Inside the High-End Horror Films Shaking Up Cannes

Courtesy of Sierra/Affinity
Sierra/Affinity's Nick Meyer, eOne's Steve Bertram, CBS Films' Terry Press, Guillermo del Toro and director Andre Ovredal

Leading this year's pack is Sierra/Affinity, which is selling the Guillermo del Toro-produced 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.'

With elevated horror making huge strides at the U.S. box office thanks to A Quiet Place and Get Out, the Cannes market appears to be catching up.

Leading this year’s pack is Sierra/Affinity, which is selling the Guillermo del Toro-produced Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and saw a stream of foreign buyers at the Carlton, where it made its pitch. The film, based on the book by Alvin Schwartz, revolves around the classic horror setup: Kids face their fears in order to save the town.

“Is it great that we have these films like A Quiet Place and Get Out that have made a lot of impact? Yeah,” says Sierra/Affinity’s Nick Meyer. “But more importantly, Guillermo is the master of fantasy and horror and was able to articulate his love for the genre [during the presentation].”

Among the finished offerings, Ali Abbasi’s Border was acquired by Neon following its world premiere Thursday in Un Certain Regard. The film is based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, whose Let the Right One In spawned a hit Swedish film as well as an American remake — both hailing from the elevated horror subgenre.

Not unnoticed by buyers is the success of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, which has earned a $259 million worldwide, including $97 million overseas. Similarly, Get Out last year took in an unexpected $255 million, including $79 million from foreign territories.

Those have inspired European producers to enter the space. British sales outfit Cornerstone Films, best known for curated art house projects like the Michelle Williams-Julianne Moore remake of After the Wedding, kicked off Cannes with news of their first in-house production, a remake of 1980’s The Changeling. “This sends a message that we’re interested in high-end genre [projects],” says Cornerstone co-president Mark Gooder.

Also in Cannes, Storyboard Media and Germany’s A Company are presenting Michael David Pate’s Heilstatten, a found-footage chiller set in a Berlin sanatorium, to international buyers.

Producer Till Schmerbeck, meanwhile, is developing Death Strip, about the spirits of those slain trying to cross the Iron Curtain coming back to haunt the living. “Unlike traditional art house,” he says, “horror really appeals to young audiences, just the group that we need to get back into cinemas.”

A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter's May 12 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.

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