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Faces of Death, a faux documentary that became a grizzly cult hit in the VHS era, is getting a 21st century makeover.
Legendary Entertainment, currently basking in the box office glow of hit Godzilla vs. Kong, has picked up the rights to the title with the goal of launching a new horror franchise. Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber, the team behind the 2018 psychological thriller Cam, will write and direct, respectively.
Producing will be Susan Montford and Don Murphy of Angry Films, who are behind Legendary’s fast-tracked multiplatform Buck Rogers reboot, are producing. Cory Kaplan will co-produce while Rick Benattar of BT Productions will exec produce. John Burrud, the producer of the original movies, will also work on the new iteration.
The original movie, released in 1978, had the conceit of a pathologist exploring gruesome ways to die via footage purportedly culled from around the world. In reality, most of the death scenes were staged, but no matter, the movie had its producers’ desired effect: outrage, revulsion, banning (although not in 52 countries, as hyped by the film’s makers), and, of course, a money-making hit that spawned sequels and imitators. It was written and directed by John Allan Schwartz, who used multiple pseudonyms for several crew jobs on the flick.
The first movie was released theatrically, but it was really in the 1980s when it hit the home video market via VHS that its cult status spread, in copies that were surreptitiously rented, passed around and worn down from being rewatched. MPI, an Illinois-based company, has kept the original films in circulation for the past 30 years.
The new plot revolves around a female moderator of a YouTube-like website whose job is to weed out offensive and violent content and who herself is recovering from a serious trauma, who stumbles across a group that is re-creating the murders from the original film. But in the story primed for the digital age of online misinformation, the question is: Are the murders real or fake?
Mazzei has some experience with the seedier side of the Internet. She was previously a camgirl, an experience she chronicled in her memoir, which served as fodder for Cam, a Blumhouse production that was released on Netflix. Mazzei and Goldhaber also worked on Quibi horror anthology 50 States of Fright.
While Legendary has been taking steps into horror — it has a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre titled Texas Chainsaw Begins in post — sources say the company hopes to make something more in the psychological horror field than in the slasher mold.
The filmmakers are repped by CAA, Anonymous Content and Granderson Des Rochers.
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