Thursday, October 29, 2009

Horror Movies and their Remakes

Horror movies and remakes seem to be a never ending fad nowadays. I’m not sure exactly when it started, I’m guessing with the 90’s remakes but as time has progressed it’s getting increasingly rare to see an original horror film that isn’t either a remake or sequel. It’s a fairly sour time to be a horror fan, luckily seems there are still some creative people out there (Trick ‘R Treat, Paranormal Activity, Drag me to Hell) but for the most part horror is being polluted by remakes.

Honestly I could make a thousand page post about every irksome remake that is either useless or pointless. Though I’m going to try and be as contained as possible and not go off on full rant mode since a lot of these remakes bug the hell out of me.

So lets talk about the classic films and how they compare to their remakes

Dracula (1930’s) / Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Okay I’m cheating here since the 1990’s film starring Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves is a total reimagining of the original story and film. It really is a huge departure from the original source material which is ironic since it’s the one with the title of being Bram Stoker’s official story when it totally deviates in several aspects.

The original film, while not the first movie to star Dracula, is the most famous for the actor of Bela Lugosi who set the popular image of the bloodsucking Count. Though it also isn’t 100% faithful to the story, it still is more faithful then the 90’s film which really is funny.

The biggest different the 90’s film has from the source material is that Dracula is a far more sympathetic character. Also the writers of the film added more of the history of Vlad the Impaler (the real life man that Dracula was based off of) into the character by using the Order of Dragons.

Though my biggest problem with what this movie does is the character of Mina who is given a total overhaul in that rather then being her smart strong confident young woman who really was a likable character even when compared to our heroes, she gets changed into a love interest for Dracula and a stupid one at that.

Now they try to explain the love thing that she’s Dracula’s wife’s reincarnation, but that doesn’t fly with me. They totally ruined a great character in Mina by turning her from her smart strong self into a love sick moron who really I just end up hating for what she does and how easily she falls for Dracula. There was no real general build up to her suddenly falling in love with him. They meet, he charms her a bit, she leaves, he finds her, she suddenly proclaims her love for him. It’s idiotic.

Honestly if the character of Mina hadn’t been ruined I probably would have liked this movie a lot. Also if you’ve never read the novel and aren’t fond of the character Mina like I am then I guess you won’t give a damn but for me it really irks me that the writers ruined her like this.

The movie as a whole is quite good and it does a great job of using dark gothic architecture. Much closer to the HAMMER films that starred Christopher Lee (the 2nd best Dracula)

The 90’s film is also more mature in that it uses more violence and sex. Though the violence never got disturbing for me. Also the sex was for a change actually well done. Usually sex in horror movies is just “oooh look, titties! Please be distracted by our shitty plot and poor character work and look at the titties!”

Here the sex is used in a more intimate way. Though it does still have those flashes of uselessness. In the novel sex was more implied then it was shown, here it’s just…shown. Also the sex does get a bit disturbing (Werewolf sex…ugh…) but it’s all effective and this is a rarity where sex doesn’t feel forced into the film to try and distract me from the stupid.

But what about it compared to the original film? Well they are both enjoyable film with memorable characters, moments and all around a great story set up. Though it really comes down to Dracula in my opinion.

Lugosi set the image, what more can you say about him? Even with his Hungarian accent he did an amazing job and he is THE actor you think of when you think of Dracula. Oldman does a good job, really, but compared to Lugosi it’s just a good job and nothing more. His performance has nothing on Lugosi’s.

I will give the 90’s movie more credit for actually making a decrepit looking Dracula at first. I always imaged a withering old man when Jonathan first met him in the novel and the movie does a good job of showing that.

Reeves as Harker was just pathetic. They seriously couldn’t have gotten someone better to play him? Really? Jonathan Harker is a really powerful and important character that you come to appreciate and like. Here he just feels boring and flat and you almost wonder what Mina saw in him the first place and for a split second, I couldn’t blame her for dating Dracula. I’d pick Oldman over Reeves any time if I where her.

