The Ninjabot

Trailer Reviews for the Next Six Theatrical Horror Films

Posted on August 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm by Nathan Tolle

This has officially been the longest stretch of my life without seeing a new horror film in the theater (no, Godzilla does not count as horror). Now I am kicking myself for not checking out Oculus because it ended up being the genre’s sole representative for many months. But now that it’s late August, my big-screen horror withdrawals will soon dissipate with a group of spooky flicks that fortunately don’t carry the names of Saw and Paranormal Activity. I am going to watch the trailers now and hopefully one of them will make me whiny and impatient to see the real thing. If I finish this trailer-thon and can’t imagine bestowing a Best Horror Film of the Year accolade to one of these films come December, then I’ll be angrier than Eli Roth at the latest Green Inferno studio meeting. Come on, no whammies, no whammies, big bucks, and STOP!

As Above, So Below

Release date: August 29

This trailer managed to overcome the initial groans generated from “found footage” fatigue, and by the end, it’s hard not to feel excited about scavenging through these catacombs of Paris. As Rec, The Blair Witch Project, and V/H/S/2 have proven, the gimmicky found-footage subgenre is capable of delivering heart-stopping, realistic journeys through unimaginable horrors, so I am totally still willing to put up with the novelty every now and then. From the pits of human bones to a character getting stuck in a claustrophobic hellhole hopelessly removed from civilization, Neil Marshall’s The Descent is all over this movie, but it’s hard to think of another film that frazzled as many nerves in the past decade. But instead of the ferocious bat-like creatures in forbidden caves from The Descent, it seems that the characters here have literally stumbled into the gates of Hades where all their past traumas and nightmares await them. And judging from the piano scene in the trailer, it’s clear that these catacombs can prey on  memories much like Room 1408. It’s difficult to comprehend a more grim place to become lost than a 200-mile mass grave built in 1785, so I think these will be some of the most sympathetic and unenviable characters you’ll see on the big screen all year; hopefully their suffering will help revitalize the horror genre in what has been a godawful, uneventful year so far. Also getting my hopes up is that kickass movie poster that reminds me of the album cover for Opeth’s Heritage. But with the supposed release date creeping up fast with little-to-no promotional efforts, who knows what kind of distribution this movie will actually receive. Most likely it will hit select cities quietly and then be remade within the next year.

Trailer rating: A-

 

Tusk

Release date: September 19

While I was happy that Kevin Smith, in his first exploration inside the horror genre, angered the brainless ghouls in the Westboro Baptist Church, I had very few nice things to say about Red State. My dismal track record with his catalog gave me little excitement for the upcoming Tusk, but by the end of the trailer I was totally psyched. Gone were the piss-poor imitations of Tarantino, crude and infantile dialogue, and endless shootouts, and instead we have something that looks very original and shocking. Justin Long (sporting a goofy used-car-salesman-mustache) is the host of a podcast where he interviews eccentrics with bizarre stories to tell, and he travels to Canada to meet up with a man who promises one hell of a tale that encompasses ions of oceanic adventures. But just like the protagonists in Red State, he falls victim to tampered libation and wakes up to discover he’s now a captive to a ruthless scientist with a dangerous imagination. From this point in the trailer, I was reminded of The Human Centipede more than anything else, especially when Michael Parks explains the deranged plans to his immobile victim. It was a wise choice to include these instructions and some truly devastated reactions, but none of the surgical aftermath because by the end of the trailer, we want to see more, so much more! A human walrus, you say? And a concerned friend played by Haley Joel Osment? Sign me up, take my money, and hopefully it will be the first Kevin Smith movie I’ll enjoy since Clerks.

Trailer rating: B

Annabelle

Release date: October 3

James Wan’s The Conjuring was last year’s most successful and popular horror film, and this spin-off prequel has a great chance of also making a killing at the box office with a perfect release date that’s right around the time most people are getting excited for Halloween. This trailer is certainly scary enough to get the desired shrieks and nervous giggles from moviegoers (especially that final shot of the little girl running towards the closing door), but it remains to be seen if the masses will be lured by a female killer doll like they are by haunted houses. Even though Annabelle was unsettling to say the least in The Conjuring, this project never really excited me because I didn’t think she could carry a whole movie. But I gathered from this trailer than Annabelle doesn’t need to do all the slicing and dicing herself because she can possess others and pull their strings with her evil ways. With last year’s direct-to-DVD Curse of Chucky proving to be the best Child’s Play film in a long, long, long time, I am glad that dolls are scary again and no longer relegated to ridiculous Full Moon sequels.

