Family-friendly horror movies?

Will family-friendly horror movies take the place of slasher films and the like? Variety magazine seems to think that that is a possibility — and at least one of the filmmakers leading the charge just happens to be a Christian.

The trade paper reports that Scott Derrickson, who has discussed his faith and filmmaking with CT Movies a couple of times, has signed on to direct a remake of the Danish grade-school thriller The Substitute for Spooky Pictures, a brand-new outfit set up by Sam Raimi and Columbia Pictures.

Derrickson has plenty of experience as a maker of horror movies for grown-ups — among other things, he directed the R-rated Hellraiser: Inferno and the PG-13 The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which is also available on DVD in an “unrated” edition) — but this new venture, according to Variety, is aimed at “family audiences”.

The Substitute itself will concern “a terrified sixth-grade class as the students race to reveal to their parents that their new substitute teacher is an evil alien being.”

Variety notes that Spooky Pictures is not the first family-oriented scary-movie brand to be created in recent months. Three weeks ago, the Disney studio announced that it had struck a deal with horror maestro Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, etc.) to create ‘Disney Double Dare You‘, a new production label that will make “animated films full of chills and thrills for audiences of all ages”.

Variety writer Marc Graser writes that the rise of these labels “signals the kind of thrillers Hollywood may soon be unspooling at the megaplex,” and speculates: “Should the labels find an audience, the shift away from slasher fare and the like, often referred to as ‘gore porn,’ is likely.”

Derrickson, for his part, has a number of other projects in development at the moment, including adaptations of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and Dan Simmons’s Hugo-winning sci-fi novel Hyperion Cantos; it remains to be seen which of these movies will get the green light first. His last film was the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).