Congratulations to all associated with Australian thriller The Babadook which has been acquired by IFC Midnight, which snatched up U.S. and Latin America rights to the film from Australian newcomer Jennifer Kent. Essie Davis stars in the pic as a widowed single mother who connects with her troubled son (then six-year-old Noah Wiseman) by reading a bedtime storybook that unleashes a shadowy monster in their home. Kent wrote and directed the Sundance Midnighter selection which also stars Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. Causeway Films’ Kristina Ceyton produced with Kristian Moliere, with backing from Screen Australia. Jonathan Page, Michael Tear, Jan Chapman, and Jeff Harrison exec produced the pic which earned raves from critics in Park City and put Kent on the map as a helmer to watch.
Horror is hot right now, everyone wants their own horror themed series. CBS Films has sprung for a pitch from Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan, who wrote the last four Saw films, to adapt Alvin Schwartz’s classic spooky tale collection Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Melton and Dunstan adapt some of the Scary short stories into a screenplay about a group of outcast kids who stand up to their fears to save their town when nightmares come to life. Sean Daniel and Jason Brown of Sean Daniel Company and Elizabeth Grave of 1212 Entertainment will produce, with Roberto Grande and Joshua Long exec producing. SDC and 1212 initially optioned rights before teaming up with Melton and Dunstan.
Schwartz collected the Scary Stories tales from folklore and urban legend. The three-book children’s series, which has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, began with 1981′s Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and continued with More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (1984) and Scary Stories 3: More Tales To Chill Your Bones (1991). Scribes Melton and Dunstan got their start in horror but also recently wrote on Pacific Rim and were tapped to pen Disney’s Stuff of Legend, Fox’s Outliers, and Universal’s God of War. SDC, which scored a hit recently with The Best Man Holiday, is rebooting Universal’s The Mummy… again.
Nice to see that the Blood List is working. Fox Searchlight has picked up Zak Olkewicz’s Elimination, a horror pitch to be produced by Shawn Levy through his 21 Laps banner. This marks the second studio sale this year for Olkewicz, who made a Dimension deal last spring on Ink And Bone, a script which topped the 2013 Blood List which ranks genre scripts. This pitch is described as a high concept horror film involving a cerebral game of cat and mouse. They are keeping the logline under wraps as high concepts are easy to rip off. DanTram Nguyen will oversee for Searchlight and Dan Cohen for 21 Laps, the label which produced The Spectacular Now and Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Bad Day at Disney. Levy as director wrapped This Is Where I Leave You for Warner Bros, and he is prepping (gulp!) Night at the Museum 3 at Fox.
For those of you interested, in a similar vein the The Black List, The Blood List was created in 2009 to bring attention to unproduced horror screenplays in Hollywood. A calendar year for a script to be considered for the list is from October 31st to October 31st, and the list comes out every Halloween. Voting is done by over 100 executives. The top 13 horror scripts of the year make the cut.
With horror series being so in vogue at the moment, and with Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse’s drama The Strain, based on del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire novel trilogy, formally had a pilot order at FX, its series pickup was considered a pure formality.
From the onset, when FX landed the project in a bidding war, it hired a full writing staff, with the network committing some $500,000 to creature creation. The Strain now is heading into production on its first season, with the bulk of the scripts already completed and one major casting change. The role of Professor Abraham Setrakian, played in the pilot by John Hurt, is being recast.
The Strain is a high-concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called on to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers wage war for the fate of humanity. Co-starring on the series are Mia Maestro, Sean Astin, Kevin Durand, Natalie Brown, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Robert Maillet, Jack Kesy, Ben Hyland, and Miguel Gomez. “This is an epic story with stunning visuals and remarkable acting,” FX’s Eric Schrier and Nick Grad said. “The Strain totally re-imagines and re-invents the genre.” Exec producers del Toro and Hogan co-wrote the pilot script for The Strain, which was directed by del Toro. Cuse will serve as executive producer/showrunner and writer. Gary Ungar will also serve as exec producer for FX Prods. “The Strain books are near and dear to my heart and now, Chuck and I have the blessing of a partnership with Carlton and FX that holds great promise,” said del Toro.
Filming is slated to begin this month in Toronto for a July premiere. As FX CEO John Landgraf indicated in August, the plan for the series is to run for 39-65 episodes.
Paramount and Blumhouse Productions have been very happily cranking out a new Paranormal Activity film each year since the first became a smash hit in 2009. But the fifth film won’t hit this October. It was pushed back not long ago, and we know now that Paranormal Activity 5 will open (as expected, more or less) on October 14, 2014.
But there’s another dose of supernatural found-footage horror coming before that October ’14 date. The horror website ‘Shock Till You Drop‘ reports that the first spin-off from the series, aimed at the Latino audience and called Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, will be one of the first films out of the gate next year. Release is planned for January 3 2014. Paranormal Activity 2-4 writer Christopher Landon directed the film, and this confirms the expected January release date.
No one seems to know what the story of The Marked Ones will be at this point, other than it is set in the same general world as the other films, but don’t know if it relates directly to the story established in the first four core films in the series.
