Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Horror Film Remakes - Are they ever a good idea?

It seems to me that we are living in an age of remakes lately with classics being recreated left right and centre for a modern audience.  Are these all merely money making devices using the films legacy to pump money out of unsuspecting patrons? Or is it a way to get a new generation to watch films that they might have missed or be unwilling to watch (the fools!)?

When I first thought about this topic I was of the mind set that all remakes are terrible, it is certainly true that remakes get the ire of the fans.  A lot of remakes have been utterly awful.  Case in point Friday 13th (2009).  The Friday 13th series can never really be considered to be a great series, most the films were after all just an excuse to get scantily clad teens brutally chopped up in inventive ways by the slasher icon Jason but as a product of their time (during the 80's slasher faze) they worked.  The remake on the other hand was terrible.  Despite it's slick visuals the film was just boring as hell, full of lazy plot holes and a Jason who teleported off screen and was as frightening as a sack of potatoes.

Other lazy remakes that come to mind include the pointless 1998 remake of Psycho, the Director purposely made the film an almost complete copy of Hitchcock's master piece that brings to mind the question: if your going to recreate a pre-existing film then why remake it identical?  This is also a crime that A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) makes with Freddy Kruger's murders all identical to the original and so left me bored (though I did enjoy Kruger's and Nancy's new portrayals).

Not all remakes are bad though, I personally adore the two Rob Zombie remakes of Halloween and Halloween 2.  He is my favourite Director so I am biased but the key characters of Loomis (played amazingly well by legend Malcolm McDowell) and Laurie Strode are recreated completely different from their original incarnations.  Another great remake that people sometimes forget about is the master piece of John Carpenters The Thing  (1982) itself a remake of a 1951 film.  I regret that I have not ever seen the original version but it cannot be denied that Carpenters version is sublime.  Of course the remake of that is due for release this year unfortunately (might be good!).

Some films are remade totally different for each generation.  Two different series come to mind.  The first is Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  First done in 1956 this black and white classic had a small Towns population slowly being replaced with Alien pod people.  I have never seen this version but by all accounts it is very good, and has an iconic ending.  This was remade in 1978 starring Donald Sutherland with the films location moved from a small Town to the City of San Francisco, an unsettling film with a truly shocking ending.  Again it was remade in 1993, this time called Body Snatchers.  The same plot but this time set on an American Military base, the weakest of the remakes but not bad (despite an awfully fake looking sequence where a boy gets thrown out a helicopter).

The second series of successful remakes is the story of I Am Legend (a book by Richard Matheson)  Released under the title The Last Man on Earth (1964) it starred Vincent Price as Richard Neville surviving in a world where everyone but him has turned into vampiric creatures.  1971 saw it remade, this time titled The Omega Man and starring Charlton Heston it was very much a product of its time with haunting Western style 70's music.  2007 saw the film get a second remake, called I Am Legend and starring Will Smith.  It was not bad despite interference from the Studio resulting in changes to make Will Smiths character more of a hero (the whole point of the plot is supposed to be that Robert Neville thinks of himself as a good guy but is actually the true monster of the piece).

I guess in conclusion what I am trying to say (other than plug lots of my past reviews) is that remakes have the potential to be good, try and keep an open mind.  I know that is a very hard thing to do, news of The Evil Dead being redone had me apoplectic with rage but sometimes remakes can be good.  For every The Mist there is a 28 Days Later (a blatant remake of John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids apocalypse tale).  I know there are an amazing number of films I have not mentioned, so will list some notable remakes here...Last House on the Left, The Hills have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, The Ring, The Grudge, Fright Night, The Blob, House on Haunted Hill, The Eye and The Crazies.


Dr Blood said...

Actually I think you'll find that "28 Days Later" is a blatant ripoff of "The Walking Dead" comic book which was published before it and is now a TV series itself. "The Walking Dead" copied "Night of the Comet" which is a blatant ripoff of "Day of the Triffids" and "Dawn of the Dead".

Daniel Simmonds said...

I've read The Walking Dead comic book and didn't actually see the similarities, I always thought it was a Triffids rip off due to the plot and even the locations; both start off in London, both end in a Country mansion where the bad guys are defeated by the good guy letting in the evil (plants or zombies).

I'm sure the writer Alex Garland has said in the past that he was directly inspired by Day of the Triffids.

Who knows, either way it is kinda a remake in my opinion : )

Victoria said...

Brilliant Article. Rob Zombie's Halloween movies kick ass!