Friday, August 19, 2011

Remakes: Good or Evil Dead?

By Chris Dimick

What if your parents said you were old, tired and ugly at age 30?
Not just that, but Mom and Dad felt the world deserved a more contemporary, sexy version of you.

“You know son, the entire family loves you, is proud of your success and place in the world. But, you’re 30 now and each of those years is fully showing. Yeah, you might have some cultish friends who still think you are cool, but they are just as outdated as you are.

Look how cheesy your dress and hair is, the way you talk and look, why, I bet you don’t even know who Justin Bieber is.

We will always love you and appreciate what you have done for our family, but we’ve decided to bring an updated version of you into the world. A remake so to speak. A fresh you for the information age that has more spunk, more action, more coolness, knows what “planking” is.

“What’s planking you ask? Exactly our point. Don’t worry, we’re sure there’s a nice piss smelling retirement home around here somewhere for you to die in. You know, that place called Blockbuster.”

Couldn’t happen? It’s exactly what Sam Raimi did when he announced that his classic horror film, 1981’s “The Evil Dead” is being remade. And the masses shouted, “Hollywood is ripping him off! The original is perfect, why remake it! Burn the witch burn the witch!”

So chanted horror fans, at least until they heard the next sentence. The Evil Dead remake is being instigated not by some fat-cat Hollywood studio head looking for a quick buck, but the original creators themselves.

Are They Selling-Out?
Raimi, who wrote and directed the film, is being joined by Dead’s original producer Rob Tapert and star/producer Bruce Campbell to produce the remake – retaining some creative control of the finished film. They are championing the remake?!
And at that point, Evil Dead fans across the world put down their torch, just a little, and fired up the puzzler.

The fact that the original Evil Dead creators are so gun-ho about remaking their baby, the film that started it all for them, and a film that started a love of horror in so many of us, has caused many genre fans to remake their opinion on remakes. Including this guy.

Should classic horror movies, or any classic movies for that matter, be remade? Does it take away from the original to have a sleeker, more modern version of a film sitting right next to it on Netflix’s digital movie rack?
Should purists protest this new version of Dead, or embrace it as a way to see a modern take on a beloved story?

We’re Doing It For The Children
Raimi, Tapert and Campbell are aware their decision to remake Dead will cause backlash, and have preemptively struck with various quotes in the media covering the announcement.

 “We’ve always talked about doing it,” said Tapert in a recent Detroit Free Press article. “There (have) been pros and cons to why would you do this and why tamper with something. The truth of the matter was, is, that it was a movie that was meant to be seen in theaters, in the drive-ins, and virtually no one saw it in the theaters. They’ve all seen it on DVD.”

(From Left) Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell circa 1981

It’s true, Evil Dead barely screened in theaters but found its true fan base through rentals on VHS and DVD. But that alone is not a reason to remake a movie. Raimi and friends could just re-release the film in theaters. There are plenty of horror hounds who would cut themselves for the chance to see The Evil Dead on the big screen. This guy included.

But they didn’t stop there in the justification for tree-raping their wooded tale (you’d get that if you’ve seen the movie. Boy, would you get that).   
Some of the effects in the original film appear a bit dated during modern viewings (though not by much). And the films relatively low budget lead to some creaky moments.
Tapert told the Free Press the new age of visual effects gives a creative director license to up the gore and scare of the Evil Dead story.

That director will be Fede Alvarez, a no-name film upstart known mainly for short films (a bio very similar to Raimi’s early years.) The original Evil Dead script is getting modified by a bigger name, Diablo Cody, who wrote beloved indie dramedy “Juno” and the underrated Megan Fox slasher “Jennifer’s Body.”

Remaking Evil Dead, Tapert said, is about passing the horror torch to a younger generation of filmmakers, and horror viewers.
“We found some young filmmakers who need the same opportunities we got,” he said.
All this talk really sums up to this: we aren’t just doing this for the huge paycheck. But there is a huge paycheck, and fans are manning their battle-stations.

To See or Not To See
A line has been drawn in the sand by fans of the Evil Dead Trilogy. Some are delighted that some fresh Evil Dead blood will soon splatter on their face.
Others are appalled that Raimi, Tapert and Campbell would desecrate the 30-years-rotting corpse of the original film by digging it up, slapping CGI-makeup on its bones, and parading it around town under the guise of “passing the torch” to a new generation. More like passing the bank teller their paycheck.

I don’t buy the argument that remade horror movies bring attention to the original films.
More often, they just upset fans of the original and disappoint new viewers to the point they don’t want to see the original.

Personally, I’m still tip toeing that demilitarized zone between excited and angry over this remake. Which side I’ll eventually jump into won’t be determined until I see the remake film. Am I happy they are remaking Evil Dead? Sort of.  Am I pissed off they are remaking it. Sort of.

Again, the original Evil Dead is a perfect film. Much like "Casablanca," or "Some Like It Hot," or "The Exorcist." It doesn’t need to be remade, and can stand on its own 30-year-old legs to this day. In fact, it will always stand up strong, as true classics do. But just because it doesn’t have to be remade, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.

