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New Line Cinema Needs to Reboot Their Slasher Universe


New Line Cinema Needs to Reboot Their Slasher Universe


Summary

  • New Line Cinema’s history is rooted in horror, especially the iconic slasher film
    A Nightmare on Elm Street
    .
  • Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and Jason Voorhees are top-tier slasher icons under New Line, but there is potential for reboots of
    Critters
    and
    Alone in the Dark
    .
  • With Hollywood’s focus on ’80s properties, New Line could bring back slasher classics like
    Critters
    or create new hits, as they did producing
    Evil Dead Rise
    .



New Line Cinema, “The House that Freddy Built.” And, eventually, the house behind Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But, still, it was horror that laid down the bricks that Sam and Frodo would traverse to toss the ring. Specifically, slashers, when they handled the United States re-release of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. They also dealt with the distribution of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead.


But, of course, it was in 1984 that New Line Cinema arguably became the production house for slashers. After all, it was the year of Wes Craven’s seminal A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was and remains one of the most brilliant and creative horror films of all time, slasher or otherwise.


Freddy Krueger on the Big Screen

It’s been almost 15 years since Freddy has been on the big screen and over 20 years since Robert Englund played the character (outside a cameo on The Goldbergs). Could Englund and Heather Langenkamp come back for another round? If anything, given the massive success of 2018’s fan wish fulfillment that was Halloween, it’s surprising a new Freddy film hasn’t been announced yet.


But, as mentioned, when it comes to slasher icons, New Line Cinema is not relegated to Freddy. Under the guiding hand of Robert Shaye, they released a plethora of memorable slasher properties—properties that need to come back.

What Other Major Slashers Has New Line Distributed?

The creatures from Critters standing on a table with their mouth open smiling in Critters

There’s an argument to be made that the Critters films carry slasher vibes. For instance, the first film takes place primarily on a farm, isolated from the remainder of the nearby small-town populace. There are a set number of protagonists and otherworldly (literally, in this case) antagonists. Like Gremlins, the world could use a new (studio-backed) Critters. The Crites are getting hungry.

So, New Line had two horror franchises working for them in the ’80s. Freddy cranked out five installments, but while A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master performed like a hot ticket Summer movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child took a nosedive. Critters, however, only had two installments in the decade, with the second being even better than the first. That said, 1991’s Critters 3 was right around the corner and featured a little-known actor named Leonardo DiCaprio in one of its biggest roles. Getting DiCaprio to sign on for Critters 6 would be difficult (AKA impossible), but New Line has viewed Critters as a commercially viable property.


Expanding the New Line Slasher Banner

And that’s indicative of the studio’s mentality at the time, as studio head Robert Shaye was quick to add another top-tier slasher icon to the New Line roster: Leatherface. Now, the Texas Chainsaw IP has had a few too many reboots by this point, many of which toy with the franchise’s timeline to an unrealistic degree.

But Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III showed that New Line knew how to turn out an atmospheric, frightening Leatherface film, marking a sharp left turn after the comedic (and terrific) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Purchasing the rights may not have worked out then, as TCM III bombed hard thanks to microscopic marketing and distribution. But, since the rights to the Leatherface character and TCM have jumped around so much (including by Netflix), there’s no reason New Line can’t take another shot at the saw. After all, Marcus Nispel’s 2003 reboot, a financial success, was a New Line co-production.


In the early ’90s, Freddy was running out of steam (though Freddy’s Dead performed better than The Dream Child), and the whir of Leatherface’s chainsaw didn’t do much to rake in the bucks. That’s two of the big four. What about Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers? Well, Michael Myers has never been under the New Line banner…but Jason Voorhees has.

After Paramount Pictures released their eight films with the hockey-masked terrorizer, New Line produced and distributed not one but three Friday the 13th films (not including the remake, which involved New Line but wasn’t solely a New Line film). That said, the three amounted to a very mixed bag and begs the question of whether New Line would be the right home for a back-to-basics trip to Camp Crystal Lake.


And that’s precisely what the Friday the 13th franchise needs right now: to go back to basics. Like Freddy, it’s been roughly 15 years since Jason, a legitimately iconic character, has been on the big screen. This is bizarre, considering how focused Hollywood currently is on injecting life into ’80s properties.

But, should New Line retain the franchise rights (technically, Warner Bros. owns the rights, but New Line was absorbed by Warner back in 2008), it would be wise not to take any more big swings. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, while being the final installment to at least somewhat capture the IP’s distinctly ’80s vibe, disappointed fans in a big way. Unfortunately, Jason X manages to be not only worse but also the nadir of the franchise.


Of course, picking up the rights to Jason was mostly a play to facilitate a certain clash. And, should Robert Englund be up for another go-round as Freddy (though he claims he’s done), it could just as easily be for a Freddy vs. Jason legacy sequel as it could be for an attempted core franchise revival (if not more so, considering Englund is most likely not up to employing Freddy’s acrobatics for five movies over the next 10 years).

Smaller Slasher’s Under New Line’s Belt

Even before A Nightmare on Elm Street, New Line Cinema was producing (and distributing) worthwhile little slashers. For instance, 1982’s terrific and underrated Alone in the Dark (no relation to the Uwe Boll video game adaptation). Outside that, whenever New Line kicked off a slasher property, it’s gone for a while. For instance, Final Destination, their main horror property throughout the aughts, which, like Critters, isn’t a slasher to the letter, but the vibe is very much present. But that’s already being rebooted with a sixth film, so why not go for another take on Alone in the Dark? At the very least, it will bolster the original’s exposure.


One thing is for sure: if they use Evil Dead Rise (a New Line co-production with Ghost House Pictures) as a template, they can’t go wrong. And there’s no swing New Line can take on a slasher property that will be as financially disastrous and devastating as the production and subsequent release of 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. Freddy vs. Jason, distributed by New Line Cinema, is available to rent on Prime Video, iTunes, and YouTube, while A Nightmare on Elm Street is streaming on Netflix.

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