The Week In Horror: ‘Unearth’, Macon Blair’s Toxic Avenger, ‘A Season of Passage’, + more!

To say that it’s been a week of ups and downs would be an understatement, horror pals. But similarly, this week’s horror news is a little bit of everything. You want shark stuff? We’ve got shark stuff! How about some eco-horror? We’ve got that too! Young-adult fiction? Stephen King adaptations? Or maybe you want some Leatherface-based news? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s get into it!

Director Adam Wingard is getting a lot of attention since his Godzilla vs Kong is the number one movie pretty much everywhere right now, but his longtime writing partner Simon Barrett (You’re Next, The Guest, Blair Witch, Dead Birds) is stepping behind the camera for his first feature, called Seance. Barrett’s baby “stars Suki Waterhouse (The Bad Batch) as the new girl at the prestigious Edelvine Academy for Girls. Soon after her arrival, six girls invite her to join them in a late-night ritual, calling forth the spirit of a dead former student who reportedly haunts their halls. But before morning, one of the girls is dead, leaving the others wondering what they may have awakened.” You can check out the trailer below:

Seance will have an on-demand and digital release on May 21 from RLJE Films with a Shudder release later this year.

I’m not quite sure how it came about, but the actor Macon Blair (Blue Ruin, Green Room) is stepping behind the camera for his second directorial feature after 2017’s underappreciated Netflix joint I’m Thinking of Ending Things to direct a new adaptation of Troma’s The Toxic Avenger for Legendary. I can’t wait to see what Blair’s take on the perennial midnight horror comedy looks like, especially since Deadline reported this week that Jacob Tremblay (Room, Luca) will be joining Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) on the film.  One assumes that the classic tale of a working stiff who falls into a vat of toxic waste and is turned into a mutated monster who has to rescue his loved ones from corporate greed and corruption will keep it’s many thrills intact, as Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman will be on as producer.

The Meg

Speaking of unexpected projects, I’m still a little confused about how Ben Wheatley (Kill List, In The Earth) ended up directing The Meg 2, but in an interview with this week, Wheatley said that the film was “an opportunity to do action on such an insanely large scale, that it’s just unbelievable.” The original Meg film starred Jason Statham (who is rumoured to be returning) and earned $530.2 million at the box office worldwide. The original was made on a budget of about $130 to $180 million, which is a far greater budget than Wheatley has ever worked with. The Sightseers director made it known that “a lot of it is respecting The Meg, and trying to make sure it’s a great Meg film,” so I imagine that the sequel will be true to the teeth-gnashing spirit of the original.

If that’s not enough shark content for one week, it was announced this week that RLJE Films will be releasing it’s own shark thriller, Great White, in theatres this summer along with a release on Shudder later this year. The film is based on a true story and stars Katrina Bowden (30 Rock), Kimie Tsukakoshi (Riptide), Tim Kano (Neighbours), and Te Kohe Tuhaka (Love and Monsters, The Dead Lands), and is directed by Martin Wilson in his debut. You can check out the trailer here:

Unearth was one of my favourite surprises when I saw it at Fantasia last year. It’s a very slow burn thriller about the effects of exploitive resource extraction (fracking in this case) on a small town and contains some of the most unsettling imagery I saw in a horror last year. There’s an authenticity to the performances that give it a realistic feel, and it’s left turn into some gnarly body horror is both unexpected and effective. Unearth stars Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Brooke Sorenson (Modern Family), and P.J. Marshall (American Horror Story). This one is coming to theatres April 22 and you can check out the trailer here:

Blumhouse has a new adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter on the go, and will begin filming on it in June, from director Keith Thomas (The Vigil). The project will star Zac Efron and is likely to be a lot closer to the source material than the 1984 Drew Barrymore film, if producer Akiva Goldsman’s comments to The Hollywood Reporter this week are any indication:

“Firestarter is one of the last great, either unmade or un-remade, Stephen King novels that have become classics. There are things I will never forget from the original movie. But it diverged from the book significantly. So Scott Teems — who is a really wonderful writer — wrote this terrific script which is much closer to the novel in both incident and tone. We start shooting, I want to say, in 12 weeks. Firestarter was always some of Stephen’s most intimate and affective horror, and I think pyrokinesis is a really fascinating idea when it comes to the expression of hidden feelings.”

Teenage me would be jumping clear out of his skin with excitement that one of current me’s favourite directors, Mike Flanagan, is adapting one of his favourite novels – Christopher Pike’s A Season of Passage – into a new film for Universal. I literally wore out my copy of this book and love the characters and space setting, and have both fingers and toes crossed that Flanagan will do it justice. This was one of Pike’s more adult-themed novels but it still retains his signature pulpy fun vibe that Pike brought to his young-adult works like The Midnight Club (which Flanagan is also adapting for Netflix) and Chain Letter. Flanagan claims to have been a fan of the book in his teen years as well, so you already know I’ll be first in line for this one.

Prolific author and screenwriter Grady Hendrix’s novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism is being adapted to a film starring Elsie Fisher (Castle Rock, Eighth Grade), Amiah Miller (War for the Planet of the Apes, Lights Out, House by the Lake), Cathy Ang (Over the Moon) and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. The film will be directed by Damon Thomas (Killing Eve) and is the third of Hendrix’s works to be adapted to film, after Ted Geoghegan’s Mohawk and Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic. My Best Friend’s Exorcism takes place in 1988 and follows high school sophomores Abby and Gretchen who have been best friends since fourth grade. “After an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act…different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby.”

While we’re on the topic of films starring Elsie Fisher, the new Texas-based landscaping equipment horror has a new title that’s so confusing that it might have been thought up by the geniuses behind the naming of Xbox consoles. The newest film in the saga of Leatherface and the Sawyer family will be called – wait for it – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because that’s not brain-breaking at all. 

The current lineup of Texas Chainsaw movies now reads as:

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
  • Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)
  • Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
  • Leatherface (2017)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2021)

Less confusing is the fact that the film has secured an R-rating from the MPAA for “strong bloody horror violence and gore, and language”, which is to be expected, unless you were planning on taking your toddler to this thing. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the 9th film in the series isn’t called something sensical like Texas Chainsaw 9: The 9th Chainsaw, either.

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