If ever there was an argument to be made about movies being cursed, there is “New Mutants.” This is a movie that even people that don’t like superhero movies will be re-visiting for decades, discussing how it has such a streak of bad luck, it’s become kind of heartbreaking by now. Reshoots, delays, rewrites, shelving, postponing, delaying, and the big Marvel purchase of FOX studios have made “New Mutants” one of the modern Hollywood disaster stories.
It’s a great premise, based on the climax of a great movie like “Logan,” that promised a brand new direction to a beloved Marvel series, that definitively closes the FOX “X-Men” movies and features a great cast of dynamic young stars like Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor Joy and the like. And it almost seems like we’re never going to see it until Disney breaks down and finally decides to put it on their streaming service.
The indefinite postponing on April 3rd to TBD, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic has struck “New Mutants” once again, infuriating fans. But until Disney decides to release the movie finally, if ever, here are five great dark fantasies you can watch to fulfill the appetite.
5. Sidekick (2005)
One of my absolute favorite dark superhero movies from Blake Van De Graaf centers on Norman (Perry Mucci), a comic book fanatic who discovers that a co-worker named Victor (David Ingram) has amazing powers that he’s been keeping secret. Convinced he can train Victor as an actual superhero, the two begin exploring his powers and Victor begins to descend further and further in to violent acts of revenge and retribution. With Victor’s power growing more by the day, Norman has to undo what he set in motion and stop a potentially god-like madman. “Sidekick” handles its tone well beginning as a classic superhero story and descending in to darker territory the more it progresses. I’ve always wanted a follow up to this film, but as a stand alone, it’s stellar.
4. Generation X (1996)
Yes, it’s the often derided TV movie adaptation of “Generation X,” but it shares a lot of qualities with “New Mutants” premise. It also warrants a viewing as an early template for future “X-Men” properties. The cult TV movie follows Jubilee and her entrance in the Xavier academy, now run by Emma Frost, and Banshee. She and a group of other mutants have to face off against a mastermind supervillain (Matt Frewer) who uses his powers to infiltrate dreams and plans to use the “dream dimension” to control and murder his enemies.
3. Guillermo Del Toro’s “Hellboy” Series
“Hellboy,” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” and the animated sequels are all fantastic outputs with supernatural heroes fighting supernatural menaces. They’re dark, mesmerizing and the make up is absolutely amazing. It’s hard to top what Del Toro brings to the Hellboy front with some genuine action films that pack in horror, dark fantasy, romance, science fiction, and wonderful mythological monsters. We’ll never get “Hellboy III,” but at the very least we got four great films with Del Toro pulling the strings and giving us a glimpse in to a wonderful world where underdogs take on menacing beasts and demons.
2. Nightbreed (1990)
I grew up with Clive Barker’s original on VHS, but there’s really no wrong way to see it. Thankfully all the cuts are excellent, whether it’s the chopped up theatrical version, the Director’s Cut, or the Cabal Cut. In either case, “Nightbreed” watches like a gory, splatterific version of “X-Men” where Barker focuses on a whole civilization of Midian, an underground society of mutants that live under mausoleums outside the daylight. When they initiate human Boone in to their society, they must face off against a ruthless serial killer named Decker, and a lynch mob of officers and locals that seek to tear down their ancient world. It’s still a damn good movie with some excellent effects, brilliant prosthetic work, and memorable characters. Plus it’s hard to find a scarier villain than Dr. Decker.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Director Josh Boone has outright proclaimed that “New Mutants” was heavily influenced by “Dream Warriors,” and upon viewing one of the many trailers, the similarities are hard to ignore. “Dream Warriors” sees a team of teenagers finally using the dream scape as a means of fighting back against the supernatural power of Freddy Krueger. When Freddy begins stalking a psych ward for at risk teenagers, old foe Nancy Thompson returns and helps the dwindling group of teens find their individual powers that help them fend off against Krueger, rather than become his victim. It’s also a sharp metaphor for mentally ill individuals finding their voice and facing their trauma in a dark and unforgiving world. The concept has only been explored once, and vaguely in future sequels like “Dream Master” and “Dream Child,” sadly. In either case, “Dream Warriors” maintains its darkly fantastic luster with great effects, strong performances, a killer theme song, and complex characters that become superheroes in their own right.