Posts Tagged ‘Blumhouse Productions’

Halloween (2018) poster

This past weekend, the new Halloween movie was released and eager horror fans, including myself, flocked to theaters to see it (see my review of the film here). At the time I’m writing this, the film has made over 103 million bucks, nearly seven times it’s original budget. This definitely counts as a financial success for the film and its producers, and it’s all but certain at this point that a sequel will be greenlit. This has many horror fans speculating on a particular question: is the slasher genre coming back, bigger and badder than ever?

Now in case you stumbled on this post by accident and have no idea what a slasher is, let me explain: slasher, also occasionally known as splatterpunk, is a sub-genre of horror that focuses on violent deaths and gore, as well as the prospect of those occurring, as the source of its terror and tension. Slashers were really big in the 1980s, but declined as the many sequels kept going for more ridiculous kills and even more ridiculous plots. There were some brief flare-ups of good slashers in the late 90s and early 2000s, with films like Scream, Urban Legend and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and remakes of franchises like 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Rob Zombie’s Halloween, but for the most part it didn’t stick. Recently, slashers have done well in television format with shows like Slasher and Scream (yes, based on the film I mentioned a sentence ago), but Halloween‘s the first in years that’s managed to satisfy this many fans, critics, and bank accounts.

Hollywood can be a very reactive sort of place: anything that’s proven to be even slightly successful will be copied over and over again by movie studios until long after audiences have lost interest. So with Halloween doing so well and sequels definitely being discussed in boardrooms, can we expect more slasher reboots and remakes on the horizon? Which ones? And is this the first of a slasher renaissance similar to their first wave of popularity in the 1980s?

Well, there are actually a few slasher movies being developed right now based on the older franchises. Child’s Play, which first introduced the character of living doll Chucky, is getting both a reboot and a TV series, and A Nightmare on Elm Street has had a new remake in development for a while now. But with the success of Halloween, there’s a chance the studios producing them will give them more attention and funding than they might’ve had without Halloween.

Please bring back Friday the 13th! Jason and I both want to see a comeback for the franchise!

And I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say other series will be getting new films. There has been talk for years of rebooting Friday the 13th with my boy Jason Voorhees. Recently a court case regarding the original film was resolved, and basketball player-turned-actor and producer Lebron James, who is as big of a fan of the franchise as I am, has come forward saying he would like to help produce the film. And while Lebron’s still new to Hollywood, I would welcome his involvement in a new Friday the 13th film. Sometimes it takes the perspective of a fan, especially one who has more power than expressing outrage through a keyboard, to truly give a character or franchise new life.*

And after the crappy 2009 remake, almost anything would be welcome. Seriously, what was with that film? It felt like the filmmakers were making porn, then making a raunchy comedy, and then remembered to put Jason in it! By the time the final third rolled around, I was bored! I’m seriously considering destroying a copy of the film on DVD when its tenth anniversary rolls around, it’s that bad!

But not just Friday the 13th: there’s room for other franchises to get new films. I think a Hellraiser reboot would be great, as the series has devolved into cheap, direct-to-DVD sequels. A proper remake would give the series’ concept the fresh rebirth it needs. Of course, I’d love to see some new Freddy Kreuger, as there’s still so much to do with that character. And I think given our current social/political climate, a director like Jordan Peele could do something great with the character of Candyman.

But there should also be original works, not just remakes and reboots. As you’re reading this, there are plenty of filmmakers out there with fresh ideas for the slasher genre that should be given a chance. Perhaps with the success of Halloween, studios will be willing to give them a chance. Heck, maybe Jason Blum and Blumhouse, one of the companies that produced Halloween, can use this to recruit some female directors to develop some new projects.**

Perhaps we can see all these dudes, and then some, get new films.

And as for if this is the beginning of a slasher renaissance, we’ll just have to wait and see. One film doesn’t indicate a genre’s comeback. Sometimes several films don’t mean a particular genre or sub-genre is going to be the next big thing (*cough* YA dystopia and fantasy films *cough*). It’ll take several successful films, both originals as well as remakes and reboots, before we can really say if the slasher genre is back with a vengeance.

