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Monday, April 9, 2007

Horror remakes... Unnecessary... Uninspired

Why is it that so many films are being remade these days? Once in a blue moon, a remake is certainly welcomed. David Cronnenberg's remake of The Fly. Or John Carpenter's excellent remake of The Thing From Another World (drop the 'From Another World'). Certainly, these remakes improved on the original versions. Some directors really do put their own spin on a remake. Yet now it seems that the studios are intent on taking classic films, stripping them of all the elements that made them great, jazzing them up and more bafflingly, adding sequels. And for some reason, it's the horror genre that is continuously subjected to this treatment.

Above, we have the trailer for what is possibly the most pointless remake yet, Rob Zombie's version of John Carpenter's Halloween. Halloween was released in 1978 and became the all-time classic slasher movie. In it, we had the enigmatic character of Michael Myers. A young boy who murders his sister, and is locked up in an institution. Fifteen years later, he escapes and goes on a rampage through his old neighborhood, mercilessly slaughtering every teenager he comes across. That's all there is to the character in the film. We're given tiny insights into the character through a brilliantly manic Donald Pleasence as Myers' psychologist, Dr. Loomis. But what makes Myers work so well is that he is an enigma. Something inhuman, something that cannot be reasoned with. Halloweeen is in no way a perfect film. But as it is, it remains a classic of the genre. And for that reason, does not in any way warrant a remake.
And yet, this isn't even the first John Carpenter remake. Assault On Precinct 13, and The Fog have been subjected to weak remakes. And as I write, production of a remake of Escape From New York has begun. The Hills Have Eyes remake even spawned a sequel. Something that combines the pointlessness of remakes with the tediousness of sequels. It seems that none of this director's work is safe.

And he's not the only one. George A. Romero's 1978 classic Dawn Of The Dead was remade recently by 300 director, Zack Snyder. I have to admit, this remake didn't have me as pissed off as it should have made me. There were some well directed sequences. Yet, all the sociological subtext of consumerism was stripped from the remake. Hell, even the zombies, the most essential elements of the film were changed. No longer were they the slow moving, unstoppable force from the original films. Now, they move faster than an Olympic sprinter on speed. Zombies aren't necessarily scary individually. It's their sheer numbers and relentless onslaught that make them terrifying. All this, gone from the remake. And then, there's even a remake of Day Of The Dead waiting to be unleashed on us. Why anybody feels this is necessary is beyond me.
And then there's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Good lord. Tobe Hooper's original was another near perfect genre movie. The terror that ran through the movie was so relentless, that the film was banned in some countries for many years. Yet it too, was subjected to a remake, produced by none other than Michael Bay. And this guy has his fingerprints all over these remakes. Apart from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this guy is responsible for remakes of The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, and most baffling of all, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Asian horror movies are constantly being remade, complete with full explanations of enigmatic story lines for the dumbed down audiences of the west. Where is this going to end? The horror genre isn't the only genre subjected to these lackluster remakes. But it is the genre suffering the most. To be honest, it is we, the audience who are responsible for most of these films. We pay for the tickets. We give them our money. If it's putting an extra extension on the producers' mansions, you cant blame them for making these films. But instead of looking for something original, they're taking the easy option and just getting as much gore on screen as possible. Blood isn't scary. It's just makes us slightly squeamish. The producers strip these remakes of all the elements that require the audience to use their imaginations and instead just go for cheap scares. It seems that they don't understand the basic idea that what you don't see is far more unnerving than that you can see. It's why we're afraid of the dark.
Cinema, as an art form is suffering for these remakes. Originality is disappearing, and is being replaced with cheap thrills and forgettable attractions. And in the end, it is we, the audience who are going to lose out.

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