Pop culture icons now in the public domain (and the horror films someone will make about them)

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Happy Public Domain Week, everyone! For all the intrepid filmmakers out there, we’ve come up with six copyright-friendly movie plots so you don’t have to.

Say what you like about last year’s Winnie The Pooh: Blood And Honey, it made a load of money for something built for the approximate cost of a Freddo. Naturally, then, as another suite of beloved IP projects enter the public domain, the world’s most intrepid filmmakers are already hard at work converting childhood memories into low-hanging, horror-inflected cash.

And while Steamboat Willie might have been attracting most of the indie filmmaking community’s attention, there are still plenty of films, books and characters ripe and ready to reinterpret for anyone with a camera and a loose appreciation of copyright law. For your benefit, then, we’ve compiled a list of the projects that have just entered the public domain – and the horror film plots someone will inevitably try and make from them.

Feel free to turn any of these ideas into a $5.2m grossing film (we’ll take 10%, thank you very much). Then again, we’d almost rather you didn’t bother – you could always make a slasher film without Piglet’s face in it, you know?


In this (imaginary) follow-up to last year’s Winnie The Pooh: Blood And Honey, the cheery tiger with the spring in his tail returns to the hundred-acre wood with murder on his mind and a bindle full of propulsion-based traps. Christopher Robin, strangely un-traumatised by his last encounter with his childhood companions, brings another group of exclusively female friends into an obvious honey trap, only for them to have their throats stabbed and tops torn off by a 13-year-old boy’s idea of an edgy horror premise. Inevitably, the only nod the film plays to the source material is that the hulking man doing the stabbing is wearing a tiger mask.

All Quiet On The Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque’s original German novel might now be public property, but any post-1928 translation won’t be. To comply with our legal team’s wishes, then, this Nosferatu-inspired riff on the first World War will be written and performed entirely in German. A chilling expose of the horrors of the mechanised conflict, all of mankind’s wrath, cruelty and destructive ingenuity has been helpfully condensed into a figure resembling a tall man in a gas mask with bayonets for hands. Young soldier Paul Bäumer must figure out how to best communicate the futility of war to an audience while running over a serial killer with a tank.

Peter Pan

In an effort to hew closer to J.M. Barrie’s novel than previous, family-friendly incarnations, Wendy, John and Michael are kidnapped by a mischievous little scamp with an aversion to gravity and taken to Neverland. Once there, Peter reveals the gang of abandoned children he picked off the street, and asks Wendy to read them bedtime stories to keep them from plotting their escape. In typical folk horror fashion, Neverland’s idyllic never-grow-old schtick is found to be a cunning ruse when Peter starts murdering the Lost Boys before they reach puberty. Captain Hook is a good guy now, because we’re subverting expectations.

It’s important to note that Peter Pan; Or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up has entered the public domain in the US, but any attempt to release this film in the UK will see you in chains faster than you can say “fair use”.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

An eerie, psychological horror, a well-to-do woman with an injured husband begins a steamy affair with her new gamekeeper, only to discover her lover isn’t quite what he seems (he’s poor, and wants to kill her with a weed trimmer). The novel’s original theme of the power of desire is slightly undermined by the producers’ decision to cut most of the sexy bits to get a 15-certificate. Ironically, the BBFC gave it an 18 anyway after Lady Chatterley feeds Oliver Mellors feet-first into a woodchipper.

The Mystery Of The Blue Train

The real mystery is why no one made an Hercule Poirot horror movie before. Oh, wait.

Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle

A group of long-lost European crusaders are dogged by a mysterious, jungle-dwelling spirit which bears a striking resemblance to a very buff Alexander Skarsgård. An otherwise tightly-constructed slasher flick is deflated slightly when the filmmakers clearly couldn’t find a suitably muscled Tarzan, and had to make do with an extra in a gorilla suit instead.

Let us know in the comments if you have any more…

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