I love remakes. I love reboots, too. Even when the end product pales compared to the original, but especially when the new one gets its own wings and soars above our expectations. I love the very concept that remakes and reboots exist and continue to be made and that we get to live in a world where we can see new and fresh iterations on a film.
So, of course I get rankled when every. single. time. a franchise remake or reboot is announced, everyone around me starts complaining.
People really need to take a step back and give remakes and reboots a fighting chance. I recommend that everyone take these simple steps to accepting remakes and reboots into their lives.
Remember that remakes and reboots have been around since the beginning of Cinema
One of the most tired complaints about remakes and reboots is that it speaks to an innovation drought in Hollywood and that we’ve run out of original ideas to develop. But let me tell you this: we’ve been recycling stories since the beginning. One of the earliest horror movies, George Albert Smith’s The Haunted Castle (1897) is often cited as a remake of an even earlier horror film, Georges Méliès’s Le manoir du diable (1896), bringing the Faustian story to English audiences.
This flavour of remake is still going strong today, with non-English horrors like Let the Right One In (2007), [Rec] (2008), Martyrs (2008), and a whole slew of Japanese and Korean horror being transformed for North American palates. Movies like Let Me In (2010), Quarantine (2008), and Martyrs (2015), help wider audiences to get the taste of a story that was deemed so great that it had to be made accessible to more people. And even if the remake was little more than mediocre, it stands as an open door, saying “hey – I heard that the original version of this film was better, maybe I should check that out.”
Treat remakes like cover versions of songs.
Do you fly into a blind rage when you hear Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” because Dolly Parton’s version existed first? Of course you don’t, because both versions are transcendent and the existence of one does not negate the other. It’s fine if you like Houston’s version more, but remember that Dolly walked so Whitney could run.
Now, let’s paint this analogy onto horror remakes. Some of the best horror films out there are remakes. Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) wouldn’t exist without Kurt Neumann’s The Fly (1958); Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) wouldn’t exist without Christian Nyby’s The Thing from Another World (1951).* These remakes are arguably more popular than the originals, but the originals are perfectly serviceable, if not classics in their own right. If you’re not mad about Cronenberg’s The Fly existing as a remake that makes some significant departures from the original story, then it’s not exactly fair to get worked up about more recent remakes, like Child’s Play (2019), doing the same.
Just like with song covers, remakes give us the opportunity to see a familiar story retold through another writer and director’s lenses. You get to see which bits of the original lore spoke to them, how they understood the original characters, themes, and salient plot points, and where they chose to expand and add their own signature fingerprints and flourishes. And that’s nifty. We live in an age where Jordan Peele can play in Bernard Rose’s sandbox to give us a contemporary take on Candyman (1992) and Fede Álvarez can create a love letter to Evil Dead (1981) while telling his own story with Evil Dead (2013). How lucky are we as moviegoers that we can see more than one directorial vision for a film?
I say: the more the merrier.
*For the pedants out there, these were all adaptations of short stories: the former “The Fly” (1957) by George Langelaan, and the latter “Who Goes There?” (1938) by John W. Campbell.
Think of reboots as alternate universes.
Another common complaint about reboots is that they “ruin” the originals, which is frankly ridiculous. Remakes and reboots are not sequels; they’re separate entities from the originals.
I get it: when you really love a franchise, you want to pin it and keep it safe in a glass case, in a vacuum. You’ve watched it so much that you know all of the words to the film and its DVD extras. You’ve sought out every Easter egg and read every scrap of writing you can find. You know the world of the original intimately, and any reboot would inevitably be held up to it.
If the original is so important to you, then your best bet is to treat any reboot like a different world—it might be a Bizarro world at the most extreme, but it’s more likely a Sliding Doors (1998) situation, where some small key differences have a ripple effect. With reboots you get to explore all kinds of what ifs:
Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004) shows us what could happen if the zombies in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) were faster.
Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria (2018) tries to untangle the purpose of the coven running the dance academy, a plot point that isn’t visited at all in Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977).
Michael Haneke did Funny Games (2007) as a shot-for-shot remake of his own film Funny Games (1997), except set in America instead of Austria, purely as a personal experiment to see if he could create the same story twice.
Not that I’m suggesting that we should all start thinking like Haneke, but it’s is definitely worth it to be willing to experiment with stories we love every once in a while. We might not always love the films that are born of these experiments, but that doesn’t make their existence in horror canon any less valid.
Ready to give remakes a second chance? Have a secret love for reboots that you’ve been dying to profess? Continue the conversation over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!