First off, let me apologize for my absence last week. Little Miss Horror Nerd was in town visiting and we had a lot planned so this column kind of fell by the wayside. But that was last week and this is this week!
Regular listeners to the podcast know my feelings on remakes. I. HATE. THEM. I refuse to see most of them. My thoughts on them are that they don’t make a difference and only show that you have no creative talent whatsoever. What if I wrote a book about a rabies infested dog that trapped a mom and her son in car or a telekinetic girl who had a prank played on her at her high school prom? Would that prove I am a great writer? Nope. It would just prove that I am an uncreative thief riding someone else’s coattails because I can’t blaze my own trail.
Here’s another thing I don’t understand about remakes; your movie means nothing. Whenever people talk about the clown scene in Poltergeist, they are never talking about the remake. Whenever someone mentions a scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre — they are never talking about the remake. Your movie means nothing. It doesn’t exist after it’s made.
My feelings are well known on the topic.
That being said, I have also been vocal about the fact that there are some movies I am okay with being remade. If modern special effects can help boost the story, then I understand the remake. If it has been decades and decades since a movie was released, I kind of understand that one as well. Sometimes using the same monsters to tell different stories is okay. Also, there are some stories that just stand the test of time and remake after remake doesn’t hurt the original story. I’m looking at you, Universal Studios — though you are trying your best to destroy your legacy with this Mummy abortion.
Today, for the Friday Four I give you…
FOUR REMAKES THAT AREN’T WORTHLESS
For this list, I omitted the Universal Monsters franchises because if I included them, that would be the entire list. Those movies can always be updated and still stand strong.
1. House on Haunted Hill, 1999
I didn’t say all the movies were good.
In fairness, this is a pretty fun movie until the ridiculous ending. With leads like Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen leading an all star cast, the director would really have to fuck it up in order to make it boring. The director didn’t so we get a decent little film with some fun moments.
Why is it okay to remake this 1959 Vincent Price classic? Look, I love Vincent Price as much as the next guy — actually probably more than the next guy, and the original film is certainly a must see for ever horror movie fan that ever existed, but the special effects are lacking. The effects in the 1999 remake are great. The effects in the 1959 original – not so much. They had a bone white skeleton prop that you can get at any Halloween shop for about $15 these days. They had to resort to silly in theater gimmicks in order to try and scare the audience. The scariest part of the movie was a creepy old lady on some sort of rolling board. Again, let me remind you, I am a fan of the movie, I just think the effects were a little lacking.
It helps that I love Geoffrey Rush and I dug his homage to Price. Also in the 1999 version, you get the creepy doctors and a lot of other effects that I am sure they wished they had back in 1959. Chalk this one up to “benefited from special effects update.”
2. The Blob, 1988
The Blob in any era is just such a weird movie to me. I can imagine the pitch…
“Hey boss, we have this gelatinous slow moving stuff that eats people!”
Sometimes the byproduct of drug use just works out.
The Blob may have been released by Paramount Pictures, but let’s be honest with ourselves here — it’s got Universal Monster written all over it. In fact, until I was about thirty, I was convinced there were like five Blob movies and that I just hadn’t seen the sequels. I thought it was Universal-like.
Nope. There’s just one Blob and one Blob remake, but here’s the thing about The Blob; It works in every decade. It’s just a blob of shit that eats whatever it comes up against. The 1988 version is cheesy and fun. Shawnee Smith may not be Steve McQueen, but she carries this movie just fine.
I wouldn’t mind a blob movie today. I’d pay to see a blob eat cell phones, hipsters, millenials, Donald Trump and other B celebrities. With Hollywood completely out of ideas, I am surprised this hasn’t happened.
Chalk this one up to: basically a Universal Monsters film.
3. The Thing, 1982
Remember way back in the intro when I said “remakes don’t matter because no one remembers anything about the remakes anyways?” This is the exception that proves the rule. Though this John Carpenter classic (you know it’s John Carpenter because it stars Kurt Russell) is a remake of the 1951 film, The Thing From Another World, whenever you talk about a scene (head spider, anyone?) from The Thing, you’re talking about the remake.
The Thing From Another World is a strange case. It was one of the greatest sci-fi films of the 1950s a.k.a. sci-fi golden age, but it hasn’t been as celebrated as movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still or When Worlds Collide.
By the time Carpenter took over the wheel of the remake, my guess is that a lot of people had forgotten the film. There was no home media libraries at the time so if you didn’t see The Thing From Another World in the 1950s, there is a good chance you hadn’t seen it at all. Toss in one of the hottest directors of the time with one of the hottest actors of the time and you have yourself a blockbuster.
Why does this remake work? The perfect storm of timing, the right people and tweaking the story.
4. Piranha 3D, 2010
When I was a kid, Joe Dante’s Piranha messed me up way more than Jaws ever did. I live in Indiana. I’m landlocked. I didn’t see the ocean until I was 22. Sharks were not a worry for me. I did, however, spend most summers on a lake that I swam in frequently. After watching Piranha, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t constantly thinking fish were eating my toes in the water.
The original Piranha movie was a parody of the rash of shark attack movies that came after the success Jaws, so it’s not like a remake was treading on sacred ground (I’m looking at you almost every other remake ever). Piranha 3D was a more gory and over the top version of Piranha, taking the parody film to the next level with more humor, more blood and more tits.
Piranha 3D is harmless fun that creates its own memories that doesn’t need to rely on you remembering a scene from a previous movie to be successful. It’s the kind of movie that a remake should be. No one should be remaking movies that don’t need updated because they are fine the way they were (Halloween, Psycho, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Omen, Poltergeist, Night of the Demons…the list goes on and on).