Bringing the second day of WonderCon to a chilling conclusion, Jason Blum’s horror movie factory Blumhouse rolled out gruesome clips from four of its upcoming films during the final panel of the day. The room wasn’t packed like it was during the Warner Bros.’ film panel that kicked the day off. But those in attendance were horror diehards so ready to buy what Blumhouse is selling that during the fan Q&A portion, one couple even expressed disappointment that the company didn’t throw a house of horrors event in 2014.
The big news out of the panel was the unveiling of the first teaser for Sinister 2. Grainy and obscurely ominous footage was underscored by an off-camera narrator threatening “tell anyone and I’m going to kill you and your whole family, and watch the film over and over.” But don’t get too excited – clocking in at less than 15 seconds, it was short on everything except conveying that the basic concept remains intact. Watch it here. Sinister 2 premiers August 21.
Also shown during the panel was new footage from Insidious: Chapter 3, the James Wan-less prequel (series co-creator Leigh Whannell directs this time out) that further explores paranormal investigator Elise Reiner (Lin Shaye). In this installment, Reiner assists a teenage girl being tormented by a demon masquerading as the girl’s dead mother. It hits theaters June 5. Watch the WonderCon footage here.
Blumhouse also showed off two decidedly scrappier films, starting the panel off with a look at The Gallows, a new found-footage film bound for theaters July 10. Made on a microbudget by first time writers and directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff, the duo’s ability to get the film made “outside the system” drew Blum to bring the film under the Blumhouse Umbrella. Admitting that the found footage genre has become stale, Blum noted that “scary movies feature people in jeopardy, and people in jeopardy don’t tend to hold their cameras.” However, Blum told the crowd, “[Lofing and Cluff] have found a way to make that feel organic.” The footage shown off was all mood, shots of a darkened high school hallway bathed in red light, then cutting to a terrified young woman bearing deep rope burns on her neck who is dragged off screaming.
By far the most intriguing entry of the panel was Unfriended, a supernatural revenge flick that debuted last year at Fantasia Festival. Directed by Levan Gabriadze and based on an idea by co-producer Timur Bekmambetov, it aims to upend the found footage formula entirely, being set almost entirely during a long group Skype call. It concerns a group of friends a year after one of their number posted an embarrassing video of another friend that drove them to suicide. On the anniversary of their friend’s death, a mysterious anonymous person joins the skype call and threatens to start killing people unless the identity of the person who posted the video online is revealed.
During the majority of the film, the cast is seen only through their Skype chat windows, the various torments they experience seen as background imagery. A program that mimicked Skype’s interface minus the lag was created specifically for the production. During the panel it was also revealed that the film was shot as a series of long takes, with the cast acting the entire film, in script order, over several 12 hour-workdays. The footage ultimately used for the final film was the result of an 85-minute take. To keep the tension believable, the cast was encouraged to improvise heavily, and tweaks were often made to the script on the fly to maintain a heightened level of surprise. It was said that several of the twists that occur were unknown to the actors themselves until they happened during filming. Unfriended will enter theatrical wide release on April 17.
And as for Blumhouse’s decision not to throw a house of horrors last year? “The first year we lost a little money,” Blum said. “The second year, we lost a lot of money.” But, he did hint that the company is considering another take on the concept, though no time frame was provided.