It’s Academy Awards season, and we’re once again being educated about important world issues, watching real actors give it their all for Oscar, and feeling redeemed by uplifting stories. Whoop-de-freaking-do. As any real film fanatic knows, there’s only so much of that stuff you can take. Sometimes you just want to pay 10 bucks and climb aboard a big, loud, scary roller coaster. Hang in there, horror fans: Following behind such memorable 2006 joy rides as “Hostel,” “The Descent” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” the upcoming year is offering an even more promising mix of sequels, slashers and just plain sick ideas.
A sleeper hit at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, this old-school slasher flick is the movie most likely to give birth to a Freddy or Jason-like horror icon in 2007. Featuring the tag line “Stay out of the swamp,” the film’s April release will unveil Victor Crowley — a deformed man-child whose love for overalls is rivaled only by his fondness for plunging razor-sharp weaponry into the skulls of dumb teenagers. A simultaneous tribute and update of the classic killer-flicks of the late ’70s/ early ’80s, director Adam Green has crafted the perfect midnight movie (at least, that seemed to be the opinion of those squirming and screaming at a Tribeca late show). Boasting what might be the scariest page on MySpace (MySpace.com/VictorCrowleyLives) and significant geek-cred as the first flick to ever unite horror thespians Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, Kane “Jason Voorhees” Hodder and Tony “Candyman” Todd, “Hatchet” might just slay the notion that there’s no room for slasher flicks in today’s “Hostel” landscape.
9. “Wind Chill”
It sounds just crazy enough to be awesome. Hot off her Golden Globe-nominated “The Devil Wears Prada” performance, Emily Blunt stuffed herself into a sedan with co-star Ashton Holmes (“A History of Violence”) to make a flick she describes as “a haunted-house movie, but inside a car.” If director Gregory Jacobs is up to the challenge (and judging by his 2004 Maggie Gyllenhaal flick, “Criminal,” he is), this strange little film could be a claustrophobic classic along the lines of Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat.” If not, this tale of two college students broken down on a snowy, deserted road could leave its concept out in the cold.
8. “The Hills Have Eyes II”
Let’s all just admit it: The first one was kinda disappointing. It did, however, manage to occasionally capture the same sense of impending dread as the 1977 classic it was remaking — and good luck to anyone attempting a night’s sleep in an RV after watching it. The potential is still there for something special to come from this sequel, especially when you consider its unique concept of National Guard trainees encountering the series’ mutants while training in the desert. At least we know this much: It won’t skimp on the blood.
7. “30 Days of Night”
With the “Underworld” series supposedly hanging things up, someone else has to take over Kate Beckinsale’s plastic vampire fangs. Enter … Josh Hartnett? Adapted from the terrifying comic book series of the same name, “Night” is set in an Alaskan town where the sun goes down for an entire month and the local vampires come out to play. Equal parts “Blade,” “The Lost Boys” and “The Twilight Zone,” the flick casts Hartnett and “Amityville Horror” beauty Melissa George as an under-siege couple on the run from Danny Huston’s bloodthirsty crew. With any luck, this movie will really suck.
6. “Saw IV”
Normally, anything from this twisted series would merit top placement on a list like this — but each “Saw” sequel has increasingly been stretching its contrivances tighter than Jigsaw did to that guy on the cross. Without giving last year’s twists away, any attempt to bring Tobin Bell back after the conclusion of “Saw III” would be nonsensical, and it’s hard to imagine a “Saw” movie without the veteran actor’s creepy master of ceremonies. Still, every year we can be assured of three things: a “Saw” movie will come out around Halloween, very few plot details will be revealed beforehand and it will freak us out. Keeping that in mind, we’re willing to play at least one more game.
5. “28 Weeks Later”
The empty streets; the mix of fear and exhaustion on the faces of the actors; the ominous feeling that the world as we know it is no more. Danny Boyle hit us with both barrels blazing in 2002’s “28 Days Later,” and the footage we’ve seen from its upcoming sequel has all the familiar elements. This time, the U.S. steps in to assist what’s left of our British brethren, declaring that we’ve contained and eliminated the “Rage” virus. Yeah, right. With any luck, the May 11 release of “Weeks” will once again bring the zombie genre back from the dead, and leave us all feeling a bit ill. The scariest part about the movie, however, might be that Boyle has stepped aside as director, passing the torch to Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Can he pull it off? Only if he has enough brains.
4. “Number 23″
Jim Carrey? In a horror movie? His presence might have you scratching your head, and the studio is determined to classify it as a “dramatic thriller,” but we dare you to take one look at the film’s latest trailer and not be creeped out. With all those knives, murders, suicides and slamming doors, “23” could be a descent into madness along the lines of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” However, the concept of a man obsessed with a recurring number could get real old real fast, and the words “From director Joel Schumacher” strike as much fear in the heart of film fans as anything else in the ad. Can Carrey get creepy? We’ll find out on February (insert scary music here) the 23rd.
Forget about horror — this is the most anticipated movie in any genre among certain groups of film fans. The only thing keeping it from placing higher on this list is that, technically, super-directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are too eager to shatter genres for this to be placed in one. Still, Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” is a zombie movie and “Death Proof” is Tarantino’s short flick about a serial killer (Kurt Russell) who runs over women with his car. This sleazy April double feature is going to be loud, ugly and gloriously fun to watch, and it should at the very least be the “Sin City” of 2007. But don’t be surprised if it also yields the best zombie movie and/or slasher flick of the year.
2. “Hostel: Part II”
With help from Tarantino, Eli Roth finally lived up to his hype as the future of horror with 2006’s “Hostel” — arguably the most demented movie to ever gain mainstream box-office success. Now, the writer/director has promised to slice even deeper with the sequel, which follows three American girls lured into the same death-trade organization that left Jay Hernandez bloodied and minus a few body parts. Bijou Phillips, Heather Matarazzo and Lauren German join the cast, and Hernandez returns as the formerly carefree tourist who now has more issues than Sports Illustrated. On June 8, we’ll all be standing in line for hours, only to watch the majority of the movie through the cracks of our fingers.
After almost 30 years, Michael Myers is finally coming home. Director Rob Zombie, who invaded Hollywood with instant horror classics “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects,” was handpicked by the Weinstein brothers last year to breathe new life into one of film’s all-time scariest characters. Based on the limited interviews he’s given so far, the movie Zombie is about to start filming will be a long way from any of the “H20″ crap fans have been stuck with lately. If ever there was a remake worth making, this August 31 release might just be it.
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