A blogger friend of mine and myself came up with the idea the other night of getting a little horror blog roundtable going where we'd get a couple bloggers in a group (virtually...don't worry, we'd never have to actually leave our houses and meet in person) and every so often ask a general question about the genre and each blogger would give their thoughts on that subject on his or her own blog. That's something i'd like to get going in the future, but in the meantime there's a topic i've got a lot to say about that i've only really touched on briefly in the past and I just can't wait to get my voice out there so i'm gonna do it right now. This may be a one man roundtable for now, but if any fellow horror bloggers out there are reading this, share your thoughts on the subject at hand in your own blog and leave me a comment with a link to it! I'm talking to you, New Dawn For The Dead! How about you Final Girl! Come on Zombos' Closet Of Horror! Let's not forget Horror Movie A Day! Alright, so maybe that was just a cheap way to give some plugs to other blogs I like. Sue me.
The topic I wanted to discuss was one we've all discussed before and, like I said, one I have briefly shared my thoughts on in the past, but I really want to get deep into it now. Last night a couple friends and I gathered for our almost every Thursday night ritual of watching a movie and drinking a few beers and this weeks movie, hand picked by yours truly, was Oldboy (second time this week!). After the movie, we had a lengthy discussion about remakes, given that Spielberg and Will Smith want to remake Oldboy, and that's why i'm here right now. To get my views out there on horror movie remakes and really, remakes in general. So lets get into it. This roundtable is really lonely by the way. I didn't think it would feel this way. I feel so...empty inside. But I must press forth!
Ok..so...remakes. Am I against remakes? No i'm not. Do most remakes suck? Yes they do. Why do I keep asking myself questions? I'm not sure. I am not totally 100% against remakes. Remakes can be good. Remakes can be great. Remakes can be better than the original films. It's true! The Scarface with Al Pacino that we all knew and loved before it became ever so popular to know and love was a remake! John Carpenter's The Thing? Remake! Contrary to popular belief, remakes are not a new fad, they've been around ever since movies have been around. How many incarnations of Dracula have we seen? Or Frankenstein? They're all remakes of the same general ideas aka attempts to cash in on the original ideas. But lately, they've became sort of a pandemic. Rarely a week goes by where a movie is released in theatres that isn't a remake in some form or another or at the very least rarely a week goes by where we don't hear about a classic movie being remade on our favorite news sites. If there's a good horror movie out there from the past, chances are it's either already been redone or a redux is in the works. It's kinda sad but, like I said before, it's not always a bad thing. Filmmakers just need to know when to remake and when not to remake and if they do decide to remake, they need to know how to pull it off properly. So lets take a look at some of the best horror remakes and why they worked and some of the worst horror remakes and why they didn't work, shall we? Well, you really have no choice in the matter, so i'll go ahead anyway.
REMAKES THAT WORKED
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, House of Wax, The Hills Have Eyes
These remakes all have one critical quality to them that made them work. The filmmakers took the general idea of the original film and ran with it. A dude wearing other peoples skin killing with a chainsaw. A group of people hiding out in a mall from zombies. People made of wax. A family stuck in the hills surrounded by mutants. They kept these general plots and ideas and made totally different movies out of them. New characters were introduced, existing characters names were changed, new plot ideas were thrown into the mix. While they are remakes, they're more like re-imaginings of the original films, told through someone elses eyes. And that's what makes a remake work. That's what makes a remake good. If you're just gonna take the same movie and basically film a shot for shot remake with different actors, what the fucks the point of that?! We saw how that worked for Van Sant's Psycho. You can even take the general idea of a movie and completely make it your own, like Zombie did with House of 1000 Corpses. He took the blueprint from Texas Chainsaw and drew a whole new image over it, and it was fuckin awesome. Be a little creative!
Another quality these films all have is they are projects made out of passion by filmmakers who loved the original works, as opposed to mere attempts to make a quick buck off someone elses brilliant idea. Take for example Alexandre Aja, who wrote and directed The Hills Have Eyes. One need only look at his many interviews on the matter to realize he truly loved that original film and in fact it was one of the movies he saw in his childhood that got him into horror in the first place. He loved the work, he respected Wes Craven, and he wanted to give the material a fresh new face lift. And what happened? He made a film that was even better than Craven's original. In fact, i'd go as far as to say that all four of these remakes are more entertaining movies than their originals. Am I saying they're better movies or am I trashing the original films? Absolutely not. I really have to stop asking myself questions. Give me the choice between the original Dawn and the remake Dawn on any given day and i'll probably choose the remake. That's all im gonna say.
REMAKES THAT DID NOT WORK
Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night, Black Christmas, I could go on and on....
