Troma’s 1984 classic Toxic Avenger is getting a remake, and the people attached are surprising. Reportedly, Arnold Schwarzenegger was to hold the lead role as Toxie, but he dropped upon seeing the original. Original director, Lloyd Kaufman, gives the reboot AND musical his full blessing. Steve Pink, director of Hot Tub Time Machine (and the sequel to hopefully come this December), plans to make it a hard PG-13, to the chagrin of fans, but Kaufman insists the remake is bound to be just as good as the original, perhaps better.
“Regarding the remake? This is Akiva Goldsman, who got an Oscar for writing A Beautiful Mind and he is a brilliant director. He’s got a movie out now called Winter’s Tale. He and Richard Saperstein, they have hired Steve Pink, who made Hot Tub Time Machine and High Fidelity, and other movies…He is very good, he loves Troma, he has read my book, he came to my book signing… Steve Pink has written a script, and he is directing, and they did sign Arnold Schwarzenegger! But then Arnold Schwarzenegger must have seen the original, and he unsigned. That’s all I know about that.”
68-year-old-Kaufman also hasn’t slowed down, working on a 5th Toxic Avenger title while the remake is being made.
“First of all, we have been writing Toxic Twins: The Toxic Avenger V for two years now, and we still don’t have a script that doesn’t suck, but we’re getting there. That will be the next movie that I get to direct. Unfortunatly we have written it for Chernobyl. We want Toxie to have some contact with Chernobyl. And it turns out, as you probably know, that Chernobyl is in a place called the Ukraine, which is not such a good place to be filming right now…But! We are are getting there. We are getting a better script, and at some point we will head to the Ukraine and film.”
If you need some Troma now, Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 just hit blu-ray two weeks ago.
With all the interest in zombies, I don’t know how this hasn’t happened yet. Do they need Abigail Breslin to be 20 before it starts or something? It made $102 million on a $23.6 million budget! It’s not Harry Potter, but it has a big fan base to satiate and there’s money in it. A script is underway and a TV series almost happened, as the pilot was filmed. Yes, the pilot IS on Amazon Instant Video.
While vast lengths of time have passed since the original and the 1990 sequel, it’s sad a third hasn’t happened. Talks have been going on for so long, but something always gets in the way of production. Namely, Joe Dante refuses for there to be CG in the picture, and all the more power to him for it. The little beasts have a lot of energy left in them. A remake has been optioned, but I don’t see a need for it. They could just make another story about the tiny fiends with no relation to the other films, but it’s essential no one tries to beat Dante at his tricks. It just won’t happen.
I was so excited for the second movie I saw it opening weekend. While the performances were strong, it just didn’t live up to the original. I don’t expect the same movie over again, but motivations from the first film fell aside for the sake of convenience (Dave/Kick-Ass’ breakup with his girlfriend, why Hit-Girl wants to retire, etc). Other aspects of believability got torn asunder, like people believing Dave’s father could’ve been Kick-Ass. I love the action getting ramped up and focusing on Hit-Girl as a main character, but it became a superhero movie rather than a commentary on what makes a person a hero – not because it didn’t try, but that the cast was too huge. A third is needed, not exactly for redemption (a 6.8 on IMDb is solid), but to bring the tension back…and I want to see The Motherfucker get a small mech if at all possible. While IMDb doesn’t list a Kick-Ass 3 as even optioned, the creators are pushing for it and there’s no reason it wouldn’t happen. The film made almost $60 million on a $28 million budget and the series is prime material for retail sales.
2008 is a ways back, but Cloverfield was a huge success, beating Zombieland with $171 million in earnings off a similar budget. Really, it was mastership of the fixed first-person view and a chilling story to boot. In an age of stylized messes, this one made sense. While a sequel is possible, Reeves and Abrams refuse to make it unless they have an idea they genuinely feel is worth it. When Super 8 came around, people even speculated it could’ve been the sequel they were waiting for…which brings us to our next title.
We need to track down Reeves and Abrams to make this happen. This one is the biggest money maker on the list – $260 million on a $50 million budget. I don’t know what the plot would be per se, but something in the same universe would be fun as long as it treaded ample new ground. Those alien and monster designs are too good to limit to one film.
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 .
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.
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.
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?
No matter the genre of film, digital effects impact our viewing experience. We can’t dodge it. I got a good laugh when Stephen King’s gripe on digital effects had to do with the Fat Albert film…as if practical effects could’ve saved it. For the horror genre especially, suspension of disbelief matters, since we need to be fully immersed for the scares to work. We can laugh off poor effects in a comedy, but not many other places. Would we have liked Scanners if the popping head wasn’t an actual prop being blown up, shooting heavy chunks of gore everywhere? I’d imagine not. It especially would’ve flopped as a 3D movie with brain matter distractingly imposed to fly directly at the screen. Ick.
At the risk of sounding like an old kook, digital effects reign too high in film. There are times they ARE appropriate, which is whenever a practical effect can’t do the trick convincingly. Remember, the decapitated head spider in The Thing (1982) was a practical effect, so a lot can be pulled off with a bit of latex and a lot of time. If the time isn’t there and it’s fiscally responsible, by all means, go digital – if and only if it doesn’t look digital in the final product. No one ever needs to know a computerized effect was used. But truly, when directors decide to use digital blood rather than realistic just because they don’t want to take 15 minutes to let the fx guys in to place some squibs, it’s sad…and often a waste of funds.
My opinion isn’t digital is bad. The first Resident Evil film had a digital monster called a licker, which it made sense to include, because it would’ve been a massive chore to have something like that walk along a train car, tearing up the railing and eating people – all without the help of computer technology. Still, they used prosthetics when it was an up-close battle. It tried to blend both kinds of effects, and did a solid job for the decade it was made.
We all – and I don’t think that’s hyperbole – miss the days of genuine survival horror titles, both in games and film. By that I mean there’s too much gore and show, but not enough jangling of our nerves. Really, even the old Metal Gear on NES (and many old action RPG titles) were closer to survival horror than what passes as horror in the modern world. They had dire consequences to every action. Enemies were few and tough. Yes, I’m going to act like an old man, because the 90’s were the figurative Garden of Eden for horror as an interactive medium. There was Alone in the Dark in 1992, which brought a genuinely dark atmosphere to the realm of puzzles, disturbing backstory and badass enemies. Many say Resident Evil established the framework for the golden age of horror games (which included Silent Hill), but I disagree; it merely put the elements into a 3D format. At heart, survival horror is about roleplaying with tough action sequences inserted in there like a punch to the nuts.
I could whine about modern titles on end, about how much action has taken over, stacking the corpses of creepy character models into stacks, but I won’t. All I can say is it’s been a plague for the last 6-7 years, no examples needed. The good news is I believe that era is coming to an end. A new era of survival horror is about to come, one featuring blistering realism, brutal enemies and an atmosphere which begs to be maintained by a struggle to push onto past level…or even checkpoint.
My hopes sit with this one to kick it off, though The Last of Us was a good precursor. Do the world a favor and buy this kind of stuff to show them all how we like our horror!