Still, I’m hopeful. I didn’t think until the trailer that anyone could bring Halloween back. Perhaps with the right writers and directors, we could see the return of the genre. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Until then though, we’ll just have to content ourselves with Halloween, the old classics, and this awesome little video (sorry, couldn’t help but post it. Enjoy).

*And if you do end up producing a new Friday the 13th film Mr. James, can I help? I love Jason too, and I’d love to see him given a film worthy of his franchise. Perhaps I can help write the script? I have ideas.

**Sorry Mr. Blum. I love your work, and I even sent a resume to your company after I graduated, but you really put your foot in your mouth with that “lack of female directors” comment. I mean really? One article found 30 female directors who can do horror! Perhaps Halloween‘s success means a chance to start fixing that fiasco and bringing them on board.

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Well, here we are. The latest Five Nights at Freddy’s novel, The Fourth Closet, was released late last month. I’ve spent the past week reading it, wondering if this is the last novel, if this book contains answers to the events of the previous books and the franchise’s lore as a whole, and wondering just how this volume compares to the previous two books. Since I finished it yesterday, I’ve been dying to share my thoughts on it (and all without being shoved into an animatronic suit, I might add). So now that we’re here, let’s dive into what is likely the last FNAF novel (thought considering this novel was co-written by franchise creator Scott Cawthon, who knows if it’s truly the last?).

So for those of you who don’t know, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a video game franchise about security guards having to deal with haunted animatronics that try to kill you during your shift at a pizza place (or in the case of the fourth game, someone’s bedroom). Yeah, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it has proven immensely successful, spawning several sequels and spin-offs, three novels, a movie in development at Blumhouse Productions (which I wish would go into production already), and thousands of fan-made tribute games. Some of the reasons for the game’s success is its simple yet intense gameplay, as well as its deep and mysterious lore (supposedly the events of the game were caused by a serial killer and the ghosts of his victims, but figuring out what exactly went down and when is a challenge).

I’ve reviewed the first two books, The Silver Eyes and The Twisted Ones, and while I wouldn’t count them among my favorite horror novels, I have found them intriguing enough and similar to slasher movies in book form. And I found Twisted Ones to have improved and fixed many of the issues of Silver Eyes, making for a better novel, so I hoped The Fourth Closet would also improve. Did it? Let’s see.

Fourth Closet takes place about six months after the events of Twisted Ones, and tells the story mainly from the POV of the other main characters, especially series’ protagonist Charlie’s love interest John. At the end of Twisted Ones, Charlie had seemingly died, but in this new volume, we see Charlie returned alive two days later. Or did she? While everyone else is convinced this Charlie is their Charlie, John isn’t so sure. And when kids start disappearing in town again, like they did during the tenure of the original Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, John must gather the gang together again to investigate. But will searching for the truth lead to answers, or will it lead to horrors that the characters never anticipated?

So to start, this novel does show improvement over the previous two. The story and mystery is well-told, and the violence, which there is plenty of, is written to be easy to picture in our heads. I also found a number of surprises in the course of the story that were really surprises, rather than predictable twists, and elevated the story. And of course, we got to see a number of famous animatronics from the franchise, including a few of my favorites. I never mind seeing those guys. And finally, the story ends in a way that I can be satisfied with, especially if Cawthon is intending on writing a trilogy.

Of course, this novel does have some issues, as the others did. For one, the main cast is still flat as boards. Yeah, we get some insight into their thought processes in this book, but it doesn’t really allow us to get to know them as characters. That, and there’s a big reveal about Charlie that isn’t as well-written as it could have been. So while I kind of understand what the reveal is, I’m also a little confused and could use some more information to explain things. I know, Cawthon likes to let fans guess and spin theories with this franchise, but doing the same thing in a novel can seriously backfire on you (believe me, I learned that during one of the drafts of Rose). And trust me, it backfired here.

