Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Partially in response to An Open Letter To The Suckers by Piper, as well as many similar sentiments expressed in recent years by many people, occasionally even me.

Look, you don't need my cheesy defense of remakes in history from The Maltese Falcon and Ben Hur to The Thing and The Fly, do you? I mean, what's your favorite version of Dracula?

And for all the people trying to create rules about what does or doesn't make a worthwhile remake, but none actually hold up. Some great remakes are remakes of great movies, some of not so great. Some are completely different, some retain much of the originals moments and themes. Like song remakes, it's all in finding what part inspires the artist in a way that they can play it to their own strengths.

The problem, of course, is that we're overrun by remakes these days. It's one of the signs, although not even the biggest one, of the creative bankruptcy of Hollywood moviemaking. Almost none, if not absolutely none, of the recent rash of remakes demonstrates anything even resembling inspiration. Some have been competent, but all of them reek of having begun in a marketing meeting and being given to moviemakers more interested in making a movie or in making a movie with potential for more exposure than anything like true inspiration.

Whatever, though, I'll write more later, I need to pre-order tickets for 3:10 to Yuma...


Becca said...

Why bother to remake something that was good in the first place? Maybe...and that's a big maybe...maybe if filmmakers have a different and interesting take on the material. I can't stand it when a remake is made to capitalize on the reputation of a better movie.


Neil Sarver said...

Becca, thanks for the thought. Honestly, I started out to write a much longer post that I really should write some day.

Basically, there's something appealing to me as a viewer and an artist in new takes on the same ideas. I don't see, in theory, why versions of Halloween, 3:10 to Yuma or whatever couldn't or shouldn't be like versions of "Hamlet" or "Dracula". I think there's a great unrealized potential there that's wasted on projects that are almost invariably, as you say, just a capitalizing on the reputation built on the works of others.

Piper said...


I agree with becca that I just don't understand why you would remake something that was already good. I think there needs to be a respect for something and by respect I don't mean updating it. I mean leaving it the hell alone. But you're right that there is are just too many remakes and one more just seems too much. My sensitivity on this film lies with lack of respect served (although Carpenter could care less as long as he gets a fat check), the director involved and just that everything seems like it is being remade.

Piper said...

Okay, I'm just reading your comments and you make an interesting point about Hamlet or Dracula, but the problem is is that those are stories we grew up with. I knew of Dracula and Hamlet from words not pictures. They were owned by an author but not a director, therefore they are up for multiple interpretations.

Neil Sarver said...

Piper, thanks for your reply.

I do see your point, but I'm not sure I buy it. The original version of The Fly is based on a short story, The Fly by George Langelaan, but does anyone know it by that? Did anyone? The original of that movie wasn't terribly much older than Halloween is now when Cronenberg's movie was made.

Frankly, how many of us really discovered Dracula for the first time through reading the novel? Hell, I read the book when I was 9, but I'd still already seen at least three movie versions... and that was before VCRs, just from Halloween movie marathons and sneaking up late to watch cable when I stayed with family.

Look, I think most remakes are shitty and are made for even shittier reasons, and I respond almost entirely the same as you to nearly all of those movies. I just think we miss something criticizing "remakes", which are almost always crass, instead of targeting crass movies in themselves.

cinebeats said...

I can understand the problem people have with remakes of classic films like Psycho and Halloween. I can't imagine that anyone would dare to remake Citizen Kane for example...

No one would repaint the Mona Lisa and call it the same thing because it would be a "fake" or forgery. Films are treated differently than art and it often bugs me.

On the other hand, some remakes like Carpenter's The Thing and Cronenberg's The Fly are terrific takes on old material that stand alone as great films. I think the difference is the time between remakes, the material they're working with and the skills of the directors behind the projects.

The Halloween remake is just too soon after the original and the original film is just too fresh. We see it every year in October on TV (the fans of the previous Thing and Fly films were a much smaller group when the remakes came out). I also personally don't think Zombie is anywhere near as talented and creative a filmmaker as Carpenter or Cronenberg, but obviously a lot of other people do.

I enjoyed Piper's rant and agree with a lot of his points. The success of the Halloween remake will undoubtedly pave the way for more remakes in the future and I'm not looking forward to that at all.

By the way, just for laughs I have to recommend this funny parody video of Zombie's Halloween. It sums up why I have no desire to see Zombie's movie but it's all in fun!


Neil Sarver said...

Kimberly, thanks for your thoughts. You make good points.

Ultimately, I don't think film not being treated like art is entirely relevent. I think it's mostly still treated as the bastard child of theater and literature, both of which have much different traditions. I'm not sure any of the antecedent forms are as useful as we often imagine and I think movies should have found more of its own ways to be viewed and interpreted than it has at this point.

As it goes, the original The Fly was 28 years old in 1986 and Halloween is 29 this year. Although I suspect that video and the Internet and the way they've encouraged fandom of a different kind than it had existed, at least in casual circles, so I agree that there were fewer fans or a what's as easily seen as such. I'm less convinced that's a particularly good thing...

I'll certainly agree that Zombie is no Carpenter or Cronenberg. I, in fact, am not even on the side of having significant optimism that he will ever get to that level.

But somehow the idea that once upon a time there were three adaptations of Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" in a period of ten years... and it wasn't a pre-planned cinematic experiment or anything like that. Not to mention my geeky love of there being nearly endless versions of "Dracula", nearly all of which go off in their own weird directions and interpretations of the material.

None of that comes close to justifying all - or any necessarily - of the recent lazy-ass rash of invariably crappy remakes... and, for the most part, I'm counting ones that seem to gotten passes from a lot of fans... just to say that there's something about the creative retelling of the same story that holds great allure for me.

Neil Sarver said...

Oh, and thanks for including the video clip. That is indeed very funny.

Interestingly, one of the criticisms of Rob Zombie's Halloween that I neglected to make was regarding the music. Watching The Devil's Rejects, I managed to find the music choices strangely inspired in the obviousness. Perhaps I was deluding myself, but it wasn't something I sat down at thought, I just felt they kind of worked.

The same sorts of choices, however, merely came across as banal this time around. I find it hard to believe that as a musician doesn't know some less obvious songs.

I mean, there are plenty of ways to go, songs that feel familiar even if they're not, songs that were hits that have fallen out of AOR rotation and movie/TV reference... Hell, has anyone used "Mama Kin" by Aerosmith in anything?

And that's not even getting into the overuse of pop music songs to underscore movie moments in cinema as a whole, but that's probably a whole other post...

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