For horror fans, the spring and summer theatrical releases of 2011 have been very dry – terribly, terribly barren. However, beginning August 5th, scarier, more thrilling genre films, get a resurgence with a new theatrical release nearly every single week through October. Some are true horror films with haunted houses, vampires and demons in the dark. While others have a more science fiction tinge with robot boxers, space-born parasites and aliens from outer space. And still a number are masked as thrillers where the characters have to deal with killers, airborne viruses, kidnappers and home invaders. Any way you look at, starting this fall, the cinema gets serious, striving hard to frighten you any way they can. Here’s a list of some of the films to look out for. Note: release dates are subject to change at any time.
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (8/5)
The popular sci-fi series based on the 1963 novel by Piere Boulle was re-imagined by director Tim Burton in 2001. Now, ten years later, Burton’s vision gets a prequel of sorts with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The film is directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) from a script by Rick Jaffa (The Relic) and Amanda Silver (The Hand that Rocks the Cradle). James Franco leads the cast with Andy Serkis portraying Caesar using the same motion capture techniques used for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and for the mighty ape in King Kong (2005). In this revision of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, experimental genetic engineering results in an evolved ape with high intelligence who organizes a simian revolt against the human race. The trailer promises high action and a remarkable performance by Serkis as Caesar; a recent four-minute clip at Yahoo illustrates the strength of the motion caption and the breadth of emotion that Serkis and the CGI wizards bring to Caesar. Amazing.
FINAL DESTINATION 5 (8/12)
The questionably popular and persistent horror series Final Destination returns with its fifth installment. So much for the last movie being called The Final Destination. Promises, promises. Death is on the trail of another set of victims that escaped fate’s touch, this time surviving a suspension-bridge collapse. Tony Todd returns as Bludworth and the movie is filmed in Real 3D. Expect the usual thrills and chills as insanely orchestrated deaths are unveiled as death chases downs its victims. If nothing else, the Final Destination movies know what they are and don’t try to stretch too far from formula. Final Destination 5 is sure to deliver the scares, thrills, and 3D goods.
FRIGHT NIGHT 3D (8/19)
The original Fright Night from 1985 is delightfully campy with a scene-chewing performance from Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent. This year director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) remakes Tom Holland’s comedy-horror classic with a promising cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Toni Collette. From the trailers the remake appears to follow the original story pretty closely. Teenager Charlie Brewster begins to suspect his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge, might be a vampire responsible for a rash of unexplained nearby killings. Charlie rallies his girlfriend, Amy, his best friend, Evil Ed, and self-proclaimed vampire killer, Peter Vincent, to confront Dandridge to expose his secrets. The most noticeable difference so far is that Peter Vincent is a Las Vegas Magician in the remake instead of a TV horror host. You’re so cool, Brewster! Don’t believe me? Check out the clip introducing Peter Vincent from this year’s Comic-Con!
DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK (8/26)
Another remake, this time of a little remembered – but quite effective – television movie-of-the-week from 1973, proves to be ripe pickings for producer Guillermo del Toro. The script is given a personal modernization by del Toro himself serving a the film’s writer and Troy Nixey steps in to direct his first feature length film. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark stars Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes as a couple who inherits a old country mansion with Bailee Madison as their daughter. Soon after getting settled in their new home, they begin to fear they are not alone. This movie promises to be as creepy and frightening as the recent scare-fest, Insidious. And with del Toro’s track record for producing taught well-crafted thrillers such as Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage and Julia’s Eyes, American movie-goers should be in for a special treat this fall. Get your goose-pimples ready.