Those four prior movies are really the exceptions to the rule as most remakes just plain suck. They suck because, for the most part, they were purely made to cash in and line the wallets of greedy studio heads who really couldn't give two flying fucks about the source material. They need a new wing on their house and they'll rape any classic in the ass to get it. Now I should mention that Halloween was actually a passion piece as Rob Zombie truly does love the original. There were a lot of things that went wrong there, which i'll get into in a second, but the best way I can sum up the failure of Halloween is to say that while Rob did perhaps the best he could, he just plain never should have tackled the material at all. Here's an actual quote from Zombie before he sold out : "I feel it's the worst thing any filmmaker can do (remake a movie). I actually got a call from my agent and they asked me if I wanted to be involved with the remake of Chain Saw. I said no fucking way! Those movies are perfect - you're only going to make yourself look like an asshole by remaking them. You can sound like The Beatles, but you can't be The Beatles." Who looks like the asshole now? Halloween is not really a flawed movie and it really doesn't need to be remade. If Rob had made a badass sequel, that'd be no problem and i'd fully support it and it probably would've rocked. But there was just no reason to remake Halloween. Hills Have Eyes, House of Wax...those movies truthfully benefitted from a remake as they are kinda dated. But that's not to say that a Halloween remake done right wouldn't work, cause I know for sure it could have in the right hands. Then again, if Zombie's hands aren't the right ones, whose are? Ok, enough contradicting myself.
Both Halloween and Black Christmas took a similar path that's becoming a problem with horror remakes. That path being establishing backstory on otherwise mysterious villains. Both the characters of Michael Myers and the Black Christmas killer were so scary and effective because we didn't know shit about 'em! When ya start delving into their pasts and humanzing them, the whole idea of them is flushed right down the toilet! Myers was scary because he was a seemingly inhuman incarnation of evil. In the remake, he's just a lonely sad kid who figures he's got nothing better to do then start killing, presumably because his parents are dirtbags and ya know, all the typical serial killer type shit. That's probably the biggest flaw of Zombie's take on the material because it sucked the life (or death) completely out of the material.
So why do these bad remakes not work? It can all be summed up by the simple fact that they're made out of greed for money rather than passion for the material. Also, because they don't bring anything new to the table, which is a result of the lack of passion. It's the same movie remade for a modern audience, with nothing new and creative to speak of. That's all the makings for a serious remake flop.
So i think the general idea here is, if you have something new to offer and want to expand the material while loving and paying the utmost respect to that material, by all means go for it. If that's not the case, don't ever fuckin touch the movie and either let someone else take care of it or just leave it alone. I do wanna mention that while all i've seen is a trailer, I am in support of the My Bloody Valentine remake because the 3D aspect is definetly a new take on the story, which is exactly what a redux needs.
Now what I do have a real problem with is the awful trend that's been going on lately of remaking foreign films that just came out a year or two ago. It's as if the movies to be remade well is even now running dry and now we're just reaching for anything we can grab our hands onto. Foreign filmmakers, especially with horror, are still churning out new and totally original material, so we're just stealing their shit and Americanizing it. This is a truly disturbing trend. Can American audiences really not bear to read subtitles? I like what Tarantino did with that Jet Li movie Hero. He didn't remake it, he just brought it to the states and slapped his name on it so that people would go out and see a foreign movie that he loved. Why can't everyone else follow his lead and give that same treatment to these brilliant foreign films instead of passing them off as their own? What's really disturbing is that a good 80% of the movie going audience doesn't even know these movies are remakes. They just think Americans are all creative and shit. Although I will say that sometimes, a remake increases the exposure of the original film, which is a good thing.
Movies like Oldboy, Let The Right One In, and REC have ALREADY either been remade or are on their way to being remade. Oldboy came out in '03. Let The Right One In came out this year. REC came out this year. REC is not even out on dvd in America yet. What the fuck is this all about!? Going back to the reason bad remakes flop from before, there's really nothing new you can provide with these movies, so they're destined to suck. And even if they do make a lot of money, where's the pride in stealing a foreign dudes ideas? But I guess this isn't about pride, is it? Oldboy is an absolute masterpiece of modern filmmaking and dare I say it's, at least in my opinion, the best movie ever made. You can't make it better! There's nothing new to add! Maybe in 30 years when there are new technologies out there it can be done. But right now? Leave it the fuck alone! For god's sake Hollywood, come up with your own fucking ideas for once.
To sum up, don't hate on a remake before you even see it because they don't all suck. I support remakes if they're done for the right reasons and some of them have even become my favorite horror movies in the past several years, so how can I hate? Let's just stick to remaking movies that could benefit from it and let's not touch foreign movies that came out less than 15 years ago. I realize that movies have been around for so long that coming up with new and original ideas is a bit of a pain in the ass, but to say that everythings already been done and there's no hope for coming up with new shit is such a cop out. Use your fuckin brain. There's ideas all around us. The foreigners are doing it, why can't we? Unless by giving up and stealing their shit you're actively admitting that Americans are just not as smart as they. Which may sadly be the case...
Thanks to these dudes for participating in this discussion! Check out their thoughts on the matter...
New Dawn For The Dead