We’ve heard all of the complaints. You know, the ones about how the current remake trend in
Hollywood is proving that there isn’t any originality or creativity left in the
industry. To a certain extent, such a
belief is true. But then again, remakes
aren’t all that bad.
Remakes have been in the industry since the introduction of
the medium itself. Even Hollywood
milestones like The Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon and The Ten Commandments
are remakes. Admittedly, speaking from a screenwriter’s standpoint, the idea of
tackling an existing story and adding your own spin to the proceedings is
enticing. But somewhere along the line,
Hollywood lost its way and ended up where we are today.
By now I’m sure many of you readers know that I’m a fan of horror. And sadly, it’s the one genre that’s been
feeling the effects of this out of control remake trend. Did we really need remakes of The Eye,
The Grudge, Black Christmas or Prom Night? Surprisingly, the answer is a complicated
one. For one, I’d have no problem if
the remakes had a unique way in which to tell the same story. I always look back on Cronenberg’s The
Fly and Carpenter’s The Thing as prime examples of
remakes done the right way. The talent and the
material melded together beautifully, which shows in the final product. But most importantly, the heart of the story was in
the right place. The films weren’t made
to be quick and easy cash cows. The
interesting thing is, essentially they were because Hollywood
is and always will be a business. You’d be lying to
yourself if you thought otherwise. But
sometimes, there are great filmmakers that can make a film a financial success and a success with the audience.
This is where the remakes of today went wrong. They’re being made strictly for the business
side of it all because they are based on proven commodities. But now Hollywood is starting to get a
little anxious because there are only so many films to be remade. And what’s worse, they’re remaking great films. How about trying your hand on a film that failed? What I’m trying to get
at is remakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just lately they’ve been ill
advised. In the music industry, bands do covers of songs all the time with varying degrees of success. The problem is, Hollywood is playing this
sort of guessing game, looking back at their catalogues from yesteryear and
wondering which one will be a success with today’s audience. And that’s fine. But you know what would be better? What if they look through those same catalogues and, if they really
want to remake something and have it be a success, choose a film that can be
altered in order for it to be relevant today, while also keeping the spirit of the original?
Hire a competent writer, one who loves the material and wants to really
bring it to life, someone that’s
willing to take a chance and really prove that the story is worth telling
again. Or even… someone who will make
it entertaining. There’s a thought.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to enjoy a number
of remakes. Dawn of the Dead,
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, even House of Wax to
some extent. In many ways, they were
the same movie as the original; except, there was a certain amount of visceral
intensity that was missing from the original.
It didn’t make for a better film per say, but it did result in a very entertaining one for sure. That’s just the type of film world we live in at the moment; more gore and suspense equals big bucks (although, that trend has started to show its age).
When I think of remakes, I think of Platinum Dunes. In
many ways, that name is synonymous with the horror remake trend. Keep in mind, they didn’t produce the
decidedly bland Prom Night or Black Christmas
remakes, but they have definitely caused quite a bit of controversy in regards
to their remake choices. The
aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was a nasty little
ditty due mostly in part to its grotesque violence and surprisingly effective
atmosphere. The Amityville Horror
was interesting based solely on the casting of Ryan Reynolds. The Hitcher… not as bad as I
thought it would be and definitely not as bad as people made it out to be. Plus, it had Sean Bean. Clearly, Platinum Dunes has the money,
talent and exposure to branch out and actually start to produce original
horror films, which is something that has alluded Hollywood for quite some time. And then news breaks out, revealing the
company’s current stack of upcoming films.
And guess what? They’re all
remakes. But not remakes of run-of-the-mill films, these are remakes of films that are seen as untouchable
in many eyes of the horror community. Friday
the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The
Birds and (shockingly) Rosemary’s Baby– blasphemy, that’s
all I can think of at the moment.
