Cahiers du Horror 10: Director Roundup March 2022

Who will create the next great slasher?

Didn’t see this one coming. Always a bunch of hams in their videos, it’s no surprise the Foo Fighters would make a movie, and why not a horror movie–Studio 666. Nice to see the rock ‘n’ roll horror subgenre grow, especially when real rockers are involved: i.e. Monster Dog (1984), Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) (Thor Forever!) along with others. The trailer also reveals that it’s an evil book movie, and I can’t pass that up: Lovecraft, Equinox (1970), the Evil Dead ouvre–hope you all caught Creepshow season 3 episode 1, “Public Television of the Dead”.

The flick is based on a story by Dave Grohl, screenplay by Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes. It’s directed by BJ McDonnell, who has mostly directed some 2016 Slayer music videos and other shorts. It’s his camera operator and Steadicam operator resume though, that makes him overqualified for anything–Malignant (2021), Zombieland: Double Tap (2019), Shazam! (2019). This appears to be his first directorial effort. I bet the camera work will be exceptional. Also, Slayer guitarist appears as the doomed tech, Krug.

Screenwriter Buhler wrote the screenplay for Pet Sematary (2019), Jacob’s Ladder (2019), The Midnight Meat Train (2008), and the “J is for Jesus” segment of ABC’s of Death 2 (2014). His background looks like it’s from someone who likes a challenge. Screenwriter Hughes looks like she took some time off and returned in a superhero landing with Studio 666.

Wait a minute now. Looks like independent filmmaker Jason Trost is in the movie as “Tech”. Trost has made quite a bit of movies, and is mostly known for the brilliant All Superheroes Must Die (2011), the sequel All Superheroes Must Die 2: The Last Superhero (2016), and his long running film series The FP (2011), of which part four is in post-production.

Shudder continues to satisfy the voracious appetites of horror fans. They exhumed Joe Bob Briggs, they revived Creepshow as a series, Elvira joined the Shudder coven, and, before your writer could get his notes together from announcement to exhibition, they distributed the fourth installment of the V/H/S series V/H/S/94 (2021). This is all to the chagrin of those who don’t like found footage films–the genre that just won’t die.

This latest installment includes “Empty Wake” by Simon Barrett, “Terror” by Ryan Prows, “Holy Hell” by Jennifer Reeder, “The Subject” by Timo Tjahjanto, and “Storm Drain” by Chloe Okuno. All works are also written by the directors with a special mention for Steven Kostanski who directed “The Veggie Masher” commercial in Okuno’s “Storm Drain”. Kostanski’s no beginner though. As a part of the Astron 6 team he worked in many creative rolls including directing or co-directing on Manborg (2011), Father’s Day 92011), The Void (2016) and Psycho Goreman (2020).

While the buzz on this installment fizzled quickly it’s important to note a change in the series, which finally includes two female directors, Chloe Okuno, whose freshman feature, a thriller titled Watcher (2022), was a recent Sundance Film Festival favorite; and Jennifer Reeder, with one feature already, and a second in postproduction: Knives and Skin (2019), a thriller–called a noir in some places–about a missing girl in the U.S. Midwest; and the exorcism gone wrong, Night’s End (2022)–the best kind of exorcisms.

Barrett wrote and directed the wraparound story “Tape 49” in V/H/S/2 (2013), about two private investigators hired to find a missing college boy which leads them to the titular vhs tapes. He also wrote and directed Séance (2021) about a group of private school girls and a séance gone wrong–those seem to be the only kind. Barrett, however, learned his trade writing and earned his directorships from writing the following, some of which are among the most important, or at least notorious, horror movies of the last twenty years: Frankenfish (2004), You’re Next (2011), The Guest (2014), Blair Witch (2016) and the segments “Tape 56” and “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” for V/H/S (2012), “Q is for Quack” for The ABCs of Death (2012), “Phase I Clinical Trials” and the aforementioned “Tape 49” for V/H/S/2. Someone to look out for.

Ryan Prows kept himself busy writing and directing short films, fifteen episodes of a web series called Boomerang Kids, and Lowlife (2017), a multiple narrative about, among other things, organ-harvesting and a masked luchador–I know luchadores wear masks, the phrasing’s for the beginners here. An interesting resume. Can’t wait to see what else he does.

I’m a Tjahjanto completist and will recuse myself from summarizing his work yet again except to convince you to watch Macabre(2009), codirected with Kimo Stamboel as the Mo Brothers, and to keep an open mind for his English language remake of Train to Busan (2016) retitled The Last Train to New York (2023).

Terrifier 2 is in postproduction from writer/director Damien Leone, who, well, terrified us with Terrifier (2016), and added an iconic slasher–Art the Clown–to the slasher club. If you didn’t know, as your writer didn’t, Art the Clown also appears in Leone’s directorial debut anthology film, which he also wrote, All Hallow’s Eve (2013), about a babysitter and her two charges watching a videotape that someone put into one of their candy bags on Halloween night. He also wrote and directed Frankenstein Vs. The Mummy (2015), the title of which should be summary enough. Terrifier 2 stars the following: Scream queen Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp (1983) fame and many, many more; Tamara Glynn, whose work includes Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), and–why doesn’t anybody ever talk about this one?–the television show, Freddy’s Nightmares (1988-1990)–that’s Freddy Krueger btw; and actor-who-uses-three-names-like-a-serial-killer David Howard Thornton, returns as Art the Clown.

Now for a little comic book adaptation roundup. The least coolest hell is the development kind, and the road there is paved with comic book adaptations. In The Goon comic books, the titular tough guy and his spunky sidekick Franky battle all sorts of undead, monsters, and evil bad guys. Along with his colorists, Dave Stewart, Robin Powell and sometimes himself, Eric Powell has created one of the most amazing horror worlds ever put to paper. He writes and draws the series combining serious action storylines with horror, camp and a golden age feel to it, think Little Orphan Annie on horror steroids, but then throw that out because it’s a terrible analogy.

Tim Miller of Blur Studio, creator of the animated anthology show Love, Death + Robots, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce an animated version of The Goon, and it went $40,000 over its $400,000 goal back in … 2012. That’s right, ten long years ago. Game of Thrones has finished, wars have ended, phony despots have fallen, but The Goon has not been made. Your writer was hoping for a live action version with maybe ridiculous prosthetics like Robin Williams wore in Popeye (1980).

Miller, Blur Studio, Powell and company as well as director David Fincher did, however, put together a fun proof-of-concept short film introducing are two heroes. Paul Giamatti plays the voice of Franky and everybody’s favorite immortal, prison guard, demoted space marine, and weird cult-like leader, Clancy Brown, plays the voice of the Goon. The short piece focuses more on Franky and that’s okay by us, but it really is the art of Eric Powell brought to the world of moving animation and a great achievement in itself. We want the movie though.

See you next time.

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