The 13th Floor

Fear of the Unknown: Ten Horror Titles That Almost Were!

Back when horror sites quickly usurped the throne of horror movie scoops from print fright mags, you could rarely go a day without hearing some kind of rumor surrounding your favorite horror properties.

This was all before the word “remake” was appropriated as a stigmatic kiss-of-death, and the fates of our favorite horror franchises were perpetually in limbo; in fact, most scoops were still found as coy comments during horror convention panels. While some of it was wishful thinking, one might be surprised about what horror films were in serious consideration at one point or another.

Of course, there are the more obvious horror hypotheticals out there: David Warner as Freddy Krueger, Guillermo del Toro’s AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, and so on. But there are many others that exist mostly as memories in the minds of longtime horror fans, who were left to their own devices after years of conversation, speculation and non-denials.

So with these aborted, petrifying projects on the mind, I’ve decided to aggregate ten terror titles that could have been, should have been or almost were!

hawkline

Tim Burton’s THE HAWKLINE MONSTER

The year is 1993. Fresh off numerous back-to-back successes, Tim Burton was one of the most in-demand artists in Hollywood, and searching for his first film to follow up BATMAN RETURNS. Yet, as ED WOOD was still finding financing, Burton requested BATMAN co-writer Jonathan Gems write an adaptation of Richard Brautigan’s THE HAWKLINE MONSTER — a horror comedy that found two aging gunslingers hired to exterminate a monster underneath the house of two mysterious twin sisters, both named Miss Hawkline. At one point, Burton was almost ready to roll with this film — with both Jack Nicholson and a post-UNFORGIVEN Clint Eastwood set to play the gunslingers — but the project went into turnaround after Eastwood left to direct THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.

Rex

Rob Zombie’s TYRANNOSAURUS REX

Part RACE WITH THE DEVIL, Part ROAD HOUSE, Rob Zombie initially planned on following his trip to Haddonfield with an action-horror hybrid the likes the silver screen had never seen. Concept art, teaser posters and even bumper stickers were released for TYRANNOSAURUS REX… but after Dimension Films got cold feet on the expensive project (which was to feature a disgraced former wrestler going head-to-head with a satanic biker gang), and its fate was sadly sealed following the theatrical under-performance of Rob’s HALLOWEEN II.

Bride_Reanimator

Stuart Gordon’s HOUSE OF RE-ANIMATOR

After two sequels directed by RE-ANIMATOR producer Brian Yuzna, Stuart Gordon was set to return to the franchise he began twenty years beforehand. The satirical HOUSE OF RE-ANIMATOR would have served as a grand reunion for all involved: writer Dennis Paoli, stars Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott, and Yuzna back as producer. Hell, even Gordon’s EDMOND star William H. Macy was set to play the recently deceased president — described as a walking, talking parody of then-president George W. Bush. But the Bush parody made financiers skittish, and eventually all attempts to make HOUSE OF RE-ANIMATOR came to a screeching halt — although with Donald Trump still in the presidential race, maybe Gordon and Paoli’s script would just need a little present-day polish.

Bubba

Don Coscarelli’s BUBBA NOSFERATU: CURSE OF THE SHE-VAMPIRES

After the cult success of BUBBA HO-TEP, fright fans were clamoring for the prequel jokingly promised at the end of the film: BUBBA NOSFERATU: CURSE OF THE SHE-VAMPIRES. Following a “lost” Elvis movie and set in New Orleans, Bruce Campbell was originally slated to return before exiting the project, and the film regained interest in 2008 with Ron Perlman as Elvis and Paul Giamatti as Colonel Tom Parker. However, with the last word on the project dating back to December of 2012, this frightening follow-up appears to have a stake firmly planted in its heart.

