The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on September 2, 2018 · E10
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · E10

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 2, 2018
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E10 SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2018 LATIMES.COM/CALENDAR FALL MOVIE SNEAKS From “Get Out” to “A Quiet Place” to “It,” horror has rarely been hotter in Holly- wood. And this October two especially ambitious genre updates hit the screen: David Gordon Green’s slasher sequel “Halloween” (Oct. 19), set 40 years after John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, and “Suspiria” (Oct. 26), a remake of Dario Argento’s iconic giallo, from “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino. ¶ Both high-profile reimaginings arrive in back-to-back weeks before Halloween holiday, helmed by trusted filmmakers with respected pedigrees. And both will face the ultimate scrutiny when horror fans put them to the test: Honorable follow-up to a beloved genre property, or straight-up blas- phemy? ¶ No pressure, right? Amazon Studios DAKOTA JOHNSON stars as a dancer at a renowned German company with dark underpinnings in “Suspiria,” a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 phantasmagoria. THE GENRE Striking horror anew The creators of ‘Halloween’ and ‘Suspiria’ updates are mindful of storied pasts BY JENYAMATO >>> “I’m not a fan of the original ‘Suspiria,’ to be honest,” screenwriter David Kaj- ganich bravely admitted over the phone, bracing for thebacklashwitha laugh. “I’m a fanof it asanartpiece, butasanarrative itmakes almostno sense.” KajganichandGuadagninowerework- ing on “A Bigger Splash” when the Italian director floated his longtime dream of re- making “Suspiria,” to which he had pro- cured the rights. But they knew they had todo it their ownway—and “do it right.” “And by right I mean not to copy the original, not to draft off of its concernsbut to really use the situations that are so ver- satile to talk about awhole rangeof things thematically,”Kajganich said. Argento’s influential original 1977 film, a nightmarish kaleidoscope of phantas- magorical electric hues, follows anAmeri- can ballet student (Jessica Harper) who encounters supernatural intrigue at a Germandance academy. The original “Suspiria” doesn’t much explore the concerns of the tumultuous world outside the school’s doors. Kaj- ganich andGuadagnino sought to recon- textualize the bones of its central story to reflect the political chaos happening in the world at the time Argento made his original film. Their “Suspiria” starsDakota Johnson as an American student who arrives at t a prestigious avant-garde dance company runbyMadameBlanc (TildaSwinton). The new “Suspiria” deliberately un- folds against the backdrop of 1977’s Ger- man Autumnwith historic events like the hijackingofaLufthansaairlinerhintingat larger thematic concerns. As research, Kajganichdived intowritingsbywomenof the time, watched the films of New Ger- man Cinema auteur RainerWerner Fass- binder, and “listened toa lot ofNico.” “Itwasa fascinatingmoment inhistory because you had a generation of students and young people who were sick in their souls about howmuch denial there was in their parents and grandparents’ genera- tions about German culpability in World War II,” saidKajganich. “The city was immersed in that strug- gle, and in the middle of all of that — or rather, behind all of that — there is this dancecompany,whereanAmericanisget- ting her education in a way in how amod- ernkindof fascismmight look.” ‘Halloween’ face-off In bringing a new “Halloween” to the screen, Green and his collaborators were alsomindfulofhowtheir filmwouldbridge thedecades since theoriginal. Their film, produced by Miramax and Blumhouse Productions and executive produced by Carpenter, picks up 40 years after the events of the original and canon- ically disregards the half-dozen other se- quels that followed. In 2018’s “Halloween,” killing machine Michael Myers is back to terrorize the ’burbs — as seen in a gory, atmospheric, unbroken tracking shot in the five-minute reel shownatComic-Con in July. First, however, the horror icon also known as the Shape has to go through Jamie Lee Curtis’ older, wiser — and bat- tle-ready—LaurieStrode. “Shehasa line in theoriginal filmwhen she’s talkingtoyoungTommyDoyleat the climaxof themovie,”Green saidofLaurie, who in the new film has been waiting dec- ades to face off again with Myers. “She says, ‘Do as I say.’ And she says this line with a command that she hasn’t had for the entire film.Doas I say. “We took that to be hermantra for our film. She’s taken that pivotal moment in her life, and her recognition of facing her fears, and now has been chanting that in meditations for 40 years.” Green, whose credits include “Pineap- ple Express,” “Stronger” and HBO’s “Eastbound & Down,” may seem an un- usual choice to revive the Michael Myers mythology.Buthedoesn’t see it thatway. “I feel like every movie I’ve made up to this point adds up to be ‘Halloween’ in somestrangeway, and that’s really impor- tant to me,” he said. “To have the owner- ship of a film that’s following in some ex- traordinarily significant footsteps.” In an edit bay on the Sony Pictures lot, Ruben Fleischer looked outwardly calm but was clearly feeling some heat. At 43, the director was just weeks away from the release of thebiggest filmof his career: the dark comic-book movie “Venom,” which Sony is banking on to launcha series of in- terconnected films thatwill expandon the world of the studio’smarquee comic-book star, Spider-Man. “Every time, you’re nervous,” said Fleischer, whodirected “Zombieland,” “30 Minutes or Less” and “Gangster Squad.” “But this is the most predominant film genre so you’re under a biggermagnifying glass. That’s anewexperience forme.” Buildinga cinematic universe is not for the faint of heart. “Venom,” in theaters Oct. 5, stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a journalist whose body becomes host to a bloodthirsty alien life form known as a symbiote, transform- inghim into the shape-shiftingVenom. In the comics, Venomwasoriginally in- troduced as a foe for Spider-Man before evolving into a kind of vigilante antihero. (Topher Grace played the character in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3.”) But “Venom” wipes the slate clean with a wholly differ- ent origin story. Ahybrid ofman-monster, Venom falls into a gray zone between do- gooderandvillain,withBrock’surge tode- fend the innocent counterpoised with the symbiote’s penchant for biting off heads. Beyond thatbasic description, plot de- tails about “Venom” — co-starring MichelleWilliams andRiz Ahmed—have been kept under wraps. “It’s a big-stakes actionmovie,sothegoalprobably involves saving something,” Fleischer said coyly. Asked about fan speculation over whether Spider-Man himself will appear in the film, Fleischer remained mum. “I honestly don’t know what I’m allowed to say,” he said apologetically. “I mean, I know the answer — I’ve seen the movie. ButIdon’twanttoget introuble forsaying something I’mnot supposed to.” Earlier superhero films like “The Dark Knight” trilogy, “Deadpool” and “Logan” have pushed the genre’s outer boundaries into grittier, more adult territory. But Fleischer says his touchstones for “Ven- om” were more along the lines of early 1980s horror films such as “An American Werewolf inLondon” andbuddy comedies like “48Hrs.” and “MidnightRun.” “The symbiote bonds early onwithEd- die and it’s kind of like “TheOddCouple,” but instead of sharing an apartment, they share a body,” Fleischer explained. “The fun of the movie is the dynamic between them,withEddietryingtorein inthisbasi- cally unbridled id and find a balance with him. That theme of duality and trying to control your id— I think that’s what Tom and I responded to in terms of why this character is uniqueand special.” Hardy — who made an earlier foray into the comic-book realm as the villain Bane in 2012’s “TheDark Knight Rises”— performed thedialogueof bothBrockand the symbiote, with the alien’s lines,modu- lated to soundmore sinister, fed back into his ear on the set during scenes. “I thinkTom is going to surprise a lot of people with his performance in this mov- ie,”Fleischersaid. “It’s justa littledifferent than we’re used to seeing him. There’s no mask in frontofhis face.He’snotplayinga period. He’s just playing a contemporary guy. I think it’s just a little more of Tom thanpeople have seen in a little bit.” In a landscape saturated with comic- book movies, Fleischer is hoping that “Venom”— a bouillabaisse of action, hor- ror and comedy, with a level of violence that the director says will be “pushed to the hilt” (the film is as-yet unrated)—will stand apart. In its marketing campaign, Sony plays up the film’s against-the-grain quality with the tagline, “The world has enough superheroes.” “I feel likethecasting, theaestheticand the character himself all combine tomake something that just feels different,” he said. “Tonally it doesn’t remind you of other movies. It doesn’t feel like we just tried to do what everyone else is doing…. The DC universe is so aggressively dark and the Marvel universe has become so light. It was kind of exciting to craft some- thing that just felt a littlebitmore real and groundedand inourworld.” Disney may control the characters of theMarvel Cinematic Universe, most no- tably the Avengers, but Sony’s licensing agreement with Marvel includes the rights to some 900 characters. The studio hopes that “Venom”will help set the table for its own comic-book cinematic uni- verse, with Spider-Man at the center of an ever-expanding web of films featuring characters likeMorbius andBlackCat. “I got really lucky because Venom is I thinktrulyoneof thecoolestof thecharac- ters, and it’s the opportunity to launch a whole newworld as opposed to just being plugged into apre-existingone,” Fleischer said. How exactly that new world might evolve, though, remains tobe seen. “As towhere it goes fromhereandwhat worlds it intersects with, I think that re- mains to be written,” Fleischer said. “Ulti- mately it comesdown to the studio’s deals with the different characters and I don’t really know the specifics of all that. I’m a pawnon thatboard. I’moneof thepieces. “My responsibility is honestly just to make this movie the best I can. You just want people to likewhat youmake and for it tobe appreciated.” But beyond delivering a top-caliber film to the box office gods, Fleischer does have one more modest wish. “My hope is that it’s going to be a big Halloween cos- tumethisyear forkids,”hesaid. “AVenom Halloweenmask is suchawinner.” THE FRANCHISE How ‘Venom’ built a fresh ‘Spider-Man’ spinoff DIRECTOR Ruben Fleischer has filled the film with action, horror and comedy. GenaroMolina Los Angeles Times By Josh Rottenberg

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