by Gill Pringle at CinemaCon, Las Vegas

In a horror-filled release slate, Universal Pictures has something to scare everyone, from Halloween Ends, the final installment of the enduring Halloween franchise; Bram Stoker’s Last Voyage of the Demeter; Jordan Peele’s terrifying Nope; James Wan and Jason Blum’s creepy robot doll M3GAN; and B.J. Novak’s Vengeance starring Ashton Kutcher.

Audiences at CinemaCon in Las Vegas were offered the very first peek at David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends starring Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode one last time.

Fans were ecstatic as Curtis took to the stage – although perhaps not as ecstatic as she expected, teasing them, “Well, look two people got up. Oh, whatever. It’s only been 44 fucking years. I’m fine. I’m secure. It’s all good – only the front row,” she quipped from the stage, looking dramatic in black glittering pants.

Introduced to the audience by two young fans who work at a cinema, she told them, “Listen, all of our jobs are important. I get to pretend. But you guys are out there earning money for your futures, keeping customers happy and doing whatever it takes to keep people moving in and out and enjoying themselves at your theatre because – let’s be honest, people can be really hard and fickle and opinionated and grumpy… and assholes honestly.

“But we still want them to have a good time. And if they don’t have a good time, they don’t come back and that’s why we need them to come back. So, thank you guys for putting up with assholes.”

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Discussing her long journey as Laurie Strode – who she has been portraying since 1978 in John Carpenter’s first Halloween, she said, “I was cowering in the closet 45 years ago, and yet this character would become the most important relationship of my entire career and professional life.

“And I’m so grateful that she has and because Laurie Strode is the OG – she’s the original girl, the one that term apparently was created for. The one that won’t be stopped and won’t be killed will face the monsters when others run.

“And over the years that has taken on obviously new dimensions. I see Laurie now as more than just a figure facing a literal boogeyman.

“I see her standing up for so many women who face their own figurative boogeyman and, just like them, she won’t back down. And what’s crucial – and it actually took 44 years in this genre to make me understand horror – it’s about letting us confront what we can’t control.

‘For 44 fucking years, I just kept saying I don’t really like horror movies; I don’t really get it. But now I realise that’s exactly what they do. It lets us confront something we can’t control and allows us to scream and fight in a world that doesn’t always allow those cathartic opportunities.

“Because the truth of the matter is, when you scream, you scream louder when there are people near you; when you cry, you cry harder and louder when other people are crying.

“When you feel something, you feel it deeper when other people are there,” she said, looking tearful.

“And horror films are fun to see in a big crowd. But sadly, all things must come to an end. Mom is tired, so this Halloween, we will experience Laurie’s last stand,” she said.

Before showing clips of the new film – where we see Strode meet Michael Myers for the last time – she taunted, “Trust me, it’s going to fuck you up!”

Happy to report, it looks like Curtis’ legendary original girl is going to get the opportunity for major revenge against The Boogeyman when the film hits cinemas.

Next up, Get Out actress Allison Williams took to the stage to promote her role in James Wan and Jason Blumhouse’s M3GAN, a story the two powerhouse filmmakers have been trying to get off the ground for the past five years.

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While many audience members discussed how much the blue-eyed robot doll looked like an Olsen twin, M3GAN is nonetheless certifiably scary.

From a script by Wan and Akela Cooper, M3GAN is directed by Gerard Johnstone, who horror fans know as the director of New Zealand indie hit, Housebound.

While most of the plot details have been kept under wraps, CinemaCon audiences learned that M3GAN is the story of a genius roboticist named Gemma (Allison Williams) who works at a toy company where she utilises artificial intelligence to create M3GAN, a lifelike child-companion doll meant to serve as the ultimate best friend and parental assistant.

When Gemma unexpectedly gains custody of her niece following the death of her parents, she decides to test out the M3GAN prototype in her own life, a decision that every robot movie in history up until this point has proven to be a mistake.

The film also stars Ronny Chieng, in addition to Violet McGraw, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Arlo Green, Jen Van Epps, Michael Saccente and Kimberley Crossman.

Addressing the audience, Williams said, “I have no idea how I ended up being in these movies because I’m genuinely too scared to watch like 99% of the other movies in the genre. Truly.”

Jordan Peele brought an extended look at his mysterious new horror film Nope to CinemaCon, leaving the unsuspecting crowd struggling to describe what they’d just seen, involving weird morphing clouds, crazy horses and alien craft.

“I like making titles that match how the audience feels watching it,” Peele told the attendees. “Like you tell them that this movie is going to be scary and they’re like, ‘Nope!’”

Reuniting with his Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, and also featuring Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun, Nope follows a charismatic woman who owns the only Black-owned horse ranch in Hollywood, while Kaluuya plays her unamused ranch hand. But when an “uncanny and chilling discovery” descends upon the residents of their lonely gulch of inland California, things go sideways.

Discussing his unique approach to filmmaking, Peele said, “I’ve always been attracted by the prospect of a movie as my favourite movie I haven’t seen before and what that could possibly be and that to me is in the spirit of moviemaking.

“I think after the reaction to Get Out, I was awarded this real privilege and responsibility to try and make new films and tell original stories that come from me, because I think that’s what my fans want. That’s what my fans tell me they want and so until somebody stops me or tells me I can’t, my plan is to bring these new ideas and bring these dreams and bring these nightmares to the big screen.”

Discussing the particular appeal of his films on the big screen, Peele said, “For an audience to see this film together is a uniquely cinematic experience. Rollercoasters aren’t fun alone, right? Laughing isn’t fun alone? Being scared isn’t fun alone? You need that energy, and it heightens the ride,” he said.

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If Nope seems like a wild ride, don’t expect Peele to reveal too much before the film’s release. “The discovery and the surprise of it are part of the fun. Trailers will give you a taste, but we do want to retain some of the mystery so you can be satisfied by going to the damn movie,” he says.

While no footage was shown of BJ Novak’s Vengeance, we can tell you that the film stars Ashton Kutcher as a New York radio host who attempts to solve the murder of his girlfriend, traveling south to investigate the circumstances of her death and discover what happened to her. The film also features Insecure’s Issa Rae and Boyd Holbrook.

Directed by Andre Ovredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark), clips from Last Voyage of the Demeter showed a ship and its crew struggling to defeat a demonic possession on swirling high seas. On board, a mysterious entity is relentlessly pursuing the ship’s crew.

Based on a single chapter, the Captains Log, from Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel Dracula, the story is set aboard the Russian schooner Demeter, transporting mysterious private cargo from Carpathia to London.

Starring David Dastmalchian, Liam Cunningham and Corey Hawkins, Last Voyage of the Demeter is set for release in January 2023.

Main Photo: Getty Images for CinemaCon


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