Horror Ten Spot: 10 Genre Flicks To See This Summer!
Finally! Outside of maybe Halloween, the best time of the year is almost here friends. Summertime. Beaches, bikinis, cold beer, hot sand, sunshine, and of course, three months of the biggest, dumbest, loudest blockbusters Hollywood has to offer. Flagship franchises, superhero flicks, bloated sequels, over-accessible family fare...all ready to roll out what looks to be a record breaking 3 months at the box-office. But yo, this is a goddamn horror site, and just because the summer season isn't as conducive to cinematic thrills and chills as say the fall, do not be discouraged folks. There are many genre flicks to clock on the big-screen from now until the end of August. Large visions of auteurs like Guillermo del Toro, Neill Blomkamp, Marc Forster...and smaller, intimate works of cats like James Wan, Neil Jordan and others make this year's summer genre slate a most intriguing one. Lads and lasses take note, here are 10 genre flicks that ought to be given a day in court this summer!
Forgive me friends, I'm a weak, weak man. I could have easily slated 4 or 5 other films in the ten hole, but in the end, the unmatched female lineup of Robert Rodriguez's MACHETE KILLS has sucked me into its vortex of estrogen. Heard, Alba, Vergara, Vega, the sisters Avellan, Hudgens, Rodriguez and more...yeah, I'm there! I just hope the sequel outdoes the original, or at least harkens back to the tone of the faux-trailer that inspired the original. I mean, I thought MACHETE was funny, as a send-up, but as an actual action/grindhouse experience, it left a lot to be desired (and don't get me started on the CG blood). The cast of KILLS is certainly a step up, let's just hope Rodriguez lives up to his own potential. Dude better be careful, with one more miss or so, dude might be tagged with the overrated or over the hill tag. Let's go R.R., put that shite to bed!
We all know there's a thin line between genius and insanity, and the more I look at it, the more apt such a maxim seems to apply to James DeMonaco's THE PURGE. If you've not heard, the film takes place in a not so distant future America where, during a 12-hour period every year, every form of law and order is temporarily banned. No cops, no hospitals, no emergence medical responses...it's basically a 12-hour free pass for criminals to "purge" all of their odious desires. The illegal is made legal! Now, I'm not sure how the flick will play out as a whole, but that's a f*ckin' awesome premise right there...hatched by the man who penned THE NEGOTIATOR and the ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 remake. More, the script was good enough to attract the likes of Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, so that should mark the flick as a cut above most contemporary genre fare.
Although I hardily chuckle every time I compare Elijah Wood with the late great Joe Spinell, I've heard too many good things and seen enough evidence to back it up that MANIAC - directed by Franck Khalfoun - will be a worthy horror rehash. Will it personally win me over more than the Bill Lustig 1980 original? Absolutely no shot in hell. I love that flick to its core. I really do. But that's not to say Khalfoun (P2), who you may recognize as Alexander Aja's right hand man, can't deliver a solid piece of grisly pulp. Toss in a roster of drop-dead lookers, including America Olivo, Nora Arnezeder, Megan Duffy, Liane Balaban, Genevieve Alexander and others - what the hell's not to look forward to?! I just really hope little Elijah acquits himself well, as I couldn't think of a more disparate titular psychopath than originated by Mr. Spinell.
Neil Jordan hasn't directed a feature in 4 years (ONDINE). The film he made prior to that, THE BRAVE ONE, I remember enjoying quite a bit when I clocked it in the theater with my uncle. Considering this, and given Jordan's track record in the genre (INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES), not to mention a starring turn from one of the best young actors we have today, Saoirse Ronan (seen above), BYZANTIUM is sure to be a fascinating watch. Much like WOLVES, Jordan is harking back to the surreal, horror-fantastique that he mastered early on in his career, as Ronan and Gemma Arterton star as a pair of mysterious vamps who cause a disturbing riff in a small coastal town. With a modest budget, a hard-R rating for bloody violence and sexual content, and a dreary Irish and English setting - BYZANTIUM could be the horror sleeper of the season.
