The unfortunate truth is that most remakes are pre-destined to be awful. I’m not saying they’re all bad, there are some I rather like, but most of the recent ones never really had a chance to be good. Even if a passionate writer, director and cast are brought onboard they’re still essentially fighting an uphill battle against the reason they were hired in the first place. Money. If a studio owns a certain piece of recognizable property, when they opt to remake it they do so because they feel like it’s a secure financial decision (even if many recent ones have tanked). This means it’s already a film by committee even before the creative team is added. That’s an unhealthy, and usually unfixable, power dynamic for any production.
But what if that wasn’t the case? I mean, we can dream right? I know John Carpenter’s The Thing is always cited as one of the times they “got it right” – but the climate has changed a lot since 1982. I need only to point you in the general direction the 2011 version The Thing to illustrate how much. I suppose one of the recent ones that almost got it right was Dennis Iliadis’ 2009 remake of The Last House On The Left. It had the right idea in that most successful remakes update films that had interesting ideas, but weren’t necessarily great to begin with. Wes Craven’s 1972 TLHOTL is one of those films. It’s a totally incompetent mess (Craven got better later). But while Iliadis’ film is far superior in many ways, it bungles the themes and crosses the line. It allows the daughter to survive, which turns it from a revenge film into a survival film. And it also lingers on the rape scene for far too long. It’s a scene that’s even less necessary than it was before because the audience no longer needs to be sold on the revenge motif.
But at least it got close! It took an unwatchable film and made it watchable (again – except for the inexcusable context for that 5 minute assault)! What if we lived in a world where remakes were even better than this and actually hit their marks creatively? What are some of the famous properties that could use a good dusting off? Let’s indulge in the fantasy of a universe where remakes actually happen for semi-decent reasons!
If you can get onboard with that, head inside to check out which remakes we’d like to see! Then let us know yours in the comments!
1. MANIAC COP
I put this one first because they’re actually already on this. And in a way that looks cool too! It’s being produced by Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn (with a 0.9% chance of him directing). The original has its moments, but is far from being a knockout punch or anything resembling “taut”. An ideal candidate for a revisiting. Maybe they won’t even need our alternate universe fantasy to get this one right.
2. THE HOWLING
I know I’m going to catch hell for this one. I’ve already gone on record multiple times that I vote for AWIL over The Howling any day in the “werewolf movies of 1981” wars. It’s also one of my least favorite films by the great Joe Dante. But that doesn’t mean The Howling is bad, it’s a unique movie with some interesting ideas from both Dante and writer John Sayles. Today’s studios would badly botch a job this delicate, but I dream of a remake that could actually expand on this film’s satirical take on self-help retreats with the added panache of a decent budget and a less ridiculous ending. It would be nice for The Howling to feel scary again – sadly so many precious details would have to be executed so precisely that even my alternate universe paradigm would likely fail any attempt at rebooting this film.
3. SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED
Year after years a college professor keeps taking his students into the woods to hunt Bigfoot. He remains employed despite the fact that many of his students end up dead (or traumatized enough to cut their own wife’s throat after the pours out their vodka*). It’s a horrible movie, but it has enough wacky ingredients to be really fun if prepared properly. There’s not enough medium-budget Bigfoot movies that involve the deaths of college co-eds.
*She survives the slit throat long enough to grab a toaster and crawl into the bathroom where her husband is taking a soak and chugging some beer. Bleeding to death, she chucks the toaster in the tub with her dying breath. I’m not making this up.
4. SALEM’S LOT
I love Stephen King’s 1975 novel. It’s a great take on vampires and a great take on small towns and it has some of King’s best characters. But the 1979 mini-series didn’t do it for me (I didn’t see the the 2004 version). At the very least, maybe a good theatrical version of this story would restore balance to our universe after last year’s Fright Night remake.
5. THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS
The 1991 original had some cool elements and ideas, but it hasn’t really stood the test of time. It would be nice to get trapped in that house again, and for it to be scary again. There’s so much cool stuff in this movie – I just need a presentation refresh.
What about you? What’s a movie you’d like to see remade (assuming they get it right)?