Monday, October 6, 2008
Remakes have been the subject of a lot of anger and dispute over horror fans for the past couple years. Nearly every major horror classic from the past 30 years has already been or is currently being remade. Most horror fans absolutely hate this fact and thereby hate any remake that comes down the pipeline, sight unseen. Only thing is, not all remakes are bad. The Thing is a remake. We all can agree that film is awesome. Cronenberg's The Fly was also a remake. And Savini's Night of the Living Dead rocked. Fact of the matter is, some classic horror films could use an upgrade. And not all directors out there are remaking the oldies for the simple fact of cashing in on their names. Yes, movies like Prom Night, When A Stranger Calls, The Fog, and so on were made for that fact and are pure trash and for every good horror remake, we get 50 bad ones, but you can't deny that sometimes remakes trump their originals.
In my opinion, The Hills Have Eyes is one of these films. It's the perfect example of not only picking the right movie to be remade but also how to pull that remake off. It stays very faithful to the original film but amps up all the things we would want to be amped up ; gore, violence, mutations. Thanks in large part to the bigger budget, the remake became a supercharged version of the at the times lackluster original. And we have Alexandre Aja to thank for that. Let's take a look at some of the things that make this one of the best horror remakes in history.
In the 1977 original, the mutants were hardly even mutants. They were more like dirtbag retards who hadn't showered in a long time. They had no noticeable genetic mutations and really weren't all that scary. The exception of course being Michael Berryman, who played Pluto.
Now of course, there's no makeup involved in that as Berryman just naturally looks that way and nowadays it's hard to even be afraid of him knowing how sweet of a guy he is, but back in the 70's id imagine he put a few frights into people. The other mutant's are just your standard long haired hippies who really don't inspire too much fear.
In the remake, Aja went for the whole genetic testing facility angle, which was a big reason the film was so badass. These weren't just homeless dudes, they were mutated motherfuckers from years of nuclear exposure. All the mutants were absolutely amazing and scary looking, thanks to the folks at KNB, who of course weren't around to do such cool shit back in the 70's. Pluto was given a Sloth-like facelift and we had Lizard, Big Brain, and a whole slew of new and grotesque characters thrown in there.
'77 - That's allegedly a real dead dog Craven bought from the Sheriff's department
Again, thanks to KNB, the gore in the remake is 100x better than that of the original. We see a head blown off with a shotgun, fingers chopped off with an axe, that same axe driven into Pluto's skull and then into another mutant's eye socket (pictured above), and the list of badass effects goes on and on. Thanks to budgetary constraints in the original, the red stuff is pretty limited and a film like this really benefitted from an upgrade in the gore department. In the original's defense, the film was originally given an X rating so Wes had to cut a lot of stuff out to get it lowered to an R. Apparently all prints of the director's cut have been lost, so it looks like we'll never see the movie in it's true unedited form. This makes me sad.
The RV Scene
Ah, the RV rape/multi-murder scene. I remember seeing the original many years back and being blown away by the awesomeness of this scene and wondering how it could be topped in the remake. The killing of several main characters in such a short time span is something I had never seen before and took me by complete surprise. Well, let's just say the scene in the original now looks like child's play to me. This scene in the remake is absolutely brutal, from the gun being pointed directly at the baby to Lynn's brains being splattered all over the camper. I still love the scene in the original but my god did it get an upgrade for the redux. You really felt like anything could and would happen at any time and with the gun being pointed at the baby, they showed that nothing was off limits. This is how you top the untoppable, folks.
Again, Doug's revenge towards the end of the original now looks incredibly tame. We only see him kill one character, Mars, and the movie just ends. In the remake we get the gloriously blood soaked satisfaction of seeing Doug stab, chop, and shoot his way through more than a handful of the baddies and I was cheering for him the whole way through. This portion of the film is absolutely awesome and the western style music accompanying it makes Doug look like the ultimate badass. Doug '77 may have returned home less scathed and beaten up than '06s Doug, but there's no doubting remake Doug was a hell of a lot cooler. And thank god he didn't rock that 70's mustache.
One thing that was cooler in the original was how the surviving dog was really on Doug's side and kicked some serious ass. In the remake, we do see him attack and stand up for his owner's but he felt a little more vicious in the original, even attacking and killing Pluto.
Original or remake, you can't deny that Beauty & The Beast are some of the most badass dogs in horror history.
Ruby sacrificing her own life for that of Doug and the baby's is something different that was thrown in the remake that I really liked. In the original, she helps Doug kill Mars but that's really all she does. In the remake she tackles Mars' replacement Lizard off the side of the cliff, killing herself in the process. Ruby as a whole is a more fleshed out character in the original as opposed to the remake, but comes off a lot more memorable in the latter.
Speaking of Ruby, I just did a little interview with Laura Ortiz (pictured above), the girl who played her in the remake, and that'll be coming up soon!
As you can tell, the reasons that the remake was superior are mostly budgetary. It was made nearly 30 years later and so obviously the makeup and special effects qualilities are gonna be far superior. Re-watching the original again tonight it was as if Aja just made essentially the same film but amped up all of the qualities he knew were lacking in the original thanks to the low funds. I think other filmmaker's should learn from this. If you're not gonna make shit better, don't even bother remaking the film in the first place. You'd think that'd be a given, but apparently it's not. Isn't the whole point of remaking a classic to do shit that wasn't able to be done back in the day and thereby make a more exciting and better film?
As for what qualities are better in the original ; with the exception of Dee Wallace and the afformentioned vicious dog, not much is really better done in that one. I did however like how the mother was used as mutant bait by Bobby and Brenda towards the end.
Naturally, without the original, we would've never had the awesome remake so obviously a big standing ovation goes out to Wes Craven for coming up with the idea in the first place. But I think Aja beat him on this one, and I think ole Wes might even have to agree.