The Watchers

The Watchers

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Dear Hollywood... Stop It!

Another week, another story claiming that yet another film is being remade. Recently, there's been news that Kindergarten Cop, Sister Act and The Craft are all to undergo a remake. We've got a remake of Ghostbusters in the works, along with The Crow and quite a few others.

Frankly, I'm sick of it.

I'm sick and tired of this mindless rehashing of previous material.

(At least Robert Zemeckis has said a remake of Back To The Future will happen over his dead body. Literally.)

 Firstly, let me preface my remarks with a caveat: not all remakes are bad. There have been some decent remakes over the years.Al Pacino's Scarface is a remake, and a damn good one at that. The 1954 remake of A Star Is Born (with Judy Garland and James Mason) is sublime and- in a rarity for a horror remake (more on that to come)- 2006's remake of The Omen at least managed to capture some of the menace of the original. The 2004 version of The Manchurian Candidate makes a decent fist of updating the Cold War paranoia of the original. George Clooney's bash at Ocean's Eleven had some charm and wit (least said about the sequels the better) and even The Italian Job should get a mention because it at least tries to do something with the established formula (although the original is obviously better)

However, the vast majority of remakes are bad. In some cases, really bad. But nearly always emotionally bankrupt and utterly vapid. Case in point - last year's remake of RoboCop. A few flashes of inspiration aside, it was a dull, dull film and resembled the original about as much as I resemble Danny DeVito: the most passing of resemblances, but generally nothing alike. Arthur - atrocious. The Women - a waste of talent. Straw Dogs - terrible. Do you see where I'm going with this?

The phenomenon of horror remakes seems particularly egregious. It seems as if every seminal horror film- Psycho, Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Wicker Man, Friday The 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, Dawn Of The Dead, Carrie, Black Christmas, The Thing, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist and When A Stranger Calls to name but a few- have had a remake or retread or 'reimagining'. And with very few exceptions, these have been dull, bludgeoning unimaginitive fare with all the subtlety and menace of the originals leached out. The reason most of these original films work is the atmosphere that's created and that is sorely lacking in the remakes, who tend to throw atmosphere out of the window and go for cheap shocks and gore.

I'll be the first to admit that the original versions of Psycho and The Wicker Man are two of my favourite films. So any attempt at a remake was always going to have a oh-hell-no kneejerk reaction. But Gus Van Sant's virtual shot-for-shot colour remake of Hitchcock's masterpiece is awful. Why go for a shot-for-shot remake? Unless a remake improves on the original in some way, there's no point in doing it. As for Neil LaBute's truly execrable Wicker Man remake, there's absolutely nothing to recommend it- apart from the fact that it spawned an amusing gif with Nicolas Cage and the bees.

No! Not the bees!
I get that Hollywood is there to make money and that's why franchises do so well- you hit upon a successful formula and rework it and rework it and people know what they're going to see and settle back and enjoy it. Fast And Furious 7 is one of the highest opening films of the year and the phenomenal success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films show there's a definite appetite for franchise.

However, this shouldn't be at the expense of original screenplays and original work. Independent cinema is providing some of the most thought-provoking and original films which deserve to be seen on a grand scale. Occasionally you get a breakthrough/crossover- the prevalence of Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel at this year's Oscars, for instance- but so much good cinema is being lost or becoming niche because they can't get a distributor.

Hollywood is a multi-billion dollar industry. Surely some of that prodigious and slightly obscene wealth can be used to bankroll a couple of decent original screenplays? I'm not saying all cinema has to become an indie darling's fantasy (I'm too much of a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for that) but take a chance now and again. Invest in some original talent. And leave perfectly good films that don't need a revamp alone.


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