Saturday, 28 April 2012

Remakes: Are they as bad as we think?

I thought it was high time I finally got around to the topic of Re-Makes. Many people believe re-makes are the bane of Hollywood at this precise moment in time. If it’s not an action flick from years gone by, it’s a classic Horror! Have the writers just simply given up or are the studio exec’s looking for the easy score, regurgitating already fruitful assets of yesteryear? Whatever the case may be the list seems to be ever increasing. With no end in sight it seems that I am just going to have to learn to accept it and embrace the new age of cinema!

Try to believe me, they are not all terrible. In the world of Horror, the remake is perhaps more prominent but with a portfolio expanding through remakes, retellings and (for all intents and purpose) prequels and sequels I could go for a while but I have decided to give a Semi-brief [self] opinionated report on the subject matter. As I do like lists, at the end of this post I will also give my personal top 10 best and worst Horror Remakes for your reading pleasures.
Although the remake is not a new concept, it’s in the last 10 years that we have seen a massive increase in the numbers that get churned out. Without even taking into account the numerous remakes, retellings etc of Bram Stoker’s fabled tale we have films surrounding Frankenstein and his various monsters, countless incarnations of Lycanthropes, the tale of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The island of lost souls and Dr Moreau and so many others that have all been retold and adapted throughout the last century or so. From my memory, the first remake in this sense that I remember watching was probably Night of the Living Dead. When I first saw it I was blissfully unaware of George A. Romero’s 1968 original but at the age I was, I could be forgiven. Directed by Tom Savini who is perhaps better known for his work as a special effects/make-up artist, working on films like Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th he made a name for himself.
Although his directing credits haven’t really been expanded, he didn’t do himself any harm with this remake.

A few more that got the remake treatment in the 90’s were Psycho, The Haunting and Village of the Damned. While Village was directed by John Carpenter and was not too bad, The Haunting, originally released in 1963 and remade in 1999 starred Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson. It was a family friendly little ghost story with a few redeeming features that didn’t really come close to the
original but fairly enjoyable as a stand-alone film. Although I am sure everyone involved, including Vince Vaughn agree that they really shouldn’t have bothered with the dross 1998 offering, Psycho!

As we move into the naughties the remake really begins to pick up pace and films like The Ring and The Grudge from Japan acting as the catalyst for the insurgence. The Ring, again one I saw in the cinema in English before I had seen the original although, I was aware of it this time.
From the opening scene which featured the petrified expression of a young girl I knew it was going to be creepy. In fact, I was so impressed with Gore Verbrinski’s film that it made its way into my Top 10 Horror films of all time.
I have since seen all the Japanese versions and although I do love the American version, the originals are so much more atmospheric.
Atmosphere! Something that is well generated in all Asian Horror films but is usually the main aspect that lacking from the remakes. If they managed to get this part right, the remake may not have had such a bad reputation! Such poor attempts include Pulse, a dull remake of the 2001 Japanese film, Kairo. The remake starred Kristen Bell, someone who should not be in films for obvious reasons! The English language version also spawned two sequels. Despite the plus sides shown by The Ring and to a slightly lesser extent The Grudge, most English Language remakes fall way short of the originals, One Missed Call, Dark Water just to name a few from Japan and The Eye, starring Jessica Alba is an example of a poor remake of a very good film from China and some Korean examples include The Uninvited and Mirrors, both of these are slightly above average in remake terms but pale in comparison.

English Language remakes are not restricted to the Far East though, a new source of interest is being generated in Scandinavia. With Let the right one in from Sweden being remade by Hammer as Let Me In. Recent successes like this along with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series could lead to more from the likes of Sweden, Norway and Denmark in the near future.
One of my favourite English Language remakes comes in the shape of Quarantine, a remake of Spanish film [REC] The American version being very atmospheric and well acted. Although REC is still perhaps more highly regarded, it would appear that with the release of REC 3, people might begin to think... One Sequel too many as the franchise begins to steer towards a more comedy horror feel!

