hesitant to receive it? Simple: Hooper and Spielberg were able to pull off everything they wanted in the original. Nothing had to be censored or toned down and every effect worked. No improvement was needed. So, the issue is this: can Kenan improve onPoltergeist somehow? He seems akin to CG effects, and those tend to get mixed reviews even when they aren’t intertwined with a remake of a classic. That and there’s always a degree of ego that comes with doing a remake. It’s completely understandable some directors do remakes because they’re fans and want to enter the world of a film they love, but it’s hallowed ground. Someone doing a remake sounds like they believe the original was lacking and they can personally do a better job. Even if the original director does or approves the remake, it gives the sour taste of dissatisfaction with what viewers fell in love with. We can’t help but be insulted or at least skeptical.
This topic is one I approach with hesitance, since I’m stepping into the middle of a heated battle. Upon the release of the new Annie trailer, IMDb, Twitter and other sites blew up with complaints about Annie being African American in the new iteration, which has been met with others claiming it’s racist to be bothered by the change. Dare it be said, both sides are missing a few points.
Personally, I don’t care about the race of the new Annie. Cameron Diaz as the lead of an orphanage in Harlem, plus her crummy acting, struck me as more off than anything, but I digress. The point is the film would be getting negative critiques off the bat for being a remake, the race of Annie aside. Yes, some commenters on those pages are actually racist. It’s an unfortunate element of humanity. Others are purists who view the old Annie as a classic and do not want to see any changes, period. They wouldn’t want a remake to begin with. Bringing in another region and culture makes it not look like Annie to them, and they hate all changes regardless of what they are. I’m probably being a bit too generous by offering that much of a defense to them.
Are there times when it’s a poor or even inappropriate decision to change a character’s race or heritage? I’d argue yes. I don’t care to see a white Shaft, because culture is such a huge element of that film. If Morpheus in The Matrix was made Chinese, it wouldn’t matter. For all I care, Neo could’ve been Pakistani. Character background and heritage played no role whatsoever in that whole movie. It does, however strike me as off to have someone who doesn’t appear Norwegian to play Heimdall in Thor, since it’s a Norse character, though it doesn’t offend me. I also found it odd Johnny Depp played Tonto in The Lone Ranger. Come on, Disney!
Now for the big one – Annie. No, her race isn’t essential to the story. Changing her heritage and the region does change the story, and that upsets the purists and the racists, but it’s actually a good choice. I, for one, didn’t think Annie needed a remake. The switch-ups work for me because I don’t want to see the exact same movie made again. It at least brings some new dynamics into the story. Jamie Foxx is a cool choice for Benjamin Stacks. To toss the potentially non-racists who don’t like Annie’s new race a bone, a white Annie being rescued from poverty by Jamie Foxx would be a fun move. The genuine racists would be so upset to see a little white girl saved by a person of color!
Imaginary Enemy, the new album, comes out April 1st. They’ve also created a new record label titled GAS (Give a Shit), which focuses on publishing music without any unwanted meddling with production.The upcoming tour features We Came as Romans, Crown the Empire and Mindflow. It’s in support of the It Gets Better project.
Around the turn of the millennium, PG-13 horror movies were all the craze. We had The Sixth Sense, The Ring, The Grudge, The Others, Signs, White Noise and so on. Before that era, Tremors was one of the few PG-13 horror titles on the market. Yes, there are some scattered examples of other ones, such as Critters, but they were few and far between, plus less likely to have been made with the PG-13 rating as a goal. The issue many horror fans had at the time PG-13 horror movies came out was a legitimate one: the movies were being made into PG-13 titles for marketing purposes. It’s great when horror films hit the mainstream and get appreciation, but not when it comes at the expense of the craft. The good part is we’re now able to make dark films without them necessarily getting tossed in with the R-rated gorefests the genre is known for. R-rated works can be cerebral, even with the gore, but PG-13 ones must have adequate suspense and writing to be successful in the long-term. Shock factor isn’t enough.
Believe it or not, we’ve hit a golden age for the genre. Aside from having Insidious, Cabin in the Woods, Zombieland and all that jazz, the culture has truly evolved. There is value to horror being a subgenre, as it invokes passionate filmmaking, but it’s ability to get into theatres makes it easier for creators to afford to do what they love for a living. We’ve been getting new horror icons as of late, including Zack Snyder and James Wan. Their names are nothing short of John Carpenter’s or Wes Craven’s, having already made some masterpieces. That and they’re living in world with bigger economic options. It used to be simply having a dark tone meant an R rating, regardless of content. Consider The Good Son, Army of Darkness, The Frighteners and so on. Ratings are still sometimes unfair, but there are better options now. If a filmmaker wants a PG-13, cuts can be made for theatres, then an uncut version can be released on home video without protest, since unrated cuts have now become acceptable across essentially all retailers. Believe it or not, just over ten years ago, unrated cuts were rare to stumble across and usually only happened when NC-17 ratings were surrendered. Unrated cuts now allow for productions to sit between ratings. Filmmakers shouldn’t have to change their content to fit a ratings system. If it works best to put in a shocking bit of gore in an otherwise clean movie, since it gets the right amount of impact, is it fair to have to cut it to get a PG-13 and hence higher box office revenues? Perhaps not, but now the version of a film that goes down in history will be the original cut, which is typically what’s in stores.
Which PG-13 horror feature are you looking forward to most?