Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pop Culture Consumes Self: More Remakes for Lunch

So, "originality" is now officially a quaint concept in Hollywood? I just read that there are remakes in the works of two more 1980s horror classics: Near Dark and Fright Night.

We can add these titles to a list of genre remakes that includes: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, The Hills Have Eyes, Omen 666, The Hitcher, When a Stranger Calls, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13, and Black Christmas. Already on the slate: Friday the 13th and Straw Dogs.

Putting aside the judgment whether or not these remakes have been poor, we must ask the question: why is Hollywood obsessed with remakes and re-imaginations? The only logical answer is the market. Movies have gotten so expensive to produce, and must earn their money back during a very tight window: on opening weekend. Thus, it is necessary these days to boast a "brand name." It seems a movie can't go into theaters and succeed financially without one. That brand name, that franchise title -- like the words "Big Mac" or "Whopper" -- immediately alert an audience about what to expect.

What is disturbing me to about the trend of remakes and re-imaginations is that they are most often helmed by young directors who have no understanding of the context or meaning of the original film. They are hired guns and traffic directors, not artists with something to say. When we gaze back at the more artistically successful horror remakes in film history (Invasion of the Body Snatchers [1978] and John Carpenter's The Thing [1982]), we can see that the filmmakers behind those efforts remade the original film with an updated, relevant context...which made the remakes meaningful. I don't demand that all remakes be faithful interpretations of the original material, I only ask that they have something to say; that they re-deploy a successful property to tell us something about the times we live in. Along with that, I'd like a little style, a little panache, not just blood and guts. Is that asking too much?

Here's a thought: One day I would like to go to the theatre and see an original horror movie that challenges and scares me. I'd like it to be original; something daring and new. That isn't to say those films never come around; I'm an admirer of recent horrors such as Hostel (2005), The Devil's Rejects (2005) and The Descent (2006). But those seem to be the exception today; not the rule. Again, we can argue the quality of remakes, but what we can't argue is that they are being served up with increasing regularity.

Am I just old and cranky, or do the plethora of remakes bother anyone else? Is originality such a difficult commodity to come by? Or is it just because Hollywood has been taken over by accountants, and those who should be making horror films - a whole generation - have been left out in the cold?


  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    I agree wtih you whole heartedly on one point...the suits know that a familiar name will bring a decent sized audience for at least the first weekend, 4 day holiday weekend, or whatever twisted timespan they can figure out to make the opening gross seem impressive, before the movie leaves theaters and is out on DVD in 3 weeks.

    On the other hand, I also blame the fans to a cerain extent. We complain that the remakes suck, we want originality, blah blah blah- but when films like Slither or Grindhouse are released - and both were very entertaining, at least in my opinion- they do bad box office and have to find an audience on DVD, or by some other underground means. I admit to seeing the Texas Chansaw and Dawn of the Dead remakes, so the blood is partially on my hands too...

    Fans need to decide what we want, because as long as we keep seeing them, thgey'll keep making them. And as a final stinger, there has been a long rumored remake of Suspiria in the works...need I say more?

  2. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Ah but I don't think a remake of Suspiria (as horrifying as that is) would count according to John's brand name theory. Even if it is the most mainstream of Argento's films, it's still far from a household name. I wager more folks have heard of Friday the 13th, et al.

    You are right, though, about us all being guilty - vote with your dollars! See more indie films! Resist the blockbusters! Stay home and have sex! oh, wait..

  3. Anonymous2:17 PM

    Here are some remakes I'd like to see:

    Defcon 4
    Lambada: The Forbidden Dance
    Trick or Treat
    The Gate
    Hell Comes to Frogtown
    Star 80
    Private Benjamin
    Pumping Iron
    I Come in Peace
    Eve of Destruction

    and I want as many as possible to be directed by Uwe Boll!

  4. Anonymous1:10 PM

    Well...Shocker is being remade by Craven himself with Kane Hodder as Horace Pinker.


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