SHARK NIGHT 3D (9/2)
Ever since Spielberg unleashed Jaws in 1975, sharks have been a favorite monster on the prowl in cinemas. This year, director David R. Ellis (The Final Destination, Snakes on a Plane), brings them back to the screen in glorious 3 dimensions with Shark Night 3D. The plot concerns a group of seven young vacationers spending the weekend at a lake house on the Louisiana Gulf only to find themselves surrounded and under attack by a group of sharks. These aren’t just nature’s carnivorous beasts feeding on the only sizable food supply, they are the pawns of disturbed locals with an evil plan. Expect campy goodness, but not as much gore as you might have thought. Shark Night 3D was only slapped with a PG-13 rating. Try not write it off just yet: Jaws was only PG back in the day; water lends itself quite well to 3D cinematography; and, sharks are…well, scary. It’s the teeth, all those teeth.
APOLLO 18 (9/2)
The current cycle of Cinema-Verite (or found footage) films finds its way onto the surface of the Moon with producer Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Wanted) and director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, making his feature length film debut. Equal parts science-fiction, horror and conspiracy film, Apollo 18 involves a NASA cover up of a failed 18th mission to the Moon. The trailers and promotional materials shown so far give audiences the only hints at the true story behind Apollo 18, where American astronauts uncover a dead cosmonaut, space sickness and possibly alien parasitic lifeforms. Most Cinema-Verite films so far thrive on confined or familiar locations; it will be interesting to see how the vastness of the Moon’s surface will translate to hand held cameras. Apollo 18 has a lot of interesting ingredients that could successfully gel to a frightening time in the theaters come September.
As far as realistic horror goes, viruses, deceases and airborne germs are some of the scariest things on the planet, partly because they’re difficult to understand but also because they’re difficult to survive – in the movies at least. This fall, acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) brings this action thriller to the screen with a sensational cast: Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne and John Hawkes, among others. Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Identity and The Informant!) writes the scripts that focuses on an international team of scientists that try to break a vicious, deadly strain that is threatening to wipe out the human race. Think Stephen King’s The Stand without all that supernatural mumbo-jumbo or 28 Days Later without any zombie-like victims stomping around. This one promises to keep it so tight to the realm of possibility that it may be the most frightening thing in the theaters all year.
THE THING (10/14)
Nearly 30 years ago, John Carpenter unleashed a remake of the classic The Thing from Another World (1951) with his now classic The Thing (1982) featuring Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, and a gruesome assortment of Rob Bottin created nasties. Set in the frozen Antarctic, the film delivered the chills and thrills but failed to make a dent in the box office – at the time. Since then, Carpenter’s film has become a cult classic and a much beloved film constantly generating whispers and rumors of sequels, remakes and prequels for years. Finally, this October, director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. brings his vision to the classic Who Goes There? story focusing on the Norwegian and American scientists who originally discovered the alien frozen in the ice just days before Russell’s team discovers the remains. Bring your parkas and flame throwers and all the paranoia you can handle; for once the ice melts, no one is beyond suspicion and anyone can – and most likely will – become the alien in disguise. Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Dr. Kate Lloyd with Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Tomsen and Adewalde Akinnuoye-Agbeje rounding out the cast.
The following weeks bring even more goodies to the screen. Director Rod Laurie (Nothing But the Truth) remakes Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 forgotten classic, Straw Dogs with James Marsden taking over the Dusting Hoffman role. The film also stars Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns), Dominic Purcell (Prison Break) and Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) and the plot revolves around a tense conflict between an outsider family and a group of locals. Jim Sherman, director of Brothers, brings a strong cast (Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts) to his new feature Dream House where a family finds that their new home is haunted by its former owners. Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) headlines a science-fiction fantasy film where robots fight in the ring in Real Steel. Evangeline Lilly (Kate from Lost) co-stars in what looks like a film version of Rock’em Sock’em Robots. And, finally, the successful Paranormal Activity franchise is slated to return with its third outing in late October but nothing substantial has been revealed or released about the film other than its scheduled release date. For genre fans, the next few months are going to be filled with plenty of opportunities to be amazed, astounded, terrorized and just plain scared at the theaters. With plenty to choose from and a film for nearly any taste or preference, the fall movies are going to be a blast – don’t miss out, plan now.