In the long run I do quite like the 90’s film. It’s dark and gothic and incredibly haunting. Not to mention it has it’s fair share of disturbing scenes that they never could have done with in the original film during the 30’s (werewolf sex comes to mind) and it really is, on it’s own a great horror movie that I recommend to all fans of vampires.

Though still compared to the original it fails to really take the source material and fully use it. Mina’s character is so greatly ruined and even with them trying to explain it and at least doing a halfway decent job with her it still didn’t work for me. Also with Lugosi as THE Dracula, I just have to give it to the original 30’s film for being the best adaptation of my favorite book of all time.

Winner: Original (changed this, recently rewatched the 92 version again, original is better!)

The Wolf Man / Upcoming Remake

I just wanted to give my quick thoughts about the upcoming remake from what I’ve seen from the trailer.

Lon Chaney Jr. set the bar pretty high and the only film I’ve ever really felt came close to the original Wolf Man film was the Howling as well as An American Werewolf in London. 2 amazing Werewolf flicks that where able to surpass Wolf Man.

The remake, from the trailer, looks all right. I wish they weren’t using CG for the transformation because honestly I think if they’d gone with real effects it would have been much better. But oh well, can’t win them all.

I will be checking this movie out. It’s nice to see Hollywood remaking a movie that, at the very least, isn’t barely 30 years old. This time we’ve got a movie that could actually use an update, unlike most of the remakes on this list.

Winner: undecided

Halloween / Rob Zombie Remake

This one is really tough since I actually did a forum review for this when I saw it a couple years ago and to be honest my opinion has changed quite a bit over the years. While at first I didn’t mind the remake, it seemed like a decent film, upon rewatching it for this post I can honestly say I hate this remake.

If you missed my top 25 horror movies last year then I’ll fill you in that combined, Halloween 1 and 2 together make the greatest horror movie for me. Carpenter made an instant classic and it really shows. This movie practically defines “indy horror” for me and I love every minute of it all.

When I heard Rob Zombie was going to do a remake I shrugged and hoped he’d do a good job with it. This was before I was catching on to the slew of Horror remakes and before I realized Hollywood was basically giving all us fans a big fat middle finger with the movies we loved.

One thing I loved most about the original was how haunting Michael Meyers was. We knew virtually nothing about this man. He decided one night as a child to kill his sister and ever since then he became a monster. It was a chilling and haunting idea and made him all the scarier.

So Zombie decided that key element that made Michael so scary should be removed. Why? I guess he wanted to remind us all how good the original was for it and make us appreciate that movie more by showing how awful the film would have been had there been an extra chunk explaining Michael’s evil and insanity.

Seriously the first chunk of this movie is all about explaining the Michael was an abused white trash redneck kid who had bullies and had a fascination with killing small animals. He eventually snaps and bam, instant killer. It’s all very boring, uninspired and at this rate it’s amazing I’m not a serial killer since Michael really was a normal kid who had shit to deal with. We all had shit to deal with as kids. Doesn’t mean I’m going to go psycho…often.

Zombie literally ruins the character by taking away all this mystery to his malice. The less we know the better when it comes to Michael Meyers. Just like with the Joker in The Dark Knight, the less we know about the villain the more fascinating and haunting he becomes. Once you break down that villain and show us how he works, he loses that mystique of evil and he becomes a boring regular person.

Now before you think that’s the only reason I hated this movie, it’s not. One thing I loved about the original Halloween was really how clean it was compared to modern horror films. There was very little blood, if any, and the sex was all held more to suggestions rather then actually ever seeing anything. Something horror movies now don’t do at all really.

Zombie basically sluts and bloodies it up. You want tits? This movie has lots of tits. You want blood? This movie has lots of blood. Is it ever used in an important context to the actual moment or horror of the story? Of course not! This is just another mindless gore and tits fest that you can basically sum up as “tits and blood” and then you’re done.

There is no context to the horror here. Nothing scary at all. It’s all bland mild ‘jump scares’ and even that’s being too generous. Jump scares at least startle you, these scares are just predictable and boring. Zombie had to try to be this boring I figure.