Let’s bring this thing right up to date and play the big money cards. Recent remakes have included A Nightmare on Elm Street which was remade for some reason without the one redeeming feature from the initial franchise... Robert Englund as Freddy!
Friday the 13th was remade in 2009 with a complete lack of regard for the original. Firstly ignoring the original killer, Mrs Voorhees and secondly making it a blatant, boring, unimaginative slasher film in the vein of Jason X!

Halloween is yet another classic horror to receive the reboot treatment. This time the director, Rob Zombie decided to focus on the early period of Michael’s life. His upbringing and his time spent with Dr Loomis (Played by Malcolm McDowell) All in all, Rob Zombie’s Halloween was not too bad, seeing a
different side to the trouble Michael Myers was a welcome treat however, Halloween 2, also remade by Zombie returns to the mundane slasher stereotype with a few extra’s thrown in as a mediocre attempt to shock viewers. In my opinion, this was one remake too far! The one constant with most new remakes is a distinctly darker feel to the whole film, in other genre’s this has worked. A
brilliant example is Christopher Nolan’s much needed spin on Batman but in terms of Horror films, sometimes darker may not always equal better!

More remakes from the slasher world have come with titles like 2001 Maniacs, My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night but a few have gone above and beyond. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is perhaps one of the most notorious and controversial horror films of the 20th century and in 2003, it was remade. The remake itself wasn’t half bad. Providing us with some interesting spins and good gore but it was three years later with the release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning that disappointed! With what had promised so much, the film had very little in the way of structure. As with the sequel of the
Halloween remake, it was more of an exercise in blood, gore and shocks with very little to cement its place as a classic horror film!

Now, following on from one mentioned earlier, 2004 saw the release of what is certainly in my eyes the best re-make so far. Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, whether you love it or hate it, no one can deny that while it does maintain some of the original aspects what it does deliver better than most is hard hitting action on the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse! Starring Sarah Polley, Jake Weber, Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer anyone could be forgiven for adopting this as a new film. I know, the original is far superior and a classic in its own right but if you forget for one moment that Romero’s 1978 classic was ever made.
Zack Snyder’s version is a brilliant movie and one which I class as a go-to film. C’mon, everyone has their go-to films. One that after standing in front of the collection for half an hour and still undecided on what to watch, you turn to the old faithfuls... I have a few but Dawn of the Dead is certainly towards the top of that pile.

Following on the immediate success of Dawn of the Dead and Mr Romero’s very own independent films; Land of the Dead & Diary of the Dead, someone obviously decided it would be a good idea to remake another classic. Regarded by many to be Romero’s finest (Personally I still think Night is the best) Day of the Dead was the film in question. Directorial responsibilities fell to Steve Miner. A director whose track record has taken him through pretty much every genre with credits ranging from Forever young to House (The 1986 Horror Comedy with William Catt, not the hospital drama!) More notable horror credits include
Friday the 13th Parts 2 & 3 and Lake Placid. At least with these films behind him, Day of the Dead could have been another fantastic stride in the revolution of remakes. Unfortunately it wasn’t. The tired storyline mixed with the bland characters and the complete and total destruction of a much loved zombie establishment, Bub not to mention the additional desperate act of casting Dawn’s main ass-kicker, Ving Rhames all helped make Day a very forgettable experience!

With the flavour of the month being Romero, The Crazies was next in line to be remade. Starring Timothy Olyphant, the 2010 version was quite good and while it did pull in some cash it also raised the barricade and mystique surrounding the original as until the remake came along, there were few people outside of horror circles that had even heard of Romero’s ’73 biological infection film.

