Remake Resentment:

High standards, or genre fan snobbery?

by Eric Webster

January 11, 2012


As I begin this article, I hesitate for a moment, considering the hate mail that's going to get sent my way because of it. But I'm going to take the plunge anyway, because I think I have a valid point to make. I've been a casual horror fan for a couple of decades now. In the past couple of years, I've started listening to a few horror podcasts, lurking on some boards, and quickly come to realize that there is a large base of people out there with a dedication to the genre much higher than my own. These people are willing to spend significant amounts of money on memorabilia, rare prints of movies, autographs, etc.. There's nothing wrong with this. However, I've noticed there's one topic that will get this group of people foaming at the mouth: remakes. I think it's because I'm not as close as these people are to the genre, that I can distance myself a little, and have an alternate viewpoint. I am going to posit the theory that remakes serve a purpose. All I ask is that you at least read the rest of this before you start typing up your hate mail.

So, when it comes to remakes, the way I see it is that they fall into two distinct categories. The first category is movies that have been around for a while, that Hollywood thinks could generate some cash flowif they remake them. The second category is foreign horror movies that get remade because American audiences for the most part are unaware of them, and Hollywood thinks they can adapt them to make some money with minimal effort. Now, let me make myself clear...I think this demonstrates a disgusting amount of laziness on Hollywood's part, and would much rather see them producing new original material. That being said, I think that as disgusting as this practice is, it serves an unintended purpose that could actually benefit the genre as a whole.

Friday The 13th. A Nightmare On Elm Street. Halloween. Black Christmas. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All of these titles are available in 2 different versions. Horror fans generally hold up the original versions as classics, and spit on the more recent version. However, another thing I've noticed about the dedicated horror fans is that they tend to be clustered in age about a decade around my own, that is to say, in their 30's or 40's. Guess what? I've got some bad news for you...we're getting old. The original versions of these movies were made in 1980, 1984, 1978, 1974, and 1974 respectively. Let's think about this for a moment. The most recent date in that list is 1984. That's a whole generation that's gone by since then! People who were born when that movie came out are now having children of their own. Now, I'm sure some of them have become dedicated horror fans themselves, but I'm also willing to bet that a lot of them walked right past A Nightmare On Elm Street in Blockbuster (when it was still open...told you we're getting old) because they had no idea what it was. When the remake of the movie came out in 2010, fans of the original were outraged, thinking there's no way a remake could possibly equal the original. You know what? They were right. However, the release of the remake did something they didn't think about: raise awareness. The current generation of kids just developing their taste for horror movies saw the commercials for the remake. And I'm willing to bet that at least one of them heard some grumpy old man in his 30's coming out of the theater bitching about how the original was so much better, and said, “Original? Huh, I didn't realize this was a remake. Maybe I should watch that one and see if the old dude was right.” So, while remakes are never as good as the original (at least, I haven't seen one yet), the commercials for them raise awareness of the genre, and lead new viewers to the original.

The same thing applies to remakes of foreign movies. When The Ring came out in 2002, at first I had no idea that it was a remake of a Japanese movie. Same with the movie Shutter. However, with both of these, once I found out they were remakes, I tracked down the original, and gave it a go. Now, I'm sure that some of the dedicated horror fans I keep referring to keep tabs on the new foreign horror movie releases and make a point of checking them out. However, the general movie going public has no idea what they are, when they come out, and if they're any good. The Hollywood remakes, while extremely lazy, not as good, and usually “adapted for the North American audience” (read: dumbed down), will lead people to the foreign originals.

So, while you wil get no argument from me that there hasn't been a remake yet that lives up to the original, the next time a remake comes out, take a deep breath, and before you start spewing forth bile, think about this. While remakes may not live up to the quality of the original, they serve a purpose in raising awareness of the genre, and leading people to watch the original. Without new fans of the genre...what motivation does anyone have to make more horror movies? Sure, there will be the occasional artist that makes one because they're driven to. But let's face it...Hollywood is driven by the almighty dollar, and while indie flicks are usually better, they only garner the interest of people already interested in the genre. While most remakes are trash, they keep the genre alive so that people can make the movies we DO enjoy seeing.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know!