Really the biggest thing is this movie has no soul like the original did. It’s just a shambling corpse, trying it’s best to gross out and appeal to the lowest demographic of horror. There’s no suspense, there’s no great interesting characters and it just takes all the magic of Halloween and basically mucks it up and tries to make it more “adult” when it didn’t need any of that stuff.

And really I have no problem with gore and nudity along with sex in horror movies. Done right they can all contribute well to a film. But that doesn’t apply here. We just get big pools of blood but nothing that really sticks to us, we get sex and it’s blatant and dry and about as arousing as seeing your grandmother do it with a rattlesnake. (I apologize for that image, feel free to hate me)

This movie is just bland horror shit 101 at it’s core. It goes through the boring motions and doesn’t ever try to be something special. You’ve seen it all before and it really is one of the biggest waste of an effort ever. There’s no atmosphere and even the classic Halloween theme song is rarely used which just ruins it all.

If you’re really dying to see Halloween, watch the original and stay as far as you can from the remake.

Winner: the Original

Texas Chainsaw Massacre / Remake

After that bitch fest I’m sure you’re expecting me to hate this movie. But no, this is one remake that I think is honestly as good as the original. Almost better, if not for a few things here and there.

Not everyone likes this movie, and to be honest I did not think a remake of TCM was at all necessary. It was a gritty dark realistic look at the horrors of humanity and I loved it for that. Though this takes that gritty realism and cranks up the dark dreary nightmare to 11.

The remake honestly feels like a completely different film to me. Sure it has plenty of similarities to the original but at the same time this feels like a completely different animal and that’s more of what a remake should be. It should feel different from the original while still respecting what made the original great and paying tribute to it.

Also the use of gore this time around actually works better. The original wasn’t anywhere near this gorey but for this movie it actually works better and doesn’t feel so empty and useless.

The characters are still fairly forgettable, just like in the original, but once again I quite like the female lead and still have the feeling of rooting for her to survive.

Overall I find these movies to be equals and I could easily watch them back to back as they are both fun and creepy horror movies that I thoroughly enjoy.

Winner: Tie

Dawn of the Dead / Remake

The original is one of my favorite movies of all time. It had a great cast of characters, fun setting and actually blended horror well with humor. It still had that dark gritty Romero feel to it just like all his Dead films do

The remake? Not so much. It has fast zombies, which I’ll be honest, as a purist, I hate fast zombies. While they work and have their own niche in the zombie sub-genre I still don’t like them. I didn’t like them in 28 Days Later and I don’t like them here.

Compared to the original Dawn of the Dead the remake doesn’t hold up at all. But I will be honest that as a stand alone zombie flick it has it’s moments and actually is halfway decent. I really think this movie didn’t need to be a remake. Change the setting and this would have been a solid original film that didn’t need to bear any semblance to the classic film.

Winner: Original

Friday the 13th / Remake

I had yet to watch this remake until I decided to do this post. I was happy living in ignorance and pretending this remake never happened and just twiddling my thumbs as I enjoy the classic film.

One thing the original already has over it’s remake is Tom Savini. One of the masters of horror special effects, Savini has done some of the best stuff in horror for movies such as Dawn of the Dead as well. He’s an amazing effects guy and it shows in the original Friday the 13th.

Another thing the original has going for it is the actual plot of it all. How Jason’s mother is the killer and why she did it all. It’s all haunting and really brilliant stuff as far as horror twists and turns are concerned as it uses it’s twist brilliantly to make Pamela Voorhees a chilling villain, almost as much as her son is.

So here was the remakes biggest hurdle, the original film only has Jason in it for a split second, memorable as that scene was though. So changing it to Jason as the main villain, immediately you aren’t really remaking the original film but you’re just making a new sequel simply ignoring all continuity though.

I will give this film credit right away for none of that bullshit about Jason being a supernatural ghost that eats hearts. While Zombie Jason has it’s appeal and is kind of cool, supernatural ghost Jason that eats hearts is just idiotic.

The ending does sort of have a little homage to the Jason scene in the original and I did like that.

Honestly this movie was a decent flick. It had some good atmosphere, great cinematography and overall I ended up turning off my TV and not hating myself for renting this movie.

