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Alex Garland Has Written a Family-Friendly Haunted House Movie

The writer and director of ‘Annihilation’ sadly won’t be at the helm, but it’s a very different outing for him nonetheless.
Alex Garland Directing Annihilation
By  · Published on April 11th, 2018

The writer and director of ‘Annihilation’ sadly won’t be at the helm, but it’s a very different outing for him nonetheless.

To be constantly perplexed by Alex Garland‘s brilliant mind is a fantastic cinematic treat. Having also dabbled in novel and video game writing, he has become one of the most exciting names in the sci-fi genre due to his thoroughly original and engaging scripts and distinctive directorial style.

Garland has come a long way since the days of Danny Boyle collaborations, although 28 Days Later and Sunshine remain excellent sci-fi entries. Never Let Me Go and Dredd then allowed Garland to expand his horizons with other directors, and the latter film in particular is a vastly underrated comic adaptation. Garland’s directorial debut, Ex Machina, is fantastic in its own right, garnering much critical acclaim and many accolades. He then managed to outdo himself with the recently-released Annihilation.

In truth, I’m a Garland fanatic and am confident in whatever endeavor he chooses to do next. So when Variety announced that TriStar Pictures had landed the rights to Garland’s first family-friendly film, titled The Toymaker’s Secret, the only appropriate reaction is to get pumped.

The Toymaker’s Secret sounds like it’ll be a more conventional offering than anything Garland has done recently; the premise focuses on an American family who moves into a new-old home in London — one of those Victorian numbers — and grows to believe it is haunted. Now, none of Garland’s movies are narratively unambitious. One of his greatest strengths as a writer comes in his ability to make a trope seem fresh as opposed to gimmicky. Garland isn’t above gory effects to get a point across, but his films oftentimes don’t just portray them for the sake of it. Where humor can be found in his movies, it is weird and fascinating. We’re probably laughing because we’re uncomfortable (see: Oscar Isaac’s menacing yet utterly bizarre dancing in Ex Machina).

But The Toymaker’s Secret will definitely put a totally different area of Garland’s writing expertise to the test because he’s mostly known for making films that feature mature themes. There is thus no blueprint to compare this new script against. Finding the correct balance in a family movie is incredibly tricky, due to the fact that a larger cross-section of the audience needs to be considered and catered to.

The synopsis of Garland’s script is actually reminiscent of a movie that I wrote about recently: Eli Roth’s first foray away from violent gore, The House With a Clock in Its Walls. The trailer for that ends up being way more intriguing than initially anticipated; it’s rich and captivating without scrimping on the eeriness that audiences have come to associate with Roth. Honestly, if Roth, whose movies are generally far more polarizing, can feasibly make a movie for kids to enjoy and get people buzzing about it, the odds of Garland succeeding could also be high.

The Toymaker’s Secret will be helmed by Garland’s wife, actress and director Paloma Baeza (who is actually featured in Sunshine). Her directorial credits haven’t yet extended beyond short films and TV work, so this will be her feature debut. According to Baeza, “This project will join my love of animation with a live-action world, and it’s fantastic to be bringing this story to life.”

On Garland’s part, The Toymaker’s Secret isn’t his only up-and-coming project. He also has a new television series, Devs, which is in the works at FX and due to start shooting in a few months. But bring it on; the more Garland the world gets, the better.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)