Winter Movie Preview 2011: Horror/Thrillers

Horror movies — like people I suppose — usually take a vacation come the holidays. No horror film expects to compete with the usually holiday entries as most are not well-recieved and people are interested in awards dramas and blockbusters. Considering January and February are less competitive months where studios dump many of their less-than-sterling films, there’s a slate of about five for you this winter.

5. The Roommate (Feb. 4)

Directed by Christian E. Christiansen
Written by Sonny Mallhi
Starring: Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet

The Word: In the proud tradition of obsessive teen psycho horror films comes “The Roommate” starring Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive 2010 (and Derek Jeter’s girlfriend), Minka Kelly as a college student who appears to have found the perfect roommate in Rebecca (singer-turned-movie-star Leighton Meester), but she soon finds out Rebecca’s a bi-polar overprotective psycho who claims to “know what’s best” for her roommate.

My Thoughts: Of top horror films that will make you laugh for reasons unintended in 2011, “The Roommate” could be close to the tippy top. Not an ounce of this movie looks scary or any bit original, yet it certainly fits that mold for people looking for cheesy horror in a movie populated by attractive actors.

4. Sanctum (Feb. 4)

Directed by Alister Grierson
Written by John Garvin and Andrew Wight
Starring: Ioan Gruffud, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Richard Roxburgh

The Word: There’s only one thing James Cameron likes more than making movies about the future and that’s making movies about the depths of the oceans/planet Earth. He produces this Australian-based 3-D disaster film about a team of researches who travel to and inside of the only cave left unexplored on the planet, but when it starts to flood, the find themselves in a fight for their lives.

My Thoughts: Without any A-list stars, “Sanctum” hopes to only capitalize on 3D and Cameron’s name appearing on the same poster. No one’s seen or heard from Gruffud since he played Tony Blair in Oliver Stone’s “W.” and he’s the biggest name having once played Mr. Fantastic. The story looks completely formulaic, but can it be gripping enough to rise above it? I doubt the 3D will play a factor in quality.

3. Shelter (Feb. 25)

Directed Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Written by  Michael Cooney
Starring: Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jeffrey DeMunn

The Word: Released in foreign markets last year and even in 2009, Americans will finally get to see cinema’s go-to psychological disorder murder mystery writer Michael Cooney’s film that sounds very similar in concept to his semi-popular thriller “Identity.” From what I gather, Rhys Meyers plays a patient with multiple personality disorder with one personality that’s been “murdered.” A psychologist (Moore) tries to get to the bottom of it.

My Thoughts: Any film that’s taken this long to get picked up for a U.S. release, even by the Weinstein Co., worries me. The role looks very different for Rhys Meyers which somehow seems encouraging, but the latter part of the trailer descends into utter incomprehensible chaos. At least it’s a bit more sophisticated than some of the other horror stuff out there. A 6.0/10 on imdb doesn’t scream failure either.

2. The Rite (Jan. 28)

Directed by Mikael Håfström
Written by Michael Petroni, Matt Baglio (book)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Colin O’Donoghue, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds

The Word: The latest entry in the exorcism genre takes a slightly different approach, one of a young priest, a slight skeptic, who attends the Vatican to learn how to perform an exorcism. Instead of merely taking for granted the existence of the exorcism sub-genre, “The Rite” tries to bring a historical fiction perspective (slightly) to it.

My Thoughts: Sir Anthony Hopkins has chosen some interesting films lately, but this role seems to fit him well, regardless of how it ends up being received. “The Last Exorcism” did somewhat well at the box office back in August, so perhaps there’s a bit of an audience for this one. Personally, I tend to avoid these kinds of movies — not exactly my cup of tea — and a late January release tends to mean the same old tricks.

1. Unknown (Feb. 18)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, Didier Van Cauwelaert (novel)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Frank Langella

The Word: Middle-aged guys taking revenge seems to be a recurring movie theme lately for the winter months. Last year Mel Gibson got to the bottom of his daughter’s death in “Edge of Darkness” and the year before that, Liam Neeson (who stars in this film) of course had the surprise hit “Taken.” This time, Neeson’s revenge is exacted on the people who stole his life. After a car accident, he wakes up to find out someone else has apparently taken his identity and he’ll stop at nothing to uncover the conspiracy.

My Thoughts: Collet-Serra has a horror background (“The Orphan,” remake of “House of Wax”) so I suspect the suspense will be excellent. The exceedingly prolific Neeson is beyond capable of playing this kind of lead in a commanding way, though the trailer expertly shows us in the final clip that Dr. Martin Harris “didn’t forget everything” aka how to kick ass. Of all the generically premised films these first two months of 2011, “Unknown” has the most promise of being entertaining.


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