I desperately wanted Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Doctor Sleep to do well, not only because it’s a good movie, it is (read my review of it over at Signal Horizon), but because its box office success could have meant that big studios like Warner Brothers would take a chance on fresh, character-driven horror films. Its opening weekend earlier this month grossed about $14 million dollars, which is not terrible, but certainly below expectations when you consider all of the marketing that was pumped into the film. On the other hand, when you compare Doctor Sleep’s opening to that of Halloween 2018, which grossed about $78 billion during its opening weekend, it’s likely that big studios are going to support more remakes and reboots of well-known franchises. Recent news stories over the last few weeks confirm this.
I can only speculate why Doctor Sleep is not drawing more people to the theater. It has a stellar performance by Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Danny Torrance, battling demons and struggling to not repeat the sins of his alcoholic, abusive father. Rebecca Ferguson commands every scene she’s in as the terrifying vampire Rose the Hat. Still, even though it’s a sequel to The Shining, and even though Stephen King is undergoing yet another renaissance right now, Doctor Sleep doesn’t have a franchise icon associated with it as recognizable as Michael Myers. The Overlook Hotel is in the film but only in the final act. Maybe Warner Brothers should have released the film during October or even late September, instead of waiting until Nov. 8.
One thing is certain, though, we vote with our dollars, and as Halloween 2018 has proved, if a studio realizes a reboot or sequel makes money, they will continue making more of them. Halloween 2018 is getting two more sequels, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends, to be released in October 2020 and October 2021.
Meanwhile, a slasher film that heavily influenced John Carpenter’s Halloween, 1974’s Black Christmas, is getting a reboot set to open on Friday, Dec. 13. I assume that its studio, Blumhouse, which helped produce Halloween 2018 in partnership with Universal, suspects there are dollars to be made rehashing some of these well-known slasher films. Judging from a recent TV spot (see below), this very much looks like a film for the “woke” era.
In the TV spot, you see a group of sorority women fending off a black-robed, masked killer, and in one scene, a character who appears to be the head of a fraternity questions one of the women about power. My real question about this film is why now? The film was already remade in 2006 and was panned, especially by the horror community. There are several more interesting films that have come out in the last few years that deal with female power, be it The Witch, The Nightingale, or Revenge. Why doesn’t Blumhouse and Universal invest their dollars into an original script? Furthermore, for its time, Black Christmas was innovative. It featured a killer inside of the house, which was one of the most terrifying twists in horror history. It established the killer’s POV shot, which was used by Carpenter and others, and it generally had strong, forceful women who drank, smoke, cursed, and generally held their own. What new is a remake going to add?
Shortly after the release of Black Christmas, Universal/Blumhouse is set to relaunch the classic Universal Monsters in hopes of establishing a Dark Universe (yet again). The remake of The Invisible Man is set to drop in February. See below.
Now, I will admit this remake looks much more interesting than Black Christmas, especially because of Elisabeth Moss’performance and the theme of abuse that is so evident in the trailer,especially when Moss’ character says, “He said that wherever I went, he would find me.” That said, this film looks like it has little in common with H.G. Wells’ novel and James Whale’s classic 1934 adaptation. The Invisible Man looks like a totally different character in this, not a mad scientist. The name was kept, most likely, in hopes that it will attract viewers and make money, thus creating a Dark Universe that Universal has wanted and has so far failed to launch after the remake of The Mummy totally bombed.
These remakes/reboots by Universal/Blumhouse aren’t the only ones on the horizon. It was reported recently that there is going to be another Scream movie that operates within the universe Wes Craven established. Speaking of Wes Craven, his estate is apparently listening to pitches for a new Nightmare on Elm Street. You can’t blame these studios for moving forward with these projects after they saw the immense amount of money that Halloween 2018 grossed. With all of that said, there are plenty of young, innovative directors out there doing great things, like Robert Eggers, Jordan Peele, Jennifer Kent, and Coralie Fargeat, and thanks to streaming services like Shudder, horror is now an international market.
Still, though, I’m upset that Doctor Sleep isn’t making more money at the box office. It’s poor showing is going to encourage studios to keep making remake after remake. Meanwhile, unique stories won’t be seen by as wide of an audience and a good script may get passed over. We vote with our dollars, and when an interesting horror movie comes along, we need to support it, see it, and talk about it.