But on the whole this novel is a decent story, and shows its writers’ desire to learn from past mistakes in order to make sure any addition to the franchise is worth it. On the whole, I’m giving Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet a 3.4 on a scale of 1 to 5. If you recall, I gave the first and second books ratings of 2.6 and 3, respectively, for an average of 3 out of 5 for the trilogy. Average as a whole, but considering the source material  is a video game franchise and that the creator isn’t used to writing prose fiction, average is great. After all, under other creators, it could very well turn into the literary equivalent of the Super Mario Bros. movie. And nobody wants that!

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Hollywood is coming to see big horror films are, and that they are looking into making more. It’s even been compared to the explosion of superhero films that came about after the Dark Knight trilogy and Iron Man showed how popular and profitable superhero films could be. Since I am a horror fan in addition to a horror writer, I thought I’d weigh in on the subject.

First off, this explosion in horror is not exactly out of the blue. Studios have been making horror films since the early days of film, and they keep making them every year. There’s obviously always been an interest and a profit to be made in horror. It’s just lately we’ve had a slew of horror films that have shown studios and audiences that horror can be extremely profitable, mainstream, and even deeply thematic. We actually first started seeing this trend years ago with films like the Paranormal Activity series, which kicked off a huge fad of found-footage horror films, and with Blumhouse Productions, which proved you can make horror films cheaply and still have critical and box office success. This is especially so with their Conjuring film series, which in itself is a cinematic universe.

But late 2016 and 2017 brought on a slew of horror films that really brought these points home. Split, with its surprise ending technically making it a superhero film, and Get Out, with its commentary on race on par with some Oscar-nominated films, brought horror into the mainstream in new ways. Later in 2017, Annabelle: Creation and It proved massively successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and in 2018, films like A Quiet Place are raking in the dough and proving how powerful horror can be in creating terrifying atmospheres and emotional narratives.

And this is just scratching the surface: Stephen King stories are being optioned at record rates (where’s my adaptation of The Library Policeman?); some of Netflix’s biggest recent original films have been horror movies; and studios are developing more horror movies than ever before. It: Chapter Two starts filming this summer, and a new Halloween film is getting released this year. So while I may say yes, horror is kind of the new superhero film, it’s not because they suddenly became profitable. The potential has always been there, it just took some very specific successes with deeper cultural resonance to really bring that potential to the attention of studio heads.

Remember, don’t do what The Mummy did. Not if you want your horror movie to actually be successful, let alone spawn a franchise.

So yes, the horror genre may be the new superhero film, with every studio wanting its own successful films, film series, or film universe. But to steal a superhero film quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So while I have no pretensions that studio heads or directors or writers or whatever will see this post, let alone take its message to heart, I thought I’d offer some advice advice on getting into this horror boom. After all, as a horror fan and a creator, I want the horror boom to continue. The more good horror out there, the better. So here are some of my ideas for ways to make sure the boom doesn’t fizzle out:

  • Focus on telling a good scary story. This seems obvious, but some companies get so caught up in having a successful film or franchise, they forget to make a good horror film. Remember last year’s The Mummy? That film was convoluted, packed to the brim, and not at all scary. Not a good start for a film that was supposed to be the launching point for an entire cinematic horror universe. Which was the problem: Universal was so concerned with getting their franchise off the ground, they forgot what let Iron Man get the MCU off the ground: a good film in and of itself. If Iron Man had not led to the MCU, it still would’ve been an excellent superhero film. The Mummy should’ve been made that way, but unfortunately, it wasn’t, and now the Dark Universe is sunk.
    So remember kids, focus on a good story first, franchise a distant second. At least said franchise is up and running, of course.
  • Take chances on new/indie directors and stories. A lot of great horror films have come from the indie scene and/or from new/emerging directors. It Follows and Babadook were both very successful horror films from directors with less than three films under their belts, and the former was from the indie scene. Get Out was from Jordan Peele, who had never done a horror film before in his life.
    And all these stories are original plots. In an age where every other movie is a sequel, remake, or some variation on a familiar story or trend, adding something new to the horror canon has the ability to draw in a diverse audience, rather than just the smaller audience of devoted fans and some possible new ones.
    So take a few risks. It could lead to some big returns.
  • Adapt more than just Stephen King. Yeah, I’m happy for the many Stephen King adaptations being made (Library Policeman movie, please?). But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even his Royal Scariness: I got sick of him back in high school because I read too much King and had to take a break for a few years. I still make sure to space out my dives into his stories nowadays. And if that could happen to me with his books, imagine what it could do to audiences with too many of his movies.
    The point is, there are a number of horror writers out there whose works should be adapted. Scott Thomas’s Kill Creek is one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year; Ania Ahlborn’s Within These Walls would make a great Blumhouse movie; Junji Ito has plenty of stories that could make great films; and as I noted in a previous post, HP Lovecraft is in the public domain and would make for great cinema. It’s something to consider.
    And before you ask, “What about your works, Rami?” I would be flattered if someone showed interest in adapting one of my stories. However, I don’t think that’s a possibility at this stage of my career, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. Still, I’d be flattered.