The Hills have Eyes was originally directed by Wes Craven in 1977 and as with most of the original horror films I’ve mentioned, it had a very low budget and an extremely good return. Fairly obvious otherwise we
might never have heard of Mr Craven. Anyway, I digress. Craven’s ‘77 cannibal/hill folk movie was remade in 2006 by Alexandre Aja. The film starred Aaron Stanford, Dan Byrd and Ted Levine. While the remake had a somewhat larger purse than the original, it still did fairly well in the profit margin area and is certainly up there with Dawn of the Dead as one of my go-to films. I think the thing that impressed me most was, as with a lot of Wes Craven’s films, there is a great emphasis on the rising hero and as such, the hero wins the day in flamboyant fashion after battling through great hardship. Possible exception is A Nightmare on Elm Street but With The Hills have Eyes, there is a massive “clenched fist” feel as you will the hero on his path! Enjoyable stuff right there! Regrettably the same praise cannot be lavished on the sequel which was forgettable from the get go!
The next view comes in the shape of a very iconic house but more about the story that surrounds it. 112 Ocean Avenue. Some will instantly recognise the address but to those who are scratching their heads, this was the scene of the infamous DeFeo murders and subsequent Lutz tales of haunting and possession! Of course, it’s The Amityville Horror! Remade in 2005, Amityville had originally been destroyed by unconnected direct-to-video sequels but with the remake, the franchise received a much
needed boost. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, the remake packs its own style while maintaining a few of the
key elements that made the 1979 original so compelling. Although the original may be seen by many to be superior, I really liked the remake and class it as my third “go-to” film.

Weird, most of my go-to’s are remakes?? Oh well.

A mention must be made to a few more ghostly occurrences. Firstly a film which was originally made in 1960 with a nice little gimmick; 13 Ghosts saw the viewer given special glasses in order to view the ghosts. Although unimpressive by today’s standards, in 1960 I am sure it was very enjoyable. Anyway, it was remade in 2001, starring Tony Shalhoub and Matthew Lillard, Thir13en
Ghosts was another remake that received extremely negative reviews but despite all that press I rate it very high indeed. Great imagery with the ghosts and some good acting made it for me at least very enjoyable. The next comes in the shape of House on Haunted Hill. The original starring Vincent Price was released in 1959 and was certainly more story based but as was the case with most early horror films, it hasn’t really stood the test of time in terms of scares. The 1999 remake on the other hand relied mainly on its shock, blood and gore with a few thrills and spills thrown in for good measure. Starring Geoffrey Rush as the millionaire Stephen H. Price, Famke
Janssen as his misses’, Jeffrey Combs as the ever evil Dr. Vannacutt and Taye Diggs, Ali Larter and Chris Kattan as a few of the guests, the remake was a very good example of the type of horror film that originally got me hooked. It was more readily available than a lot of the classics and as such served me very well as a 15-16 year old young horror fanatic!

So, as we have seen, the remake has a long and sometimes illustrious past and a future that seems to be inevitably unavoidable. The remakes have had a sort of one step forward, two steps back pattern as they meander along their very unimaginative path. Where some thrill and come very close to their originals, others fall horrifically short! In answer to the question posed at the top of this article, I firmly believe that remakes have had an unfair run, while it is agreed that some have fired a blank there are so many which make up very good, enjoyable and sometimes in their own little quirky ways, original films.

I might change my tune if they fuck up The Evil Dead though!


Now for the round-up; I have compiled my lists of Top 10 Best and Worst Horror remakes for your enjoyment, please give your feedback on opinions. If I have missed any obvious films, I will apologise in advance, my research has consisted of remembering films which I have seen.

Top 10 Best Horror Remakes:

10. Quarantine

9. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

8. House on Haunted Hill

7. Grudge

6. Halloween

5. The Hills have Eyes

4. The Amityville Horror

3. The Thing (1982)

2. The Ring

1. Dawn of the Dead



Top 10 Worst Horror Remakes:

10. The Eye

9. Halloween 2

8. A Nightmare on Elm Street

7. The Hills have Eyes 2

6. Don’t be afraid of the Dark

5. The Omen

4. Pulse

3. The Wicker Man

2. Psycho

1. The Fog

1 comment:

  1. A great reveiw- honest and true comments! Well done!

    ReplyDelete