Good witches, bad rewrites and an awesome new body horror on its way
So critics didn’t like Blair Witch and audiences didn’t go to see it. What the hell is wrong with people? Blair Witch is great! Scanning the reviews, the most common complaint is that it’s too similar to the original – a statement I disagree with on two counts. First, where it is similar to the original, that’s a good thing! And second, my biggest problem is that it’s not similar enough to the original, upping the shocks and scares, losing the ambiguity and showing you way more witch, so it’s jumpy rather than crushingly menacing. But here’s a thing. British critics seem to have liked the film more than Americans. SFX, Time Out, Radio Times, Digital Spy, GQ, The Independent, The Observer, Little White Lies, Total Film and Empire all gave it broadly positive reviews. Are we more used to disappointment? Do we find getting lost in the woods more anxiety-making? And does this mean talk of a new franchise is now off the table? I sincerely hope not.
bEST oF THE FEST
Another year, another FrightFest, filled with guest appearances, too much booze, some really interesting panels and five days holed up in a movie theatre in West London filling up on gory and grisly treats. Here are my top three films from that August Bank Holiday weekend.
Train To Busan – frantic Korean enclosedspace zombie movie from the director who made The Fake. Thrilling. My Father, Die – slow, intense and beautiful revenge flick about an abusive father who kills one son and deafens the other, directed by Pierce Brosnan’s son, Sean. The Love Witch – gorgeous and strange ’70s-inspired horror-melodrama about a young woman (Samantha Robinson) using magic and spells to seduce men in a small town, from feminist auteur Anna Biller. Check them out when you can.
A brilliant thing is happening. Karyn Kusama, who made Jennifer’s Body (shut up, I liked it), and the rather better received The Invitation has picked up an adaptation of Chase Novak’s Breed as her next project. I happened to read this book when it first came out and it’s great. It follows a couple who travel to Eastern Europe for an expensive and sinister fertility treatment when they’re unable to conceive. It works and they have twins! The end. Not the end. This is a really odd, disgusting, visceral body horror that defies expectations and tugs at the heart strings and Kusama is perfect for it. This’ll also make her one of the highest profile female horror directors working today, and may well push her into the mainstream – the female James Wan? Give that woman a superhero movie.
Guess who’s not making a horror movie this month? Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, director of 28 Weeks Later, that’s who. News was announced that Steven Spielberg, whose company DreamWorks was making the film, has halted production of Haunted just weeks before the shoot was to begin. It was going to be a ghost story inspired by Henry James’s The Turn Of The Screw, but the Berg and co stepped in and sacked Fresnadillo, even though they’d already spent $5 million on the project. Apparently Fresnadillo and writer Scott Z Burns had made big changes to the original script (written by the dudes who penned The Conjuring movies, ie people who probably know what they’re doing) that Spielberg hated, including the title, the characters and many of the things that happen. Awk-Ward!
Blair Witch: scared audiences away? Fancy catching the Train To Busan? You’re gonna love The Love Witch.