Is there anything more divisive than a horror remake? Seriously! I’m of firm believe that our society will decide if pineapple does indeed belong on pizza or if Die Hard is a Christmas movie long before we can agree on the merits of our genre’s most controversial subject – remaking the classics. We can all argue for and against whether the re-imagined films are as a whole “good” or “bad”, as that is subjective. However, we can all certainly agree that the filmmakers behind almost every remake made at least one questionable decision within their retelling.
Today, we’re shining a spotlight on ten decisions these creators should have thought twice about before snapping the clapperboard. In some instances, the results were a relatively minor complaint, while others derailed the film in its entirety! Put on your critic glasses and lets make some harsh judgements!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) – Removing Erin’s Pregnancy Plotline
As remakes go, Marcus Nispel’s updated version of Toby Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece is, in my mind, one of the better horror re-imaginings we’ve ever gotten. The opening shot that kicked off the race of mid-2000’s slasher remakes, Nispel and writer Scott Kosar crafted a slick, intriguing story around the basic concept of Leatherface and his cannibalistic family from the original. That said, there are real issues in regards to the motivations and subsequent actions of Erin, the lead of the film played by actress Jessica Biel. Explained to us as a rough-and-tumble woman who grew up with aggressive siblings and even spent some time in juvenile detention, this upbringing doesn’t translate through in the film, and her character comes off as prudish amongst her looser friends.
Upset that she was not proposed to by her boyfriend on their weed mission to Mexico, Erin doesn’t partake in the stereotypical partying that would come from such an excursion, and appears annoyed by it all. Later, in the film’s climax, rather than getting out of dodge at her first given opportunity, she steals one of the Hewitt’s children, a newborn baby, at great risk of getting caught for no explicit reason other than sympathy for the child. As it turns out, in the original script for the film, Biel’s Erin was to be explicitly pregnant, almost 9 months to be exact! While that obviously wouldn’t work for the trajectory the film takes, it was a storytelling mistake to remove her pregnancy in it’s entirely. While not only providing a clear reason behind her actions, the stakes of her survival would’ve been exponentially raised, and the pain of seeing Leatherface wearing her boyfriend/baby father’s face could’ve been palpable.
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House on Haunted Hill (1999) – The CGI Smoke/House/Spirit(?) Monster
Dark Castle’s bonanza of remakes in the late 90’s/early 2000’s really are a blast to watch, flaws and all, so their spots on this list aren’t necessarily indicative of bad films. The first remake out of the gate for the company was 1999’s House on Haunted Hill. A slick modern take on the 1959 original, the film boasts a very strong cast and a production design oozing with creepy atmospheres sure to make even the most skeptical horror fan smile. Unfortunately, that “oozing” comes back to bite the film it it’s climax, as the “final boss” per se can really only be described as a poorly CGI’d glob of ghosts. Perhaps the inspiration for the “smoke monster” of the TV series Lost, the weak effect betrays the film’s earlier slick camera work and doesn’t come close to matching the other frightening specters that terrorize the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane. It’s a well-known fact that satisfying endings are a real bugaboo for filmmakers in horror, and unfortunately House on Haunted Hill falls victim to this.
Th13teen Ghosts (2001) – The CGI Ghost Machine
Speaking of Dark Castle and unsatisfying endings, we meet the next entry the production company remade, the 2001 retelling of William Castle‘s 1960 13 Ghosts. Going far beyond it’s predecessor, director Steve Beck chose to create in depth storylines and terrifying appearances for the ghosts, each of which was portrayed by real human actors and not via CGI effects. The results were a horror fan’s dream lineup, as we rarely get to see so many uniquely grotesque ghouls in one film. Unfortunately for viewers, much like House on Haunted Hill, the real monster of the film is another CGI mess, an odd-looking conglomerate of rotating gears and slicing metal rings known as the “machine” which traps the spirits in the house. For a film with so many ghosts to choose from to create a satisfying ending, seeing yet another good Dark Castle remake end in bad CGI is a real downer. At least we got Matthew Lillard.
Halloween (2007) – Remaking Carpenter’s Third Act
Very few filmmakers carry as much divisiveness as Rob Zombie. Taking a stab at one of the most beloved horror films of all time would certainly not be the catalyst for fans finding common ground. Regardless of how you interpret his take on the infamous slasher, Zombie’s remake did have a unique vision, something many redone films unfortunately can’t say. In fact, it’s where the rocker-turned-director told his own original story of Michael Myers’ creation that the film really thrives as a good horror movie. The downfall of the film, likely via the studio’s insistence, begins the moment Zombie began to mirror the third act from John Carpenter’s original film.
While varying slightly from the original, the updated pursuit of Laurie on Halloween night at best feels boring and uninventive, and why wouldn’t it be? We’ve seen it before. Quite honestly, there was no way in which remaking Carpenter’s final act so closely could ever surpass, nonetheless match, the original film. If the last third of Zombie’s version had been crafted with the same style and uniqueness as the first two-thirds, fans of the franchise may not hold the same animosity they possess for the remake today.
IT (2017) – Sidelining Cary Fukanaga
There is a relatively unknown story in the world of film that director James Cameron was a mere “few hours” away from securing the rights to Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel, when Steven Spielberg swooped in and bought it instead. Cameron described this never-realized vision as “Aliens but with dinosaurs”. Though Spielberg’s film is a masterpiece in it’s own right, it’s hard not to look back as horror fans and ponder how insanely awesome Cameron’s movie could have been. Which brings us to director Andy Muschietti’s 2017 blockbuster It. Before Muschietti’s more audience-friendly version hit the screen, director and writer Cary Fukanaga was deep into making the film himself, and holy hell was his version dark.
We actually see poor Georgie get ripped apart and devoured on screen. Several flashbacks of the dark history of Derry are featured in the script, including the Black Spot fire and the 1800’s massacre at the Silver Dollar Saloon. Additionally, the unmade film is interwoven with real psychological terror more overtly spelled out on screen than the version we received. Racist, abusive, and sexually abusive situations and dialogue are prevalent throughout the script. The town of Derry as a whole became a much more prominent monster, secondary to It itself, in his version. Unfortunately, New Line Cinema and Fukanawa could not agree on what type of film It would be, and he left the project after three years of work. “I think it was fear on their part, that they couldn’t control me,” Fukanaga told GQ. While the finished product is a great film, this brings about one bad case of “what could have been.”
Phew! We’re only halfway through our tour across horror’s remake mistakes, so keep an eye our for Part Two to find out the final missteps!