Anyone who has been to his or her local cinema recently has noticed an alarming trend. I’m not talking about the $6 popcorn or the $11 ticket. I am talking about the slew of remakes that Hollywood has been churning out for the last several years. No genre of movies has been exempt from the recent remake craze but one could argue that horror has been the most affected by it. Remakes have always been an important aspect of the horror genre. There have been three versions of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and countless cheap knock offs. Horror master John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing” is considered a classic. There is nothing wrong with a good remake. Sometimes a fresh eye can even benefit an aging film. Marcus Nispel’s 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was arguably a better, gritty version of the 1974 film which tended towards the campy side.
In 2004 the “Dawn of the Dead” remake by Zack Snyder didn’t top George Romero’s original, but easily surpassed the zombie king’s last two genre efforts. The success of these two movies has led us to the predicament we find ourselves in now: studios pillaging the horror vaults and remaking anything for a cheap buck.
Last year saw no less then five separate remakes of horror classics. There were five remakes in 2006 and several sequels to remakes. This year has seen two so far, and it’s only February. This trend shows no signs of stopping either as the “Prom Night” remake will be hitting theaters in April and studios begin preparation on new versions of “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” These last two are the ones that most likely will cause horror fans to start stock piling water and coffee in preparation for the upcoming apocalypse. Before last year these two films were considered to be untouchables. Then Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remake hit theaters and all bets were off. Along with “Friday” and “Nightmare,” “Halloween” comprises the “holy trinity” of horror films. While Zombie’s film wasn’t awful it wasn’t entirely groundbreaking either. Zombie would have been better off had he just paid an homage to “Halloween,” as he did for “Texas Chainsaw” with his 2003 masterpiece “House of 1000 Corpses,” then remaking it outright.
Its not just American horror classics that are falling prey to the remake epidemic, however. In fact, unbeknownst to many casual movie goers, many of the horror films that they have been seeing lately are actually remakes of Asian horror films. “The Ring” was one of the most successful, both critically and financially, but it was actually a huge hit in Japan way back in 1998.
By the time Gore Verbinski got around to making his version, “Ringu” has already spawned two sequels and was the highest grossing film in Japanese history. Other notable Asian remakes include last month’s “One Missed Call” from Japan and this month’s “The Eye,” which originated in Hong Kong.
The most interesting story coming out of Japan is that of Takashi Shimizu, who has remade his own movies twice. “Ju-on” was released in 2000 and was followed by a sequel later that year. Three years later he remade both of these movies with a bigger budget and released them as “Ju-on”: “The Grudge 1&2.” Then in 2004 he remade “Ju-on” yet again, but this time for an American audience as simply “The Grudge.” Two years later he decided to remake his “Grudge” sequel for American consumption. A proposed third chapter in the series is still in the early stages but Shimizu is on board.
The seeming lack of originality in Hollywood these days has been a topic of much debate. In recent years studios have even looked to the realm of videogames for ideas.
Is this trend of unoriginality anything new? During the 1980s Paramount produced eight “Friday the 13th” movies. “Friday the 13th” was basically a “Halloween” knock-off. “Halloween” was heavily inspired by “Black Christmas.”
Going back even further Dracula and Frankenstein were both based on books.
The problem with the horror genre is not unoriginality but the lack a good original ideas to go with the remakes and sequels. Last year’s best genre effort was Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s “Grindhouse.” While the double feature concept wasn’t exactly original it was new to most fans. It contained more energy and was more fun then a boatload of remakes but unfortunately it was largely ignored by movie goers.
If fans want to see original movies then they need to resist the urge to go see the latest remake because as long as they’re profitable the studios will continue to produce them. It’s up to the fans because, to borrow a cliché, you get what you pay for.
Colin McGlinchey is a third-year student majoring in elementary education. He can be reached at CM465588@wcupa.edu.