It’s been a long and strange trip thus far for Joe Dante, the American firebrand filmmaker who helmed Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, The Howling, and Matinee. The irrepressibly inventive, funny, and not-so-quietly political director recently released his 15th feature film, Burying the Ex, which also happened to be one of his very worst, and possibly his straight-out worst. This is largely because his latest film isn’t nearly as well-scripted as his films tend to be, and its one of his only films where you can’t feel the filmmaker’s own exuberance as the film is going on; it also doesn’t help that it’s probably his least personal and critical film to date. Even the appearance of the quite talented Anton Yelchin in the lead didn’t much help the dull simplicity of the my-ex-girlfriend-is-a-zombie conceit.
This would be less noticeable if Dante, again, wasn’t so known for making great movies with populist appeal, and this is not to say that Dante is hitting the skids. In fact, this morning, it was announced that Dante will be helming Labirintus, a supernatural thriller set in the catacombs beneath Hungary’s Buda Castle. Here’s the official synopsis of the film:
Labirintus tells the story of a paranormal investigator and psychiatric researcher who join forces to explore an abandoned subterranean Soviet research facility, hidden within the Budapest Labyrinth. When supernatural forces confound and torment the group they begin to question their own sanity. To escape they must quash their fears and lead their team to find and destroy the dark heart of the maze.
To be honest, the story sounds more serious and less comical than Dante is prone to. Even The Howling and Piranha, though essentially horror films, have as much comedic energy to them as they do blood and guts, if not more. Still, with the exception of Burying the Ex, Dante has made very few outright misfires as of recent. The Hole, his hugely entertaining experiment in 3D, was his last picture and could actually be argued as one of his most purely enjoyable features; six years before that, he directed Looney Tunes: Back in Action, the best of all the attempts to have Looney Tunes carry their own film. There’s plenty to still be excited about with Labirintus, which will begin shooting Spring 2016, and Dante is certainly the kind of artist who enjoys surprising his audience.