I was speaking with a friend about remakes last night, and though there were some minor conflicts of opinion, I knew what today’s article was going to be.
(Editors note: There’s an obvious lack of photos for the “bad” remakes. This is purely out of spite because when I searched for screens of the originals, I had to shuffle through the crap remakes to get there. Plus I enjoy the purity of the wonderful photos below.)
Whenever the subject of remakes comes up, especially in the horror genre, there are a few examples I’ll always throw out there as the best examples on the subject; films that get it right on almost every level, and are done so well that they actually improve on the original and become classics in their own right. And then there’s that pile of shit over there with a few sweet smelling morsels, but for the most part, a pile of shit the world doesn’t necessarily need to consume.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is perhaps the definitive example of how to do a remake right. Based on the story “Who Goes There”, the original black and white film was unable to do the source material justice, but Carpenter goes back and makes a film that’s not only more accurate, but one of the best sci-fi/horror films ever made. The level of claustrophobia, tension, amazing score (which sounds an awful lot like John Carpenter even though he personally didn’t perform this one), editing and directing is through the roof, and puts this at the top of my list for the best remake I’ve ever personally seen. Also worth mentioning—and I’ll go into this another time because it deserves it’s own article—is the fact that the practical effects in The Thing are far superior to any computer generated mutations or creatures I’ve ever seen in recent films.
One other remake that’s gotten it right and needs mentioning is David Cronenberg’s The Fly. Once again, the technology at the time of the original was extremely limited, but take Cronenberg’s (nearly) unrivaled skill in the genre of sci-fi/horror and his ability to create a surreal, disturbing mood (not unlike David Lynch only far more comprehensible) and you have one amazing piece of cinema history.
Both of these films are not only astounding remakes, but in my personal opinion, benchmarks in horror film history.
But this isn’t the point of the article. What I really wanted to talk about is how horrible and/or unnecessary most remakes actually are. Now there are three key types of remakes I’d like to mention…
1. Remakes of classics that should never be touched in the first place, but like a priest in an orphanage, Hollywood just can’t help themselves. Now there’s full blown remakes which hardly resemble the original and share in name only, and then there’s the remakes that follow the original shot for shot, leaving me to strongly question the point of their existence.
2. Remakes of brand spankin’ new foreign films, created for the sole purpose of putting said film in theaters without subtitles or a cast of unknowns; key reasons being that most Americans are borderline illiterate and fearful of change.
3. Reboots. See, people started to grow weary of Hollywood’s lack of originality with all the remakes, so Hollywood decided to rename them to “reboots” and start franchises over from scratch…you know, rather than create new franchises. Now if only we could “reboot” Hollywood we might have some more horror classics in the making, as opposed to all the remakes, music video directors and gorenography.
Just to throw one of each remake type that fall under category 1, I bring to you, Psycho and Dawn of the Dead.
Psycho is a perfect example of shot for shot, why-the-hell-does-this-even existedness. It brings nothing new to the table and improves on just as much. Wait, there’s color now!
And I’m sure to get some flack for Dawn of the Dead, as this is regarded as one of the better remakes to come around, and in all honesty it’s not necessarily a “bad” film. But when you take a classic like Dawn of the Dead, arguably the best zombie film ever created, and you remove all of the social commentaries and other subtitles that made it a classic in the first place, you’re left with a soulless, action oriented summer blockbuster that will be forgotten within a few years (hopefully) and I’ll no longer have to say, “I love Dawn of the Dead, no, no, no, not the running zombies one, I hate that one, I mean the 1979 one…wait, what do you mean by, ‘you mean it’s a remake?’, of course it is, WTF, what’s wrong with you kids, you mean you’ve never…(sigh)”
Don’t even get me started on films like Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, or The Fog (shudder).
And then you’ve got your remakes in category 2, that are still fresh films by the time they’re anally violated, like Kairo (Pulse in the US) which was an amazing film by Kyoshi Kurosawa, turned into, well, another morsel on that pile of crap, and this one isn’t very pleasant at all, trust me.
The remake of Ringu was actually pretty good…but again, completely and utterly without any reason, as it does nothing more than removing subtitles, adding familiar faces and whitewashing another brilliant Asian horror film.
More than not, this happens to Asian films (and there are far too many to name here) but it’s been known to happen to Swedish films, Spanish, and pretty much any other country that asks it’s foreign viewers to perform the tiring task of reading.
And there’s the reboots. Like Halloween…another highly regarded film that I see as a cluster-fuck of wasted time and money. The first half is Rob Zombie’s own film, which unfortunately removes the sense of unprovoked pure evil Myers had in the original, and instead points its finger at the overused theme of a dysfunctional family. Then the back half of the film decides to cram the entire original into about 30 minutes of screen time and does none of it as well as Carpenter did.
There’s Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, promises of Hellraiser and who cares what else…why isn’t someone trying to create new iconic characters?
Hollywood needs some fresh talent with some fresh ideas, because there haven’t been many new classics in the making, just a shit-ton of old classics in the remaking.
I’m sure some feathers may have been ruffled, many may disagree on my choices, and a lot of you may even want to mention some remakes you love or hate. I know I could fill a Texas sized graveyard with all the remakes I despise, so why don’t you let your voice be heard in the comments below?