Re-imagining, remake, version of, re-boot or whatever you'd like to call them are 'lazy' big business, especially when you're remaking a good film, and it's not just old films that are subject of being remolded, having a cinematic remaking..
For example, Hammer's most recent offering is 'Let Me In' (2010), a remake of the recent excellent Let the Right One In (2008). Hammer can't fail with a successful director Matt Reeves at the helm.
Another is Quarantine (2008) a year after the originals release an unnecessary remake of Spanish horror [REC] (2007).
Old slasher classics John Carpenter's Halloween '78, remade by Rob Zombie in 2007. Friday the 13th 1980 remade in 2009. The harrowing, I Spit on Your Grave (Day of the Woman) (1978) recently in 2010 and '72 The Last House On The Left again in 2009...
It goes on and on and there are more in the pipeline and it doesn't happen to just horror, it's across all genres. ... Arthur, The Karate Kid, The Taking Of Pelham 123 and Conan to name a few.
Whether you like remakes or not they have doing this since Hitchcock remade his own version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) in 1954 and as far back as the beginning of film, notably "The Great Train Robbery" (1903) remade in 1904.
I've put together a random selection of... Let's call them incarnations, both that I feel are good and bad for your perusal...
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
A badly burnt gardener is killing teenagers in their dreams, however, their deaths are not just random as these children are all linked by their past and their parents secret.
Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer's screenplay is never brave enough to develop the new ideas injected into A Nightmare on Elm Street which is a shame as Watchmen and Shutter Island lead Jackie Earle Haley is excellent as Freddy Krueger, but is rarely on screen.
Where as unnecessary remakes The Amityville Horror: (2005), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) ,Halloween (2007) and Friday the13th (2009) to name a few tried to elevate the original concepts and add further depth, director Samuel Bayer's Nightmare' fails to do either and this latest offering is no better than Robert Englund's last outing in 2003.
There a distinct lack of dreamlike quality for the most part. The lighting and sets are first-rate but the eerie, ominous atmosphere and build up of tension are missing. Just as there are glimmers, the return to the school, the parents decisions, Freddy's return as so on, it never gives enough weight to the exposition or execution to those new ideas and your left with a hollow feeling and a few cheap jump scares.
With limited screen-time Clancy Brown, of Highlander (1986), steals every scene with his presence. Sub-characters Kris (Katie Cassidy) and Dean (Kellan Lutz) are missed early on. The acting of the rest of the cast is adequate, with a teen cast of familiar faces including, Rooney Mara and Thomas Dekker, but they are all to polished for the viewer to connect with them and feel any authentic fear. That said, Jackie Earle Haley limited time is welcomed and the Freddy makeup and costume is excellent. As too is the effective rework of the original music score.
Ultimately, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) adds nothing new, either as a re-imagining, an addition/reboot to the series or a remake of the original. Even as standalone horror film it falls short and fails to give you nightmares.
A television reporter and her cameraman are on call with a group of fireman. When they are called to an apartment building their night takes a turn for the worse… The building becomes quarantined confining them with the inhabitants who are infected by a virus that turns them into bloodthirsty killers.
If you've seen Rec (2007) this version adds nothing new. Director John Erick Dowdle and writer Drew Dowdle can't fail as it's almost a paint by number remake, only with English dialogue instead of the dubbed or subtitles of the original.
While Hostel's Jay Hernandez give a great performance, the majority of the rest of the cast are less convincing. Quarantine it's a lot sleeker in it's execution and looks really good. That said, the griminess of REC has been lost and this version sadly loses the raw innate fear factor.
As a standalone point of view shot film it's entertaining enough. Blood, gore, tension and claustrophobia but if you've seen the original it's an unnecessary remake and cash-in on Rec (2007) made less than a year earlier.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
New sandals, old hat, Clash of the Titans is an enjoyable remake, but the original only made in 1981 doesn't seem that long ago.
The 2010 version strength is that you don't see sandals, Gods and monster adventure films much these days(unless they are made for TV). However, you cant help but think why remake Clash of the Titans when Jason and the Argonauts would have been more advantageous.
Sadly the score is pretty forgettable but the effects are great, minus a disappointing CGI Medusa. The old world feel is captured perfectly credit to director of photography Peter Menzies Jr. the locations are breathtaking, Sam Worthington is a reliable as the an action hero but his character is underdeveloped. There are some great performances by Mads Mikkelsen and heavy weights Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. The rest are a mixed bag, yet Gemma Arterton is startling first-class as to is the almost unrecognisable Jason Flemyng as Calibos. However, if you've seen the original, Calibos like Perseus lacks characterisation.
Apart from a few tweaks, director Louis Leterrier's version retreads the first. While it exceeds it predecessor in some parts, thankfully there's no owl, it includes the Sheikh Sulieman; Lo; scorpions; Pegaus and flying monsters; in places it fall short of the original -The Medusa scene;the training of Perseus and Calibos role.
Nevertheless, it's a fun adventure film and I'd happily watch an inevitable sequel.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
A group of strangers take refuge in shopping mall, in a desperate attempt to survive a zombie outbreak.
You know Michael Cain once said, to paraphrase, 'why do they always bloody remake good films, they should remake the bad ones'. Of course I agree with this, but Michael went on to star in the remake of Get Carter and Sleuth. So to follow in Michael's foot steps and do a u turn, I'd like to state the re-imagining/remake of Dawn of the dead is a blast.
Although I love George's original Dawn of the dead, with his traditional slow moving dead, the zombies in this remake Directed by Zack Snyder (who went on to direct 300 & Watchmen) move fast. The fast moving are like the virus infected people in 28 days/weeks later. They are just plain menacing and bloodcurdling.
