How Marvel could tackle its horror projects successfully

Zombie Captain America in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Zombie Captain America in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

Marvel may be continuing its dominance into the 2020s, but horror is a genre they have yet to attempt and that could make or break them.

Comic book films aren’t necessarily a genre, rather it’s a space where they are able to take from many things and put them into a superhero package.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe deserves credit for exploring different genres and aesthetics in their films and TV shows.

It seems like comic book films, pre-established franchises, and horror movies are the only ones that seem to have consistent success these days. Horror just always seems to be around no matter the current trends.

In a world full of entertainment options, there’s still nothing like the social experience of watching a horror film in a dark theater with a quality sound system. The most iconic and successful horror films thrive on making audiences uncomfortable, while Marvel aims to do the opposite.

Disney Plus
Marvel’s Daredevil. Image courtesy Netflix. /

With the recent news of Disney+ in the US getting adult content, things seem to now be getting interesting. There’s a third Deadpool movie in the works that will most likely tie him into the MCU. Then there’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, directed by prominent horror figure, Sam Raimi. While Multiverse of Madness definitely won’t get a mature rating, it will most likely introduce the idea of horror in the MCU. Moreover, in the future, there’s also Blade, an iconic hero known for his darker storylines fighting vampires.

So Defenders, Deadpool 3, Sam Raimi’s Multiverse of Madness, and Blade are all telling signs that the MCU is flirting with maturity. Kevin Feige also teased that the upcoming Moon Knight doesn’t hold back.

It’ll truly be interesting to see if the MCU goes into scarier territories. The franchise has thrived on being able to satisfy all demographics, and there are a lot of people who do not engage with that genre. There are some possibilities on how this could all go.

A new banner for the MCU? 

If mature films and TV shows were to happen within the MCU, Marvel Studios would have to make it clear that it’s not like everything else. The shows in the Defenders-verse will be password protected on the app so they can’t be accessed by kids whose parents don’t want them seeing that stuff.

Theoretically, if Moon Knight or Blade were to be mature, Disney would probably put them under a different banner too to differentiate themselves from the general MCU offerings.

Punisher: War Zone and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance had the Marvel Knights banner, which referenced the line of comics that focused on grittier stories, and could be brought back for these upcoming projects.

Another way to label it would be using the MAX label, which refers to how Marvel Comics labels their adult-rated comics. Instead of the usual Marvel Studios logo on a poster or trailer that signifies something that could be seen by general audiences, the MAX logo could appear instead, automatically indicating that these maturer titles are indeed for the grown-ups.

Pushing limits

Moon Knight, Moon Knight trailer, Super Bowl
Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. /

There’s also the possibility that the MCU just flirts with mature content, rather than pulling the trigger on it. Just because Daredevil and Jessica Jones are coming to Disney+ as they are, would they want their own new projects to be as adult as those?

Blade, Moon Knight, and the rumored Werewolf by Night project could all just be as PG-13 as Ant-Man. However, films like Insidious and A Quiet Place have all demonstrated that effective horror can be done without an adult rating.

Marvel Studios probably isn’t out to make the next Exorcist or Hereditary, but horror has a large dedicated audience that they could tap into to gain an even more diverse crowd. There’ll probably be vampires, zombies, demons, and Mephisto in the coming phases but nothing that gets it into adult territory if they choose to stick to PG-13.

The Batman is considered by many to be one of the darkest Batman films yet, with the Riddler modeling himself after real-life serial killers. The film is still PG-13 because it cleverly cuts away or obscures itself whenever something more intense is happening, but audiences know what’s going on and it doesn’t take away the impact. That could be what the MCU does with its edgier projects.

The multiplexes may be dominated by four-quadrant blockbusters, but there is still value in films aimed at mature audiences, especially horror. Even if Marvel doesn’t go full R, there are still ways to scare people without getting into graphic territory. However a character like Blade isn’t Spider-Man, and getting someone like that right would require a lot of commitment on Marvel’s end.

It would be bold of Marvel if they decided go all in on the mature rating, and films like Blade fully embraced it. That’s where a different banner like MAX would come in handy as that could signify that a TV show or film is for more mature audiences.

If they don’t go all in, it could still ultimately work out for them, but there would be some restraints. There could be lots of darker moments, but like The Batman, it would have to be clever about it to not go too far.

Once Marvel introduces scarier elements and it’s done right, it could be something that opens just as many doors as the multiverse.

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Would you like to see Marvel push those horror boundaries in the MCU? Let us know in the comments below!