Sometimes, the worst of production woes actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. JAWS, a near perfect film, was infamously wracked by production problems every single day, just to offer an example. And the reason I offer it is because of the long, arduous task of getting WORLD WAR Z in the can...a troubled production possibly indicating a troubled movie. At the end of the day though, I trust the talent of director Marc Forster. Dude's shown deft aplomb in varying genres (FINDING NEVERLAND, STAY, THE KITE RUNNER), so with a solid source material in Max Brooks' novel and Brad Pitt starring, I have a hard time believing WWZ will be completely devoid of merit. More, after the mega-popularity of "The Walking Dead", this sort of feels like a welcome return of non-humorous zombies to the big-screen. Could be a necessity!
Few filmmakers demand the focused-eyes of every single filmgoer, and it's no stretch to say Guillermo del Toro is one of those people. After avoiding the director's chair for the last five years, del Toro is back with the gargantuan monster-robot clash PACIFIC RIM, in theaters everywhere in mid-July. It's pretty simple really, not many minds can visualize a world so epic, so specific, then hire the right cast and crew to realize such a vision the way del Toro can. Now, I'll be honest, the size and scale of this big bastard is sort of redolent of a TRANSFORMERS film, but in my opinion, the acting line-up is too damn strong to let the pyrotechnics supplant the importance of the story and the believability of the acting. I mean, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) in the house? Rinko Kickuchi, Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman? Can't front on that shite!
It's pretty astounding to think that James Wan has two surefire profit makers coming out less than a month from each other, but such is the case this year with THE CONJURING and INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2. Remember, back in '10, INSIDIOUS, which was made for a mere $1 million, went on to become one of the most profitable movies of the year (if not the most profitable). And surprisingly, the flick was actually pretty decent. The story was solid, the effects were pretty sweet, and the performances were all very buyable. Well, back comes Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Lin Shaye, Babs Hershey, Ty Simpkins and the rest of the twisted Lambert family...in a continued script by Wan's better, Leigh Whannell (who also stars as one of the bumbling ghost hunters). Simply put, the first one was good enough to want to see more!
James Wan is pulling double directorial duty this summer, the first leg coming in the form of THE CONJURING, an original paranormal tale that reunites Wan with his INSIDIOUS star Patrick Wilson. The always wonderful Vera Farmiga also stars, with Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston offering solid support. Even better, word is the flick has been deemed too scary to be rated PG-13, so expect a chilling R-rated ghost story when the flick hits theaters in mid-July. Dopeness! In terms of story, nothing terribly new. The flick follows a pair of paranormal investigators summoned to a haunted farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. As they try to vet and suss the sinister situation, they become further entangled in a deadly mystery. But more than the premise, it's all about Wan and his cast here. The dude knows how to make extremely effective horror flicks on the cheap.
It's been a 4 year wait to see how Neill Blomkamp would either eclipse or fall short of his debut feature DISTRICT 9, and as cryptic as ELYSIUM has proven to be throughout production, early signs show tremendous promise. Hell, I even heard character actor William Fichtner, who stars, endorse the film by saying he's never, ever seen anything like what was shown to him as a sample clip. Good enough for me! But more than that, ELYSIUM seems a timeless but never more timely treatise on the haves vs. have-nots, as Earth has been left behind for the poorest humans to inhabit while the rich bastards populate a distant space station. Hopefully the message will be more subtle than the apartheid commentary of D9, but with Matt Damon, Alice Braga, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley in the cast - we should have all the confidence in the world.
Nicolas Winding Refn's follow up to his ultra-cool DRIVE actually looks like it could be a strange, alternate world sequel...that is if Ryan Gosling's character was simply dubbed "Driver" instead of Julian. Be that as it may, Refn has reteamed with his American muse to create something that's possibly more colorful and more stylized than their previous collaboration, highlighted by the exoticism of its Thailand setting. Here though we have at its core a revenge tale, as Gosling's drug-smuggling character is tasked by his own mother to suss who the hell killed his brother, then serve swift vigilante justice to such a perp. Anyone who's seen the trailers knows how beautiful and unique the flick looks, with all kinds of hand-to-hand combat and sword-fighting in the mix. I feel quite confident this flick is going to kick major f*ckin' ass!