Fall Movie Preview 2010: Horror

If autumn has a favorite genre, it’s horror. Blockbuster action flicks have cooled down post-summer, dramas are a bit too far from Oscar-recognition time and comedies are spotty at best. Yet September/October is the time of year horror movies call home. At least one if not two horror films have great success at this time of year. “Paranormal Activity” was the low-budget hit of the fall and its sequel is one of the films vying for that same prominence.

Here are eight horror films on the fall docket (also known as the black and white poster parade) that you should take note of. If you missed my first fall preview post about fall dramas, check it out by clicking the link.

8. Hatchet II (Oct. 1, limited)

Written and directed by Adam Green
Starring: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder

The Word: Wondering about the first “Hatchet?” me too. The 2007 film grossed an astounding $208,550 worldwide, which I guess warranted a sequel for filmmaker Adam Green, who directed the situational horror flick “Frozen” which came out in limited release earlier this year about a few young people stuck on a ski lift for an entire weekend. Anyway, the “series” is an old-school type of slasher flick featuring a dude with a hatchet in a swamp named Victor Crowley. Victor’s a ways away from being Mike Myers or Jason Voorhees, but he’s trying.

My Thoughts: I can understand if horror fans are crying for a new slasher to be born and for filmmakers to stop retreading the same three serial killers, but I’m not sure that makes “Hatchet II” anything more than a good time on DVD.

7. My Soul to Take (Oct. 8)

Written and directed by Wes Craven
Starring: Max Thieriot, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey

The Word: It’s been five years since horror master Wes Craven helmed a movie and that was 2005’s thriller “Red Eye,” so many horror-lovers have their eyes set on “Soul.” This is a return to his usual “serial killer attacking young people” premise and in true Craven fashion, these attacks are not coincidence but the people involved were born on the day the killer was said to have died and they’re convinced that one of them received his soul and is the current “killer,” so the guessing game of who it is reminiscent of “Scream” also plays a part. The film will be presented in 3D.

My Thoughts: You can’t ignore something that Wes Craven has invested his time into, but “My Soul to Take” is not exactly rolling around in originality. It doesn’t help that the film will be released amidst a 3-D backlash; a classic Craven-style slasher doesn’t seem to warrant the extra dimension either. At the same time, “Soul” could be one of the more engaging of the traditional horror films and sequels coming out this season.

6. Case 39 (Oct. 1)

Directed by Christian Alvart
Written by Ray Wright
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Bradley Cooper, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane

The Word: It only took 14 months (and a year since director Alvart’s film “Pandorum,” which was made after it, came out), but “Case 39” is finally getting a wide release in the United States. Not sure what took so long for Paramount Vantage to pick this film up considering it actually has famous people in it, but nevertheless, American audiences will finally open the file. The film is a mystery/thriller type horror film about a child services employee who takes in a young girl after witnessing her parents try and kill her. Turns out the folks weren’t that crazy because some other-worldly spirits follow her around and people end up dead.

My Thoughts: Can’t help but be skeptical when a film has gone all over the world and has even been released on DVD in some countries and finally gets a wide release in America more than a year later. The supernatural elements in the trailer feel overblown and the whole little girl in horror films thing is getting really old. I don’t think Zellweger is enough to prove the 21% already on Rotten Tomatoes wrong.

5. Paranormal Activity 2 (Oct. 22)

Directed by Tod Williams
Written by Michael R. Perry, Oren Peli (characters)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin

The Word: When this microscopic-budget film about a couple moving into a house overrun by a poltergeist became the phenomenon of last year, a sequel was greenlit “Saw” style so that another offering would be ready this year. Well, here we are and original director Oren Peli has stepped away from directing and writing duties as is usually the case with films whose creator wasn’t expecting a sequel (or to become a millionaire for that matter). Tod Williams (“The Door in the Floor”) directs with TV writer Perry on script. Only the teaser has provided a look at the film — the rest of the details are under wraps, but interestingly, Katie Featherton from the original is involved, which will mean something to those who’ve seen the first film. There’s also a dog and a baby as seen in the trailer.

My Thoughts: If Williams can mimic the slow build-up of the original and find a comparable climax, then maybe this film has a shot to be good, but the odds are stacked against it in terms of outdoing or comparing or offering something better than the original now that the shock value has worn off a bit.

4. Devil (Sept. 17)

Directed by Drew and John Erick Dowdle
Written by Brian Nelson, M. Night Shyamalan (story)
Starring: Chris Messina, Geoffrey Arend, Caroline Dhavernas

The Word: Time will tell if Universal was wise in deciding to intimately tie M. Night Shyamalan (producer and story credit) to “Devil” in the advertisements despite him not actually directing or scripting. Seeing as “Devil” is a horror/thriller/who’s the evil one? mystery, some people are extending him a last chance with this film which is arguable in terms of being justified. “Devil” tells the story of a group of strangers trapped in an elevator, one of who is presumably the Prince of Darkness, because strange stuff starts happening.

My Thoughts: I’m always intrigued the by the “social experiment” premise for a thriller or horror film, so I’m curious to see what the critics’ response will be to “Devil.” I think if Universal were a bit more confident in it, they would’ve positioned it in October, which is where they have the aforementioned “My Soul to Take.”

3. Saw 3D (Oct. 29)

Directed by Kevin Greutert
Written by Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton
Starring: Tobin Bell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flanery

The Word: Still in the usual Halloween spot, the Saw series has announced it will conclude with “Saw 3D,” the seventh installment in the long-running series that has earned the title of grandaddy of torture films. At the least, this project is consistent with the writers of the last three movies and Greutert, the director of “Saw VI.” There should also be no surprise about this Saw being seen in 3D.

My Thoughts: According to the teaser, all of Jigsaw’s work has been leading to this. All I can say is if  it took six films to finally get there, it better be worth it for those fans that have stayed loyal all this time.

2. Let Me In (Oct. 1)

Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Matt Reeves, John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay and novel)
Starring: Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins

The Word: Few films get the stink eye more than an American remake of a critically acclaimed foreign film, which is exactly what “Let Me In” is. Based on the Swedish book-turned-film, “Let the Right One In,” the story focuses on a young vampire (Moretz) and her relationship with a boy in the town she’s just moved to with her guardian. It is much more thriller/drama than horror and focuses on this pre-teen relationship as opposed to the vampire aspects at its core. Directed by “Cloverfield’s” Matt Reeves.

My Thoughts: “Let Me In” turned some doubters into believers at Comic Con this year and this could be one of those films where the source material is so strong that so long as Reeves honors it decently, it should be a very good film if not a great one. Featuring two young talents and a lovable veteran in Jenkins, keep an eye on this film as it will definitely cater to outside the horror demographic.

1. Buried (Sept. 24, limited – Oct. 8, wide)

Directed by Rodrigo Cortes
Written by Chris Sparling
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Toblowsky

The Word: One of the crowd favorites at Sundance, “Buried” became a hot commodity that Lionsgate swooped up. A situational thriller/horror film, “Buried” stars Ryan Reynolds in more or less a one-man show about a guy buried alive and left with nothing but a lighter and a cell phone. The positive buzz must mean a dude in a box is pretty intense for the duration of 90 minutes. Lionsgate must also be thrilled to have a star like Reynolds to market the film much more easily.

My Thoughts: With all the praise so far for “Buried,” it’s my pick to be the low-budget horror film that makes big bucks this year. “Let Me In” could earn some more acclaim, but likely won’t draw the crowds this one could with Reynolds on the marquee and the situational premise.


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