The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! Today, we’re finally tackling the return of a filmmaker beloved within the genre, and how he found an unlikely vehicle to do so…
It should be lost on no one that we pay a lot of attention to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just in the past few weeks, we reviewed Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (here), re-ranked the MCU (here), looked at Marvel tearjerker moments (here), and ran down the best post-credit sequences (here). As one final Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness-related topic, I wanted to briefly look at how the Doctor Strange sequel managed to be, perhaps against all odds, also a Sam Raimi fright flick.
When I reviewed the movie, this is some of what I had to say about its horror elements:
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not exactly the spot you visit for a wide ranging exploration of genres. So, back when a sequel to Doctor Strange was announced, filmmaker Scott Derrickson suggestion that he was doing a horror film caught much attention. Of course, Derrickson’s eventual departure seemed to indicate that we weren’t actually getting much of a fright flick, if at all. However, the hiring of Sam Raimi gave us all some hope. Now, we actually have just that with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a periodically scary MCU installment, one with a surprising amount of gore, given the PG-13 rating. While still containing action and the requisite surprises from this current phase Marvel is in, the fact that Raimi is allowed to show off his genre roots is part of what makes this one work so well.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is probably as close as Marvel will ever get to making a horror movie, courtesy of Raimi. There’s a few jump scares, some disturbing imagery, and even a bit of gnarly gore. Essentially, it’s starter horror, filtered through the MCU and this particular world of sorcery. Not everything works, but there’s a relentless feel that Raimi and company keep you invested with. Plus, the film actually does a really good job of leaving you wanting more.
Director Sam Raimi gets to have a lot of genre fun here. Writer Michael Waldron takes a few big swings, but it’s Raimi who shines. Armed with a bombastic Danny Elfman score, he’s relishing the opportunity to inject the MCU with a bit of horror. Raimi and cinematographer John Mathieson don’t shy away from disturbing images, that’s for sure. It’s not a stretch to say this is the least kid-friendly Marvel outing to date. Not everything works, however. Waldron’s script has a lot going on, but less happening than you’d think. Raimi also never makes the action anything to write home about. It’s all effective and works, but aside from the style, is closer to middle of the road than blazing a new trail. It may look different, but Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is very much a part of a whole, franchise wise.
Raimi getting to make a horror picture within the MCU is really something. It would have seemingly been more likely that his scary sensibilities would have been blunted or fully removed by the superhero machine (even if the Spider-Man trilogy is largely great, horror it ain’t). Instead, it does actually seem like they’ve merged seamlessly. It feels like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it never stops feeling like Sam Raimi is all over it, in terms of his directorial personality.
Three sequences stand out, genre-wise. The first is when Wanda brutally dispatches the cameo-filled members of The Illuminati. It’s as violent as Marvel has ever gotten, with some very mild gore. Then, we have the Carrie-inspired sequence, where Wanda is essentially in full movie monster mode, covered in blood and carving a path to our heroes. Finally, there’s the zombie climax. Did you think Raimi was going to skip a chance to raise the dead here?
To be fair, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is still, at least to most, more a Marvel adventure than a gore-fest or anything of the sort. It’s Raimi-light, but that, in a blockbuster, is still really something. What he did in Spider-Man was one kind of an accomplishment, to be sure, so this is a completely different one. At the same time, it’s truly as notable a one, in many ways.
So, even if this isn’t a full-on Sam Raimi horror film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is as close as we’ve seen in some time. To that end, I’m not sure we’ve appreciate it, genre-wise, as much as we should. So, let me re-iterate that the version of Raimi so many love is back, if seen in a rather unique form…
Stay tuned for another Sunday Scaries installment next week!