Horror Remakes. The Case Against. Featuring the Evil Dead remake....

I am going to do something a little different today and break with my regular format. I am taking time out of catching up with my movie reviews from the last month to tackle a topic that, especially for horror fans, has been a contentious, divisive and annoying one. I am talking, of course, about remakes.
This comes on the heels of the recent statement release from Ghost House Pictures and Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell that there is, finally and unfortunately going to be an Evil Dead remake. Read the press release here.

Now for regular readers of my blog you should know that I am a huge Evil Dead fan and a rabid Bruce Campbell fan. I may also have mentioned in the past that I hate 99.9% of most modern, recent, horror remakes and let me make this clear, before you all bring up The Thing or Scarface or something, that's what we are talking about here.
I will start with my feelings on the Evil Dead remake as it's the freshest in my mind and then I am going to re-post an updated remakes blog I wrote back in 2007 on MySpace (yes that relic of a bygone era! ha!)

If you didn't read the Press Release link yet, this is the message Sam, Rob and Bruce put out yesterday:
"We are committed to making this movie and are inspired by the enduring popularity and enthusiasm for the ‘Evil Dead’ series. We can't wait to scare a new generation of moviegoers using filmmaking techniques that were not available to us thirty years ago as well as Fede (the new director) bringing a fresh eye to the film’s original elements."
Almost everything about this statement annoys me! So much so that I have to break it down and analyse it line by line:

Scare a new generation of moviegoers?
Ok, now even if Sam and Rob are too busy descending into the sad corporate abyss, Bruce should know, as he has been to conventions and also frequently connects with the fans, that there are hardly any Evil Dead fans now who were even alive when the original came out, let alone old enough to see it! Could this possibly mean that the film is ALREADY "scaring new generations of moviegoers" ??! 
and I like to believe that those who were around and old enough to have seen the original when it came out are, like Star Wars fans, dedicated and definitely don't want a remake.

Using filmmaking techniques that were not available to us thirty years ago? - What does this even mean? REALLY think about it. CGI? 3D? Digital Cameras? what?? sure there are new gadgets, bells and whistles but basic film making technique hasn't changed in 50 years or more! How does The Evil Dead, a story about 5 kids who go to a cabin and get possessed by demons because they stupidly can't stop playing the same tape recording of readings from something called 'The Book of The Dead', benefit from the application of anything from the above list?

Also, the thing that MAKES the entire first film, the reason any of them have a career, is Raimi's technique. That's really all it is. Bruce is good in bits yes of course and there are extreme scenes, you don't believe you are watching, that can now whip an audience up into a delighted frenzy but it all hangs on Raimi's technique. 
Creativity, inventiveness, imagination and intelligence don't need to be updated they continue to shine, they are the reason for its success.

If you disagree, name a modern horror film (or any genre for that matter) that is as good as or better than its 70s/80s counterpart or predecessor. Name a good modern film that rests entirely on its 'New Film-making Techniques'. This is not like The Thing where between the Howard Hawks original and John Carpenter's 80s version there was an enormously massive leap in what they were able to show, this is like picturing The Thing but instead of the incredibly innovative and creative practical special effects it's CGI and in 3D. Is that honestly any better? well they are, predictably and annoyingly, about to remake it so we shall see! (CHRIST can't they leave shit alone?!!!)

Fede bringing a fresh eye to the film’s original elements  - Evil Dead doesn't need a fresh eye. It had Sam Raimi's eye. A fantastically inventive, guerrilla film maker at the time who achieved camera angles, special effects and all manner visual wizardry using sheer brains, determination and will power that no other first time, 20 something director has ever achieved before or since. Yes they have tried, imitated and failed but really, without Raimi directing and without Bruce starring, there is no FRESH eye to put on proceedings. Like I said, without them it's just a story about 5 kids who go to a cabin and get possessed, it's not like the story screams to be reinterpreted. Plus I think Eli Roth and about 100 other directors have already tried. 

Raimi and co, drawing on influences wide and various from the past, practically invented a whole new form of shooting, editing and sound design that you could argue gave rise to the hyper kinetic, over the top style that studios apply heavy hand-idly and irritatingly to almost every flaccid turd of a movie they produce while also inspiring legions of film students everywhere to attempt the same thing (I know, I was one!)
The reason it is as popular today as it is and, in fact, grows in popularity every year is down to all of that. I firmly believe there is nothing a film maker could do to make it better, make it their own or even just compliment it. It survives and is cherished, like most of these original films, because of the time, the place but mostly because of the people involved. I don't want to see new people involved and I don't understand people who do.

