DC Needs to get Dark
Warner Brothers has started a label of films with Joker (2019) called “DC Black Label.” The intent behind this is to create a series of character study films through various genres of various DC Comics characters through one off appearances. DC Comics is not typically a horror label, but it has horror characters. Black Label is a brand to take something that either would not get made, or would not be made in a way that does not fall in a typical Superhero formula, give it a small budget and a creative team that is enthusiastic about the property, and send them off to make something unique and imaginative. It is basically a director driven label that gives numerous characters an excuse to actually appear in movies that otherwise wouldn’t. It is an idea that really begs imagination.
The very first effort, Joker, was a film that was praised by fans and critics, grossed over a billion dollars as an R-Rated film without a release in China, and garnered the Golden Lion and two Academy Award Wins. While it may appear that the Black Label is dormant, it is too successful to not continue. Not only can it continue, it can take advantage of the concept of genres and do something unique and create real, dark, superhero and supervillain horror films. DC has so many characters in the horror genre it’s really a crime that they haven’t explored this notion before. They have had characters appear in horror-esq films, but nothing like the modern stream of horror that we are seeing now. So, this is a list of 5 DC Characters that could generate interesting horror movies.
5. John Constantine. Pronounced Con-stan-Tine (it rhymes with Line), John is an occult detective from the U.K. who routinely performs exorcisms and investigates occult activity. He’s already appeared in a feature film and a television series, and he’s likely the most instantly marketable character that’s steeped deeply in horror. Be it under the title of Constantine or Hellblazer, John has been a horror-laden detective from the beginning. Giving him a low-budget movie seeing him hunt a demon or performing an exorcism would be a smaller, character driven, indie style horror movie that would stand out from other horror properties.
4. Dr. Kirk Langstrom/The Man Bat. Man Bat is a Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a scientist who was working on a chemical formula to help repair damage done to a persons’ ears in effort to help prevent and fix deafness. His work naturally attracted him to bats because of their sonar like hearing. Langstrom put together a formula that, when he injected himself, turned him into a giant-sized bat. The story is actually thematically similar to The Fly (1986), and doing a similar style story could produce one of the most frightening body horror films that the public has seen in decades. It’s a simple premise that could really be expanded and altered with a great amount of creative liberty to give filmmakers a unique take on the material. It’s a character steeped in the Batman Mythos and could certainly lead to creative and haunting horror imagery without going too far beyond what the audience is willing to believe.
3. Jason Blood/Etrigan. Jason Blood was a knight in King Arthur’s court who was possessed by a demon named Etrigan, who is actually Merlin’s half brother. Jason Blood survived centuries, and in modern times became a demonologist. He’s a character that lives with the kind of curse that could do a werewolf-esq movie. It’s something long lasting, and could be more than body horror, but psychological horror as you see someone literally going through a demon change and fighting himself. Put it against the backdrop of some magical murders you could create a dynamic horror film that pushes a monster forward without making them a hero.
2. Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy. Solomon Grundy is a former gangster from the 40s that fell into a swamp and was reborn as a Jason Voorhees-esq hulking monster, killing everyone around him. He got his name from an old nursery rhyme “Solomon Grundy.” Really, it’s easy to turn this into a Friday The 13th (1980) style slasher, set in Gotham City in the woods, no cell reception, a group of kids camping or hiking in the Gotham Woods, they run into Solomon Grundy who rises from the swamp and hunts them. It could be the easiest of these ideas to do as a full fledged horror movie.
1. Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow. Jonathan Crane was a psychologist at Gotham University who was obsessed with knowledge and fear. He always wore the same suit to every one of his lectures because what money he did not spend on food or rent was actually spent on books. He was eventually fired from his position, which led to him using chemistry equipment to create the fear toxin: an air dispersed agent that causes hallucinations that activates amygdala to create fear induced hallucinations. With that concept you could do A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) style movie with Crane experimenting on his student with his fear toxin, creating these insane and creative hallucinations and kills in a psychological Saw (2004)-like mental trap, leading to one student to actually go through these trials to try and stop Crane. This could be one of the more creative and dynamic of the possible horror films.
These are only a few characters that fit for a horror styled DC Film. Any of these could theoretically stand out and make an interesting impact as the first DC Black Label Horror Movie. Using somewhat established characters with a malleable history. It’s much easier to use the villains to tell horror stories but there are heroes that work for the horror genre. They fit all different sub-genres of Horror which makes each one an interesting pitch. This would be my loose take on how to do these different horror films.