Rating: B-

 

Dracula Untold

Release date: October 17

Most of the reactions to this trailer on social media have been quite positive but to me it was all style and no substance, like a huge majority of action-fantasy trailers these days with their over-the-top swordplay, bombastic music, and phony bravado. Considering how long it’s been since Dracula has been center stage in a theatrical release, I was hoping for heavy portions of good old fashioned horror, but sadly all traces of Bela Lugosi’s Universal roots are more lost than ever. This Vlad Drac seems so desperate to fit in with the sweeping epic-billion-dollar-budget times that Dracula Untold probably won’t even remotely qualify as a horror movie. But still, it could make for an entertaining popcorn flick filled to the brim with exciting action scenes and top-notch special effects. For some insane reason we haven’t been given a Castlevania film in all these years but this seems to have enough similarities to fill that void.

Rating: D+

 

Ouija

Release date: October 24

It’s unclear whether the previous three films will put a dent in box office returns, but this one is a likely contender for most profitable horror film of 2014 (assuming enough people will head to the theater on Halloween and the day after for its second weekend). In its favor is a PG-13 rating, a late-October release date, a sleek and polished look, a poster that proudly declares it’s from the same producers as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Insidious, and a trailer crammed with spooky imagery and chilling sounds. Sure, it treads awfully familiar waters and caters to more mainstream horror audiences, but on a rainy October night, it should be a lot of fun watching on the big screen a Ouija board summoning all sorts of evil on teenagers—it sure beats Jigsaw’s torture games and increasingly bland paranormal activities that had outrageously been the only horror offerings in theaters for many Octobers.  While watching the trailer, right away I felt hopeful because it stars Olivia Cooke, who has been outstanding as Norman’s devoted, fragile friend in Bates Motel (which all horror fans definitely need to catch up on before next year’s third season). It looks like she’ll retain her solemn sweetness for this role, so at least we’ll have one extremely likable protagonist to root for. However, as impressive as the trailer was, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Ouija is so weighed down by cliches and cheap scares that the only sounds from audiences will be groans, or if the studio decides that this is yet another PG-13 supernatural horror movie that’s not even good enough to be shown to critics, or if it makes a ton of money but then immediately fades forever into obscurity. We have seen many kickass trailers for films that proved to be worthless, and if that’s the case for Ouija, then Universal Pictures will have dropped an enormous rock into our trick-or-treating bags.

Rating: B

 

The Babadook

Release date: November 28

Yes! Good God! Hell yeah!!! Mr. Babadook has received his passport and will be traveling to the United States this November, six months after he turned European audiences into a mass of quivering wankers and received enough positive reviews to fill a book. Sadly, it’s become increasingly rare for horror foreign films to receive a theatrical release in America because we prefer just remaking them ourselves and stripping away layers of pathos and complexity. So whenever foreign films can make that giant leap onto our silver screens, it’s a big fucking deal, as Vice President Joe Biden would say, and when it’s finally time for me to see The Babadook, I’ll surely feel the same excitement I felt at the ticket counter when I said “One for Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale/The Descent/High Tension, please.” The trailer for The Babadook taps into earliest memories of being told a scary story, whether it be sitting around a campfire or reading alone in under the sheets, when it seemed the horrors and monstrosities could leap from the pages of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark to swallow you whole. And much like the hideous  Struwwelpeter (from a German children’s tale), who would pay thumbsuckers a late-night visit to chop off fingers with a giant pair of scissors, Mr. Babadook himself looks quite capable of giving children the worst nightmares of their young lives. This is probably the most effective horror trailer I’ve seen since the one for Insidious, which also involved demons latching on to a defenseless and likable family and ensuring that each new night will somehow be even more terrifying than the previous one. Whether this ends up being a rather tame PG-13 film that introduces younger audiences to the horror genre (like Paperhouse or The Gate) or a no-nonsense, nightmarish assault on the psyche, I have a strong feeling that this will be my favorite horror film of 2014. But then again, I expected great things from 2002’s Darkness all because of the trailer and it ended up being so worthless that it ruined my Christmas.

Rating: A

Judging solely from the trailers, it looks like most of these upcoming horror films have potential and hopefully one will be able to stand proud among my previous Best Horror Movie of the Year choices: The Conjuring, The Cabin in the Woods, and Insidious.

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