Halloween. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. House of Wax. Prom Night. April Fool’s Day. Friday the 13th. A Nightmare On Elm Street. Amityville Horror. Carrie.
The above isn’t just a list of classic (and some not-so-classic) 1970s/1980s horror films. It’s a list of classic (and not-so-classic) 1970s/1980s horror films that either have been, or are in the process of, being remade.
It’s not that there aren’t fresh ideas out there: there are. But Hollywood loves a proven commodity. The names Leatherface, Michael, Freddy and Jason are guaranteed to sell a certain amount of tickets on opening weekend. Whether the movies are actually good, actually needed, doesn’t really matter. Never has. Greenlight a small-budget horror flick with a built-in audience and you’re bound to make your money back and then some. And unlike other horror trends like the torture porn of Hostel and Saw, remake fever doesn’t show signs of slowing down.
Here’s the thing for me, though. I don’t hate remakes. If it’s a different take on something I’ve enjoyed in the past, I’ll give it a shot. The original is still there, untouched, unmolested. (Unless it’s a George Lucas product, in which case the original will slowly disappear under a constant barrage of special effects tweaks and editing revisions.) Take Halloween, for example.
Halloween, the original John Carpenter version, is pretty much my favorite horror film of all time. (Jaws resides above it in my personal Top Ten list, but that’s more of an adventure film than horror.) So when I heard Rob Zombie was remaking it, I thought, “Okay, let’s see what you’ve got.” I didn’t join the hand-wringing over whether or not he would “ruin” Halloween. If he botched the job, nobody would ever have to watch it again, and we could always count on Anchor Bay to put out another “anniversary edition” of the original’s DVD.
So it came out, and I went to the theater, and I liked some of what I saw. I liked the faster, more brutal version of Michael. Liked parts of Michael’s expanded backstory, and the fact that Zombie stayed far, far away from runes, stars, and all the other garbage heaped onto the Halloween sequels as explanation for The Shape’s killing sprees. Yes, I prefer no explanation at all – the apparent lack of motivation was part of what made Original Michael so creepy – but if it has to be explained, I’ll take Zombie’s version over the other.
I also liked the way the movie looked. Zombie has a knack for capturing decay on film, and he not only does that in Halloween, but he also captured late fall in all its golden glory.
There were things I didn’t like, such as the girls. Laurie, in particular, didn’t work for me in Zombie’s version, mainly because we don’t spend much time with her. The other two were just stereotypical slasher film cannon fodder, and I really didn’t care when they were dispatched.
The fact is that Rob Zombie’s Halloween did not, and will not, replace John Carpenter’s Halloween for me. It’s an interesting side trip, nothing more. Ditto for all the others listed above (the ones I’ve seen, at least – in a few of those cases, the originals weren’t worth bothering with, and nothing about the remakes implied they’d be any different). And there are more to come.
Personally, I’m excited for a revamped Friday the 13th. Let’s face it – that first one doesn’t hold up well at all. The remake supposedly combines elements of the first three F13s into one origin story. Cool – we get Mrs. Voorhees and the hockey mask in one fell swoop. It might be great. It might be terrible. If nothing else, I’m betting it will be pretty to look at. And at the end of the day, we’ll all still have our DVDs of the original to fall back on.
In the meantime, let’s hope our support of horror films of all kinds keeps Hollywood digging for more material. Perhaps one day they’ll open a book by Kealan Patrick Burke or Gary Braunbeck and say “Hey! This would make a great movie!”