A blog exploring the sexy, shocking, surreal, and silly side of horror films.

April 29, 2010

Let the Right Remake In

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This article originally appeared in the December-January 2010 issue of the zine Scream Scene, but as we move closer to the release of the high-profile Nightmare on Elm Street remake, I thought I'd repost it to explain how I feel about horror remakes

As I settled in with a few beers to write an opinion article for this issue of Scream Scene, I learned that the American remake of the brilliant and beautiful Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In had just gone into production. Entitled Let Me In, the American remake of Let the Right One In moves the location from Sweden to America. According to the filmmakers, the movie will “forge a unique identity for Let Me In, placing it firmly in an American context.” In other words, they are going to dumb it down and play to the lowest common denominator as usual. Just look at what Rob Zombie did to Halloween.

I was so pissed off at the thought of what an American version of Let the Right One In might look like that I couldn’t bring myself to write anything that wasn’t a beer-fueled tirade. So, to take my mind off the infuriating number of horror remakes coming out of Hollywood, I went riffling through my DVD collection to find a good and original movie to watch. As a result, I came upon one of my favorite movies of all time: The Fly. David Cronenberg’s The Fly. The Fly remake.

It was then that I realized that, at my core, I am a blustering hypocrite when it comes to remakes. For all the spite I throw at horror remakes, some of my favorite sci-fi / horror films are remakes. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Thing (1982), The Blob (1988), Night of the Living Dead (1990), Dawn of the Dead (2008)—I consider all of these films to be good or great movies. So what does this mean? Am I actually in favor of remakes?

Let’s be clear: I still don’t like the idea of remakes. Worse than sequels, remakes are often cash grabs that allow major studios to recycle ideas, plots, and characters with little originality or innovation. Often times, such as with the upcoming Hellraiser and Nightmare on Elm Street remakes, the original films still stand the test of time and don’t require a remake, reboot, or “reimagining.” Thankfully, when the remakes of high-caliber films turn out to suck, at least the original films are still accessible to the public. The same cannot be said for foreign-language films remade in North America. For example, Spanish-language horror film REC was remade into Quarantine in 2008. Quarantine’s characters, plot, pacing, and even sets were almost exactly the same as those in REC, yet the remake failed to replicate the original’s charm. Sony could have just released REC to the public if they weren’t afraid audiences would be turned off by subtitles. Therefore, not only does Quarantine get to make bank off the story and characters from the original film while assuming an American audience needs a “dumbed down” story, the original writers Jaume Balagueró, Luis Berdejo, and Paco Plaza remain virtual unknowns. REC was released by Sony several months after Quarantine hit DVD, but the REC DVD was released to little promotional fanfare.

I have a significant beef with remakes, yet I’ve come to realize that as much as I hate the idea of remakes it’s not fair to attack remakes themselves until they’re released. While the majority of remakes have been tepid and shallow, every remake has the potential to be another The Fly or The Thing. Despite every instinct I have otherwise, Let Me In may turn out to be an even more dazzling and beautiful take on the vampire genre than the original Let the Right One In.

Regardless, there are three things fans can do to offset the effect of terrible remakes.

1.) Don’t go see every horror remake that comes out. If you do, you help fuel the remake hype machine with your dollars. Even if you’re disappointed upon leaving the theatre, you’ve helped turn a shitty movie into “The #1 Movie in Canada” for a weekend. Wait to hear some word of mouth before you fork over your hard-earned cash.

2.) Support independent and foreign horror. At the same time as I caution you against indiscriminate consumption of horror remakes, do not be content with Hollywood’s attempt to sell you stuff you’ve seen before. If you want to take a risk, take a risk on something foreign and independent when you go to the video store. There are a host of great independent features and foreign films that deserve to be seen. Even if you don’t like the films, at least you’re rewarding originality

3.) See the originals. Whether you like or dislike a remake, take the time to seek out the original film. It may be old, it may be foreign, or it may be independent, but if a remake was intriguing enough to get your butt into the theatre or to get a DVD into your player, seek out the original film(s) .

In short, I’ve learned not to rage against specific remakes until I’ve seen them. I like too many horror remakes to say that all remakes suck.

1 comment:

  1. I think your original view on remakes is spot on. Bear in mind that the sub-genre (?) isn't confined to horror - The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 and 3.10 to Yuma - and the ratio of good to bad is horrendous. Confine the remakes to horror and it gets worse.

    The films you mentioned are the only good ones. Nosferatu? Debateable but at least Klaus tried to tell a story as opposed to a cynical exercise in fraud. It's also interesting that The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snathcers and The Thing can describe themselves as being based on novels as opposed to being remakes.

    No one would describe The passion of the Christ as being a remake of King of Kings.

    Like yourself I like good movies. That's why I don't like remakes.

    Check out Thrill Fiction and read why.




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