With Deadpool 2 (review) having just crashed into theaters this past Friday, and Solo: A Star Wars Story landing this Friday, there’s no question that summer blockbuster season is officially upon us. It’s not all superheroes or mega Hollywood features though; horror is staking a major claim in the summer season release schedule. From anticipated sequels, festival favorites, and even a few puppets, there’s something for all fans of horror. Here’s the summer movie preview to help you prepare:
Upgrade – June 1
There’s perhaps no better way to kick off the summer season than the latest by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious). Set in the near-future where technology has pervaded nearly every aspect of life, technophobe Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) is forced to rely on an experimental computer chip named Stem when his world is turned upside down. A high-octane sci-fi action thriller injected with the humor Whannell is known for makes Upgrade (review) a perfect fit for its summer season release.
Hereditary – June 8
There’s no other horror film as highly anticipated as the latest from A24, and release is finally just around the corner. Following the Graham family as they uncover terrifying secrets about their family history in the wake of the death of their family matriarch, our own Fred Topel has called the film “psychologically and viscerally grueling,” while Trace declared that it “rewards your patience with nightmare fuel.” It sounds like one not to be missed.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – June 22
Whether you loved or hated 2015’s Jurassic World, its follow up seems to be doing everything right to entice horror fans. Director J.A. Bayona has promised to take the sequel back to the horror roots of the original, and emphasized the practical effects-heavy nature of the film. And the reveal of Jeff Goldblum in the trailers is an instant win. Set four years after the events of the last film, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Clair (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs when Isla Nublar’s dormant volcano roars to life. Emphasis on the dino action.
The First Purge – July 4
This tried-and-true summer staple of horror returns in prequel form, with the most appropriate release on America’s most patriotic holiday. Exploring the events that lead to the first annual Purge, we can expect that writer/series creator James DeMonaco will once again go right for the jugular of its political themes, especially if the ballsy marketing is any indication. While Frank Grillo won’t be returning, producer Andrew Form has promised a new badass protagonist worth rooting for.
Unfriended: Dark Web – July 20
Eschewing supernatural teen angst for something much, much darker, this Blumhouse sequel opts for terrifying realism when 20-something Matias brings home a used laptop to use for connecting with friends for a Skype game night. The original owner, however, is not only watching him, but willing to do anything to get it back. Our own Trace has proclaimed that this sequel is “brutal and downright cruel.”
Summer of ’84 – August 3 (limited)
From the minds that brought cult hit Turbo Kid comes an ‘80s set murder mystery with teenage friends on the case. Leaning heavily into nostalgia, Summer of ’84 seems to draw inspiration from the likes of The ‘Burbs, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and of course “Stranger Things.” Our own Fred Topel states that the “serial killer element means business,” while it hits the “sweet spot” of nostalgia.
The Meg – August 10
Is there anything more quintessentially summer than shark movies? Or in this case, a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark. The marketing has been killer (pun totally intended), and Jason Statham’s presence promises an action-heavy summer romp. While the PG-13 rating means we won’t get any shark carnage, I should probably remind you that The Shallows also had a PG-13 rating, and it was still a lot of tense fun.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich – August 17 (limited)
This gonzo reboot is heavy on the gore and offensive humor, that there’s no way in hell it would pass with an R-rating. With gonzo kills that could easily win the prize for best kill scenes in modern horror, it would be a shame to trim any of that out. Luckily, the Cinestate production team refuses to cut a moment out, and it will get released unrated. The downside means that theatrical release will be limited. That’s still a huge win for horror, though, this crowd pleaser should be sought out on the big screen (review).
The Happytime Murders – August 17
Proving that August 17 should be marked as a national holiday for warped, adult takes on puppets, this R-rated comedy revolves around a puppet cast of a beloved ‘80s show getting murdered one by one. The trailer shown at CinemaCon elicited strong reactions, with boasts that it would be an “instant cult classic.” The film stars Elizabeth Banks, Melissa McCarthy, Joel McHale, and Maya Rudolph, so heavy prominence on the comedy. But R-rated puppet murder sounds intriguing.
Slender Man – August 24
Sony Screen Gem’s release about the infamous creepypasta revolves around four high school girls as they attempt to debunk the existence of the thin, tall faceless figure known as Slender Man. When one of the girls goes missing, they realize that maybe there’s more fact than fiction to the lore. While the initial trailer indicated a by-the-numbers teen horror, it’s late summer slated release may hint there’s more to this creepypasta than meets the eye. The film stars Joey King (The Conjuring, Wish Upon) and horror favorite Javier Botet as the titular Slender Man.
The Little Stranger – August 31
Based on Sarah Waters gothic ghost story of the same name, this quiet haunter is set in the 1940s as a doctor is called to a countryside estate, where he discovers its inhabitants may be haunted by an ominous presence. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter, and Ruth Wilson, and directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room), will likely lean heavily into the gothic moodiness of the source material. So far, not much has been revealed about the film, which means a higher potential that this release date isn’t set in stone.
Mandy – TBD
Nicolas Cage is a busy actor, and probably has about 50 films slated for release this year. So, if you must choose only one, make it Panos Comsatos’ latest. Set in 1983, Cage plays Red Miller, a broken man hunting down the religious sect who slaughtered the love of his life. From what we can tell, vengeance will be downright bloody. Our own Fred Topel has stated that Mandy is “an intense two hours,” and teases that “Cage could hold his own with Bruce Campbell, Gunnar Hansen and Chow Yun-Fat as chainsaw warriors.” There’s no set date yet, but RLJE Films has slated Mandy for a summer theatrical release.