A lot of people were surprised or even put out when 20th Century Fox revealed the next movie in the X-Men cinematic universe, The New Mutants, would be a straight-up horror flick. This despite the early issues of the comic itself venturing into horror territory, beginning with Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz’s The Demon Bear Saga – an arc that revolved around a soul-corrupting entity called the Demon Bear.
Early word on the production of The New Mutants hinted at the Demon Bear storyline making its way into the movie in some form or another, though we got little in the trailer to verify that. So here is what we can fairly assume based on the original material, along with some reckless speculation that may or may not also end up being spoilers. If you want to go into the movie clean, best turn away now.
What we can reasonably assume to be true is the five titular young mutants are being held against their will in what appears to be an abandoned mental hospital, although, as stated in the trailer, “this isn’t a hospital, it’s a haunted house.” The set-up invokes A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors more than any X-Men movie to date, with the facility being overseen by Dr. Cecilia Reyes, played by Alice Braga.
Her ostensibly captive patients, in almost no particular order:
Rahne Sinclair, AKA Wolfsbane, played by Maisie Williams, AKA Arya Stark. Her mutant power is, essentially, being a werewolf.
Illyana Rasputin, AKA Magik, played by Anya-Taylor Joy, AKA that girl from The VVitch. In the comics, her powers are directly linked to a hell dimension, allowing her to teleport through space and time and to conjure a flaming sword capable of killing nigh anything.
Roberto da Costa, AKA Sunspot, played by Henry Zaga. Traditionally he absorbs solar energy and converts it into physical strength, which manifests itself as a neat visual that we do not see in the trailer.
Sam Guthrie, AKA Cannonball, played by Charlie Heaton, AKA the older brother from Stranger Things. He can fly and crash through things. Don’t be surprised if that’s tweaked a little for the movie, with an emphasis on the flaming destruction left in his wake.
Danielle ‘Dani’ Moonstar, AKA Mirage, played by Blu Hunt. She gives shape and form to people’s most nightmarish fears.
Three of those five powersets lend themselves very well to horror with Dani’s being the most interesting in relation to our premise, and here’s where we get into some wild speculation that could be way off the mark.
Strange things are afoot in the hospital, and while they could be the machinations of an outside force, like the Demon Bear from the comics, this would be a big departure for the series, which has previously grounded everything within the world’s pre-established boundaries of mutant powers. Even the Phoenix Force has – thus far – been explained as an extension of Jean Grey’s natural gifts and not the cosmic being depicted in the books. This means it’s entirely possible all the seemingly paranormal activity displayed in the trailer is simply a display of our mutants’ own uncontrolled powers, with particular side-eye toward Dani. Who better to create the illusion of a ‘haunted house’ than someone who can conjure life-like manifestations of your darkest fears?
As an example, take Sam Guthrie and what appears to be a run-in with some very pissed-off miners.
In the comics, Sam’s powers first emerged after a Kentucky coal mine collapsed on himself and another miner. If his origin were altered for the movie, and his ability instead contributed to the deaths of a handful of miners, being confronted by them could appear to be a ghostly encounter or, given what we know about Dani’s powers, it could be his darkest nightmare brought to life by an untrained mutant.
The same goes for the trailer’s first jump scare when Sam is started by a hand enveloped by fire.
It’s not hard to picture people being burned alive in a coal mine and that memory being seared into his brain for Dani to unwittingly find. It’s also not unthinkable that Illyana, unable to control her teleportation ability, accidentally bamfed her way into a washing machine and this is a false scare.
This is to say Dani’s might not be the only power we see at play in the trailer. The otherworldly beings in this shot are arguably the closest thing we see to a traditional haunting, but they could also be the result of Illyana thinning the walls between Earth and an unknown hell dimension.
This shot of Dr. Reyes with claw marks on her face could very well be from an angered Rahne Sinclair.
Even one of the trailer’s earliest moments, a series of gravestones marked only by numbers, may be part of a misdirect.
We’re led to believe, through a series of images, this is a facility were young mutants could be experimented on until they are discarded without so much as a name. And that may indeed be the case. But it may also be the manifestation of the darkest fear of Dr. Cecilia Reyes herself.
In the comics, Dr. Reyes is herself a mutant, with the ability to create force-shields. She is, by nature of both personality and power, a protector. And changing her into a nefarious character would not be the furthest diversion of the X-movies from the source material, but it’s far more likely she’s keeping kids with incredibly dangerous abilities beyond their control secluded for the well-being of themselves and those around them. And it’s as likely as not that a mass grave filled with nameless mutant children is the manifestation of her worst fear should she fail in her endeavor.
Again, this is all the wildest of speculation based on the Marvel comics, which have never been slavishly adapted, and the short trailer, which gave us very little in the way of concrete information. It could be everything is exactly as it’s being presented to us. Dr. Reyes might be more Stryker than Xavier, and the horrors our heroes experience might actually be a malevolent outside force and not simply the unchecked powers of one or more of their own. We might see a literal Demon Bear.
But it also might all be a Mirage.