Horror is finally being given the attention it deserves from Hollywood, and I couldn’t be happier for it. However, it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of good stories, for horror to continue to thrive. I hope that filmmakers old and new are up to the task.

Whenever Blumhouse is involved in a movie, I usually get interested, as they tend to produce high-quality horror films. When I heard about this film, I got interested both because it had an interesting concept behind it, and because I like Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf fan for life!). So even though it got negative early reviews, I decided to check it out anyway, and convinced a friend of mine to see it with me.

I have a lot to say about this film. Let me try to keep this brief.

Truth or Dare follows a group of college students who go to Mexico for their final spring break. While there, they meet a mysterious man who invites them up to an old Spanish mission for drinks and some good, ol’ fashioned truth or dare. However, when they leave Mexico, they find the game has followed them, and it’s now much nastier: you either play the game, no matter what horrific secrets you might have to share, or what terrible deeds you must commit, or you will die. And the game won’t end till all the players are dead.

Now on the surface, I should have liked this movie. In addition to an interesting concept, the film is incredibly well-written. The story isn’t only compelling, but surprisingly, without plot holes. With very simple tricks, they plug up most of the plot holes that would come up in a horror film, let alone one surrounding a game mainly played by children and horny teenagers. Not only that, but the way the film has these characters expose their deepest secrets is so good at making you feel sympathetic, you almost feel their pain. And when they have to undertake some of the dares, you actually get a little afraid for them.

Not only that, but most of these characters are well-written and multidimensional. Most characters in horror films are ridiculously flat, and especially in ones based around games (*cough* Ouija *cough*). But Truth or Dare actually makes these characters more than flat or stereotypes. They have trouble, they have hidden depths, which is only made more clear when characters are forced to reveal dark secrets. This is especially true with the character of Markie, who at first glance is a happy-go-lucky strawberry-blonde, but in actuality is struggling in a number of ways.

It’s helped by the fact that the actors in these films are all really good. I can’t say any one of them gave a bad performance.

But the film has one big issue: its atmosphere. In horror, atmosphere is essential. And this film  doesn’t really have one, at least not one that lasts. Several times, the film does create some tense moments (keep an eye out for the roof scene), and there are a number of great jump scares. But after the tense moment or the jump scare, I found myself winding back down to normal. And in a horror film, you should be kept at a slight tension at every moment. There should be something in the back of your mind that says, “Oh my God, I’m scared, my heart rate is going to increase a little.” And I never felt that way during this film.

And that really brings down the film as a whole.

Still, if it weren’t for that problem, this film would be terrifying. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Truth or Dare a 3.5 out of 5. Despite its lack of atmosphere, I honestly recommend seeing it. It probably won’t leave you scared stiff, but it’ll keep your interest and won’t leave you angry at the actors or the directors like other films I could name (*cough* The Friday the 13th remake is a piece of trash, and I would love to chase Michael Bay around Camp Crystal Lake for that ass-terrible excuse of a film. *cough*). Give it a watch, if you feel so inclined, and decide for yourself.

Go on. I dare you.