Still, does that actually make it a good horror movie, or even a good Friday the 13th film? Not really. For one it’s not scary at all. While the sequels became more about showing what a badass Jason was, the first movie was honest to god scary as all hell. Mostly thanks to that we never saw the killer until near the end.

Here it never gets scary, save for a couple of jump scares and a few seconds of tension that are, as predicted, thrown away within seconds. The screen writers I’m guessing never understood the idea of not only building tension, but actually using it for something other then a jump scare.

This movie sort of tries to stitch the first 3 movies together which really was a weird idea for me. Each of those 3 movies, while not perfect, are enjoyable viewing experiences on their own so I can’t see why we’d need a movie that basically blends the 3 with how they tell the saga of Jason coming to be.

Speaking of Jason, I kind of liked him in this movie. His redesign was fairly faithful to the original. Of course the only reason he has that damn Hockey Mask is because it’s so synonymous with the franchise by now.

I guess while I didn’t hate this movie, I hate what it does and shows just how lifeless remakes can be. There was nothing about this movie that felt important or that made me glad they made it. It has no real need to exist other then to make some money off of a popular horror franchise that, lets be honest, is long past it’s prime and should stay dead.

This movie has no real punch or interest to it. It’s just Jason going out and killing stupid teens for the billionth time. If you’ve seen the first 3 films you know the shtick by now and there’s no reason to watch it again. You’re just punishing yourself with the repetitiveness at that rate.

If you are dying for a Jason kills teens movies then this is it. But really it’s not much else. They give us a halfway decent protagonist and we actually get a good feel of his struggle to find his sister, but it’s so deeply buried in all the bullshit of the rest of the cast that are all virtually unlikable and bland as can be.

If the film makers had worked harder to build a strong cast around our decent main character I think this could have actually had something decent and memorable about it. What we get instead was a forgettable experience that we’ve gotten a thousand times already.

The first movie was something special. Sure by today’s standards it’s your generic slasher flick, but even nowadays it holds some special mystique and haunting effect to it. The way we see our killer brutally pick people off, then when we hear Pamela’s heart wrenching story of a mother who simply loves her son, it all comes together beautifully and makes for one amazing movie going experience that I never will forget.

Though this movie doesn’t really care about making movie magic. It just wants your 10 dollar ticket and doesn’t care if you leave the theater satisfied or not. It got it’s money so what should the movie care? Just a dull experience that is unnecessary.

Winner: Original

A Nightmare on Elm Street / Remake

Again like the Wolfman I’m going off the trailer. Though I have a much more negative disposition this time.

Now I love the original Nightmare on Elm Street, great movie, one of the best and most classic films of all time in my opinion. It’s amazing, no doubt, loved the hell out of it. So when I heard a remake was coming about this, I was pissed off right away.

Of all the films they are remaking, Nightmare is the youngest. It’s barely 25 and really like Friday the 13th and Halloween has that timeless feel to where it in no way needs to be updated or remade. This isn’t a 1930’s black and white film, this was the 80’s we’re talking about for crying out loud!

Then the trailer, this movie just looks like they reshot the original. Seriously. They actually had the balls to remake the famous bathtub scene. Wow. Just…wow. This is horrendous.

Then the guy who placed Rorschach as Freddy. When I heard he’d be Freddy I was kind of excited, I mean hey he did an amazing job in Watchemn. While that movie had plenty of problems, you could watch that movie from start to finish if you cut out all the parts without Rorschach and it would have rocked.

But here, it just looks pathetic, and he sounds pathetic. He sounds like Rorschach trying to come off as scary and it doesn’t work.

I know I’m judging a lot off of a trailer, but no way in hell am I going to see this. Nor do I need to. This is the most pointless remake of all and I can already tell the original will be a million times better.

Winner: Original, already I can tell.

So that’s my thoughts on horror movies and their remakes. Honestly I really hope Hollywood stops this stupid trend before they run out of classics to ruin. While there are some glimmers of originality it seems the horror genre is literally doomed to repeat it’s greatest moments in history. What a damn shame.

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