For all the glitz and glamour on display, the film industry isn’t all that different from the average person. They cling to foolish notions, develop bad habits, and leave more than a few goals unaccomplished. Regardless of the amount of stories there are detailing the successful journey from script to screen, there are just as many projects that are arbitrarily abandoned. There are plenty of excuses for unmade films; maybe the timing just wasn’t right, or the vision was too grand, it’s possible someone just lost the script between the couch cushions. Whatever the cause, some seemingly awesome horror films have been lost to such negligence over the years. Let’s take a look at some particularity interesting projects that for whatever reason never got their day in theaters.
Throughout the 1980s there was no better brand for crazy genre cinema than Cannon Films. This is the production company that gave the world Ninja III: The Domination and both Breakin’ movies in the same year. Out of their entire selection of nutty ideas and strange talent, few items were as bankable as the walking embodiment of death, Charles Bronson.
At some point in the early 80s, Cannon would buy the rights to a script called The Golem, which in retrospect sounds like a guaranteed cult sensation. A rabbi who watches over a clay golem has his life altered forever when gang members murder his wife. His eyes opened to all the crime in this once peaceful neighborhood, the rabbi would unleash the golem on the criminal element. Bronson would play his standard issue tough cop role, returning to the place he grew up in order to solve and hopefully stop these horrific killings. The only missing pieces to make this a perfect Cannon film were ninjas and Lou Ferrigno.
Producers took out an ad in Variety announcing pre-production, and even hired a special effects wiz to make it all come to life. The problem was that the proposed budget was high in comparison to the company’s usual output, so the film was put on hold until finances improved…only they never did. Several notable box office flops like Lifeforce and Masters of the Universe, honestly two of humanity’s greatest accomplishments, along with far too many films in production at one time, left the company drained of funds. Even the success they gained from introducing the world to Jean-Claude Van Damme wasn’t enough to ward off closure.
It is said that Cannon Films bigwig Menahem Golan maintained ownership of the script up to his death. Where it is now is anyone’s guess, but here’s to hoping someone will find it in the Golan family vault and get this beauty on the screen.
Dr. Phibes vs Count Yorga, Yorga 3, Brides of Dr. Phibes.
Another production company known for crowed-pleasing camp and cult flicks, American International Pictures spent years creating a solid stable of horror properties from Roger Corman classics all the way up to The Amityville Horror.
Among their stable of horror assets, AIP had a longstanding working relationship with horror master Vincent Price, who worked with them to launch one of their most popular creations, The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Around the same time, actor Robert Quarry was being groomed as the next face of horror films, beginning with his spooky gem Count Yorga, Vampire.
When time came to make another Dr. Phibes adventure, the idea was put forth of having him face off against a revived Count Yorga. This would mark a step towards American International properties having a shared universe similar to the classic Universal Monsters. Had the idea been a success they could have brought in further characters like Blacula, played by the brilliant William Marshall. Unfortunately the idea didn’t take off, though Quarry would still act as a Phibes villain only as a new, and very human character.
Sadly this proposed crossover isn’t the only unmade feature from these two properties. A third Yorga film was put into the planing stages, but as the studio was facing less financial returns on classic style horror, both it and the notion of Quarry as the number one horror actor were dropped. Likewise, Dr. Phibes had numerous scripts and concepts for further films, the most notable being The Brides of Dr. Phibes. Even a television series was considered for the character at one point, but none of these concepts moved further than paper, and both of these potentially linked franchises wrapped up with only two installments to their names.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3-D
During the early 80s , 3-D filmmaking underwent a bit of a revival largely thanks to horror series such as Jaws and Friday the 13th. A prominent figure of the latter series, director Steve Minor put together a team alongside artist William Stout with one goal in mind; create a massive American remake of Godzilla.
The script by Fred Dekker, who would later create the classic Monster Squad, took most of the early plot of the original film and moved events to San Francisco. Over the course of the movie, more timely elements like communist spies and cold-war fears are interwoven into the narrative.
A hefty amount of work was made towards the film. Beyond the script there were storyboards, sculptures, tests for 3-D claymation, and even a proposed budget. The only problem was that said budget was deemed too high by studios who only saw this as a childrens movie. Eventually everyone just gave up on the idea, and the green goliath would return to the screen in his native country soon after.
While not the only unmade Godzilla production, King of the Monsters 3-D is certainly one of the more interesting unfinished projects within the franchise. Today you can still find images of storyboards and sculptures for the movie and imagine what could have been.
