Hollywood isn’t exactly a hotbed of original content right now. Numerous films are undergoing the full Twinkletown revamp treatment, and that is possibly more apparent in horror than any other genre.
In recent years we’ve had shiny new versions of almost all of the classics, with Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre all hitting our screens. However, it begs the question, should such successes in the history of cinema just have been left well alone?
Although it makes up a huge section of the market, horror films still claim something of a niche audience, as almost anyone could watch an animation such as Shrek, or any generic sci-fi adventure, yet a vast percentage of cinema goers would be unable to sit through the most-recent of the Saw franchise.
It is also a genre that is constantly evolving. Looking back over only the last 30 years has seen a shift from the original slasher movie such as the afore mentioned Halloween, through a more psychological-based period, which saw releases like Se7en and Silence of the Lambs, onto the torture-porn phase that the Saw and Hostel series both embraced with huge success.
In truth, there are a lot of reasons why I don’t like these new-fangled remakes of my favourite ‘scary’ films, and I don’t even know if I could tell you them all here, reader, without you falling asleep at some point, but let us look at one or two valid points as to why they are about as necessary as condoms in a nunnery.
First up is the fact that a number of these films have lost a lot of their original charm. Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are an ultimate case in point on this one. Not only have they lost their charm, but the films were filled with a sense of dread that only a good horror film can provide. Unbeknown to some, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre didn’t see a single drop of blood spilled. The true terror was not understanding why Leatherface (the masked killer) hacked people up with a chainsaw. We were simply shocked and scared by the fact that we knew it was happening, rather than seeing it. The horror lay in what was implied, rather than what was flashed up on the silver screen. Compare this to the sub-standard remake, in which a girl shoots herself in the head in the first few minutes, and we see the ‘action’ from the bullet’s point of view, brains and all.
The same is apparent when watching Rob Zombie’s (former member of heavy metal band White Snake-turned film director) revamp of the Halloween series. The original began with future serial killer and all round bad apple Michael Myers standing as a six-year-old outside of his house, having repeatedly stabbed his older sister to death. It is seemingly an act of random violence, and even the knife-wielding arm that is shown in shot seems awkward, uncoordinated and, as much as a killer’s arm can be, innocent. No explanation was given as to why it happened, and that is when the monster is created. Most people, in general, are terrified by what they don’t understand, and as we didn’t know why the child was compelled to kill his sibling, it frightens the life out of us, probably implanting the thought that this could happen to anyone, even us…
However, Zombie’s 2007 remake introduced us to the family surrounding the young Myers. A drunken stepfather who called him a faggot when he wasn’t busy threatening to ‘skull rape’ his mum. Said mum is a stripper in a bar, which causes him to get bullied at school, and his sister repeatedly tells him that he is a freak. Some would argue that, by building Myers’ profile, we get a sense of why he did what he did, but this time, when he kills his sister, and stepfather, he is calculated, taping the abusive old man to his chair before slitting his throat, smashing his sister’s boyfriend’s head in with a baseball bat, and stabbing her with an obvious malice that wasn’t apparent in the original.
The other problem that I have with these monstrosities is that, unfortunately, however bad these films are, there will always be an audience waiting to lap them up. The very nature of horror films is that the good ones can almost always boast a strong cult following. While cinemagoers may not flock to see what would become of a 21st-century remake of mushy romantic comedy Ghost, fanatic fans of the ‘video nasties’ will attend the nearest cinema en mass to catch what one of today’s directors has done with their old favourites.
It is telling that a few minutes research on IMDB.com throws up the opinion that film fans share the same belief that I do. Using ten horror remakes as a benchmark for my little experiment, I compared the user-rating of the original film, to that of its modern counterpart. Of the ten, only one new film gained the higher mark. It also gives the production company the opportunity to milk a particular cash cow until it is totally dry. When you take into consideration that Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddy Kruger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) have appeared in over 20 films between them, and that is without taking the new franchises into account, our market looks set to be saturated for some time to come.
And that said, the stream of mediocre remakes and revamps shows no sign of letting up. In the next couple of years alone, we can expect to see a new version of Sam Raimi’s timeless shocker, Evil Dead, John Carpenter’s The Thing (already a remake in itself), as well as possibly the most famous doll in the world – and yes, that includes Barbie – make a comeback, when Chucky and the Child’s Play franchise receives a multi-million pound makeover.
I can’t claim to have ever been to Hollywood, nor am I friends with any film directors, or stars for that matter, but I would be delighted if, just once, a modern-day studio were told where to stick it when they went looking for an old film that they were hoping to start again with. I’d love it if they approached Linda Blair to see if they could give The Exorcist a facelift, only for her to slam them against the wall and spew green slime over them while her head spun all the way around and she instructed them to let Jesus do terribly naughty things to them.
There would be a public outrage if someone wanted to remake Casablanca, The Godfather or Saving Private Ryan, so why should my favourite films be open to taking a shafting from film companies, when these so-called classics are granted immunity?
Which horror remake were you, reader, most disappointed with? Which was more Seed of Chucky than Child’s Play? More a nightmare on Sesame Street than A Nightmare on Elm Street? And which of the classic horror films would you be frankly horrified to see being treated in this way?
The horror film-loving killer in Wes Craven’s Scream famously asked, “Do you like scary movies?” Well I do, very much indeed, so please, please, just let them be.Dan is a Barnsley lad living in the south of France. When he’s not watching football, you’ll be able to find him listening to the same four or five albums over and over again, playing PS3 games and watching TV programmes that he’s illegally downloaded while fighting off a crushing craving for Cornish pasties and fish & chips. It’s not all glamour down there, you know.