No doubt the genre films of the near future will reflect the leftfield craziness of planet Earth’s recent plot arcs. From low budget COVID zombie attacks and stay at home slashers to sly deconstructions of the human condition, be prepared for a head-spinning blend of lazy opportunism, zero-tolerance solidarity and explosive outpourings of creative emancipation.
In particular, racism is a social injustice that’s prompted scathing indictments since the very early days of genre cinema.
White Zombie (1932) ingested the poison of slavery and spewed it back as Haitian zombie folklore, with King Kong providing a withering critique on the same evil the following year. Night of the Living Dead (1968) shocked the world with the prejudiced extermination of its black hero, a primal statement of intent from social commentariat extraordinaire George A Romero.
In modern times Jordan Peele has seized the social shotgun and discharged the twin barrels of Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), surely the most relevant horror films of recent decades.
Genre films have always shared an affiliation with the underdog. A sense of empathy with the outsider that compounds its uncompromising and rebellious temperament. By its very nature, it is a creative stratum populated by inclusive individuals who have some understanding of what it means to fight to be heard.
These films that repulse, titillate, petrify and shock us often serve to galvanize us too. They are determined to raise a cracked mirror to the values of society. Soon it will be time to witness what happens when that mirror shatters.
But in the meantime, here is a guide to the thrills, terrors and traumas already lurking in the shadows. As UK cinemas stand on the cusp of reopening, they are the exciting genre films you won’t want to miss, ready to grip our hands in the uncertain darkness of the new normal.
When Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk) rejects the sleazy advances of her landlord he accuses her of sorcery. Propelled into the barbaric clutches of the black-hearted Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) he sets about the sadistic task of revealing her satanic affinity.
Kicking off this year’s online Fantasia festival The Reckoning sees genre darling Neil Marshall return to the bloody wellspring of his horror roots. The uncompromising director of Dog Soldiers and The Descent digs elbow deep into the muddy armpit of the Great Plague. Focusing on the feculent practice of witch-hunting in a climate of bubonic misery and bacterial paranoia, we could scarcely ask for a more poignant scenario.
Filth plastered realisation of 1665 England that gives a new meaning to Old Blighty and a possible glimpse into a post-COVID/ Brexit Britania.The PPE of pant shitting nightmares. Seat squirming torture. Grisly gore by Adam Szlávy (Midsommar). A towering performance of fuckmungous evil from Sean Pertwee.
Fantasia Premiere on Aug. 20th 2020 Predicted general release Mid Oct. 2020
CRAZY SAMURAI MUSASHI
Miyamoto Musashi is arguably Japan’s most exalted swordsman. Duelling to the death from the age of 9 he racked up over 60 kills in no time. This is the true story of how he ambushed an army of 400 men that were meant to be ambushing him.
Director Yûji Shimomura hits the ambition overdrive button on this marathon of butchery. Watch in awe as he goes full Mendes and films the bloodbath in a single take. Anyone who has viewed his delirious Ninja flick Re: Born knows his capacity for carnage, but this is next level.
Written by prolific celluloid basket case Sion Sono you can expect just as much flamboyancy in the narrative. Anyone who’s viewed the sectionable Suicide Club known his capacity for balls to the walls lunacy.
Blood plastered realisation of 1600’s Japan that makes The Bride V’s the Crazy 88 look like chair dancing in a care home. Cinematic flourishes and flashing blades. More slashes than a Guns N’ Roses fancy dress competition.
JAPAN Aug. 21st 2020 Predicted general release Sept. 2020
An epidemic of brutal homicides blights the town of Cliff Valley. The killings appear to be staged as homages to classic 80’s films, so who better than three movie nerd buddies to help connect the blood splatters and unmask the twisted murdered.
This UK set crime mystery is set to raise the bar in meta-horror and should whip late-night festival fanboys/girls into a film recognition frenzy. Director Ante Kovac has a highly regarded body of commercials to his name, as well as award-winning music videos, so slick visuals are a given amongst the carnage.
Cult reference plastered realisation of modern Britain with a nostalgic 80’s vibe. Midsomer Murders meets Scream.
