The Rotten Truth: Strange Days Ahead

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Horror takes a turn into the diverse

Next year is going to be a strange one for horror. Jon Favreau recently stated that the summer of 2011 was going to be a slaughter as blockbusters like Thor, X-Men: First Class, Captain America, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Cowboys and Aliens and other powerhouses go head-to-head. I wish the same could be said for our genre in 2011 and it has me wondering if the decade is dipping into the sort of genre malaise we felt in the early ’90s. Let’s assess the situation.

More sequels. More remakes. A lot of fringe horror. And plenty of diversity. The year is going to be top-heavy if you count After Dark’s eight-picture slate of “originals” that are due to get a limited run in theaters in January. Otherwise, you’ve got the delayed Season of the Witch and the Anthony Hopkins-starring exorcism flick The Rite. February is a bit more hopeful. The teen thriller The Roommate opens, as does the action-horror hybrid Drive Angry. Another delayed flick, Shelter, with Julianne Moore, is also seeing the light of day in the U.S. (it’s been released overseas for some time now). Meanwhile, we’re awaiting word on when Magnet plans to debut Brad Anderson’s Vanishing on 7th Street, which has not received the kindest reviews, that month.

Then the borderline genre material starts to float in. March sees the premiere of the scary alien flick Battle: Los Angeles and the “I love my creature” tales Red Riding Hood and Beastly – romance mixed with horror fare.

Before the summer blast hits, we’ll see the releases of Mother’s Day, Scream 4 and Priest, a 3D futuristic sci-fi/western film with vampires. The Thing was scheduled for a spring bow, but the producers felt it wasn’t ready and that additional shooting was in order. And sure, we’ll see Super 8 open in June, but consider that a fringe genre flick/blockbuster contender with names like J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg behind it. Other than that, the summer is a barren wasteland.

No studio producing a straight-up horror film wants to take a gamble opening a film during the months of May through July.

August is another story. Fright Night, once a remake scheduled to open in October, arrives followed by Final Destination 5 and Piranha 3DD . All 3D releases. Fall, the one time you expect to see horror films, harbored a dry spell until Dark Castle plugged The Apparition into September and Paramount inevitably announced Paranormal Activity 3 for late October, the only competition Lionsgate’s Dibbuk Box is bound to face. After the box office bashing horror took this past fall season, it’s unlikely studios are jumping at the chance to release any more genre fare in September and October.

And you can pretty much write off November and December for horror right now, unless Universal thinks The Thing is good to go. I also suspect the year will close out with A Haunting in Georgia.

Again, a puzzling year ahead. But 2011 will be a make or break year for certain titles. Will the Scream franchise kick-start a new trilogy, furthermore launch of a new slate of teen horror copycats, if part four hits big? Are audiences going to grow tired of being spoon fed horror films with a heavy romantic edge to its story? Will death call it quits after a fifth installment of Final Destination? The only trend we’re seeing, however miniscule it is at this moment, are films trying to bank on the Paranormal Activity craze. We’ll know by the end of next year if audiences still like to be spooked by malevolent ghosts ‘n demons.

If you look at the list of theatrical horror releases in 2011, the list is amazingly small. Exclude the remakes and sequels, the list gets smaller with just a few “original” titles opening up. So what the hell is happening? Studios appear to be searching for the next big thing. That, or they’re not as confident to sink their dollars into genre films right now. If you look at some of the larger horror projects that are on the horizon in 2012 and beyond, there are big names behind them. Tim Burton’s spearheading Dark Shadows and an adaptation of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” Ridley Scott’s prepping the Alien prequels and Lionsgate is circling bankable stars for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

There is no “sure thing.” Franchises have closed their doors (Saw), some are hitting their stride (Paranormal Activity) and nearly every recognizable horror title has been remade (I said “nearly”). Some will cry, once again, “horror is dead!” I suspect the genre, as far as theatrical fare is concerned, is going through a massive transition. Luckily there should be some fine direct-to-DVD titles to discover and break the tedium during those dry months in 2011.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor