Friday, July 8, 2011

What Not To Do In A Remake

Remakes are not a new subject here in Scare-Tactic Land (or as I like to call it, AlexAmazeballLand where the inhabitants ride around on panthers and everyone automatically gets a 401K, but I digress) but I constantly feel the need to touch on them, mainly because they are re-writing horror history in shitty shitty ways.

My last post was about one of my favourite films, Black Christmas. Out of curiosity I watched Black Christmas the 2006 remake (or as it's so cleverly called "Black Xmas") and to be fair to the movie I found it so awful I turned it off half way through. Maybe it gets better in the last half?

Probably not.

I don't know if it's the state of humanity but holy hell do these characters whine a lot. They are the least pro-active hurtbags ever. Expect for maybe in the Halloween remake. Or the Friday the 13th remake. Or the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. In the original Black Christmas a sorority house receives threatening phone calls that refer to "Billy" and "Agnes" and the killing of a child. In the remake the filmmakers go into explicit detail about some entirely random, pointless and un-scary back story about Agnes and Billy.  I've argued time and again, what makes something scary is your own mind. Because what's scary to me might not be scary to you. Ambiguity is key.

Now I can rant and rave King Lear stylez all I want but then it does indeed become sound and noise that signifies nothing. Then I'm just part of the problem. So here are some helpful tips (in my mind) about what and what not to do when you remake a horror film.

1. For the love of everything that is good, stay away from the classics!
There's no point. If the original is beloved why remake it? Why not write your own goddamn horror story? (Platinum Dunes, I'm looking at you) Remakes that work like The Fly are awesome because there are inherent flaws in the original and when you have an auteur like David Cornenberg you say, let's do this!!!!! When you get bored sitting on your pile of money and randomly start searching IMDB for Horror Movies don't remake something that re-defined the genre. And for heaven's sake don't let the guy who directed the video of Smells Like Teen Spirit do it. He couldn't even get Kurt Cobain to get his hair out of his eyes!

Well, he couldn't.

2. No one cares about the Killer's back story. 
Seriously. We don't. Rob Zombie should work on remixes of Dragula or whatever else he did before he decided to remake the Halloween series. No, I don't care that Michael Myers was a sad kid. I really really don't. Lots of people have sad childhood and don't go around stabbing people. Just give me evil. Pure unadulterated evil.

3. Hire actors of a certain caliber. 
I'm not sure if the original Halloween would have been as good without Jamie Lee Curtis. Her version of Laurie Strode is a fully formed character. Rob Zombie's Laurie is a simpering idiot incapable of finding shirts to fit her. Jeff Goldblum is an all around great actor but he brings so much to the character of Seth in The Fly that you forget everything about the original.

4. Don't try to be clever.
Post-modernism (or "po-mo" if you want me to smack you) is killing every art form. Scream used it to propel the plot forward. Remakes seem to love to use winks and nods to the audience to show that they know that you know that they know that they're doing a remake. You know what? If you're making a movie and you don't know that you're making a movie, well, I just feel bad for you. Seriously. Every time a film stops to comment on itself the tension and tone of that movie is mainly lost. And, y'know, I'd hazard a guess that those two elements are kind of important.

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