Remakes are, as a rule, rarely better than (or even as good as) the originals. There are a few exceptions, of course, but it is safe to say that most film buffs are divided into two distinct neighborhoods when it comes to movie reboots. It’s a love-them-or-hate-them sort of thing, and rarely do the two meet in the middle.
It is understandable, I suppose, to shun a newer, shinier version of something you love. Movie lovers are some of the most loyal and dedicated people around (one only has to take a gander at a “Star Wars” convention to see the proof), and the very idea of some young new director taking liberties with something that was amazing to begin with doesn’t sit well with most of them.
In the past several years, we have been inundated with remakes, particularly in the horror genre. Japanese and Korean horror films have been singled out in Hollywood as big theater draws because the ratings system is so different. The Japanese version of “The Grudge” (“Ju-on”), for instance, was rated R. The 2004 remake, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, was rated PG-13.
What this means for the movie studios is they can amp up the “make you jump” cat-gags (the definition of a cat-gag, for those who don’t know, is when the viewer is given scary music to create suspense, only to have the character in the scene startled by a frisky cat instead of the killer/psychopath. See: “Pet Sematary,” “Child’s Play,” every “Friday The 13th” movie ever made) and startling camera angles for cheap scares–rather than leaving in gore, nudity, and violence–in order to draw in teenagers, an important demographic to the film business. The same is true for “The Ring” (“Ringu”) and “The Eye” (“Gin Gwai,” Hong Kong), which all did very well at the box office. And while these are examples of remakes that stuck fairly close to the original stories and did a good job with atmosphere, there was still something missing. It just proves that you can copy something word for word, scene for scene, and still come out with something entirely different.
Much of the debate about remakes focuses on the question of whether or not it should be a direct copy of the original. One school of thought is if you are going to invest time, energy, and money into redoing a film, shouldn’t it have some semblance of a new story? Something to set it apart from its predecessor?
The other school–the old school, for the most part–believes it shouldn’t have been touched in the first place; if you touch it, you darn well better make it as close to the first one as possible. Leave it the way you found it, in other words. So what makes a remake good? The quality of the story, or the loyalty to the original?
It all depends on what you’re looking for. If you were to watch Rob Zombie’s “re-imagining” of “Halloween,” for instance, you should go into it with an open mind instead of the expectation that it will be exactly like John Carpenter’s version. If you want a film that is almost a frame-by-frame replay of the original, try “Let Me In,” the 2010 version of Sweden’s “Let The Right One In” (I prefer the original for reasons even I can’t explain. Again, it just depends on what you’re looking for).
There is no right or wrong here, but rather which film suits you best. Try them both on and see which fits better. My personal favorite horror remake is “Dawn Of The Dead.” I have a weakness for zombie movies, and this one was done brilliantly, with just the right amount of humor and equal amounts of terror and realistic setting (the neighborhood where Sarah Polley’s character lives with her husband looks just like the one my parents live in, which adds a certain extra amount of creepiness).
We certainly haven’t seen the last of these remakes, especially in the horror section. ’80s fare “Fright Night” and “The Thing” are just a couple we’ve seen this year, and there are more to come. I just read that Spike Lee has signed on to do a version of the Korean cult classic “Oldboy” starring Josh Brolin — and I haven’t decided how I feel about that yet. But we shall see.
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