Nearly 20 years ago to the day, the live-action, big-screen adaptation of Todd McFarlane‘s comic book creation Spawn descended into theaters … and ended up not making much of a positive impression. The film’s final box office barely did more than double its $40 million budget and made few friends among either critical or fan circles. I say this as an unapologetic and unironic fan of the movie that introduced me to the under-appreciated Michael Jai White, put a bizarre spin on Clown/Violator, and brought Al Simmons’ alter ego to life after death.
So the news that Blumhouse Productions has officially signed on to produce McFarlane’s new Spawn script should have fans, including myself, very excited, especially because this vision is intended as an R-rated horror/thriller which the highly successful studio has become known for. However, they’re also known for their extremely efficient financial model of small budgets (< $10 million) for virally driven, high-concept stories that inevitably spawn (no pun intended) franchises. Not exactly the model I’d expect a Spawn film to fall under, especially since the character’s rather animated cape and chains will require a substantial visual effects budget on their own; even the 1997 film, which did a serviceable job in this regard, had $40 million to play with. Even Deadpool, which will inevitably come up as a comparison, stretched every cent of its $58 million.
However, Blumhouse has had massive success over the years with this model; maybe they’re ready to tackle something a little more grandiose. Or perhaps the Spawn script is more in line with Blumhouse’s previous productions and scales back on the effects work, save for a few standout sequences. McFarlane said as much a few years ago while still developing the project, which he wants to write, produce, and direct:
I think it’s a quick shoot. It’s not going to be a giant budget with a lot of special effects, it’s going to be more of a horror movie and a thriller movie, not a superhero one.
Here’s how McFarlane broke the news:
I’ll remain skeptical on this one until I see at least a trailer if not the final film itself. Blumhouse certainly gained some heat just this year with both Split and Get Out, two standout horror films with nothing in common save for the production studio and the fact that they had visionary directors at the helm. McFarlane certainly knows his creation better than anyone and might be willing to scale his payday way, way back to get the film made. But just how big the budget will be and how much the hopeful filmmaker is able to do with it remains to be seen.