Some horror remakes end up being just as good or even better than the original – like 2004’s Zach Snyder remake “Dawn of the Dead.”

Fact is though, it is a rare thing for a remake to match or exceed the creative success of the original. Usually Hollywood should just leave good enough alone. For example, Gus Van Sant’s 1998 horrendous remake of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece “Psycho.”

The remake was a shot for shot, line for line redux of the original (except for some gratuitous masturbating by Vince Vaughn’s not at all creepy Norman Bates). The fact that the original script and shots were used showed just how genius Hitchcock was in his direction.
Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche are just as good of actors as Janet Lee and Anthony Perkins. It was Hitchcock’s direction and attention to every detail that made his work surpass Van Sant’s.

Please Swallow My Soul, Again
My dread is that The Evil Dead remake is going to face the same fate as Van Sant’s Psycho. Horror fans have been scalded too many times to believe the stove top isn’t hot. But I hope not.

I find it exciting to be able to view a new take on one of my favorite horror movies – as long as the new version at least stacks up to the original. Having Raimi, Tapert and Campbell on board definitely helps its chances.
But at the same time, the original is gold. It’s innovative, creepy, offensive, gory, spooky and has a stunning ending. What more could you want in a horror film? Better still, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Bruce Campbell says he welcomes the handshakes and punches fan are ready to dish out over the remake.
“I think it is fabulous. Let them debate,” he told the Free Press. “They just have to know that we’re in the debate too. We’re there. We’re reading the scripts. We’re making notes. We’ll be seeing the footage.”

Break out the icy hot, Bruce. Come Fall 2012, when The Evil Dead Remake plans to hit theaters, there will be plenty of people with opinions – along with either clutched fists or open high-fiving palms.

Best and Worse Horror Remakes
The horror genre is jam-packed with remakes, from 1930s classics like Frankenstein being remade over and over the last 80 years, to needless 1970s trash pics getting new needless life in the 2000s, like My Bloody Valentine. Below, an examination of the remakes that should and shouldn’t have dug up the past for another play on the silver screen.

Dawn Of the Dead (2004)
George Romero’s original was more insightful and satirical, but Zach Snyder’s remake amped up the action while still including social commentary. Best of all, the introduction of running zombies and an opening sequence that can cause heart attacks was enough to win over even the purist Romero-zombiehead.

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Wes Craven created the original shockfest in 1977, but by the mid-2000s the movie was overdue for an update. By that time the original’s “offensive” moments had nearly all become clich├ęs. Wes produced the remake, and helped guide this offense slasher shockfest upped the plot as well as the offensiveness.

Halloween (2007)
Nothing can ever compare to John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece about a serial killer hunting a babysitter. Remake director Rob Zombie, a devoted Halloweenie himself, understood this fact, and decided to instead to do an all out alternative universe retelling of the story, set in modern times. It was different enough to feel like an original movie, but similar enough to play as a respectful homage.

The Thing (1982)
This time it was John Carpenter paying homage to his favorite horror movie. Based,  though very loosely, on the 1951 sci-fi/horror film “The Thing From Another World,” this remake toned down the cheesy “it came from outer space – scary!” vibe of the original and replaced it with creature feature gore meets pscare-ological 1980s paranoia commentary.


Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Faster edits and more gore never a better horror remake make. This fact was lost on the creators of the unnecessary do-over of Tobe Hooper 1974 genre-changer. The remake was just as depressing as the original, and just a tab more gory (which is saying a lot), but this movie lacked what the original delivered so well… suspense, creepiness, originality, and pitch black humor.

Halloween 2 (2009)
Yes, Rob Zombie succeeded with his remake of the first Halloween. But this bastardization of the original 1981 Halloween sequel was enough to make most horror fans hope Michael Meyers would turn on his director. The “original” additions to this remake were uninspired, boring, and devolved the character of Laurie Strode into an unlikeable anti-hero. It reeked of “punk-power” nonsense that, while different from the original, was not a modern welcome. Should have quit while you’re ahead, Robbie.

Psycho (1998)
As discussed above, this shot for shot remake was completely unnecessary and provided the viewer with nothing more than a justification of the brilliance of Hitchcock’s 1960 original.
Vince Vaughn as Norma Bates was great as the Dr. Jekyll-like nice guy hotel keeper, but lacked in his Mr. Hyde psycho killer counterpart. And again, director Gus Van Sant, Hitchcock made Norman keep it in his pants for a reason… the clown punching was unnecessary. This is a cheap Hollywood stunt, and every copy should be burned.

Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
The original 1960 “13 Ghosts” is a William Castle classic, with spooky, light horror fun for the whole family. It was funny, it had lame ghosts, and it was fantastic. This remake seemed like a convention for overacting, with Tony Shalhoub, Shannon Elizabeth, Matthew Lillard and a gaggle of other B-list actors confused about whether the film was a horror flick, a family movie, or a comedy. The answer? None of the above.

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