After Covid wreaked havoc with 2020’s cinematic schedule – not to mention sending the UK into several national lockdowns – the industry was left reeling with scores of films either bumped to VOD or delayed for post-pandemic distribution. But as things (slowly) start to look up – with tentative plans to reopen theatres this spring – the prospect of a half-normal 2021 slate seems likely, with titles squeezed from last year jostling for a place alongside a crop of new releases.
Horror is a genre well known for cathartically enduring in times of hardship, and one which – despite the odds – had an absolutely stellar 2020. And though it’s still early days, based on current evidence it looks as if this year will be no different: indeed, with SATOR, SYNCHRONIC and RED DOT already freaking out audiences everywhere, 2021 promises to be just as exciting as its predecessor.
Join us then as we draw the curtains, turn the lights down low and take a look at the most anticipated fright flicks heading our way…
With multiple big-name franchises dropping fresh instalments, the next twelve months are stacked with horror sequels, kicking off with soft-reboot Spiral: From the Book of Saw (21st May). For those who’ve grown tired of the torture-porn-trap-attacks of John Kramer and his various prodigies, this entry has an intriguing hook: it stars funny-man Chris Rock (who also produces) and will reportedly be less gory and more character-driven than previous entries in the SAW canon. With Samuel L. Jackson also onboard and director Darren Lynn Bousmen (Saw II-IV) back behind the camera, it looks like the games are just about to begin.
Another series spawned by James Wan returns with The Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It (4th June), and although Wan has handed directorial duties of this threequel to Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona), both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in this adaptation of another of their ‘real life’ cases: the first time in US history when demonic possession was claimed as a defence for murder.
On less supernatural ground, The Forever Purge (9th July) – the fifth and final entry in Blumhouse’s social stalk-and-slash series – seeks to round off the saga in suitably bloody fashion, whilst Don’t Breathe 2 (13th August) sees Stephen Lang’s baster-wielding Blind Man return for another round of hide-and-go-shriek. And if that’s not enough to make you hold your breath, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part II (10th September) promises more pant-wetting tension as Emily Blunt shushes her kids across a post-apocalyptic America crawling with sound-sensing nasties: with Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou in support as men of unclear intent, the trailer implies that monsters might be the least of the family’s worries.
Speaking of creature features, Godzilla vs Kong (26th March) has at least one big reason to excite horror fans, with Adam Wingard (You’re Next and The Guest) directing: expect genre beats and neon-soaked mayhem as the iconic kaiju lays some city-levelling smackdown. There’s also a monster of a different ilk in the eagerly awaited Candyman (27th August), a “spiritual sequel” to Bernard Rose’s original about a boogeyman carving a hook-handed legacy when people repeat his name five times. With director Nia DaCosta since snapped up to helm the Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels, and Jordan Peele (Get Out) on deck as co-writer and producer, we’re expecting this one to be sweet to the sweet.
Resident Evil (3rd Sept) is also getting a reboot, though without Milla Jovovich or Paul W.S. Anderson. Instead, writer/director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) has promised he’s returning to the spirit of the titular video game series: doubling down on scares and survival horror. And speaking of going back to basics, this spooky season belongs to Halloween Kills (15TH October), David Gordon Green’s follow up to his 2018 reset of the infamous slasher. Scream-queen Jamie Lee Curtis is back along with horror master John Carpenter who’s laying down the synth-wave score (whilst also promising Green’s movie will have a massive body count). Time to get carving those pumpkins.
Aside from franchise fare, 2021 also sees a slew of new offerings from established genre directors. M. Night Shyamalan, fresh off his comeback with Split and Glass, ushers in the summer with Old (23rd July), a high-concept chiller about a family who realise the secluded beach they’re holidaying on is making them rapidly age. Time is also a theme for Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) in his much-anticipated return to horror Last Night in Soho (29th October), centering around a fashion designer who travels back to the 1960s, though all is not as it seems. The idea of appearances concealing darker truths also features in The Night House (16th July) from David Bruckner (The Ritual) when Rebecca Hall’s widow starts to uncover unsettling facts about her recently deceased husband. Elsewhere Antlers (29th Oct) by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) sees a little boy befriend a folkloric monster, and Justin P. Lang (director of FrightFest favourite The Dark) serves up The Seventh Day (26th April), featuring Guy Pearce and Keith David in what’s been described as Training Day meets The Exorcist
Shifting gears, David Lowery (A Ghost Story) returns with The Green Knight (30th July), a medieval fantasy based on a literary classic, with a trailer that sent spines shivering: released by A24 (the studio behind Midsommar, The Lighthouse and Saint Maud) expect gorgeously lensed arthouse shocks. Milking more modern fears, Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth (17th June) recently screened at Sundance and sees the world searching for a cure to a deadly virus, whilst James Wan is back with an intriguing new property, Malignant (10th Sept): little is known plot-wise, though more details are set to drop from the Warner Bros. marketing machine shortly.
On the smaller screen, things are equally exciting. Over at Netflix Zack Snyder (finding time alongside his second-swing at Justice League) has directed Army of the Dead (21st May), starring Dave Bautista alongside a gun-toting strike team who undertake a heist in zombie-infested Vegas. and Patrick Brice (director of the superlative Creep) will be returning with There’s Someone Inside Your House (tbc) about a masked killer exposing people’s secrets. Potentially offering something a little lighter, Netflix has also announced a “Summer of Fear”, adapting R. L. Stine’s Fear Street (July) books into a trilogy for the summer months. Meanwhile comedy duo Key and Peele have teamed up with director Henry Selick (Coraline) for Wendell and Wild (tbc), a stop-motion animation also for the streaming giant about a pair of demon brothers who square up against a nun and two goth teens. Andon Shudder – host of last year’s, er, Host – festival-fave Slaxx (March) will be dropping this year, about a pair of killer jeans.
Lastly, there are a raft of exciting new voices making their horror debuts. Scott Dale’s Till Death (tbc) sees Megan Fox’s first genre film since Jennifer’s Body, whilst post-Sundance we’re awaiting release dates for Carlson Young’s reality-bending The Blazing World (tbc) and Prano Bailey-Bond’s acclaimed Censor (20th August), the latter about video nasties and the porous boundary between real and imagined worlds.
Yes indeed, 2021 – like the shadowy outline of Michael Myers – is shaping up nicely. And with films such as Scream 5 already slated for 2022, it looks like there are plenty of reasons to be fearful…