Musicians spiced up the 2011 Sundance Film Festival last weekend, with films involving Lou Reed, James Taylor and the Grateful Dead. And then there was iconic ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, who spent the weekend meeting potential studio partners for three new horror films he has set under his Slasher Films producing label.
Slash launched Slasher Films last fall by setting up the Jonathan W.C. Mills-scripted fright film Nothing to Fear. He has partnered with Scout Productions’ Michael Williams and Rob Eric to acquire three horror film packages. Jay Russell is attached to direct Wake the Dead, a contemporary re-imagining of Frankenstein. It is adapted from the graphic novel by Steve Niles, whose work has been turned into such films as 30 Days of Night.
A deal is being made to produce Theorem, to be helmed by Splice director Vincenzo Natali from a script he wrote with Mike Finch. Pic is about a genius college professor who, trying to break down the genetic compound of an ancient artifact, discovers it’s a relic from hell and that he has unwittingly unlocked the equation for evil. Steve Hoban is producing.
The third film is The Other Kingdom, written by Philip Eisner, who’ll direct. The staff of a large metropolitan hospital battles for survival as an otherworldly epidemic turns people into savage paranormal killers. Sean Daniel and Jason Brown will also produce. Eisner wrote Event Horizon and The Mutant Chronicles. CAA is packaging Wake the Dead and Theorem and will rep distribution rights. Movie Package Co’s Shaun Redick and Ray Mansfield will handle the financing and will exec produce. The Other Kingdom deal was negotiated by Untitled’s Jennifer Levine and the Callamaro Literary Agency.
Despite the company name, Slash says he’s not interested in slasher fare. While there are plenty of filmmakers at Sundance who were inspired by 70s dramas, Slash and his partners want to emulate the horror films of that era, which were a cut above the slice and dice films popular in recent years. Among the inspirations: 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead and 70s films The Exorcist and The Omen.
“The movie that really stands out for me is the original Omen with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick,” Slash told me. “Fantastic, dramatic horror that was scary as sin. It had just enough gross moments to establish that a certain nastiness was possible. It was a simple, great story, well directed. And I can remember as a kid seeing the original Night of the Living Dead and The Exorcist, on the same night. The Exorcist didn’t scare me that much, but Night of the Living Dead was really creepy. The moment that sticks with me was the little girl, with the spade and her mom. A lot of films from that period have moments that stick indelibly in your mind, and that’s what we want to do. It requires fleshed out characters you care about, twists and turns, psychological thriller dynamics and I need a villain, an iconic monster. Too many horror films leave your head as quickly as a pop song.”
Slash said he’s taken a genre crash course, reading all the scripts that came after Slasher launched in a Deadline article. He has been coming to Sundance and attending festival films for years, he said. This year, because he was setting up the new projects and meeting with studio executives about possible picture partnerships–Wake the Dead and Theorem are big enough to need studio partners–movie-going hasn’t been possible.
“One of the great things about Sundance in general is that the spirit of filmmaking for the art of it is very alive, and that’s the reason I’ve been coming here to see movies long before I got involved in producing,” Slash said. “This is actually the first time in years that I was here and didn’t have the time to see anything.”