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After several years away from the movie business, cult filmmaker and veteran producer Ovidio G. Assonitis is getting back in the game, greenlighting a series of new features including a new sequel to his own 1974 cult horror film Beyond the Door.
The original, which starred Juliet Mills as a woman impregnated by the devil after a possession, was a commercial hit, grossing more than $40 million at the box office. It has already spawned two sequels: the Mario Bava-directed Beyond the Door II, aka Shock, in 1977, and Beyond the Door III in 1989. But those films were sequels in name only. The new film, Beyond the Door: Embryo, is set 30 years after the events of the original and will see Mills reprise her role as Jessica Barrett. Her daughter — one of the twins born in the first movie — finds herself pregnant and fears, like her mother, that the true father might actually be the devil.
Assonitis, who wrote the screenplay for the sequel and will produce the movie, hopes to begin shooting Beyond the Door: Embryo next year.
In a completely different vein, Assonitis is also setting up 8 Minutes Under His Knee, a U.S. drama about racism and police brutality set around the events of the killing of George Floyd last year and the trial of his murderer, the white police officer Derek Chauvin. Assonitis’ film will follow a 17-year-old Black girl and a white law student who are taking part in the historic trial. Assonitis says Seth Cobin, the attorney who represented Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded Floyd’s murder on her cellphone last year, helping to launch global protests against racial injustice and police brutality, will be an associate producer on 8 Minutes.
Assonitis told The Hollywood Reporter he is also he is also in negotiations with Frazier to come on board as a consultant on the film, with an eye to possibly directing the movie. Frazier, who was 17 at the time she filmed Floyd’s death, was awarded a special citation by the Pulitzer board in June for her video, which contradicted the initial police account of Floyd’s death She also testified at Chauvin’s trial. 8 Minutes Under His Knee is set to film in Minneapolis next year.
Other films on Assonitis’ upcoming slate include the young adult romance The Disappearing Girl, which Italian writer and YouTube star Iris Ferrari is attached to direct; My Name is Mr. Who, a Western following a young Chinese immigrant who comes to America to work on the transcontinental railroad, and The Incredible Lives of Chang & Eng, a biopic of famous conjoined twin brothers Chang and Eng Bunker.
In addition to Beyond the Door, Assonitis directed such cult horror films as Tentacles (1977), The Visitor (1979), and Madhouse (1981). He also produced James Cameron’s first film, Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), but fired Cameron early on in the shoot for going over budget, taking over as the (uncredited) director of the movie.
Briefly, from 1989-1990, Assonitis was chairman of legendary independent studio Cannon Pictures. After his termination, he took the rights to one of his projects, Scent of a Woman, to Universal Pictures, where it was turned into the 1993 Oscar-winning drama starring Al Pacino.
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