The Fascination with Remakes – By Josh Samford

 Hi there folks, I know I’m not exactly breaking new ground with a subject such as this. Every movie fan on the net who figured out what wordpad is at one point or another has written something up about Hollywood and their obsession with "remaking" anything they can squeeze a penny out of. Just now I was sitting at home watching a wrestling event on television, because I’m a big dumb geek (I write on about obscure movies on the internet, do I have to really spell this out for you?), and I saw a trailer for Martin Scorsese’s latest project The Departed. I’m not going to go out and say I’m brilliant, I had heard of the big man’s intentions and interest in the project long ago, but I have not been keeping up with the latest Hollywood news or anything like that – but just from listening to the trailer and basics of the plot for the film; I just knew this was a remake for the Hong Kong recent classic Infernal Affairs. Then when I heard Scorsese being announced as the director, it clicked and I knew I was right. A quick visit to the IMDB solidified it, and now I don’t know what to think. It wasn’t two days ago I was visiting a horror website and reading their message board and seeing a whole topic full of guys totally slamming the Japanese cult favorite of mine Kairo, which was recently released here in the states as "Pulse". Remakes aren’t always a bad thing, not by a longshot and I don’t have enough fanboy in me to think that they’re always the death-nail on any and all merit of a new project. Do I think The Departed is going to be good? I’m almost positive it will be. Dicaprio is a very solid actor capable of delivering a great performance, same thing for Matt Damon – and Jack Nicholson playing a bad guy again is just going to be gold. The real promise in the project is the dynamics of the script. Martin (I can call him by his first name, since this is the internet and I can pretend we’re best friends) obviously wanted to make the film because of that. Having two lead characters, both undercover – a cop and a criminal, inside of each other’s orginizations and both dealing with the pressures on their personal lives and their mental health; you’d pretty much have to be some kind of a goof to mess up such a great premise. Since it’s already been done before too, in a really fantastic film (I urge everyone to pick it up, it’s a slick, stylish and awesome action/drama) you already have one take on how to do it succesfully. Not to mention it speaks volumes and works well for Scorsese’s style and interest in filmmaking. Going back to that Pulse/Kairo discussion from earlier though – first impressions, with film/relationships/or pretty much anything else – can make or break you.

 In the case of Kairo/Pulse, I am taking the vantage point that a lot of people saw this Pulse remake, went home, rented the original – and due to their hatred for the newest take on the film and the overtly arti-ness/obscure meaning of the original film; felt both were garbage. Granted, I haven’t seen "Pulse", but judging from the commercials I did see and basically the Hollywood system in general; I’m going to say it was a lot more linear than the original Japanese film. When I originally saw Kairo; sure I was expecting just a spook show – but after having seen a good six or seven films from the director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, I don’t see it as a stand alone film. It’s a work that goes well with his filmography and speaks on a lot of issues dealing with death, is a brilliant and nerve rattling horror story and fleshes out his career as basically the Japanese Alfred Hitchcock. The man works well with suspense, that’s all there is to it. Not to bring any comparisons between the films or anything such as that – but to me the situation is almost like Kubrick’s 2001 (if it were some obscure foreign film few of us had seen, from a filmmaker everyone assumed went on to do nothing) being remade as Battlefield Earth. The average movie go-er who considers himself a scifi buff goes and sees it – comes to the conclusion that it’s garbage, comes home and gets the original film from netflix, sees it as a big dull and pointless mess and then continues to go post about it on the net. Give or take, the situation would be pretty similar. Then there are the situations where the remakes aren’t half bad, but are totally polar opposite of the originals. Take for instance The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead. Travel back to 2000 or before, word of mouth anywhere you went – finding a bad word about either film was nigh impossible. Who could desparage the immortal name of either monumentus film? Well, then the remakes hit and the horror community picked up a lot of part-time fans around the globe who aren’t quite as geeked out as some of us. No offense to these people – but like I said, first impressions can kill. You go to the movies, you see a pulse pounding action/horror with tense chase scenes and tons of (sometimes animated) gore – and then you pop in the original versions of the same films and you’re treated to a much less action-oriented film, with often times less gore and with a far, far more deliberate pace with either ample amounts of social commentary that the viewer doesn’t pick up on because they haven’t read about the times the films were made in nor do they care or a more intense and subtle focus on horror and what it means to be terrified by chaos. Your average fans are always going to go for the cheap scares, the rush of adrenaline, the shiny effects and the better lighting. Truth be told, you can’t blame them. That’s why we’re the geeks and that’s why we have our world and they have theirs. We do have to suffer for it though, and that’s where things start to suck. That’s why there’s all the fuss. No one likes seeing something they love being crucified by people who haven’t followed the history and who truly don’t care.

We can complain all day and night, but ultimately there’s not a whole lot we can do other than ask people to show more respect and to try and teach others. Going back though, remakes aren’t anything new and the results don’t always have to be negative. In the instance of The Magnificent Seven which was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai; both films were great for very different audiences and for very different reasons. The same goes for A Fistful of Dollars and Kurosawa’s Yojimbo; both sets of films being Japanese samurai films made into westerns – and polar opposite westerns as well; but both featuring just enough of the original to create a new and awesome atmosphere. I personally expect the same results from The Departed, I can tell the last thing it’s going to be is your average American crime film and I’m enthusiastic about that – I just hope that like Magnificent Seven or Fistful of Dollars, film fans and your average movie buffs can go back and revisit the original works and judge them for being breathtaking, new and invigorating pieces of cinema. Overall, I just ask that people hold respect for all forms of cinema. Kinda weird for someone who writes for a webzine that was kind of founded on z-grade cinema, and often time the making fun of such z-grade cinema, but I think I – and hopefully the rest of my writing comrades – respect cinema at it’s very nature and it’s guys like us who will give anything a shot once. We’re not afraid to call a spade a spade, but I’m of the belief that you have to go out of your way to understand any piece of art and if you’re not looking at it from all the angles you’re only getting a piece of the puzzle.