When filmmakers come to Comic-Con, it’s usually with the full backing of a major studio and a release date looming a few months ahead. Michael Dougherty and Matthew Vaughn both visited the convention with new movies in tow, but neither arrived with the typical backing most Comic-Con movies enjoy.
Dougherty, who has writing credits on “X2” and “Superman Returns,” brought his darkly comic thriller “Trick ’r Treat” to San Diego, where it received a raucous reception late Thursday night. But the $12-million Halloween scare story that Dougherty wrote and directed (which was produced by “X2” and “Superman Returns” director Bryan Singer) won’t be coming to theater near you any time soon, as in never. Warner Bros. has decided to release the film straight to video, with “Trick ’r Treat” scheduled to hit DVD shelves sometime in October.
While Dougherty is obviously disappointed that the film will not get the theatrical release he once imagined, he’s hopeful that its positive Comic-Con screening — coupled with all of the rave online reviews the film has generated at numerous film festivals — will help make it something of a cult DVD smash
“If it’s a film worth seeing. It will find its way out there,” Dougherty says of his movie about four interlocking (and sometimes quite terrifying, but also funny) stories that unfold in an Ohio town on Halloween. “In a weird way, we made lemonade out of lemons.”
Vaughn, the director of “Layer Cake” and “Stardust,” brought footage from his kids-making-mayhem joyride “Kick-Ass” to Comic-Con hoping that he could stoke interest from American distributors. When every U.S. studio passed on helping finance the film, Vaughn raised about $50 million from a group of investors and made the movie on his own.
It’s understandable why the big studios were edgy about the film. Adapted from Mark Millar’s new (and very popular) comic book series, “Kick-Ass” has at its center a group of prepubescent kids who want to be superheroes. But these youngsters aren’t anything like “Spy Kids”: They swear like Christian Bale and wield weapons like ninjas. Imagine Quentin Tarantino, but with more blood.
The assorted clips Vaughn showed to thousands of Comic-Con fans generated sustained applause and hollers of approval. Next week, American distributors will take a look at the mostly completed movie, and Vaughn is confident that the Comic-Con buzz will help seal a deal.
“The movie has a lot of heart and humor,” Vaughn said. “Yes, it is violent. But it’s violence that makes you smile.”
— John Horn
Photo: Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass (foreground) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist (at steering wheel). Credit: Marv Films.