This whole thing STINKS. They can't even come up with a decent excuse for a remake in their own press release!! Like all modern horror remakes, this is for the cash and cash alone as, creatively, the idea is bankrupt and that would be fine if the three of them were still struggle to forge out a career but Bruce is on a hit show going into it's 5th season, Tapert has produced a multitude of TV and Film including the highly lucrative Hercules, Xena and Sparticus: Blood and Sand and Sam made 3 Spiderman movies for fucks sake! Three of the biggest hits ever produced! 
None of them need the money and as for this first time director if he really wants his first feature to be a remake of a film that was made by a handful of dedicated guys from Michigan slogging it out through endless muddy night shoots in the woods of Tennessee to eventually emerge months and months later with an original classic of horror, instead of something that he too can lovingly pour blood, sweat, tears and his life into then he isn't worth a damn in my book.

Also it has been revealed that Diablo Cody is doing a re-write. 
Why the hell is this good news?!
Diablo Cody? Didn't she write a horror movie already that bombed harder than Halle Berry following up her Oscar with Catwoman? instead of the news being "Don't worry, it's going to be good, we have an Oscar Winning writer working on ED Remake" shouldn't it be - "I can't believe former Oscar Winner Cody is scraping the bottom of the writing barrel by helping to fix an already bad idea?"
If they already need a script re-write then that is a terrible sign. While I know this is a standard practice it could possibly mean the director is not the auteur of the piece, is not passionate about it or does not have faith in his ideas. I am not sure why a first time director wants to do a remake anyway, doesn't make much sense, doesn't he have his own stories to tell?

I am SO dissappointed. I thought the fans had squashed this idea when they first brought it up almost 10 years ago! I guess they just had to wait for the populus to become so appathetic and jaded they didn't care anymore. 

The other reason I am so very disappointed, as a fan, is that they have dangled Evil Dead 4 in front of us like a carrot for years and years and years. Now I personally don't want an ED4, I want Raimi to take his Spiderman money and make an all new film with Bruce as the lead and with Rob producing, just like Rob Tapert SAID they were doing almost 10 years ago but I will take ED4 over a remake any day of the week. On the subject of ED4 Bruce said, as recently as the Philly Comic-Con (18th June 2011), that one of the reasons they have backed off the idea of doing it is that they would spend a year of their life making the thing, Bruce would go through the horrible and uncomfortable procedure of actually playing Ash post 50 and when it came out the fans would criticise it and compare it negatively with Army of Darkness etc. 
Well I absolutely hate to say it because he's still my favourite actor but that's utter bullshit. If that's how you feel about the 4th one then why the hell do and endorse so positively, a remake? doesn't the same reaction, only potentially worse, still apply?

God the whole news is just too depressing, I had to get it all out of my system with a blog. Which I know makes me some whiny, loser fan boy frantically typing away under fake internet stars to an audience of none but it's cheaper than therapy and more fun than vomitting.

I honestly feel that they forget that while show business is, indeed and understandably, a business the SHOW part comes first. Remakes don't anger me so much for the present because I know the originals exist, I watch and own them and I boycott most of the remakes. However it's future generations who will either be confused, not know about the originals or not care... how will these classics survive? Well I for one will keep the original home (or in this case cabin) fires burning.  

The End of Evil Dead Remake related rant.
This is a blog I did a while ago and as it's relevant, it may explain a few opinions and is still basically what I think I thought I would include it here.

Movie Remakes.
Everyone who cares about movies and probably even casual viewers have an opinion.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that everyone probably owns at least one movie that is counted as a remake.
probably Scarface or ..maybe Cape Fear and everyone has seen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels... right....
That's not a remake I hear you cry!
well it is... and it isn't....
It's actually a re-telling of the story of the film 'Bedtime Story' from 1964.
An Online encyclopedia defines a remake as -
"a remake is a newer version of a previously released film or a newer version of the source (play, novel, story, etc.) of a previously made film."
well with that definition we can throw Dirty Rotten Scoundrels into the mix but with my definition, you can't, my definition is this -

A Modern film remake is a film that bares the same name as its still very popular or cult predecessor, that takes a few iconic plot points, maybe a character or two on which to hang a weaker story and simply for the purpose of making some money.
Now with my definition, which I appreciate is specific and designed to attack a certain group of films, you could throw out Scarface, Cape Fear and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Scarface – despite being made by the late, great Howard Hawks in 1932, was the original so popular by 1983 that it didn't need a second telling? In fact the stories are fairly different (one being about bootleg alcohol in the prohibition era and the other being about cocaine) and if anything the 1983 version is still, today the one we remember and is a classic in its own right. Also, was it trading off the name to make money? Nope, not really, not much argument to back that up.

Cape Fear – this one is the closest to being shitcanned by my definition, there's only one thing that stops it and that is it is a true remake. It takes the exact character names, plot points, settings and almost script on occasions and just updates it – more gore, more sex, more suspense and that's it… at no point does it needlessly sully the original or try and 'better' it. It takes the story and just runs with it.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – is the least like a remake, they changed almost everything, including, crucially, the title and no one remembers the original except maybe the film-makers widow….

