Preview Review: Upcoming Horror

Welcome to this special horror edition of Preview Review! I haven’t written one of these in quite a while. And with a string of recently released horror trailers, it was definitely time to fix that. So cue the creepy music and maniacal laughter and let us begin!

Stage Fright (Release: April 3rd)

ImageThis movie looks absolutely out of its mind; I mean, our masked killer literally growls “break a leg” at someone as he mutilates them. It has a classic, old-fashioned slasher movie vibe combined with this kind of over-the-top, almost satirical sense of humor, taking jabs at theater kids both figuratively and very literally. There is so much blood in this red band trailer alone that I can’t imagine how much more silly and gory it could possibly get. Starring Minnie Driver and Meat Loaf, this horror-comedy about a killer terrorizing a snobby drama camp will probably have quite the niche audience, mainly because the tones might not mesh for some; its Glee-meets-Friday the 13th storytelling may seem just a little too crazy to appeal to the masses. But I think it’s having too much fun with its own special brand of theatrics to care. And in my opinion, the number one rule for successful horror-comedy genre-blending is that the film in question should never take itself too seriously. Consensus: This trailer is an all-over-the-place hot mess of stabbing and singing, and that might be a little off-putting for some; a little girl in the film even asks, so perfectly and hilariously timed within this very trailer, “Isn’t it wrong to sing and dance when someone just died?” Well, if that’s wrong, then this movie just doesn’t want to be right, and I don’t blame it.

Oculus (Release: April 11th)


 I was really excited for this Blumhouse release starring Karen Gillan from the chilling teaser trailer. This longer trailer didn’t really hurt or help much. This trailer, unlike the teaser (obviously) is bogged down by a semi-confusing plot, only further complicated by all the mirrors, doubles, and past versions of characters that we see in these two minutes. However, rather than following through with the word choice of “confusing,” the optimist in me, who was also truly and deeply terrified by this trailer, would like to suggest instead that the trailer is maybe better described as “intriguing.” The root concept itself which is both clever and classic at the same time does come across somewhat more clearly in this trailer– the mirror harbors a supernatural force and causes the past-present clashes and creepy deceptions and [mis]perceptions and, of course, the horrific sights and alleged murders. So, even if those things in turn raise questions, I think this trailer negotiates them pretty effectively– that is, we want to find out what is really going on after watching this trailer, don’t we? Consensus: The details make me simultaneously less excited but also more curious about this film; maybe this horror movie is raising a mirror to its own genre, and maybe, like its reflective subject matter, this film is not what it at first seems to be. But that actually might be a good thing, or so I still hope.

The Sacrament (Release: May 1st)


 I have been hearing so much positive buzz about Ti West’s latest film from horror fans and film festival reviews, but this was the first time I actually watched the trailer. This film is in found footage style, at least I think? It wasn’t abundantly obvious in the trailer which I kind of appreciated; trailers of found footage films often stress that aspect of the film in this really trite manner, but the more subtle documentary feel of this trailer really allows us to be scared by the content more than the form for once, and it also feels more intimate and believable somehow as a result. The film tells the story of some journalists looking for their friend’s missing sister and arriving at an eerie cult-ish commune. This focus is uniquely unsettling and the film’s approach seems truly terrifying; even this trailer alone escalates in suspense and intensity as we’re given more rapidly editing shots of all manner of things that we cannot truly identify or explain. The fact that we’re left to wonder so much but still feel so uneasy solidifies my high hopes for this film. Consensus: I think even if I didn’t like this trailer as much as I did, I would still be interested in seeing the film but the trailer really does do justice to the film’s concept in a way that is subtle and masterful and truly scary.

Afflicted (Release: April 4th– limited)


 I think it’s pretty amazing, first of all, that my final two trailers are also found footage. Say what you will if you’re a skeptic, but the form clearly does have staying power. And, as a defender of the form (when it’s done right) I’m pleased to say that innovation even within that mode seems to be what is keeping it alive. This trailer, for instance, is impeccably crafted in the way it tells events non-linearly. I love that we’re shown things in a backwards order, but I do wish it hadn’t shown us so much. The plot, a giddy and unrelenting combination of Chronicle (2012) and Contracted (2013), revolves around two best friends filming their trip around the world, during which one of them becomes “afflicted” by something that is both gruesome and awesome in the traditional sense of the word. He might have super strength and speed later in the trailer/earlier in his actual chronology, while later in his chronology/earlier in the trailer we’ve already been shown the more ghastly and diseased form he will take. I doubt the film is told in a similarly skewed order, but it was cool for its marketing to slowly and steadily backtrack us to the source of his affliction, even though I really do think that the source itself could have been saved altogether. Consensus: If the trailer succeeds this well at blending the familiar with the fresh, then I can only hope the film does as well. I think it looks great, I just hope I don’t already know too much.

The Den (Release: March 14th)


 I love the concept of this film, and I think even this trailer’s sort of sensory overload sells that concept fairly well. A young woman who is studying the behaviors of webcam users (which the film assumes the view of for at least some of its duration, a creative move only seen before, as far as I am aware, in Joe Swanberg’s V/H/S segment) witnesses a brutal murder online. She soon becomes embroiled in a dangerous and nightmarish scenario– both her and her loved ones are being targeted for a similar fate. Judging by this trailer, the film switches from webcam view to something somewhat more traditional at least as far as found footage goes. I think there is something to be gleaned here about the true social implications of found footage and the internet specifically; I’m not certain that the film is aiming to be quite so meta, but I think what makes this film seem so scary to me already is the way the desire to film and watch and even communicate through these same digital means leaves us vulnerable in a certain way. There’s something about that idea that seems so chillingly realistic and possible, and this trailer includes some really visceral and violent scares to make that possibility all the more terrifying to consider. Consensus: I really respect IFC Midnight and all the great work they’ve been releasing, and I am hoping that this exciting found footage film will be no exception to their current trend of interesting and progressive genre works.


3 thoughts on “Preview Review: Upcoming Horror

  1. Interesting bunch! I’ve been excited about Oculus for a long time, but I hadn’t even heard of the others. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them. Nice to come across another found footage horror fan! Too bad so much of it has been bad lately (i.e. Paranormal Activty: The Marked Ones and Devil’s Due). :/

    • Thanks for reading/commenting, sorry for my delayed response! Very glad to find another found footage fan indeed. I agree that a lot of the mainstream (not to sound pretentious in any way by using that word) examples of late have been pretty trite. I don’t know how The Den or Afflicted are going to be, but I really respect innovation so I definitely give them credit for seemingly trying something a little different!

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