There were a lot of critiques leveled at last year’s Batman v. Superman, but a lot of them boiled down to one thing. The movie was ‘too dark.’ Since then, critics have been clamoring for brighter superhero entertainment. They’ve praised the fun of Thor: Ragnarok, the hope of Wonder Woman, even the humor of Justice League. Given these responses, it’s understandable to assume that superheroes have a jovial, light-hearted future ahead. But that’s just one possibility. For people who don’t mind the dark, there is also another, more appealing option.
Some projects just over the horizon share a vein of darkness, one that goes well beyond the stylized grittiness of Batman v. Superman. These look more inclined to terrify than to excite, more for adults than for preteens, and far less likely to have a victorious hero at the end. And that’s assuming there’s a hero at all. It’s with this new breed of shows and movies in mind that we ask: Is the next step in comic book entertainment…Horror?
Above is the trailer for FX’s Legion, one of this year’s best science fiction shows. Based on the Marvel comic book series of the same name, Legion follows a reality-warping, mentally unbalanced mutant named David Haller. The show got rave reviews for its strange visuals, excellent performances, and fantastic twists, but what stuck with audiences were the show’s pulse-pounding scares. Those were embodied best by the show’s main antagonist, The Devil with the Yellow Eyes.
A menacing presence on par with Pennywise the Clown, the yellow-eyed fiend takes different forms and thrives on the suffering and fears on those around him. Watch the show (if you haven’t already) and you’ll see why the New Yorker calls it an “absorbing nightmare.” Legion Season one ended with an absolutely terrifying conclusion that I won’t dare spoil for you, but season two is expected to air this February, leaving you plenty of time to catch up.
The New Mutants
This spring, X-Men fans will get another sinister adaptation in the form of The New Mutants. You might’ve seen that we here at Nightmare on Film Street are pretty excited for The New Mutants, and that’s precisely because of its serious horror bend. 21st Century Fox CEO Stacey Snider recently spoke to Variety about New Mutants, calling it a haunted house film closer to The Shining than any other superhero movie. Marketing for the movie has been twisted and psychological, with its cryptic Twitter teasers and seriously disturbing trailer.
The New Mutants and Legion are produced by 21st Century Fox, but that’s not the only studio to be putting darker spins on comic book characters. On October 5th, just in time for Halloween, Sony Pictures will release a movie that fans have been craving for years.
True Believers were thrilled to hear that the Spider-Man foe would finally be making a solo outing in 2018. The deal got even sweeter when we found out that Tom Hardy was attached to play the monstrous anti-hero. And monstrous he will be. According to a Variety interview with Columbia Pictures president Sanford Panitch, Venom will be a gritty, horror take on the popular Marvel character. Panitch says the film will take inspiration from John Carpenter & David Cronenberg, guaranteeing grotesque visual scares. We may have even gotten a look at the titular monster last week, courtesy of artist Mikkel Frandsen. Frandsen designs monsters for film and TV, and has a secret project slated for 2018. We can’t confirm this project is Venom, but the above image definitely fits the descriptions of the movie.
There are other rumors of horror-leaning comic book films that might be coming to the big screen. For example, there’s talk of the Spawn reboot or DC’s Justice League Dark. Of course, these films depend on the success Venom and New Mutants. After all, a studio can always be counted on to make movies that sell tickets. Case and Point: Deadpool Even though Disney, the family-oriented giant is taking over the character, fans won’t lose the franchise’s hard-R style of storytelling. If the opposite happens and upcoming comic book “scare-shows” don’t make enough money, there is a chance that this experiment in terror will fail.
Or maybe, just maybe, the comic-book industry’s turn toward horror is inevitable.
If you apply a pessimistic logic to the idea of superpowers, the whole concept can be quite terrifying. Think about a classic horror villain like Jason Vorhees. Doesn’t he have the same resistance to death that Wolverine does? An accident combines the DNA of a bug and a human — am I talking about Spider-Man or The Fly? Doctor Strange uses arcane magic just like Pinhead. Freddy Kruger can get in your head much like Professor X and Storm of the X-Men can create Sharknados! Ok that last one was a stretch, but the list could go on and on. What we call superpowers could be just as terrifying as the curses that define our most memorable movie monsters. The only difference is in the moral code of the characters that use them.
Which horror-leaning comic book movies are you most excited to see? Which comic-book characters do you think would make a good horror movie? Could Storm actually create a Sharknado???