Rethinking Remakes – By Brian Morton

 I know in the past, I’ve done more than my fair share of bitching about re-made movies. In fact, I’ve done my fair share of bitching, your fair share of bitching and probably most of your neighbors fair share too, I do enjoy bitching…like a fat dude enjoys a twinkee! But, hobbies aside, I’ve been doing a little soul-searching about the re-make.

Now, I’m not saying that every re-make that comes down the pike is necessarily good, or wanted, the recent re-make of King Kong comes to mind, just because you can update the special effects in a movie doesn’t mean you should re-make it! But, there are some movies that, after being remade, are not only better movies, but different movies with only a kernel of the original left intact, and to me, if the movie’s a good one, I can overlook a lot of other stuff. The recent re-make of The Hills Have Eyes is what started my brain to spinning. This is a movie that I didn’t feel need to be re-made at all, it’s a classic 70s horror movie, done by Wes Craven to perfection, how could you possibly make this better? I was all set to ignore this and maybe even shun it, but then I heard that it was being re-written by Alexandre Aja, who did the amazing High Tension, and I wondered if it might be worth checking out. Then, after seeing a presentation by Mr. Aja, where he told the audience that Wes Craven tapped him personally to re-make Hills after seeing High Tension, I figured that if Wes could approve of it, maybe I could too. If you haven’t seen The Hills Has Eyes (either the re-make or the original) then, you don’t know what you’re missing. Hills is the story of the Carter family. They’re on a cross-country vacation when, after taking a “short cut” across the desert finds themselves stalked, terrorized and killed by a mutant family that lives in the desert. The original was a great movie, but the re-make doesn’t take anything away from it and it’s a great movie on it’s own! And, because I enjoyed it so much, I had to sit down and have a talk to myself about this, I’ve enjoyed more than my share of re-makes in the recent past, so maybe I should just shut my pie hole and quit bitching about them!

First up was the re-make of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie the most people don’t enjoy to start with, but to re-make a ‘classic’ horror movie was cause for a ton of whining and complaining in the horror movie community, myself included! I was so sure that this would suck, that I couldn’t wait to see it, so I could be the first on my block to bash it…but, after seeing it, I was so impressed that I didn’t know what to do, so, being a good horror geek that I am, I saw it again…just to be sure, and you know what?? Yep, I actually liked this re-make of the story of young hippies run afoul of cannibalistic hillbillies! I know that the puts me firmly in the minority, but, damn it, this was just as scary a movie as the original and it added characters and elements that I thought were truly scary, while not taking anything away from the classic ‘Saw’. This was a re-make that I really enjoyed, I was sure that it was an anomaly, the exception that proved the rule, as they say.

Then, along comes a little movie you might have heard of, called Dawn Of The Dead. When I heard this was being re-made, I rooted through my old video tapes and dragged out my copy of the original, thinking that I enjoyed ‘Saw’ only because I hadn’t pre-viewed the original to have a really good grasp of the original material, I was sure that viewing the original ‘Dawn’ before seeing the re-make would give me all the bitching ammo that I’d need for days of pretentious horror movie chatter. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The original Dawn Of The Dead, while a great movie, is firmly set in the 70s. It starts off strong and great and then retreats into a character piece, in fact, the scenes of shopping and gathering in the mall had me so bored that I couldn’t believe that I’d actually bought this movie! So, there I sat in the theatre, ready to tear this re-make a new one, when what do I discover? This isn’t so much a remake, as an homage, a love letter to the original from filmmakers that were fans too. It had elements from the original that made it more of a re-telling than a re-make, if that makes any sense to you…it does to me!

Now, there are three movies that have been re-made that I can say that I not only like, but have become a fan of. Now, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy a fresh new movie as much or even more, but I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t dismiss a movie just because it’s marketed as a re-make. To say it more simply, ‘re-make’ isn’t the dirty word to me that it once was. Does that mean I’m heading out to see the new King Kong?? Not a chance in hell! That was re-made once in the 70s and it sucked, I was never a huge fan of the original movie, and I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Monkey kidnaps girl, monkey climbs building, monkey dies, I saw it once and didn’t care for it that much, I saw most of the 70s re-make and fell asleep, there’s no way I’m seeing that same movie again just because they can use computers to generate the monkey now!!

So, there you have it, I’ve re-thought my re-thinking on re-makes and I’ve decided to re-scind my original opinion. (I’m very proud of the previous sentence, by the way!) And, I vow to no longer judge a movie just because it’s a re-make, I promise to give each movie a fair shake until it proves itself to suck and to judge each movie by it’s own merit, not by the movie that is it’s inspiration…except for King Kong, I just can’t tolerate a computer generated monkey!