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The Case for a Marvel Studios Horror Movie

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The Case for a Marvel Studios Horror Movie

Ain’t audience fatigue a bitch? People like something so much that they demand more until they’re sick of the stuff. I get it, though. I do this all the time. I’ll get three boxes of s’more Pop Tarts, and by the time I’m finished with the second box, I can’t take them anymore. I need strawberry Pop Tarts, a fresh and fruity palate-cleanser that makes me appreciate the Pop Tart anew. It’s a vicious circle, and my emotions have gone through this cycle countless times.

Right now is Marvel Studios’ “Strawberry Pop-Tarts” moment.

Let’s take a look back to 2008. Remember 2008? Aw, so cute. So quaint. That’s when Iron Man came out, and none of us knew what it was starting. Sure there was promise of future sequels, and maybe some other heroes would have movies. But there is NO way that any of us foresaw the complete ubiquity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Back in 2008, absolutely nobody would’ve predicted that Marvel would hit a three-movie-a-year schedule. It was unfathomable for any franchise to work that way. It’d never happened before.

Iron Man 2008

Then, steadily, Marvel began building their world out with more movies, and even more characters. There was a formula to it. Give us the origin, and then we’ll follow on maybe an additional self-contained adventure before we expect the heroes to link up. It worked. We loved it. We showed Marvel that we would keep buying these tickets. We confirmed that this system worked, and so Marvel absolutely flooded the market with these kinds of projects. There are 23 Marvel movies right now. At what point do we see the law of diminishing returns play into all this?

Take a look at the wildly successful “WandaVision”. Everything about this show’s place in the Marvel pantheon is atypical. The series broke convention both thematically, and in its presentation. While most prior Marvel projects had a clearly defined “Good Guy vs. Bad Guy” structure, “WandaVision” was atypical in that it wasn’t nearly as black and white. There was a lot more room for humanity, and Wanda’s story was given a warm, vibrant patch in the bigger Marvel quilt. Presenting those elements as a television series further distanced “WandaVision” from the rest of the MCU. The fact that we’re viewing these episodes from our couch put us in a different mindframe entirely than the one we were in at a crowded theater watching Endgame.

“WandaVision” was a much-needed breath of fresh air. Marvel would be silly to return to the types of stories they’ve told before. Sure, there are plenty of interesting new characters that deserve their time in the spotlight. But are we best serving these characters by limiting them to a simple “Gets power, finds motivation, beats bad guy”-style of three-act narrative? Yes, I understand that these movies need to be accessible to the widest audience possible, but are these audiences ready for something more?

WandaVision

Originally, the upcoming Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness was being spoken of as a horror movie. During the summer of 2019, specifically at that year’s Comic-Con, when Multiverse of Madness was announced, the movie was discussed as being Marvel’s first foray into the horror genre. This was a big swing, especially because these talking points were raised years ago, before “WandaVision” proved to be such a success. Scott Derickson, who made the first Doctor Strange, seemed like the guy who would absolutely nail this idea; he’s the same Scott Derickson who made Sinister, after all. But then, something changed.

Around December of that same year, the messaging around Multiverse of Madness changed. Kevin Feige, president of Marvel, publicly stated that this would not be a horror movie. Instead, he promised a big Marvel movie with some scary sequences. Then, within the following weeks, more news broke that did not bode well for a Marvel horror project. Scott Derickson, a filmmaker with a long history in horror, parted ways with the project. It was announced by both Derrickson and his former Marvel employers that they were moving in a different direction. Derrickson was out over “creative differences.” Now the only scary part was the flashbacks to when this happened with Edgar Wright on the Ant-Man movie.

But hark! For who is that right around the bend? Why it’s Sam Raimi, who has since been attached to direct Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse of Madness! Superhero and horror fans both will of course recognize Raimi’s name from some of our favorite movies. Of course, he directed the trilogy of Toby Macguire Spider-Man movies. But Raimi also directed the incredible Evil Dead trilogy. The guy made Drag Me To Hell, too. That movie stays incredibly underrated. But the point is, the new Doctor Strange is in very capable hands. The question though, is how much of Raimi’s past successes as a purveyor of the horrid will make its way into this new Marvel movie. We won’t know for sure until we find out, but the messaging has mostly stayed the same. Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness will, most likely, not be a horror movie. Which is a shame, because that could’ve been perfect.

Drag Me To Hell Movie Image

I’m sure that a lot of this reluctance comes down to target audiences. To make In the Multiverse of Madness truly scary, Marvel would’ve probably wound up with an R-rating, which would’ve severely divided those able to see the movie. Basically, nobody under 17 would be admitted without parental guidance if Marvel pursued an R-rating. But there is precedent. Even within the Marvel family, there’s at least one example of an R-rated movie being a huge success.

Deadpool, the weirdo redheaded stepchild of the Marvel universe, has starred in two HUGELY successful R-rated movies of his own. Sure, these have been produced outside of Disney, but still, the proof is in the receipts. Deadpool is a giant, profitable franchise. Its success points at the audience’s desire for something outside of caped crusaders battling intergalactic foes. Give us some jokes!

Alternatively, give us some screams! The timing is right. The horror genre is going through such an incredible renaissance right now, with new creators and new voices being given broader audiences than ever before. Give me a movie about Wanda Maximoff’s time being brainwashed by Hydra. Let Jordan Peele direct that. Give us a movie about Thor being trapped in the river Styx, being pulled down by the souls of the damned. Let Mike Flannagan direct that. Give Nia DaCosta a Marvel horror movie (oh oops, I just Googled her name and found out she’s literally already doing Captain Marvel 2). Issa Lopez, the director of Tigers Are Not Afraid? How incredible would her Ghost Rider be?


What do you want to see? Do you think Marvel should pursue more stories with horror elements? Or should they get back to what they do best? Do superheroes and horror have a place together? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter, so hit me up @billreick!

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