Fall Movie Preview 2011: Horror

Let’s begin Fall Movie Preview 2011 with horror, a genre whose finest months come during the fall quadrant of the year. The fall opens this Friday with the first two films on this list, a couple summer holdover horror films, but then some intriguing options arrive come late September and of course October.

Apollo 18 (Sep. 2)

Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego
Written by Brian Miller, Cory Goodman

Summary: The story behind the “actual” last NASA mission to the moon and why we were never told of its existence … until now.

The Word: A found-footage type of horror film that takes place in space when NASA astronauts are attacked by some kind of presence. The Weinstein’s moved this film from April to January of next year to the last weekend of summer to the first weekend of fall. Not sure what that says about the quality, but you can expect a very “‘Paranormal Activity’” in space” result from the end product.

My Thoughts: I like the film premise-wise, but that hardly makes it original in the face of aforementioned films (“Paranormal Activity”). At least it doesn’t take place in a creepy house or involve creepy children. The moving around of the release dates is discouraging, especially with another campier horror offering available the same weekend in the next film on this list.

Shark Night 3D (Sep. 2)

Directed by David R. Ellis
Written by Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg
Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Joel Moore, Katharine McPhee

Summary: A group of friends vacationing at a lake in the Louisiana Gulf find themselves being attacked by freshwater sharks.

The Word: In the vein of “Piranha 3D,” which did reasonably well last summer for a film about killer fish and naked women, comes “Shark Night 3D” a “Jaws” meets “Deliverance” film about killer sharks and naked women. For fans of this “genre,” Ellis is a good choice. The longtime stunt coordinator turned director knows a thing or two about campy horror having directed “Final Destination 2,” “The Final Destination” and none other than “Snakes on a Plane.”

My Thoughts: It’s a bit curious that Relativity couldn’t sneak this one into the summer while kids such as the ones vacationing in this film are no yet in school, but it hardly matters. If there’s anything we learned from “Snakes on a Plane,” it’s that no amount of hype can possibly make a campy horror film successful at the box office.

Dream House (Sep. 30)

Directed by Jim Sheridan
Written by David Loucka
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts

Summary: A husband and wife and their two daughters move into a new home and learn of the brutal murders that happened there, but the husband soon makes various discoveries that he might have been the murderer and his family could be all ghosts.

The Word: The trailer might appear to give away the whole film (I’m sure there’s a twist), but Craig and Weisz in a horror thriller has to generate some interest in this long-delayed project. Another point of interest would be director Jim Sheridan, the acclaimed Irish director of films such as “In America,” and “My Left Foot,” who will dabble in horror for the first time. Not so much a point of interest would be David Loucka, whose last memorable screenplay was for Whoopi Goldberg vehicle “Eddie.”

My Thoughts: The script has to be good if this film attracted Sheridan, Craig, Weisz and Naomi Watts, right? Craig and Weisz eventually were married resulting from this partnership … but this typical haunted house thriller seems just that, typical, so I have my doubts. Hopefully the aforementioned talents can give it a boost.

The Thing (Oct. 14)

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Written by Eric Heisserer, John W. Campbell Jr. (short story)
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Eric Christian Olsen, Adewala Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Summary: A team of researchers/scientists discover a frozen alien specimen in Antarctica. When they unearth it, they realize it not only wants to kill them, but it also assumes the form of its victims.

The Word: “The Thing” gravitates between a prequel and a remake, because it supposedly takes place before the events of the 1982 classic based on the 1951 classic “The Thing from Another World” but the events are basically the same. Heijningen Jr. makes his feature-film debut with a script from horror scribe (“A Nightmare on Elm Street,” 2010, “Final Destination 5” Eric Heisserer. Up-and-comers Winstead and Edgerton highlight the cast.

My Thoughts: Part of John Carpenter’s genius in the ’80s was the animatronic alien, so could a rehash likely including a lot of CGI possibly carry the same weight? I’m a big fan of that film, so my expectations might be unreasonably high, but certainly no October horror option looks better in my opinion.

Paranormal Activity 3 (Oct. 21)

Directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Written by Michael R. Perry, Oren Peli (characters)

Summary: Before they were each attacked by demonic spirits as adults, Katie and Kristi were normal sisters growing up in the ’80s — who were plagued by demonic spirits.

The Word: Now that we’ve seen the last “Saw” (for now), the “Paranormal Activity” franchise has taken over as the perennial horror franchise of the Halloween weeks. After the sequel opened with $40 million and grossed $170 million or so worldwide on a $3 million budget, it’s not going away anytime soon. Strapped for story lines, “PA 2” writer Michael R. Perry has gone the prequel route it seems, and as we know nothing scares audiences like children.

My Thoughts: I saw the first one (hard not to with all the hype) and the second film naturally got a more mixed reception. I liked the original, but I’m also a fan of letting good horror films fly solo. There was nothing redeeming enough about the characters to continue their story and this third installment — in premise alone — must continue to think otherwise.

Red State (Oct. 19, limited)

Written and Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring: Michael Angarano, Melissa Leo, John Goodman

Summary: A group of high school kids receive an online invitation for sex, but their teenage curiosity goes horribly wrong when they discover a group of fundamentalists churchgoers.

The Word: Kevin Smith most famously won his own bidding war over this film at Sundance, electing to take it across the country himself. The “Clerks” and “Dogma” filmmaker has gone on quite the different creative stretch lately, opting to direct last year’s “Cop Out” among other things. “Red State” has naturally be controversial but fans have enjoyed it in its screenings thus far.

My Thoughts: Many people simply can’t look past the fact that this is a Kevin Smith film; I can. As much as I enjoyed his earlier work, I don’t feel the need to concern myself with every project he does. With mixed reviews overall, I feel no inclination to make it a point to check out “Red State.” In fact, Melissa Leo co-starring has me the most interesting of any one element.


  1. richardM says:

    Both the poster and the trailer clearly say this film stars in the order of Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz. Why did you alter it and mislead your readers?

  2. Steven says:

    Richard – I don’t consider the order of the billing a integral part of a film, but rather a marketing tactic studios use to attract an audience. The “switch” was not deliberate, I simply associated Weisz more with the film because she’s in the trailer longer, but I don’t believe the way I order two names in the credits will mislead anyone who goes to see the film. It is the order in which Universal puts them that’s meant to sway the audience.

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