There are a number of horror/fantasy/sci-fi writers with whom I hold in high regard; on the absolute top of that list, is Richard Matheson.
One of Rod Serling’s original go-to writers back in the heyday of the original The Twilight Zone, Matheson has written some of the greatest works of fiction, the likes of which would make many a writer green with envy.
What Dreams May Come, I Am Legend, Hell House, A Stir of Echoes and The Incredible Shrinking Man are just some of the few stories that he’s told throughout his career. Although, looking back, it’s heartbreaking to realize that there’s only been one great adaptation of his work (not counting The Twilight Zone series) in the form of George Miller’s Twilight Zone: The Movie entry Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. Let’s not dwell on the fact that filmmakers had three chances to get I Am Legend right!
In any case, one of Matheson’s most memorable short stories, Button, Button, made for a wonderful episode of The Twilight Zone revival series in the mid-80’s. Although, the author himself wasn’t happy with the final product and demanded his name be taken off the credits. Discounting any creative differences behind the scenes, Button, Button proved to be one of the most memorable and powerful stories written for the series and, to this day, is still highly regarded. Under closer inspection, though, it’s merely a story with an ingenious idea, but one that lacked the literary prowess that permeated so much of Matheson’s writing.
Enter Richard Kelly. After making a splash with Donnie Darko, then (unjustly) sinking to the bottom with Southland Tales, Kelly returns this October with his adaptation of Matheson’s short, retitled The Box, in what many see as his last chance to live up to the talent and skill hinted at in Darko. The film’s jumped from release date to release date, which makes a lot of people wonder how truly bad it could be. If you ask for my opinion, WB is simply looking for the proper release date and makreting campaign to release such an off-kilter film to the masses as successfully as possible. I think they found it in the film’s current October 30 release date. What’s more, a studio is finally stepping up against Lionsgate and will try to dethrone the studio’s Saw franchise as this year’s lone horror/thriller released on Halloween weekend.
In my eyes, Kelly and Matheson are a perfect match (not to mention the fact that Frank Langella plays the mysterious antagonist of the film). Yes, Kelly made quite a number of liberties to bring this short story to the screen, but the underlying theme of Matheson’s work should permeate throughout the picture.
After watching the recently released trailer (over and over again), I began asking myself: are we finally going to witness a worthy film to have the name “Richard Matheson” attached to it? I certainly hope so.