Lost_Boys

Joel Schumacher’s THE LOST GIRLS

In the early ‘00s, when I was too young even to pick up a copy of Fangoria from my local Blockbuster, I remember occasionally buying film magazines that featured whomever I loved from movies I’d recently seen on VHS. I can’t remember the specific name, but there was one that featured a shot of Indiana Jones from TEMPLE OF DOOM, advertising a list of 50 sequels that were in development. Some of them were stretching the limits of belief — I remember STRANGE BREW 2 being on the list — but one that apparently hung around was THE LOST GIRLS, which allegedly was set in a sorority house and would have seen the improbable return of Kiefer Sutherland’s “David” in a small role. However, even with Joel Schumacher attached as producer, the film eventually languished long enough to become wholly defunct, paving the way for LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE in 2008.

orphanage

Larry Fessenden’s THE ORPHANAGE

Following the critical and commercial success of J.A. Bayona’s THE ORPHANAGE, it wasn’t a surprise that Hollywood would have interest in an English-language remake. However, with his considerable clout in the industry after PAN’S LABYRINTH, producer Guillermo del Toro dissuaded the studio from choosing their usual suspects, and instead offered the director’s chair to the patron saint of indie horror, Larry Fessenden (HABIT, THE LAST WINTER). Meetings were had and scripts were written, but after the departure of leading lady Kate Winslet, Fessenden and del Toro both exited the project. Despite brief rumblings of resuscitation with Amy Adams in 2011, the remake never gained traction… and likely never will.

buick_8

Stephen King’s FROM A BUICK 8

Just mentioning this unconventional ghost story should be enough to perk up the ears of any seasoned fright fan, as the cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s novel has had a few false starts over the years. Originally, George A. Romero was slated to follow LAND OF THE DEAD with FROM A BUICK 8, directing from a script by Richard Chizmar and Johnathon Schaech. However, after departing the project, the film was re-announced with Tobe Hooper behind the camera in 2007, marking the filmmaker’s first King-related project since THE MANGLER. Yet this perpetually unlucky project couldn’t find its financing, even with the TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE helmer attached, and it was eventually abandoned in 2009.

Seven

New Line Cinema’s EI8HT

A project whose existence has been contested more than anything on this list, a follow-up to David Fincher’s SE7EN has been rumored to have been written for almost 20 years now — with Fincher even acknowledging its existence nearly a decade ago. Yet, for fairly obvious reasons, EI8HT never made it past the scripting stage — although rumblings of its numerous iterations inspire much morbid curiosity: separate drafts of EI8HT have included alleged plot points such as copycat killer priests, artistic urban cannibals and even Detective Somerset returning as a clairvoyant medium.

Black_Lagoon

John Landis’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

While a CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON remake has attracted several high-profile potential helmers including John Carpenter, Ivan Reitman and Guillermo del Toro, the most legendary of the projects might have been from John Landis, who at one point planned to direct the film after the success of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Despite having Steven Spielberg attached as producer and Rick Baker going as far to film test footage of a new Gill Man suit, Landis eventually backed out to helm a segment of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, positing original director Jack Arnold to return to the director’s chair, and for the film to once again be in 3-D. Alas, history and Universal Studios had other plans, and CREATURE remains untouched to this day.

Pennywise

Vincenzo Natali’s IT

Last year, the attachment — and subsequent detachment — of TRUE DETECTIVE filmmaker Cary Fukanaga to a two-part big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s IT sent horror-heads in a tizzy. And while many fright fans feel that the rather unfaithful made-for-TV remake from Tommy Lee Wallace will forever be “good enough,” Fukanaga isn’t the first filmmaker who attempted to revive Pennywise: CUBE filmmaker Vincenzo Natali was at one point in consideration for the task, and revealed monstrous concept art of his terrifying take… on Twitter, of all places. With Natali still able to turn heads with fright fare such as HAUNTER, DARKNET and HANNIBAL, one can only wonder how twisted his venture into Derry, Maine could have been.

And though it may not be entirely horror, there is one honorable mention worth bringing up, if just to ask what your childhood could have been with…

Honorable Mention: Stuart Gordon’s HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS

That’s right: although they only have a ‘Story By’ credit on the final film, RE-ANIMATOR/FROM BEYOND duo Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon were set to produce and direct HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS for Disney Studios. In fact, Gordon was only a few weeks away from filming before dropping out due to a serious illness, prompting Disney to bring in Joe Johnston for his feature directorial debut. One can only imagine the nightmarish edge Gordon would have brought to the proceedings — such as the super-sized insects and the Cheerios sequence.

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