by Patrick Bromley
It's not unusual for movies to go through different filmmakers during the development process. But because horror is such a finite community, there are clear names and faces to everyone attached to a movie -- when a movie goes through multiple directors, there's a good chance we know each of them. Maybe you already knew about some of the "almost" movies on this list. Maybe you knew about all of them. It's still fun to read through them and imagine "What if?"
John Carpenter - Universal originally hired John Carpenter to direct Firestarter, the movie adaptation of Stephen King's 1980 novel. But when The Thing came out and didn't make any money, Universal fired him off the movie. Crazy, right? Carpenter was fired off a movie for directing one of the BEST HORROR MOVIES EVER MADE. Firestarter was eventually directed by Mark L. Lester, who directed a pretty generic version of the story despite an ideally cast Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott doing some crazy entertaining overacting. Carpenter would go on to make his own Stephen King adaptation with Christine, a fine movie that ranks as neither the best King adaptation nor one of Carpenter's best.
Tobe Hooper - While working through the supplements on Scream Factory's incredible Blu-ray release of Lifeforce, I was surprised to learn that Tobe Hooper was originally set to direct The Return of the Living Dead. When Menahem Golan instead offered him a big budget to direct Lifeforce (then called Space Vampires), Hooper left the project and hand picked screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (who, incidentally, also wrote Lifeforce) to direct. Here's a situation in which everyone wins; O'Bannon got to make his directorial debut with a horror comedy classic, and Hooper went off to make his brilliant space vampire movie. It's the only case on this list that resulted in two great movies.
Bubba Ho-Tep and, most recently, John Dies at the End) actually did direct sections of Silver Bullet, an underrated werewolf movie based on Stephen King's novella Cycle of the Werewolf. How much Coscarelli can be credited with directing is up for debate; some claim he's responsible for ALL of the movie's non-werewolf scenes, while others say it's not quite that much. What is not disputed is that he directed a number of scenes in the movie while waiting for the special effects department to come up with a werewolf design to be approved by producer Dino De Laurentis. Eventually, production on the film stalled enough that Coscarelli recused himself and Daniel Attias was hired to take over. Faced with throwing away everything that had been shot and abandoning the movie or approving the terrible bearwolf, De Laurentis relented and Attias finished the film. This explains why Silver Bullet has one of the worst werewolves in movie history. And if Coscarelli directed as much as many say, it also explains why Silver Bullet is really good.
Joe Dante - John Carpenter was looking to change things up with Halloween III, which was to be the first movie in the series NOT to feature Michael Myers and would kick off a more anthology-style approach to the sequels. Joe Dante -- fresh of the success of The Howling -- was hired to direct, and chose British writer Nigel Kneale (of the Quatermass series) to pen the script. But then Dante left to make another movie; no word on which one, but it was around the time he directed a segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie and came close to doing Jaws 3, People Nothing, a proposed comedic sequel that eventually became Jaws 3-D. Carpenter's friend and collaborator Tommy Lee Wallace was chosen to take over, and the script began to change a lot. Eventually, it became so different and had so much new violence that Kneale sued to have his name taken off. The finished version is one of the better '80s curiosities -- one that's just now getting respect after years of being written off as a trashy, ugly experiment. It's impossible to know what a Dante-directed version would have looked like; while his sensibilities are a lot more "fun" than Season of the Witch's eventual darkness, it's possible that he would have made the movie even crazier. But he was also planning to direct the Kneale version of the film, which would have been very different. I'm not upset that Dante never got to make a Halloween movie and I like the Tommy Lee Wallace version, but of all the movies on this list, this is the one I'm most curious about.