Night Chronicles: Reincarnate
At the low point of his career, a time marked by lousy films like The Happening and The Last Airbender, director M. Knight Shyamalan came up with a project called The Night Chronicles. The concept was simple enough; he would create stories for, and produce three films then hand pick younger filmmakers to write and direct each installment. The first entry in the planned trilogy, Devil, arrived in 2010 to acceptable reviews and a decent haul at the box office. Not a massive success story, though it fared well enough to greenlight the second installment.
The second film, Reincarnate, was pitched as a 12 Angry Men style legal thriller with a jury overseeing a case involving the supernatural. Chris Sparling, who had worked on thrillers like ATM and Buried, was hired to write, while Daniel Stamm of The Last Exorcism fame nabbed directing duties. The project progressed so far that there are still web posts from 2013 about how the film was nearly ready to shoot, but then nothing happened. This film simply disappears. No announcements of set-backs, no interviews about what could have been, nothing. The whole thing is just as mysterious as some of Shyamalan’s famous twist endings.
In the following years Shyamalan would work towards rebuilding his reputation. Strangely enough a big part of that rebound was achieved by turning the third planned Night Chronicle into Split, which opened last year to both critical and commercial success. As for Reincarnate, only time will tell.
Kali: Devil Bride of Dracula
Arguably the kings of gothic horror, Hammer Films were no strangers to unfinished productions. There’s a staggering number of announced Hammer features that, at best, received a script and poster art. Among these films few losses are quite as notable as the missing entry in their long-running Dracula series.
After Scars of Dracula, the sixth installment in the franchise, plans were made to follow up witt another entry, which at the time was known as The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula. The movie was placed on the back-burner when studio heads decided to bring the series into the modern day, first with Dracula 1972 AD, and then The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Long-time star Christopher Lee would then sit out the next picture, Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, a joint venture between Hammer and martial arts company Shaw Brothers.
During all that time, the original Unquenchable Thirst script was reworked time and time again until it became Kali: Devil Bride of Dracula. The film was set to bring Lee back to the role, and it has been reported that the story could have been a prequel detailing the fiends’ first encounter with Van Helsing. The two most interesting ideas were the notion of a female villain for the count to romance, and having all the action set within India.
Unfortunately the 1970s weren’t a great time for the company, who ended up canceling more and more projects in the following years. And so the ninth part of this popular franchise was scrapped, with only a few remaining remnants to prove it had ever been considered. At best, some fans were reported to have obtained an early version of the script for a live reading. Other than that, we may never know what might have been.
At the Mountains of Madness
A frequent fan-favorite director, Guillermo Del Toro has made quite the habit of getting attached to projects that never materialize. At one point he was set to remake Creature From The Black Lagoon. Then there were plans for a claymation version of Roald Dahl’s book The Witches. Some films have still managed to be completed after changing his involvement. For instance, he was originally set to direct The Hobbit series before switching to just a producer as Peter Jackson took over. Out of all these false starts, few are as confounding as what happened with At The Mountains of Madness.
There are certain things Hollywood adores. One of those is an established fan base, something author H.P. Lovecraft very much has. Studios also love saving money, and what better way to save some cash then by adapting a public domain narrative?. Hollywood also loves Tom Cruise, has for decades. So the notion of Cruise producing, and starring in a big budget Lovecraft film helmed by Del Toro seemed like a slam dunk proposal. Somehow that old chestnut popped up yet again as the budget needed for this most likely R-rated horror film was deemed too high for studios to take a risk on.
Think about this little math problem for a moment. In the years since this project went belly-up, Del Toro managed to get $190 million dollars to make an unlicensed giant monster movie that was nearly a box-office disaster until China gave it a boost. Then he got $55 million to make a haunted house (sorry, gothic romance) flick that was written off as a financial flop. He even managed to scrounge up close to $20 mill for a movie where a woman makes love to a fish monster, which has actually been quite successful.
Considering this director can get money for his original properties without major stars backing him up, it makes zero sense that a story with a huge following and the financing of a global star couldn’t get things rolling. Either the film industry really has something against Lovecraft or the ideas for this film adaption were much larger than the original source material. Whatever the case, fans of Elder Gods have been left waiting for a proper cinematic adaptation.
This is just a small sampling of the quantity of failed horror projects floating around. Are there any that you want to see make it to the screen? Any other unmade flicks you’d like to talk about? Perhaps you have some details on these projects that I missed. Sound off in the comments and perhaps we’ll come back with even more unmade horror films.