Hollywood's creative cemeteries are filled with the coffins of dead horror deals from A-List directors like Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock. These lost jewels live on to haunt us with painful memories of what should (or shouldn't) have been.
Many inspired scream-plays bloomed for a brief moment then died a prolonged death in development hell, the cold dirt of despair shoveled atop them. Who can solve the many mysteries of their premature burial?
For the 6th of our 31 posts for the 31 days of Halloween, we've dug up a few notorious examples of frightening films that never made it to the silver screen. So light a candle and pay your respects to these seven gone but not forgotten projects of the past ...
FREDDY VS. JASON VS. ASH
Try not to snicker at the thought of this trio going at it full throttle. The script's idea was hatched after 2003's Freddy vs. Jason bigscreen smackdown had fans hungering for more. Evil Dead's Ash character was proposed to join the crossover universe with his bad attitude and boomstick. New Line finished a script treatment in 2004 but creator Sam Raimi rejected the idea and the green light faded. A 6-issue Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic was published in 2007 by Wildstorm with a mini-series sequel, The Nightmare Warriors, launched in 2009. This baby may still have a pulse.
This strange project disappeared not long after Alfred Hitchcock died in 1980. The perverted plot centered around a homicidal bodybuilder with necrophilia on his steroidal mind. Its big hook was the murderous POV used, that of the pumped-up serial killer who violated the bodies of his victims, allowing viewers an intimate glimpse into his twisted deeds. Sounds like parental guidance territory for sure. The script featured bizarre sex murders at a waterfall, a mothballed warship and an oil refinery. Kaleidoscope would have been Hitch's 66th film and in great company with his horror legacy seen in The Birds, Psycho and Frenzy. Some racy test footage and stills are all that remain.
Following the success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Columbia Studios asked whiz-kid Steven Spielberg for a sequel. His horror film treatment, Watch the Skies, was based on a Kentucky family's 1955 claim that their farm was invaded by evil, gremlin-like aliens. Sound familiar? The project was renamed Night Skies after a copyright issue and John Sayles (The Howling, Lone Star) was hired for the script. Makeup master Rick Baker (An American Werewolf In London) came aboard to design a $700K alien monster.
But after filming Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg had a change of heart and wished to go back to the tranquility of CE3K. The project got sidelined and became the sweet inspiration for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Aspects of the script survived in Gremlins, Poltergeist and this year's Falling Skies. Bad blood developed between Baker and Spielberg over Night Skies' abandonment and led to the hiring of Carlo Rambaldi for the E.T. creature, leaving another huge "what-ifs" in film history. Family-friendly is not always a good thing. Ouch!!!
ROBOCOP VS. THE TERMINATOR
With robots the current rage, the time is ripe for a resurgence of this film project's raw appeal. The crossover's genesis was a limited-edition Dark Horse comic from 1992 written by Frank Miller, who also wrote the Robocop 2 and Robocop 3 screenplays. Its story had Skynet delivering three Terminators back in time to Detroit to protect a burnt out Robocop. A bloody Sega video game version came out in 1993 and a movie adaptation was pitched around Hollywood but never developed. Real Steel's and Transformers' heavy metal mania could re-energize this awesome pairing.
BAD TASTE 2 AND 3
Peter Jackson's first feature, Bad Taste, was a micro-budget sci-fi horror comedy with savage aliens in a tiny New Zealand town collecting humans for their intergalactic Wendy's value menu. A gory sequel was scheduled to visit the alien's home planet and the third outing involved flying houses, killer bees and Santa Claus. Banned upon its Australian release, Bad Taste was shot over a period of four years at the cost of $25,000, with FX masks baked in his mom's oven. Jackson retains a soft spot in his heart for this splatter classic. 1994's Heavenly Creatures halted plans for any sequels as Jackson's star rose beyond such outrageous material. Too bad.
GEORGE ROMERO'S RESIDENT EVIL
The zombie-maestro himself, George Romero, was first set to write and direct Resident Evil, adapted from Capcom's survival horror hit. In 1998, Romero directed a live-action promo for the Resident Evil 2 game and Capcom was in love. Loose story interpretations later used in Paul Anderson's watered-down 2002 movie were absent from Romero's pure take, but studio honchos weren't happy and he was fired. In the faithful script, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine were featured prominently and the horrors of Raccoon City spill out of the mansion and labs, into the surrounding countryside. Don't be sad. We always have Milla and Resident Evil 6 will need a good director!
After 1977's cult nightmare, Eraserhead, David Lynch (seen above with Isabella Rosselli) descended into further bizarro realms with Ronnie Rocket, the neo-noir fable of a deformed, red-headed dwarf with 10,000 volts of electricity surging through his body. The trippy horror film was developed by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope studios which eventually went bankrupt in 1990. After Lynch's success with Twin Peaks, the pet project was revived, only for the surreal director to lose interest in his crackling concept. Its oddball subject matter will keep this freakshow far from the screen forever. Unplugged and unloved.
Now close the lid and say a kind prayer. Amen. Who knows, resurrection just may be in the fortuneteller's cards for any of these dearly departed. Which ones would you sit alone in the dark with?