An updated remake of Rosemary’s Baby, based on the Ira Levin novel and originally filmed in 1968 by Roman Polanski, is on track for a four hour miniseries (likely split over two nights, the way they used to air miniseries in the 1980s and early 1990s). The story about a young wife who is convinced that she is carrying the devil’s baby, will be set in Paris. Scott Abbott (Queen of the Damned) is working on the script.
Also on the schedule is a new version of The Tommyknockers, based on the novel by Stephen King. Greenblatt was inspired in part by the success of another King property, Under the Dome, which is doing well on CBS, and just announced for a second season. It is the highest-rated scripted program of the US summer season. The Tommyknockers was first brought to life at ABC in 1993 as a four hour miniseries. The story tells of a possible alien threat in a small Maine town. Yves Simoneau (V, The 4400, and the upcoming Horizon) is attached to direct.
A remake of the Tobe Hooper-directed horror classic Poltergeist will be made by MGM and Fox 2000, with Gil Kenan (Monster House) directing a script by David Lindsay-Abaire (Oz: The Great and Powerful). Rosemarie DeWitt has been cast in the Mum role. Jobeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson were the original parents whose ideal family life is uprooted by a cavalcade of spirits that culminates in the kidnap of their youngest daughter Carol Anne played by Heather O’Rourke. Given how well these paranormal films are faring against studio product lately, this one seemed ripe for remaking and it’s surprising that it hasn’t been remade before now. Sam Raimi and Nathan Kahane are producing.
Almost exactly one year ago I posted some exciting news that Jim Jarmusch was planning to make a vampire movie with Tilda Swinton that would be a ‘crypto-vampire love story’. Well, he’s made it and by all accounts it’s amazing. Check out the Variety review from Cannes:
Did somebody make it a rule that every director has to do a vampire movie at some point? If so, Jim Jarmusch got the memo, and he tweaks the genre slightly in “Only Lovers Left Alive” to fit his own laid-back vibe, turning in a sweet but slight love story about world-weary hipster bloodsuckers. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston have empathic chemistry as the leads, and the pic (acquired by Sony Classics at Cannes) is a smidge more commercial than Jarmusch’s meandering previous effort, “The Limits of Control.” But it still feels like an in-joke intended only for select acolytes, who will probably love it with an undying passion.
The end credits mention Jarmusch’s longtime partner, Sara Driver, for “instigation and inspiration,” and indeed the film feels a bit like a quirky, fitfully touching love letter from one aging punk to another. Slightly upending the conventions of the vampire film (although there are precedents for this sort of reinvention), “Lovers” is a celebration of connubial bliss between two creatures who are still in love after centuries, but are out of step with the modern world. They’ve been there, done that, and ripped up the band T-shirts long ago to make cleaning rags for their awesome guitar collection.
Jarmusch’s characters tend to be either laconic, enigmatic ciphers or garrulous clowns, so it’s a surprise to hear what sounds like a clearly spelled-out author’s message for once, when Eve (Swinton) tries to cheer up her suicidal paramour, Adam (Hiddleston), by pointing out all the things in the world there are to live for, like “appreciating nature … kindness and dancing.”
Indeed, these are basically nice, hepcat vampires, deeply attractive despite their fried, undernourished-looking hair, and exquisitely unscary; they score blood from hospitals and almost never feast on live humans, which would be so 15th century. Hyper-sophisticated to the point of being sometimes irritatingly supercilious, they despair at the stupidity of humans, whom they call “zombies,” and congratulate themselves for all the great art they’ve made and the famous luminaries they hung out with, inspired and/or used as fronts to disseminate their own great masterworks (as in the case of Schubert and Shakespeare). It even turns out that Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), another vampire, really wrote Shakespeare’s plays; he’s still alive and well, living in Tangiers and hanging out with Eve as the film opens.
Adam and Eve (someone should have talked Jarmusch out of those names) are so secure in their relationship that they can spend long stretches of time apart on separate continents, like nuclear particles in Einstein’s theory of entanglement (which is explained in the dialogue), but still keep the connection between them alive. So while she’s in Tangiers, surrounded by a library of books in every language she loves, he’s in decrepit Detroit, making droning dirge rock on vintage recording equipment supplied by Ian (Anton Yelchin), a helpful human dealer in rare goods who’s unaware of Adam’s true nature.
Foreboding dreams about her sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) send Eve on a night flight to Detroit to be with her beloved. When Ava duly blows into town from Los Angeles, Adam and Eve grit their fangs and bear it, even though they have to hide their blood stash from this selfish, feckless houseguest and can’t leave her alone with their human friends.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” works best in this section, when it’s essentially a light comedy of social mores set among a bunch of bohemians whose drug of choice just happens to be human blood, rather than cocaine or heroin. The attempt to introduce a more tragic dimension in the final act falls flat, however; by this point, the film has run out of juice, not unlike its wan, exhausted protagonists.
Languid pacing makes the result feel longer than its two-hour running time, and although lenser Yorick Le Saux’s nighttime traveling shots of desolate Detroit cityscapes and Tangiers’ acrid backstreets have a bewitching beauty at first, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Likewise, Jarmusch brings the film to a stop too often to show off his taste in slightly recherche music from all over the world, even if the tracks will collectively make for an interesting soundtrack album.