In October 1978, the world was first introduced to Michael Myers in John Carpenter‘s slasher Halloween. An independent production, the film was a huge box office success and was the catalyst behind the creation and introduction of future slasher films such as Sean Cunningham‘s Friday the 13th in 1980 and Wes Craven‘s A Nightmare On Elm Street in 1984. All three franchises would become a huge phenomenon that penetrated deep into pop culture in such a way that Michael, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger have become the faces of horror.
This is not to say they were the first. In fact, another slasher icon was birthed back in 1974 when Tobe Hooper gave birth to Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, another independent horror feature that would become a horror staple. This would carve an earlier path to the aforementioned “big three” that dominated much of the 80s.
Over the years, many filmmakers attempted and failed to recreate this magic, although a few have poked through: Clive Barker‘s directorial debut, Hellraiser (1987), which introduced Pinhead and the Cenobites to horror audiences; the Tom Holland-directed Child’s Play (1988), created by Don Mancini, about a serial killer doll named Chucky; and lastly, Wes Craven‘s ultra-meta Scream, spooking newer/younger horror fans with Ghostface.
While most of us horror fans are continually begging for “original” horror, it still brings a tremendous amount of joy to see our favorite characters slashing back on the big screen. Last month, we learned of Orion’s remake of Child’s Play. Then, just this past weekend, Michael Myers slashed up the box office with Halloween, while tonight ABC’s “The Goldbergs” brings the return of Robert Englund in his iconic Freddy Krueger makeup. Shit, we also broke the news that LeBron James‘ SpringHill Entertainment is producing a reboot of Friday the 13th.
The slasher icon has returned from the dead in a big way.
But what does it all mean? Where are we headed? What can come of this new “horror boom”? I have a lot of insight into what’s been going on (we did break the news of Halloween’s escape from Dimension/The Weinstein Company that helped Blumhouse get the rights to make the new sequel and also told you that Legendary now has the rights to Texas Chain Saw Massacre) and thought it would be fun to go through the major franchises and speculate how it all gels together.
Let’s begin with what we know to be true. I’ve triple confirmed that Legendary Pictures will, in fact, be resurrecting The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I have confirmed this. Interestingly, it was reported that Legendary was nearing a renewed distribution deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, the parent company to New Line Cinema.
Speaking to the latter, this is where Freddy Krueger and the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise currently resides. The last we had heard, David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Conjuring 2, Orphan) has been developing the franchise’s return, although it’s been dormant for a few years now. However, the success of Halloween should have jostled it loose.
This brings us to this week’s breaking news that Vertigo Entertainment and LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment are in talks to reboot the Friday the 13th franchise with original screenwriter Victor Miller, who is now the sole owner of the U.S. rights to the first film in the franchise (Horror, Inc. is appealing the ruling). While the pieces are still falling into place, Vertigo did just remake Stephen King’s It with New Line Cinema. This is an important piece to the puzzle because New Line Cinema still carries the international distribution rights to the Friday the 13th film franchise. In short, it appears that Vertigo and SpringHill, with the approval of Victor Miller, can make a new movie with New Line Cinema and see it distributed worldwide without any issues.
With Texas Chain Saw Massacre at Legendary and A Nightmare On Elm Street at New Line, it’s 100% possible that we could one day see a newly assembled shared universe between Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface, which was once a possibility when New Line controlled all three properties years back.
This brings us to Halloween. After escaping from Dimension Films and The Weinstein Company, Miramax and Trancas producer Malek Akkad made a deal with Blumhouse to produce the next installment that would be distributed through Universal Pictures. While the franchise had originally been handcuffed at Dimension/TWC, it’s now believed to be a free-floater. While there’s no doubt that Halloween currently resides at Universal Pictures with Blumhouse producing, there’s a world in which Michael Myers could eventually slash his way over to New Line Cinema or work something out with the several producers and Universal on some sort of mega-collaboration. This is just wishful thinking on my part, but there’s always the possibility. For now, Blumhouse is currently hard at work developing a sequel to this past weekend’s smash hit. Maybe we’ll be lucky and get a new Halloween by next October?!
Speaking of Dimension Films and The Weinstein Company… Lantern Entertainment’s $289 million purchase of The Weinstein Co. assets has officially closed. We have it on good authority, although unconfirmed, that Lantern is the current rights holder to both Wes Craven’s Scream franchise and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. There was hope that Pinhead may have escaped in the midst of the legal battle and eventual bankruptcy of TWC, but the asset appears to be locked by the new owners. With that said, we’re hearing it can be pried loose if the right party were to come along. As for Scream, a third series in the can awaiting new distribution after Netflix terminated the output deal they had in place for the show. New series and/or films can be produced in partner with Lantern Entertainment. It’s a major, major property and we don’t expect it to stay dormant for too long.
Lastly, there’s good ol’ Chuckster, who now exists in two separate universes. Franchise writer and creator Don Mancini is not only developing a television series based on the Child’s Play films, but also further sequels, all of which remain canon from the very beginning. Meanwhile, Orion and MGM have already begun filming a remake of the first film with Lars Klevberg in the director’s chair and starring Aubrey Plaza (Life After Beth) and Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”), with Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out) as our new Andy Barclay. Yes, there are two franchises alive and well at the exact same time. This is evidence of just how hot horror and 1980s slashers are at the moment.
While our younger readers will experience this as the norm, us older horror fans have suffered quite a bit over the years, which is why this horror boom is so exciting. In 2003, Freddy vs. Jason gave us a taste of what could be, only to have the horror world collapse under the feet of the J-horror remake craze. We’ve never recovered as found-footage eventually took hold and left our beloved horror icons in the rearview mirror. Mainstream wants horror to go away – except when they’re busy writing their Halloween-themed listicles all October long – and it’s taken a string of miracles and big-boy-pants risks (It: Chapter One) to reveal to the world that horror is bigger than their hatred of it. It may feel like we’re deep-rooted into what’s to come, but the truth is that we’re just beginning. There’s a horror explosion coming so big that it’s going to surprise everyone… except us.