Is Popcorn worth watching?ReplyDelete
I think so. It's odd but fun, and as someone who attends all-night horror marathons you should get a kick out of it. http://mushniksflorist.blogspot.com/2013/10/scary-movie-month-day-18.html?m=1Delete
I know it's a movie with a lot of fans, and I really want to love it because it's set in a movie theater and full of references. I think it's the roughness of the filmmaking that gets in my way. The movie had a lot of production problems (including losing the director and producer mid-shoot) and it shows. My favorite stuff is all the movie-within-the-movie footage, which is what Bob Clark and Alan Ornsby shot.Delete
Disagree about "Christine" being neither being a good King adaptation (it's right up there with "Carrie" and "The Dead Zone" as primo movie versions of S.K.'s books) or one of Carpenter's best (when you have as many great movies as Carpenter has something as polished, moody and all-around excellent as "Christine" can't help but end up in the middle of the pack by default). To me it rocks as both, and it's one of the few horror movies that I always get something new every time I rewatch. The 'show me!' scene never once has failed to just about completely blow me away! Of all the movies listed here a Carpenter-directed "Firestarter" sounds like the biggest missed chance for something really special.ReplyDelete
And as someone that hasn't bothered to watch any "Resident Evil" movies (but have played and love the game series; "RE2" and "RE4" are the "Dawn of the Dead" of zombie videogames, hands down!) I still think the producers, who obviously wanted only to make money, were right to pick P.T. Anderson based on the track record of money-making sequels (regardless of their worth as horror flicks) the original movie has spawned. Did you read the script Romero wrote for "RE"? It's surprisingly amateurish and garbage, showing Romero to be completely out of touch with the elements that made the "RE" games series click. Even if he had somehow directed the first "RE," by the 2nd movie they would have already rebooted the franchise and brought over Anderson to jettison whatever Romero would have done. Restrained-by-studio Romero we've had lately shows he was the wrong man for the "RE" job.
Hmm...as someone who has watched most of the RE movies, I can assure you "amateurish and garbage" is pretty much what we ended up with anyway.Delete
One of my favourite things about movies (and by extension commentaries/special features that so often bring these things to light) is just how much serendipity/chance/luck/whatever you want to call it is behind the finished product we see on the screen. Or, as evidenced by your list, what we DON'T see. I recently watched Halloween 3 and I liked it a lot more than I remembered, but damn, a Joe Dante Halloween 3 could've been somethin else. And it's been quite awhile since I've seen Firestarter but I bet I'd be watching it more often if my favourite horror guy, John Carpenter, had directed it. Fun "What If's..." to think about. And if the whole parallel universes theory is true these movies might actually exist somewhere! Let's smoke some dope and talk about THAT for a few hours.ReplyDelete
I know Patrick loves Tobe Hooper but man am I glad he didn't direct Return of the Living Dead. Other than Texas Chainsaw Massacre I have not really cared for Hooper's other stuff. Mainly Funhouse and Lifeforce which I know Patrick loves. For a film as crazy and visually imaginative as Lifeforce is I found it cripplingly dull. I watched the same week I saw Tarkovsky's Nostalgia and it was Lifeforce that I found difficult to sit through. I think it was mainly the characters. Other than Patrick Stewart who was fun to see I felt like every character was completely (coincidentally) lifeless. I felt like every character was just there to tell the main character where to go next or basically for him to sound ideas off of. It was like a long episode of Dr Who that was humourless and without any energy at all. And I really want to like that film because some of it is so damn imaginative. Plus, I love crazy-ass films.ReplyDelete
Funhouse was a similar problem. That film is pretty wild and yet I found it so dull too. Not a lot happens in Texas Chainsaw but that atmosphere is just so engrossing. The Hooper films I have seen since were without any atmosphere it seemed. I'll give Hooper another shot eventually because maybe I wasn't in the right mood but those two films really put me off his work.
Great article btw. Really interesting.Delete
Thanks, James. I'm glad he didn't direct RofLD, too, because I like the version Dan O'Bannon made. And I totally understand not liking Tobe Hooper or the movies you mention. I would never kid myself into thinking that everyone should like them -- there's just something about his movies that speaks to me (I do think they have atmosphere), but I get that it doesn't speak to everyone. I'm glad you gave them a chance. That's all anyone can ask!Delete
One other notable one involves the remake of The Fly, which was originally set to be directed by British director Robert Bierman from Charles Edward Pogue's script. However, after Bierman's daughter was killed in a car accident in South Africa, he dropped out of the project, unable to concentrate on it.ReplyDelete
In an interview on the Fly DVD, he says he's never watched the remake as he still has a vision in his head for what the film would have been. Of course, after he left, the producers were able to get their first choice, David Cronenberg, who changed the script to suit his unique tastes and a classic resulted.
Just today watching the Nightmare on Elm Street blu-rays, one of the writers revealed he and Wes Craven had been attached to Beetlejuice for a time, when it was still more of a horror film. That would have been a slightly odd direction to go, although in retrospect there's a clear lineage between Beetlejuice and the later wisecracking stages of Freddy.
I also would still like to see what Mark Romanek's take on The Wolf Man would have been.
Awesome additions. Thanks, Tim. Romanek was the guy who made a lot of the early creative decisions, right? Like bringing Rick Baker on to do the makeup/transformation effects? Seems like he had a good sense of where the movie needed to go. I don't even totally blame Joe Johnston, because he inherited a mess. But that movie's a mess.Delete