Focus Features has announced that it will release its dark fantasy adaptation A Monster Calls, to be directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, on October 16th, 2016.
Excepting superhero blockbusters and animated family flicks, no other major studio release has been dated as far as October of 2016, so Focus Features’ early scheduling indicates that the studio is highly confident in A Monster Calls‘ ability to break out at the box office.
The film was adapted from the novel of the same name by Patrick Ness, which was in turn inspired by an idea by Siobhan Dowd. Described as a “visually spectacular drama,” A Monster Calls focuses on a young boy who, reeling from his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis and severe bullying at school, escapes into a fantastical world filled with sinister monsters. When one particularly horrific creature begins to appear outside the boy’s window every night, the two form a pact based on the exchange of stories.
The novel, part of Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, was a gripping, unnerving story with a staggering emotional impact, so I’m excited to see what a director as drawn to horror as Bayona does with it. He previously helmed acclaimed tsunami survival story The Impossible, which earned Naomi Watts an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and chilling horror film The Orphanage, which is widely considered to be one of the scariest films of the last decade. He also directed episodes of the upcoming Showtime series Penny Dreadful, so the helmer has certainly already proven his knack for haunting, evocative visuals. He’ll next bring his talents to the untitled World War Z sequel, though Focus Features’ dating of A Monster Calls for 2016 makes me think that Bayona will try to squeeze this smaller project in first.
Belen Atienza (The Impossible, Pan’s Labyrinth) is set to produce the film, which gives me further hope that A Monster Calls may be able to add something to the same dark fantasy genre that Guillermo del Toro’s landmark film so spectacularly raised the bar for back in 2006. Provided that Focus Features nails the appearance of the titular monster and casts a suitably emotive young actor for the lead role of Conor, A Monster Calls will definitely be one to keep an eye out for.