2010’s “Missing in Action” Horror Checklist

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Five films looking for a release

Another milk carton has arrived on our doorstep. “Have you seen me?” reads the carton. Beneath that question features a string of portraits for a year’s-worth of completed films now looking for homes and/or release dates.

Yes, it’s time for another “Missing in Action” report; an assessment of completed, unreleased films that we thought for sure would hit sometime in the last 12 months but were no shows. Looking back, 2009’s MIA report was significantly longer than the list below. The good news is that a few of those films mentioned last year eventually turned up on the 2010 release schedule. A few, however, are still sitting on the shelf, like The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Hybrid and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

Let’s look at five more titles still awaiting release…

Area 51

THE STORY Take a top-secret government facility, apply a “found footage” narrative and you’ve got the formula for a conspiracy-driven, high suspense story about a trio of 20-somethings who break into the titular plot of land in Nevada. Will aliens somehow be involved? You betcha.

WHAT HAPPENED? The week of Paranormal Activity‘s release in 2009, Oren Peli announced he’d be directing Area 51, again, under a modicum of secrecy. Shooting occurred in October of that year with a script that was revealed to be more of a scene breakdown. For Area 51, it seemed Peli would be employing the same techniques he used on Paranormal Activity: No-name actors and tons of improvisation. He would not, of course, discuss about this in interviews with the press, however. A script review hit Latino Review, but was subsequently pulled, and it was revealed Reid Warner, Darrin Bragg and Ben Rovner were set to star. By November 2009, principal photography was complete and Paramount had acquired the film.

WHERE IS IT NOW? 2010 was a big year for Peli as he aligned himself with a number of projects in a producer capacity. He also oversaw the production of Paranormal Activity 2 which was rushed into production and released a few months later. As far as Area 51 is concerned, it was a project he refused to comment on. In a New York Times panel discussion that took place in October of this year, he said this of the film: “I am not talking about any other projects, sorry. I can neither confirm nor deny the existence. For now, as long as they’ll let me I’ll try to keep making films, but I believe there’s no point in talking about something until it is done. When I made ‘Paranormal Activity’ none of my friends or neighbors knew I was making a movie, so I thought I should keep on the strategy.” Over the last year, there were rumors of re-shoots and tinkering. Based on Peli’s quote – “no point in talking about something until it is done” – leads one to believe the film was still being tinkered with throughout the fall. Since then, Peli has been attached to direct Eliza Graves, indicating work on Area 51 might finally be over. Now it’s up to Paramount to find a release date in 2011, a year heavy with “alien” genre fare.

The Cabin in the Woods

THE STORY A group of kids representing sundry stereotypes take an excursion to a remote cabin and are preyed upon by monsters. Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, the film deconstructs various horror archetypes through that familiar Whedon filter, but the story dives deeper than audiences will expect.

WHAT HAPPENED? This was MGM breaking out the heavy horror artillery. With the writer of Cloverfield making his feature debut, both Goddard and Whedon did a lot of big talkin’ about the film as they entered pre-production in 2008. MGM delayed its release a year, citing the film needed time to be post-converted to 3D. Throughout 2009, the cast – led by Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth and Let Me In‘s Richard Jenkins – couldn’t keep their mouth shut about some of the film’s secrets and the story was soon to revealed to be a big monster flick. Teaser posters were released at Comic-Con and Cabin was later removed from its January 2010 release altogether. MGM suffered financial problems and we’re told the 3D conversion never happened.

WHERE IS IT NOW? Complete and waiting for MGM to sort its shit out. Recently, the studio came into $500 million for new productions. Hopefully, some of that money will be put into advertising and releasing the films sitting on its shelf.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (Set Report)

THE STORY When powerful ancient artifact with the power to destroy the world surfaces in New Orleans, supernatural private eye Dylan Dogretti (Brandon Routh) is drawn out of retirement and back into the world of the undead. The rest of the cast is filled out by Sam Huntington, Taye Diggs, Anita Briem, Peter Stormare and Kurt Angle.

WHAT HAPPENED? Director Kevin Munroe rolled cameras on this adaptation of the Italian comic book in the spring of 2009. With shooting wrapped and post-production well underway by Comic-Con that year, Munroe and his cast showed off a teaser along with a special poster, however, the presentation heralded a quiet spell. It wasn’t until 2010 that concept art from the film was being placed online. The title was changed from simply Dead of Night to its present moniker and an official blog for the production promised news concerning domestic distribution was “coming soon.”

WHERE IS IT NOW? The film’s Italian premiere is taking precedence over any chance of a U.S. release. Dog debuts overseas in the next few months while a domestic deal continues to be, as one producer tells us, “ironed out.” There were rumors that Fox might pick it up, but those rumblings have simmered down.

The Factory

THE STORY John Cusack is a Buffalo, New York detective on the trail of a serial killer who targets “ladies of the night” and has kidnapped Cusack’s daughter, mistaking her as a hooker. Daaaamn. Cusack channels his inner darkness and breaks all of the rules to get her back.

WHAT HAPPENED? This Dark Castle thriller was shot in 2008 under the direction of Morgan O’Neill. It wasn’t until early 2009 that word trickled in that Dark Castle was going to release the film in October of 2010 (!). Alas, that never happened either. In November 2009, producer Don Carmody revealed Dark Castle – as it was wont to do – was tinkering with the picture and re-shoots had to wait until there was a weather change to refine the ending.

WHERE IS IT NOW? A January 2011 release was the game plan until Warner Bros. pushed it to a “to be determined” release status, possibly to make room for another WB release The Rite.

Hisss

THE STORY Mallika Sherawat is a gorgeous, lethal snake woman who ventures out of the jungle and into the big city to rescue her man. This ain’t no Splash, I’ll tell you that.

WHAT HAPPENED? Following her return to feature filmmaking, Surveillance, director Jennifer Lynch took on this creature feature for Split Image Pictures. The film was shot and in the can in 2008, featuring the FX work of Robert Kurtzman. Photos and a trailer snuck onto the web in early 2009 until news of the film went into hibernation. Sources tell us Lynch isn’t happy with the film and it was taken out of her hands by the producers who have another vision. When Hisss was yanked from the film festival circuit in October of 2010 because, two years after the film was shot because it “wasn’t ready,” the news certainly didn’t inflate expectations.

WHERE IS IT NOW? Well, Lynch has moved on. She’s at work on a picture called Visibility while the producers of Hisss get their film “ready” for the public.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor