This article was first written in 2010, but even now, 5 years later, the intent and the message remain as pertinent as ever.
Remakes are seemingly everywhere. You name it, if it was made in the 1980s, chances are a 21st century version is in the works. Now, some people cuss Satan at the merest mention of them, but, as I’ve outlined many, many times in the past, some of the greatest movies ever made are retreads of earlier works (Man on Fire and Heat being two prime examples), with some movies I guarantee you’ve watched without even realising they were remakes. Remakes aren’t bad… it’s bad remakes that deserve scorn, just the same as bad originals deserve likewise.
However, with that being said, there is a growing trend for a particular genre that is, seemingly, being remade en massé; HORROR!
To coincide with the return of Freddy Krueger, let’s take a look at just a sampling of late-70s/80s horror movies that have been (or are being planned to be) remade –
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- The Amityville Horror
- The Hitcher
- Friday the 13th
- A Nightmare on Elm Street
- Child’s Play
- Black Christmas
- My Bloody Valentine
- 2001 Maniacs
- April Fool’s Day
- Fright Night
- Children of the Corn
- The Fly
- Near Dark
- Dawn of the Dead
- The Exorcist
- The Omen
Of course, the quality of these have varied, but of the main three characters (Freddy, Jason, Michael), I’ve enjoyed their rebooted outings. I also thought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead were really well done, with DotD, in my eyes, being absolutely fantastic from beginning to end.
Now, I said at the top of the newsletter that I was going to justify these remakes to you and, rather boldly, that I was going to put forth a convincing argument as to why they should be encouraged. To do that, I need to abandon the 1980s and go back to the 1930s. I need to go back to these guys…
All of the above are legitimate horror icons, characters that have stood both the test of time AND various incarnations portrayed by various actors. Even though there were, in the case of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man, earlier versions, the ones considered the classics were made in the 1930s or 1940s. They’re still looked upon as classics even today, with their themes holding up after all these years and, in some ways, the special effects are even more impressive due to the limitations of the time.
Yes, they’re all old monsters, but they also share another trait; they’ve all been remade countless times over the years, none moreso than the Prince of Darkness, the one they call Dracula.
The thirties gave us what we see above, then the stories were remade for audiences in the 1950s, an audience who had different hopes and dreams from the previous generations, so the studios tailored these classics for their modern era, introducing a new generation to the story. Like our ancestors of yore, these were the equivalent of re-telling an old tale around the fire, but adding your own little twist as you go.
From the 1950s to the 70s and Britain’s own Hammer Studios revamped the characters once more, again to great financial and critical success. Christopher Lee staked his career (did you see what I did there?) on his portrayal of Dracula, while they also ventured into adaptations of other horror characters, including the other three listed above.
Moving on through the years once again and the 1990s find us in the midst of another retelling of these fabled monsters. Gary Oldman takes over the fangs of Dracula, Robert De Niro becomes almost unrecognisable as The Monster, Imhotep is reborn as a CGI masterpiece/Arnold Vosloo and Jack Nicholson gives the shaggy dog story of the Wolf Man a tweak as only he can.
These monsters (and other lesser creatures) have been brought back and revamped over and over again (for close to a century in some cases) and, as such, a new generation is introduced to them and the cycle begins again. In 10-20yrs time, they’ll be revamped once more, with each successive generation keeping the tales alive, while the remakes spur interest in watching the originals.
As you can see, horror remakes are not a new phenomenon. They’ve been around for a long, long time and serve a purpose – introduce a new generation to the wonder, the spectacle and, yes, the horror of these characters.
And that, my friends, is why the current crop of horror remakes are a good idea. Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Leatherface, Damien, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees are my generation’s horror icons and, with these returns, they’re being introduced and tweaked for a new generation, revamped for a fresh set of eyes.
It keeps these characters alive and will spike interest in the originals to boot. A Nightmare on Elm Street is the latest remake to hit cinemas and, in my opinion, it’s a great movie that adds to the mythology created by Wes Craven (and actually re-introduces aspects Craven had to leave out when he made the original). The character is treated with respect and retains enough of what made him an icon to begin with. Freddy is harder than Michael or Jason to get right because he’s a personality, he speaks, he interacts. Jason is a force of nature, so, with him and Michael Myers, the physicality is what’s important there.
Platinum Dunes are responsible for most of the mainstream horror remakes of the last ten years and, with that, they’ve taken on the responsibility of the camp-fire storytellers of old, entertaining us with tales of legendary monsters from our past and updating them to make them relevant for today’s affected youth.
Don’t hate the remake culture, embrace it, cherish it. It’s been around for a long time and it’ll still be around long beyond the time we reach the afterlife. Take them for what they are; updates of old stories, created to introduce classic characters for a new generation to be scared.