For every movie that gets made, a hundred others never happen. Some of
them are just stillborn, while others morph into totally different
films, unrecognizable from their initial inception. Here are a few
unmade films that have piqued my interest. You can read about other
unmade films in the previous parts of this occasional series.

#1: Star
Trek IV with Eddie Murphy; Sandman; Oliver Stone’s Planet of the Apes

#2: The
Marx Bros in A Day At the United Nations; Jaws 3, People 0; King Kong vs

Phantasm’s End; The Revenant; Night Skies

#4: John
Boorman’s Lord of the Rings; A Confederacy of Dunces; Bartholomew vs

#5: Special Lost Movies Edition

Welcome to another special edition of Movies That Never Were. In the last Special Edition I wrote about movies that got made but were lost to the sands of time; this edition I’m going to write about four films that have been made but are in some danger of never seeing the light of day.

None of these films are unreleasable niche movies or experimental indies. They all feature names in front of or behind the cameras, and they all are more or less marketable within their own genres. But for varying reasons, these four movies could be sitting on a shelf for a long time. Maybe even forever, in at least one case.

The Beaver
. If you’ve been paying attention lately you know that Mel Gibson is going through… a rough patch. And that patch got rougher today with some truly over the top tapes being released to the public, wherein Mel all but threatens to kill his girlfriend. Mel’s star has been in decline for a while (his return to the screen earlier this year was not met with much by way of box office), and this seems like it could be the finishing stroke.

Which is bad news for The Beaver, a very weird movie that Mel stars in. Directed by Jodi Foster, The Beaver is the story of a man who wears a beaver puppet on his hand that he thinks is real. This could be a charmingly quirky film, but my understanding is that it’s actually rather dark, with Gibson’s character being a serious depressive and with the ending being… well, really damn shocking. I think The Beaver could withstand one or the other – the immolation of Mel Gibson’s career or a stunningly non-commercial ending – but it can’t take both. Summit has the film, which is in post-production, and was considering hitting the festival circuit with it, but now it seems likely that The Beaver will hide away for a long while – unless Summit thinks that the Gibson scandal could help overcome the movie’s darkness. 

Red Dawn. Could the remake of the cheese classic 80s propaganda film actually be good? I’ve heard lots of strong things about the script and the movie, which shot last year in the destroyed city of Detroit. An update that sees the Chinese as the invading force, the new Red Dawn happens to star the young fella who got the role of the Mighty Thor before he was known. Chris Hemsworth could be the movie’s secret weapon, as he seems poised to break out.

Or he would be the movie’s secret weapon if it ever comes out. Red Dawn is one of the films tied up in the horrifying meltdown of MGM; it originally had a release date of November 24th, 2010, but has now been put on hold indefinitely. Red Dawn wasn’t a cheap film (although it cost much less than it would have, thanks to the strong incentives offered by Michigan), and it’s not earning MGM any cash by sitting on a shelf. The movie’s eventual fate is unknowable, as is the fate of MGM itself. If the studio stays intact with new owners or partners, Red Dawn could see a release. Or it could be sold off in a deal to make some money to pay MGM’s creditors. Or it could rot someplace for the next few years. While Hemsworth could be the film’s secret weapon, if Thor doesn’t do well he could be the movie’s biggest problem.

Nailed. David O Russell filmed Nailed two years ago. It’s still one scene away from being finished. Usually the problem on a Russell film is Russell – you’ll remember that video of him screaming at Lily Tomlin, or the stories of him fighting George Clooney – but in this case the trouble was all the money guy, David Bergstein. Right from the start there were problems with payments being made on time with the 20 million dollar political satire, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel, and production was often delayed. Then it all fell apart, with Russell just needing two days of shooting to nail a key scene and finish the movie.

Those two days could never happen. Earlier this year there were rumblings about Russell securing the financing to get the film finished (while Bergstein himself somehow stays in the movie business, even getting close to buying Miramax, all while being investigated and having arrest warrants issued for him and the whole nine yards), The Daily Beast reports that Gyllenhaal and Biel are unlikely to return. This could mean that Nailed remains perpetually one scene away from being finished, and thus is never released. The other films in this Movies That Never Were will probably, at some point, see the light of day, even if on direct to video release. Nailed could remain forever in cans.

Cabin in the Woods. Chris Hemsworth starring again. An MGM production again. You know the drill here.

Last year I actually visited the post-production offices of Cabin in the Woods and had a long sitdown with director Drew Goddard. He showed me about twenty minutes of the film, and showed me some very awesome monster designs. I suppose I’m still under embargo on the specifics of that visit, despite the fact that everyone involved at MGM has now moved on and I don’t even know if there’s a company there anymore, so I’ll just say that everything I saw that day was kind of great and pointed to a movie that could exceed its low budget boundaries. The film plays with the idea of kids visiting a scary cabin in the woods and unleashing an ancient evil, but it does it in a way that feels very unique and fun and knowing. I had already read Godard and Joss Whedon’s script and liked that, but what Goddard had done visually with the material was pretty cool. 

The film was supposed to already be out, with a February 2010 release. But in October of 2009 MGM decided to hold the film back and post-convert it to 3D, moving the release date to 2011. The rest, as they say, is history. Cabin could have technically come out in February if the original release had held, although I don’t know that MGM could have afforded to open that and Hot Tub Time Machine. Then again, Cabin probably would have done better than Hot Tub Time Machine (which I quite liked). 

Now the movie sits in limbo. I’m not even sure if it’s still being post-converted. A couple of weeks ago Goddard sent me a very cool Cabin in the Woods t-shirt (pictured above); in a better world you’d be able to get one at Comic Con, but it doesn’t look like the movie is coming to the convention this year. Goddard must be very frustrated, sitting on an incredibly cool movie that all but begs for a line of licensed monster figures and that is set up in a way to encourage endless fanfiction and involvement. I don’t know that Cabin is a franchise starter, but it’s definitely a cult builder. If anybody ever gets to see it, that is.