So lets talk about what we REALLY are here to talk about –

I am, of course referring to –
Dawn of the Dead
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Omen
The Italian Job
The Amityville Horror
Assault on Precinct 13
The Fog
Black Christmas
The Pink panther
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
Cheaper by the Dozen
Fun with Dick and Jane
The Hills have eyes
And so on and so on and so on – too much SHITE to list
And they show NO sign of stopping-
the soon to be made –
Escape from new york
Halloween (2011 update: 2 have now been made)
Evil Dead (see above)
The Birds
Day of the dead (2011 update: this one too)
I HATE absolutely HATE these remakes. (I was angry 4 years ago too apparently!)

I don't care if you liked some of these films, I don't care one bit. I will tell you right now not one of those films should be called what they are called and not one of those films is a patch on the original!
If the remake had never been made – would you EVER watch any of the originals and have the arrogance to say that it should be remade? No… would you watch the original and be able to come up with other stories in the same setting, or stories involving the same characters – of course! And that would be cool if those movies got made but CALLED something different.

It actually all comes down to perception and marketing – not film making or creativity.
What they do is they think - oh yeah Zombies - Shopping Mall - cool idea... but wait IF we do that AGAIN people will JUST say we are imitating Dawn of the Dead and they'll just get angry. So, how do we make a film that fans won't kill us for AND new audiences will go and see? Hmmmm I know we'll SAY it's a remake and somehow people will tolerate this. As long as we include the idea (zombies, shopping mall) we have a VERY thin and wonky frame on which to hang a whole new movie and it doesn't even have to stand up to the original because it's a remake, so people's defenses are lower they are not even necessarily expecting a good movie because it's a REMAKE.
So if a film doesn't ENTIRELY suck and throws some gore or tits or both into the mix – it gets called a 'good' remake…. Hence the unusual popularity of the Dawn of The Dead remake…. Which, had it had normal speed Zombies (uber-fast Zombies are FUCKING AWFUL), had one more pass at the script in a rewrite and been set in another building other than a shopping mall, I might have even liked it – as it is, AFTER Johnny Cash stops singing over the opening credits, the movie is a big pile of gash…. Real gash…
it is
–        stop it
–        stop saying you like it
–        it is a big pile of gash
–        get over it, watch it again
–        Oh Look running zombies! they're shit.
–        Oh look obtuse arrogant and badly written security guards!
–        Oh look a zombie baby!
Oh yeah it's utter shite…. What was I thinking… oh look it's a lovely day outside… la la la la

This next bit sort of repeats what I said up top, sorry...
As for the proposed remakes of bonafide classics such as Halloween, Evil Dead and Escape movies the big problem is this - Those movies are made good and amazing because of THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THEM. Take Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert & Bruce Campbell away from Evil Dead and it's 5 teenagers go to a wood and get picked off by spirits - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz snoresville...
and if you take John carpenter and ESPECIALLY Kurt Russell away from Escape from New York and you still have a fairly groovy plot but you loose the charisma and the character.
Both John C and Kurt R have spoken MANY times about how Snake Plisken is their statement about a certain time and place and a certain type of masculinity and politics. They have also said how it is kinda based on the two of them.
How, then, can you replace the people who gave life to the character? because anyone else, absolutely ANYONE! would either do their own thing and therefore not be Snake OR merely be imitating what Russell expertly did before because they wouldn't understand the character and play it with the depths that Kurt does.
Wouldn't you just watch the movie thinking "oh my god I miss Kurt Russell, even Captain Ron was better than this!"
And don't even get me started about the Halloween remake which is apparently a prequel of sorts…..
Makes no sense does it!
Certain films belong to certain filmmakers, these remakes are fruitless, pointless HACK films.... made by weak pathetic scum and I hate them.
I am at war with remakes....
The battle will be fought on the streets, in the cinemas and up in the trees (mainly by ape creatures)
I urge EVERYONE to boycott these types of remakes NOW
I am serious
I am fucking furious
Enough is enough
As an update to this blog in 2011: The Halloween remake has been made, I didn't see it and have no idea if it was a prequel or whatever. This was based on internet chatter back in 2007. What I can tell you is they are doing a REMAKE of the THE THING but calling it a prequel by focusing on the Norwegian team who first discover the alien site. Neat way to get around the 'remake' tag right while still doing essentially a remake, right?
If you have seen John Carpenter's THE THING we KNOW everything that happens to The Norwegian group. We know they ALL die and the alien is in the dog. We even know how they discover the spaceship because there is VIDEO footage of them doing it in John Carpenter's The Thing!!! It will be the most pointless film since Titanic!

So that's it then, my full rants on remakes. Basically almost everything I have ever had to say on the matter. Normal service will resume with the next blog but boy did that feel good to get out there. I welcome ALL comments and discussions on this topic. Thanks again for reading.

Breakdown - 29th May 2011

Jean Claude Van Damme in DERAILED - 28th May 2011