The independent horror/thriller scene delivers a number of options in smaller theaters these next couple months, but there are a few mainstream films to note, namely Joss Whedon’s much-delayed “The Cabin in the Woods” and John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe in “The Raven.”
Directed by Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Written by Laura Lau, Gustavo Hernández (original film)
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens
Summary: A young woman becomes trapped in her family’s lakeside retreat as the creepy events around her continue to escalate.
The Word: ”Silent House” is a remake of a 2010 Spanish-language horror film from Uruguay that presented itself in one entire take. That’s right — no cuts or edits, just one 80-minute-plus take. Olsen, who has left all associations to her older twin sisters behind after her performance in last year’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” looks to elevate this gimmick-driven film. The trailer really milks the whole “see it in real time” thing, but not without drawing parallels to found footage.
My Thoughts: The single-take selling point will probably appeal to the same folks smitted by found footage, but for me it’s Olsen that sells the film, even though I admit to not having yet seen “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” You also have to wonder when paranormal happenings in houses will ever take a break from the spotlight.
Written and Directed by Michael A. Nickles
Starring: Christian Slater, Ambyr Childers, Toby Hemingway, Alessandra Torresani
Summary: When some high school students dig into an infamous murder case caught on film decades ago, they unleash a demonic spirit that possesses them through video playback for evil purposes. One cop (Slater) investigates a missing teenage boy who is the focus of the activity.
The Word: Already available on On Demand, this film from Magnolia Pictures brings back a bit of “The Ring” for us in that watching videos screws some people up, but the echoes of found footage can be clearly identified, especially in the beginning of this trailer. Slater makes an interesting cast member, but his appearance seems inconsequential.
My Thoughts: Some less-than-promising user ratings have popped up for this indie, which frankly looks like a film trying to ride a horror trend despite not really being anything like the movies its trying to mooch off.
Directed by Gabe Torres
Written by Timothy Mannion
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Chyler Leigh, JR Bourne, Tom Berenger
Summary: Terrorists capture a secret service agent (Dorff) and lock him inside some kind of torture box in the trunk of a car in attempt to extract valuable information from him about presidential emergency protocol.
The Word: This movie from IFC will draw a lot of comparisons to Ryan Reynolds thriller “Buried” the second you start to watch the trailer. Dorff has had an interesting career path since starring in “Blade,” and you could argue that he could’ve been a big action star if the cards had been played right.
My Thoughts: With some random “Fear Factor” thrown in here, “Brake” could either be a thrilling diversion or a totally unbelievable mess. Many criticized the realism problems with “Buried,” so one would have to think that the few people who see “Brake” will apply the same scrutiny.
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Written by Nicolás Casariego, Jaime Marques
Starring: Clive Owen, Ella Purnell, Carice von Houten, Daniel Brühl,
Summary: Two girls living in completely different countries have visions of a nightly visitor named “Hollow Face” who comes to take possession of them.
The Word: Fresnadillo has been seen as a hot commodity since his handling of “28 Weeks Later,” at one point being tapped to direct “The Crow” remake. Finally he delivers a follow-up, though independent horror wasn’t what most of us expected. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival to middling reviews.
My Thoughts: Nothing here looks original, yet it’s not exactly a copycat of another horror film either. I have to say its unfortunate that “Intruders” didn’t end up being a big-buzz film out of TIFF, as that’s what many expected from Fresnadillo, but considering the many amateur independent horror efforts out there, it’s nice to know that we can at least rely on this one’s production value.
Directed by David Brooks
Written by Chris Sparling
Starring: Brian Geraghty, Alice Eve, Josh Peck
Summary: Three co-workers visit a remote ATM and witness a mysterious figure in a parka brutally murder someone. They soon find themselves trapped by the murderer.
The Word: If you’re looking for other claustrophobia films to reference, “Buried” would be acceptable, as Sparling wrote that film as well. The young cast is also quite impressive: Geraghty had a part in “The Hurt Locker,” Josh Peck starred in “The Wackness” and Eve is an in-demand actress. Speaking of demand, this one is also currently available on demand.
My Thoughts: I like the talent involved, but if the hook is the scenario, a random ATM in the middle of nowhere seems rather strange and arbitrary. I can think of no good reason that the film was set in a glass ATM box, but if the film actually answers that question in an intriguing way, it might well be worth watching.
Directed by Drew Goddard
Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison
Summary: A group of friends go on a remote getaway to a cabin, but several strange, inexplicable events occur and they realize there is more to the cabin than meets the eye.
The Word: As the posters so eloquently put it, this film looks to turn the “cabin in the woods” sub-genre of horror on its head and then some. “Cloverfield” writer Drew Goddard makes his directorial debut, but he also teamed up with sci-fi/horror icon Joss Whedon on the script. Goddard wrote on Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series back in the day. Although Hemsworth was not a huge star at the time this film was made, his elevated profile should help this horror project.
My Thoughts: It’s hard not to admire the talent behind (and in a few instances in front of) the camera, but some release date turmoil has cast a bit of doubt in the minds of those that looked forward to it when it was first announced. I admire the twist on the genre and think from that perspective it will be good, but I have doubts about the execution.
Directed by James McTeigue
Written by Ben Livingston, Hannah Shakespeare
Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson
Summary: Famed writer Edgar Allen Poe learns that a serial killers is on the loose and using his murder mysteries as the basis for his kills. He must work with the police to engage the killer in a game of wits that eventually gets personal.
The Word: Fans of “V for Vendetta” have been waiting ever patiently for James McTeigue to make a worthy follow-up. He made the maligned “Ninja Assassin” in 2009 and now tries out this period thriller/classic murder mystery. Some action appears blended in, but “The Raven” will need to appease mystery fans first and foremost. The cast holds includes Luke Evans (“Immortals,” “The Three Musketeers”), who is slowly making a name for himself, and we rarely see Cusack in this kind of a role.
My Thoughts: An April release has me soured on this one, as April tends to be where studios place disappointing horror movies. I don’t know about bad, but it will likely lack in terms of depth. We come to expect something more poignant from period movies and when they play out like modern movies doing dress-up, it rubs us the wrong way (see “The Wolfman”). I suspect we might get a brisk plot and some exciting mystery, but not a whole lot more.