If you read my review of the first Ouija film, you’ll remember that I didn’t have a very high opinion of it. It was by the numbers, unimaginative, and most of the fun came from surprise cameos, which was sad given that most films from Blumhouse Productions are generally very good. I blamed the fact that Michael Bay’s production company was involved, and that guy tends to destroy anything related to toys and/or things people grew up with in the 1980’s (seriously, is that a thing?). I also mentioned in that review that I was not looking forward to the sequel they were already making, which I felt would probably be worse.

Surprise surprise, when the trailer for the sequel turned out to be a trailer for the prequel. And it looked good! Really good!

So good, that I wanted to see it in theaters (didn’t happen, unfortunately). When the library ordered it though, I immediately reserve the DVD. And over dinner I watched it. And I have to say, it was actually better than the original.

Note: I will be discussing the original film in this review, so if you haven’t seen the first movie and might still want to see it, you might want to stop reading this review.

So Origin of Evil takes place in the 1960s, and follows the little girl who we meet as a ghost in the first film, and her family. Her mother is a false psychic who genuinely believes she’s helping people, and has her daughters help her with her scam. One day, the mother buys a Ouija board in order to spice up her act, and proceed to test it out in her home. This leads to the younger daughter getting possessed, and from there things get strange.

As I said above, this was a much better film than the original. For one thing, it’s a period film, and Blumhouse is generally very good with those kinds of films (watch The Conjuring and Annabelle films if you don’t believe me). The sets look gorgeous, and the attention to detail is amazing. Even if at times the historical setting feels like window dressing, it’s a very good window dressing. I also thought the actors did an adequate job. These aren’t the same actors that played the ghosts in the first film, but since in the first film it was just important that they look scary when the CGI was used on them, it doesn’t really matter. And as I said, they did a very good job. Lulu Wilson, who plays the younger daughter, is exceptionally good at playing both an innocent child and a terrifying possessed creature (especially when they add CGI).

And of course, the prequel explains very well how the events of the past lead to the events of the first film. If they didn’t do that, I would have said they’d wasted money and film making a movie.

That being said, there are several things that could’ve been done better. Origin has the same issue as the first film where they have good jump scares but suffer when it comes to creating an atmosphere. The filmmakers also tried to evoke that old, 1960s feel by adding little touches to the film to make it seem like it was made in the 60s: little black circles and vertical lines appear at random during the film, and some of the cuts to new scenes have that jumpy quality reminiscent of old films. However, they do it so inconsistently that it’s more distracting than anything else. If maybe they had filmed it so that it looked from the 60s, and had that characteristic hiss in the background, then it probably would’ve worked better.

I also thought there were a couple of things that didn’t make sense. In one scene, the priest character gets possessed or influenced by the little girl, and then a minute later the possession or influence leaves him. Just like that. They don’t explain why that happens, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. And remember how in the first film, the surviving sister is in an insane asylum? And how the events of her childhood did drive her insane? Well in the prequel, they don’t really show how she gets that way. I think it’s supposed to hint that just everything she went through drove her mad, but she didn’t seem any different than any other heroine in these kinds of horror movies. Scared? Yes. Grief stricken? Yes. Insane? Not so much, but they plop her right into the mental asylum and show her as seriously messed up by the events of the film.

Filmmakers, I shouldn’t have to mention this, but this is a visual medium. And in a genre where there are a lot of people going through terrible things, you have to show them losing their grip on reality. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. If someone on the street sees me walking down the other side of the street and I pass behind a lamp pole and when I’m on the other side, I have horns, giant bat wings and a tail, even if they know who I am and I’m a freaking vehicle of terror, they’re going to have questions. It’s like that.

All in all, though, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a much better film than its predecessor. And while I don’t think we’ll be getting another film in the series (despite having a slightly higher budget, the prequel did not make as much at the box office as the original), it’s a good film to go out on. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Origin of Evil a solid 3.0.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably have another post out before the weekend is over, so keep an eye out for it if you want to know how I’m doing with Full Circle. Until then, have pleasant nightmares.

