Unknown Untold:  Wes Craven’s The Fallen

In our ongoing research into Untold Horror, we have uncovered a variety of projects which for better or worse went unrealized.  Many of them only exist in pitch material artwork if nothing else.   This ongoing series, entitled “Unknown Untold”, will shine a light on artwork for movies that never existed beyond what is seen on the page.

If you have any further knowledge of any of the images posted, please let us know – Email mark@untoldhorror.ca with any details you may have about these projects!

One of my personal favourite aspects of digging into the world of Untold Horror, is taking a look at the many “what ifs” that come up when dealing with films that fell into the depths of Development Hell.

What would have happened if so and so directed a certain project at some point, meaning a non-existent film would now exist.  It would also likely mean an entirely different chain of events would follow…  The mind races with possibilities.  This is one such project.

From the pages of the May 12, 1982 issue of Variety comes today’s “Unknown Untold”.

“An Unusual Drama of one man’s saga into primitive terror, love and all-out war with the fallen forces of evil for a treasure that will destroy all.”  – So reads the tagline for this mysterious film.

Beyond this, we also have comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Exorcist, The Omen, and, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  With promises of “Relentless action”, “Suspenseful Terror” and “Astonishing Special Effects”, one can only imagine the type of spectacle scripted.

Finally, and in larger font than anything else, the project was promised to be “Set in Three Continents” and a “Star-Studded Cast”.

This clearly had the vision of being a large picture and production.  Much larger than anything that attached Director, Wes Craven, had ever been a part of.

Craven had at this point had successes on a smaller scale with both Last House on The Left, and The Hills Have Eyes. He would have been coming off of Swamp Thing, which while a smaller film in terms of today’s comic book adaptations, was clearly his attempt to move into making something slightly more accessible than his previous films.  The Fallen seems like a natural step in this new direction – bigger, more adventurous, and likely something with more palatable with the tastes of mainstream audiences.

Partnering with Craven was producer Norman T. Herman.   Herman, had started his career at American International Pictures (AIP), and carved-out  a career through several decades.  With such projects as The  Legend of Hell House, Rolling Thunder, and Blacula to his credit, it certainly appears as though Herman too was looking to go in a bigger, different, direction.

The film was being shopped around in spring of 1982, with an expected release date of early 1983.   Obviously, this did not happen.

The production seems to never have gone any further beyond this Variety advertisement.

Craven wouldn’t release any pictures in 1983.  Instead, he found himself working toward a trio of directorial efforts released in 1984.  Those films being the TV movie Invitation to Hell, the universally panned and maligned The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, and a little film called A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I think you can see where this is going…

While no doubt that Craven had worked on drafts of A Nightmare on Elm Street prior to 1983, the film went into production in the spring of 1984.   And had he been busy riding the waves of a successful globe-trotting supernatural adventure film that The Fallen might of have been – it is very likely that A Nightmare on Elm Street wouldn’t exist, or exist in a very different fashion.

And while ANOES didn’t light the box office on fire – the film was a huge hit for New Line Cinema on home video.    And the rest is history!   Wes Craven essentially reinvented the slasher film, breathing new life into the subgenre with a supernatural angle.   It is very possible without the success of Freddy, the unstoppable resurrected Jason Voorhees as seen in Jason Lives and beyond, may have been slightly different.  Freddy’s success also helped pave the way for a returning supernaturally enhanced Michael Myers.   The legacy of ANOES is impossible to measure – but horror films of the second half of the 1980’s would likely be very different.

That’s not even going into how different things would be in the 90’s without Craven again reinventing the subgenre with the Scream series…

Craven, a proud horror filmmaker no-doubt, was also one that seemed the most eager to try and break out of the genre.  However, it wasn’t until 1999’s Music of the Heart that he was given the chance to direct a non-genre film.  Perhaps if The Fallen had been made, and had been a stars-studded A-list feature, his move to drama and mainstream, might have been done earlier?  Perhaps he would have jumped between genres more frequently?

In the end, for better or for worst, The Fallen remains a mystery.  And perhaps, just maybe, the horror genre is richer for this film remaining Untold.