Multiple pre-sales indicates a possible late 2020 release
A family quest for breast reduction leads to a low rent plastic surgery clinic in Eastern Europe. The proprietors have been dabbling in unethical rejuvenation techniques and the by-product is ravenous, flesh chewing zombies!
Debut director Lars Damoiseaux forsakes his day job of writing Netflix’s crime drama Undercover to channel his inner early Peter Jackson. A mixture of slapstick laughs and avalanches of gore this is midnight movie heaven. Switch off your brain and settle back for some old school genre fun, lovingly gift wrapped in human offal.
Intestine plastered realisation of cut-price cosmetics that gives a new meaning to Nip/tuck. At least one head caving with a fire extinguisher. Reverse liposuction.
Shudder US & UK June. 25th 2020
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO
A budding fashion designer time travels back to the legendary London of the swinging sixties. She encounters an enigmatic young singer and a psychological nightmare begins.
Fanboy personified Edgar Wright follows up the exquisitely flawed Baby Driver with a return to horror. His Shaun of the Dead has proved to be one of the most enduring/endearing cult genre flicks of all time but the tone will be much bleaker here.
Last Night in Soho boasts a super cool cast with the always classy Diana Rigg reverting to horror for the first time since literary gorefest Theatre of Blood in 1973. The twin rising stars of future Oscar winner Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie, so enchanting in Jojo Rabbit, can pay their agent’s fees with relish.
Krysty Wilson-Cairns provides the script with 1917 already under her belt, the incoming, dark as fuck, The Good Nurse and an untitled Taika Waititi Star Wars Flick in the bag.
Eyeliner plastered realisation of 1960’s London drenched in neon. Rose-tinted nostalgia overload. Panther sleek visuals, Gatling gun editing and a soundtrack for the ages, no doubt including Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich.
Cinema release dependant on COVID developments.
It’s four years after the events of Train to Busan and global isolation has turned the Korean peninsula into a lawless canker of zombie fuck jobbery. A soldier, who has previously escaped this undead hell, returns on a covert retrieval mission. His team finds a residual pocket of survivors and they must band together if they are to fight their way to freedom.
Following up an instant genre classic like the irrepressible Train to Busan was never going to be an easy task. So many horrors films fall at the barbed wire hurdle of audience empathy but not this zombie masterpiece. It soared majestically clear and ducked over the finishing line of feels with grace and humanity.
For director Sang-ho Yeon it was a labour of love and he is sure to bring the same level of enthusiasm and heart to Peninsula. Add to that an epic upscaling of scope and production values and you are looking at one of the most salivated over genre picture releases of the year.
Bitey zombie plastered realisation of a dystopian future South Korea. Bonkers set pieces and air-punching sparkles of pure adrenaline. Grown-up character development and an immersive universe that may just fashion your new favourite horror film of all time.
Spain Aug. 12th 2020 France Oct. 28th 2020
When ageing matriarch Edna disappears her daughter and granddaughter return to their isolated family home to search for her. They uncover vestiges of dementia within the house but when Edna reemerges three days later, with no explanation as to her absence, they come to suspect an even more disturbing existential entity is consuming her.
This is a very intimate debut from director Natalie Erika James as she draws from her personal observations of her own grandmothers Alzehiemers. Using horror tropes as a conduit she paints a heart-wrenching portrait of how brain disorders can remodel generational dynamics.
Intelligent psychological horror movies are enjoying a potent renaissance and Relic could well end up sharing cerebral headspace with the likes of Hereditary, Mother! and The Babadook. The only surprise is that it slipped the seemingly all-enveloping net of A24.
The usual tedious philistinism plastered on horror threads about how Relic is, “soooo boring” and “not really a horror film“. An unsettling treatment of a very painful subject with a god-tier ending.
Cinema and Digital HD/VOD release Jul. 10th 2020
James Wan’s ultra-secretive new terror thriller heralds the likeable horror maestro’s thunderous return to the horror fold. Going back to his grim, blood-caked roots, before resuming Aquaman duties, in a brain tumour based shocker.
