The New Mutants School for Mental Trickery and Sheer Terror

Imagine, if you will, a world where knives force themselves out of a man’s knuckles, a witch levitates above you and instantly turn your body into fire, and a girl can shapeshift into your worst nightmares—sounds kind of like a horror movie, right?  Since the dawn of modern comic book superhero movies beginning with Superman in 1978, none of even touched on horror themes until now. The Blade and   Hellboy series dabbled in the supernatural and occult, but neither had the raw, thrilling power seen in the first New Mutants trailer.

These aren’t your daddy’s classic X-Men by a long shot, matching outfits or not!

The diverse team of troubled mutant teens first premiered in 1982’s Marvel Graphic Novel #4, which was celebrated by fans and eventually led Marvel Comics to create the groundbreaking X-Force. In their first big screen adaptation, 20th Century Fox is pulling no punches with nearly every original character featured in New Mutants, including Cannonball (Charlie Heaton)Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Sunspot (Henry Zaga), and Mirage (Blu Hunt). Notably absent, however, is the team’s first leader Karma, a nineteen-year-old Vietnamese girl who could mentally possess other people’s bodies. Fans can always hope for a cameo or post-credit appearance, though, right?

Replacing her is Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), X-Men team member Collosus’ sister, who joined the New Mutants in the comics after Karma’s death. Hopefully these artistic cannon choices pan out, because the crossover possibilities with the greater X-Verse (X-Men Cinematic Universe) are limitless! The diverging tone away from the two core trilogies fits specifically well with Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), whose upcoming film features Cable’s (Josh Brolin) first appearance. What better way to bring the New Mutants into the broader fold than through their mysterious mercenary mentor? If not Deadpool 3, they’d better be in the X-Force film; after all, they were founding members.

Just another normal day at school, what with all the faces trying to rip through the walls…

Coming back to the unique horror-film tone of this trailer, we’re being given quite a bit of info. The setting for New Mutants gives off a very Arkham Asylum vibe between the dark, dingy feel of the compound and the way Dr. Celia Reyes (Alice Braga) treats the teenagers. It’s also reminiscent of the bio-engineering facility from Deadpool and the underground mutant-creation labs in Logan. You have to wonder if this is the precursor for those two operations, which is hard to tell without a clear point in the already jumbled X-Verse timeline. Our best hint is the noticeable VHS logo on the security room television.

The horror elements appear to blend together with the original comic book content just as well as they did in FX’s Legion, and add a really great new layer to the mutant genre. Right off the bat we’re given visual evidence of the facility’s failures resulting in death with a pan across eerily numbered tombstones. There’s also a small glimpse into Dr. Reyes’ psyche with an anecdote about ‘baby rattlesnakes’, showcasing what might be the motive behind all the madness.  Could the limitless potential of an emerging mutant be a more powerful test subject, especially if Reyes’ superiors are trying to extract or weaponize those powers?

That’s one too many “look at the flowers” moments for my constitution to handle.

Likewise, that line about rattlesnakes also alludes to just how dangerous mutants can be in their adolescence, specifically Mirage. Her powers have the potential to be extremely volatile if left unchecked, due to their hallucinogenic nature—think the Professor X (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy) incident hanging over the plot of Logan. Mirage’s abilities are so potent that she’s quite possibly a threat not only to herself but others around her on a grand scale. The common thread throughout this trailer are the horror elements—terror, trickery, and supernatural occurrences—which coincide with the troubled teen harming others against her will.

Fan-favorite Cannonball, who can fly at jet-like speeds while encased in an impenetrable force field, is finally making his long-overdue film debut. Sporting one arm in a sling for most of the trailer (which may be from a mine shaft accident, he is a Kentucky boy after all), Sam Guthrie discovers Sunspot trapped in a washing machine when we first see him. Never imagined we’d witness a jump-scare in a comic book movie, but Sunspot’s fiery hand slamming against the glass does the trick. Suck pacing and tension-building is essential to any successful horror film, and New Mutants appears to be handling it better than recent non-superhero releases.

It’s only a flesh wound… from a giant demonic bear-monster with glowing red eyes…

Next, the claw marks across Reyes’ face firmly cement something we’ve known since last November: The Demon Bear, one of the most iconic villains from the New Mutants comics, is our predator for this film debut. Amongst the team members, it’s been a reoccurring figure in Mirage’s life (note the carved wooden bear necklace she’s wearing), having killed her parents and continued to torment her dreams and corrupt those around itself. The monstrosity feeds on negative emotions, making the film’s setting the perfect place for such an entity to thrive. Check out this exclusive animatic from highlighting what fans are in store for.

Much of this introductory film appears to spent sifting through fragmented memories and painful flashbacks, which makes sense given the motif and teenage mutant angst. Magik’s seen walking into what’s been speculated to be the traumatic first time her mutant powers activated. Although she’s the sibling of X-Men royalty a la Colossus, I doubt anything more than a throwaway line will further explain that connection; it was hard enough to include him in Deadpool. At the end of her sequence, a creepy smiley-face-masked demon reveals itself, sending her into hysterics. Even if you freeze the trailer at the unmasking moment, their identity is unclear (besides the fanged teeth). Good to know they aren’t giving away all the juiciest bits.

“Excuse me kids, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Baraka?”

Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox seem to have big plans for New Mutants, with a rumored three-movie deal in the works for these characters. As I said before when laying out the comic series’ backstory, the film’s themes and origins would fit interestingly well with Deadpool’s outlandish shtick, but don’t discount a crossover with the core films. X-Men: Dark Phoenix wrapped up filming earlier this month, and if it’s really going to be as true to the original Dark Phoenix Saga as director Simon Kinberg says, there’s room for these new horror misfits.

There is one huge question I still have about this movie, however: Where are Professor X and   Magneto (Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender) throughout all this? Mr. Metal is all about violently condemning mutant testing, and the Professor could have easily found the New Mutants with Cerebro   under the pretense of drastically overpowered prospects.  Xavier   already has a reputation for being the liberator, as seen in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X2: X-Men United. Even if this were taking place in the present, then Jean Grey (Famke Janssen/Sophie Turner) would’ve made a connection to Colossus as to the whereabouts of his baby sister. Please don’t let this heart-pounding-looking thriller be an isolated standalone.

Kitty Pryde is going to want that dinosaur back when you’re done hallucinating with it.

The only real drawback this trailer seems to reveal is the potential lack of locations besides the compound, outside of flashbacks and hallucinations. When a movie is set exclusively in one place it can often feel claustrophobic, so let’s hope director Josh Boone breaks up those long suspense sequences. It’s his first step into the horror genre (and comic books, for that matter), but everything else about the tone looks completely on-point. Wishing him the best in his execution.

So what did you guys think, and were you freaked the Hell out? Does this new superhero movie foray into the twisted world of horror work, or are you angry with the lack of beloved team-movie heroism tropes? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check back here for updates on the film!

The New Mutants debuts in theaters nationwide April 13th, 2018.

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Captain America historian, and wrestling encyclopedia. Specializing in Marvel comics, Star Wars, and RPG's. In my free time, I write and perform live music, and binge read Wikipedia. Standing in a beer circle with my friends arguing the minute details of hubris and long term storyline planning is my blue heaven.