So I recently got back into reading The Complete Fiction of HP Lovecraft, after about a year’s gap since I last dove into his work on my Kindle. I actually got from 15% to 32%, which for a 1112-page book is pretty good, if you ask me.

Now, if you don’t know who HP Lovecraft is, he was kind of the King of American Horror between the reigns of Edgar Allen Poe and current monarch Stephen King, though he didn’t really achieve any sort of fame or influence until after his death. When I read him last year, I found his style old and outdated, and while some of his stories were actually pretty creepy, others were just strange or boring (see my thoughts in Thoughts on Lovecraft: Part 1).

So what were my thoughts one year later, having read several more stories? Well, he still prefers to write like a contemporary of Poe, one of his main influences in writing, which I find still rather irksome (I could parody it here, but I did that well enough in Part 1, so why try and repeat it?). I’m not that big a fan of that style, as I find it stuffy and somewhat boring, so occasionally that made for an annoyance to get through.

And Lovecraft is still a proud and unrepentant racist and xenophobe. Seriously, “The Horror at Red Hook” manages to drag so many non-white ethnicities, including Kurds and Yazidis, through the mud.

And he’s the only author I’ve ever met who’s used the word “eldritch,” meaning sinister or creepy (why didn’t he just use those words?).

But other than those problems, the tales I read in this section of the book were much better than the ones I read in the last one. Sure, the short story “Azathoth,” which was the first mention of the Elder God, is actually just a fragment of a novel Lovecraft never got around to finishing, which was annoying. Imagine, I get to the end of that short piece, and I was like, “Wait, that’s it?” Thank goodness for Wikipedia, which explained to me why I shouldn’t be so angry.

And there was that story, “Imprisoned with the Pharoahs,” which got a little dense with the language and made it annoying to get through, though as a fictional account of one of Harry Houdini’s adventures, it is pretty cool in retrospect.

But other than those two, these were very good stories. They were creepy, dark, and had some pretty nice twists and turns in them. I can see why a few of them have been adapted several times into movies or radio plays and the like. “Herbert West–Reanimator” is a fun tale about one man’s growing obsession with overcoming death and extending life (very Frankenstein), and how that obsession causes a domino fall of events that shows the readers the price of obsession. “The Lurking Fear” felt like a Stephen King novel from an earlier age, filled with elements of insanity, the supernatural, and insane tastes. And “Shunned House” needs to be made into a movie by Blumhouse Productions, because it is freaking scary! It’s a vampire novel that hearkens back to the days when vampires were barely human, and is probably the best of the stories by him I’ve read so far. Imagine a movie version, with James Wan in the director’s seat! No one would see it and think of vampires with Twilight or any of that other sentimental crap out there ever again.

Eek! Rats in the walls! Now I can’t sleep.

Also, “The Rats in the Walls” is great if you want to scare anyone around a campfire. Just saying.

You know, the more I read of Lovecraft’s work, the more I see why he’s been so influential. Sure, his early stories could be rather pointless or silly, and never approached scary, with the exceptions of a few, like “The Tomb” and “The Temple.” But as time went on, as tends to happen, he got better. He figured out what worked and what didn’t. He learned how to get into our heads and make us tremble, make us wonder. He pushed the envelope for his day, introducing elements of cannibalism, satanism, gods that care nothing for us except maybe as snacks. And he did it so well.

And even now, after I’ve decided to take a break from him, I still find myself getting inspired by him. I’ve already gotten a few new novel and short story ideas from his stories, particularly “The Lurking Fear.” I have no idea when I’ll write them, but I think that when I do, they may even chill me.

So yeah, I think I’m definitely a Lovecraft fan now. Last year I wasn’t so much of a fan, but now I think I am. He’s definitely grown on me. And I think I may visit him again someday, perhaps even before the end of the year. Especially if he gives me so many good ideas. And if you like a good scary story and can handle some old-timey writing style, then I suggest you visit Mr. Lovecraft too.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got my own stories to work on, so I’m going to get on that. In the meantime, I hope you have a scarily good time, my Followers of Fear. Until next time!