The independently financed Malignant is co-written by Ingrid Bisu who appeared in The Nun and marks a completely new field of horror previously unplowed by Wan.
Special effects come from Mike Elizalde of Stranger Things fame and Koji Ohmura who worked on the insane Blade of the Immortal, so the creatures and blood spurting bases are well covered.
Twist plastered plot swerves and epic jump scares. Hard R violence and minimal green screen. A new franchise universe to explore.
Sooner than you might think. Malignant had a mid-August 2020 release date before the virus attacked and Warner Bros will be desperate for the cash.
Berliner Marlene is haunted by horrific nightmares and she is convinced they are real. After reading an advert in the paper she is equally convinced she has identified the source. Overlooking the clear warnings of The Shining she toddles off to the remote Hotel Sonnenhügel and is promptly left comatose in a psych ward.
Her daughter Mona arrives on the scene to jump down the same rabbit hole and sure enough, she begins to suffer traumatic night terrors of her own.
Michael Venus’s staggeringly complex and commendably ambitious horror film is going to split audiences as much as The Lighthouse.
Following a German folk tale template, its gorgeous visuals and intelligent script forge a deep-dive analysis of terror, repressed remorse and redemption. A fan of The Brothers Grimm, Mario Bava and George A. Romero he eases casual cruelty, visceral symbolism and social commentary into his arthouse arsenal.
Burrowing beneath the veneer of perceived normality it echoes the methodology of David Lynch and viewers who love a challenging cinematic puzzle box will lap it up.
Motif plastered nods to your own intellect. Lots of gasping for breath and glassy-eyed soul searching. A massive fuck-off wild boar.
Germany Aug. 6th 2020
A top showjumper suspects her rich husband of having an affair. After following him to a dairy facility she blunders into a viper pit of experimental rejuvenation therapy. Herds of women and unborn children kept as stem cell harvesting stock. She herself is kidnapped and forced to enter the sickening world of underground biohacking.
This controversial Nordic genre flick comes at the traditional survival picture from a modernist and feminist perspective. Dealing with the human struggle of those deemed collateral damage in the quest for eternal youth, it also aims to challenge the preconceptions of the contributions of women in the horror genre.
Cell plastered realisation of longevity through exploitation. An unorthodox love story focusing on a woman’s right to control her own sexuality without reproach. A fuck off massive needle. Electro prods and branding.
Danish theatrical release on Oct. 31st 2020
Tinja the kindly young gymnast lives to please her blogger mother. When she acquires a mysterious amniotic egg she decides to provide the nurturing warmth necessary to incubate it. What hatches will blow your mind and fuck up her closet.
Hanna Bergholm’s coming of age horror drama was the subject of an early bidding war at this years virtual Cannes. It was secured by IFC Midnight as part of their policy to support first time directing talent. Shot for just € 3,440,000 it could well be the latest low budget darling to pick up the same level of buzz that surrounded Julia Ducournau’s superlative Raw.
The film is scripted by Ilja Rautsi of Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre fame and stars newcomer Siiri Solalinna. Special effects come from Gustav Hoegen, the supervising animatronic designer for the last five Star Wars movies.
Yolk plastered realisation of the struggle for adolescent identity. Keeping up appearances in the face of extreme body horror and psychological disintegration. Classy concept creature.
Festival release early 2021
Single mom Malena Sanchez is the night guard of the abandoned Neptuno Sports Club. When savage zombie predators infiltrate the sprawling complex she is left regretting the decision to bring her young daughter to work. Over a breathless 24-hour time span, we share their scrap for survival against a crazed, yet highly intelligent foe.
Gustavo Hernandez’s high concept shocker promises to leave the audience in emotional tatters. The twist here is that the marauding undead hoards lapse into a period of stasis for exactly 32 seconds after each attack. This serves to even the odds, ever so slightly, and give the viewer essential stages of recuperation.
The zombies are played by contemporary dancers adding a fresh level of athleticism and flexibility to the relentlessly kinetic game of chomp chase.
Sweat plastered realisation of the night shift from hell. Long sweeping shots that ramp the tension levels up to 11. An explosive final reel.
Predicted release early to mid 2021.