It has been announced that Marcus Nispel, the director of Massacre,
will be directing the Friday the 13th remake, which
poses quite a number of interesting possibilities. Add to the fact that the original is quite dated, so an
interesting boost of adrenaline shouldn’t do too much harm. Despite the inspired casting of Naomi Watts
in the Tippi Hedren role, I am worried about The Birds because I
still have Gus Van Sant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho fresh in
my memory; although, I respect the filmmakers for taking part in that
audacious experiment. A Nightmare
on Elm Street is a film that I would like to see told through a
different set of eyes; but at the same time, Craven’s simplistic (and wholly
effective) approach cannot be surpassed.
It is definitely the type of film that needs a very interesting cast and
crew in order to convince the diehard fans of the series that it is a worthy
addition to the Nightmare canon.
If the rumors are true, then I would love to see Ben Foster offered the
role of Freddy. Reportedly, work has
already begun on the script and the writers are gunning for a more vicious,
evil Freddy. With that in mind, Foster
would be great. The man exudes
intensity. Not bad for an actor that
started his career on a little known family series called Flash Forward.
Rosemary’s Baby is a remake that I am
completely against. This may just be a
matter of opinion, but it’s a film that is a product of the time; the
1960’s. It can’t be replicated. The creepiness of the apartment
(and it’s importance in rock history), Polanski’s script and direction all
added up to a piece of art that hasn’t dated since its initial release. Well, it hasn’t dated if you don’t count the
fashion. In any case, like Psycho,
there is no need to remake Rosemary’s Baby. It is an adult supernatural thriller and we
all know (and I would love to be proven wrong here) that it won’t turn out that
way if remade. Like I said, Platinum Dunes has
the talent and the money, two things that go far in the industry. Let’s put them to good use. Come on, guys. You’ve made your mark, make it count.
Looking back, a number of studios have a long-lasting
love for the remake. Let’s not forget
that Universal Pictures has made a living out of revisiting old monster movies
from their catalogue, yet not many filmgoers accuse them of constantly
rehashing their glory years (after all, they were THE premiere horror studio
back in the golden years of filmmaking).
Sequels, prequels, remakes- they’ve done them all. It’s because, out of all the genres, horror
can always be the most relevant.
Universal has proven this time and time again. In April of next year, they will be releasing The Wolf Man,
starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.
It was a film that had me intrigued once Mark Romanek was announced as
director and Andrew Kevin Walker was announced as screenwriter. I mean, the director of One Hour Photo
and the writer of Seven adapting the Wolf Man classic? Color me intrigued. But then “creative differences” arose,
Romanek left the project and Joe Johnston was hired to take over and extensively re-write Walker’s script.
I commend Universal for sticking to their guns and going through the
project even after such a fatal blow so close to shooting. It’s just that I can’t shake the feeling
that Universal pushed for it to continue based on the fact that they already
put money into the picture and a release date was already in place(it has since
moved from it’s original February release to April). Apparently, del Toro is a rabid fan of the original and was
highly involved in every aspect of pre-production. I highly doubt that he would keep his name on the project if it
didn’t meet his desired quality.
The good thing is, the cast and crew for the film are passionate fans of
the original; even Rick Baker is returning to the horror genre he made famous with
An American Werewolf in London to create the make-up for the
film. This is a prime example of a
studio wanting to do everything right, but having to jump a hurdle every now
and then in order to get there. Will
the film be a success? To be honest, I’d
like to say “yes”, but I’m not completely sure. What I am sure of, though, is that Universal is treating the
property with respect and that has to count for something.
I can’t help but feel that remakes are going to become even
more prominent in the future. Think
about it, with all the remakes coming out nowadays it will be an endless
barrage of recycled stories. What new stories will there be left to tell? Again, I
must stress that remakes aren’t all bad.
If melded with the right talent, there’s no way in knowing the
possibilities. Cronenberg took a simple B-movie about a scientist with a fly head and turned it into one of the most
disturbing, yet powerful, horror films in history. There’s no saying the next wave of remakes won’t succeed. All I’m saying is, as much as we should
treasure and acknowledge the past, we should look toward the future. The possibilities are endless… we just need
the courage to tell those stories.