Zack Snyder directs a solid cast of relatively unknowns, Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames and Jake Weber. The body of the story is the same as the original only this time a nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman, and other survivors arrive at a shopping mall for protection from the hordes of zombies that await outside.
The effects are excellent and the first 15 minutes of the film is crafted and executed to a standard that I'm sure Hitchcock would have been proud of - it's pure tension, scares and horror.
In retrospect Dawn of the dead 2004 is probably the most underrated re-imagining/remake ever. Grab a raw steak and watch it if you don't believe me.
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Before horror remakes became popular and the the term 'reboot' was only used for computers Tom Savini horror effects maestro directed the remake of the black & white classic Night of the Living Dead. Originally Savini worked on Dawn of the Dead and other films directed by zombie godfather George. A .Romero, his gory effects were influenced by the real life deaths he witnessed in Vietnam.
The secluded and atmospheric location works a charm and Candyman's Tony Todd is on top form but the film is let down by some bad performances from the supporting cast, who I wont name.
Savini proves he is a competent director. He makes the wise decision to stick close to the original material giving us a pacier update, a coloured version that comes with a few welcomed tweaks to the story line. It's worth every zombie bite.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Remake, re-imagination whatever you'd like to label it as, Planet of the Apes (2001) is inferior to the original 1968 film in almost every way.
That said, the make up is excellent, Tim Roth as Thade is fantastic, Colleen Atwood costumes are notable and Danny Elfman's thumping score is an achievement. The spaceship sets and on the location night scenes have a unique atmosphere and edge about them. Even Mark Wahlberg tries his best to handle the half-baked script and there are a few welcomed cameos from some of the original cast.
On the flip side there's some choppy editing, an uneven story, the ape city and the sandy finale are emotionless and uninspiring. Slipped in is some unnecessary humour, usually supplied by Paul Giamatti (aptly named Limbo) and you never feel any danger or threat from the apes apart from Thade. Also, there's no likable characters to really root for. Nevertheless, nothing can save nominated director and visionary Tim Burton's incarnation of Apes.
The fist ten minutes and the last two are probably the most attention-grabbing of this version but with an estimated budget $100,000,000 there's no excuse for the travesty in between. Let's hope Caesar: Rise of the Apes (2011) can put the series on track.
Red Dragon (2002)
Comedy director Bret Rattner gives us Red Dragon. Ex-FBI agent Will Graham is assigned to help track down a serial killer; with the aid of the notorious criminal genius Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter who he imprisoned.
Based on Thomas Harris novel inevitable comparisons between Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986) are unavoidable due to the same source material- in essence it is a remake.
It is big budget event including an expensive supporting cast Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes and Philip Seymour Hoffman to name a few. The usual provoking Edward Norton sadly gives a monotone performance as Will Graham and those who are familiar with Manhunter will be disappointed. Memorable Anthony Heald reprises his role as Dr. Frederick Chilton and Frankie Faisonis is once again Barney Matthews. Anthony Hopkins is back as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, set before Lamb's and Ridley Scott's Hannibal it's an odd casting choice if only from an aesthetic point of view because if his age. Also as in the casting of Julianne Moore in Hannibal, Harvey Keitel as Jack Crawford is peculiar from a link point of view as Scott Glenn was just as good. So there really was no need to have cast Hopkins as Lecter as continuity isn't an concern for the producers here.
Danny Elfman's score is surprisingly mediocre and uninspiring. Dante Spinotti's cinematography is noteworthy and every scene looks great with some fantastic lighting, especially when there's a big set piece. Rattner's film over all is fine looking, well constructed and is as well polished as most of the actors. Nevertheless, despite a great cast ensemble and a budget, Red Dragon lacks the ominous edge of its predecessors.
To it's credit it is worth watching if only for the opening scene and the joy of seeing Hopkins (albeit older) lurking in his (Slience of the Lambs) cell.
A married couple discover ghostly images in the photographs they develop and they discover a spirit of a dead girl is seeking vengeance.
Shutter was released the same year as the Mirrors (2008), in the wake of other successful remakes of Asian chillers including the exceptional Dark Water. This offering is as average as it's 2004 predecessor, screenplay writer Luke Dawson injects the Americanisms and little else. There are good solid performances by Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor, with the template already set director Ochiai does a more than satisfactory job. He also makes the wise choice of using Japanese locations than sets, which are striking at times.
Regrettably, everything is forgettable and it not the films fault. It's the fact that if you've seen any recent Asian remakes The Grudge for example; you know ten minutes in what the twist is going to be. There are some creepy moments and it's better than most of the remake batch including films such as the teen orientated One Missed Call (2008)and Pulse (2006).
Shutter is competently spooky,with some nice effects and to its credit a lot better than the endless supply of teen horrors that are doing the rounds.
The Amityville Horror (2005)
The Amityville Horror (2005) is a very effective, yet, an unnecessary remake of the The Amityville Horror (1979) which was based on a book, based on an account by the real life Lutz's who credibility was questionable.
Although it is based on a true story the only fact is that the DeFeo family, the first occupants of the home, were killed by their son.
Amityville Horror 2005 is creepy, genuinely jumpy, well written and directed. It's an enjoyable horror film. There are some spine-tingling, moments enhanced by the eerie music by Steve Jablonsky who has gone on to score bigger films. In the same way Rachel Nichols stands out in a brief role, which probably got her a lot of roles in other horror films. Ryan Reynolds, as George Lutz is first rate as you see his character progressively change and Melissa George is reliable as usual.
It's an effective remake but you can't help but think they could have just made an original haunted house horror film with such clearly talented people.
The A-Team (2010)
Rumours have circulated for a long time about the possibility of an A-Team movie, we'll it's here. Based on The A-Team (1983) which hasn't aged to well but still has a charm of it own, the 2010 incarnation follows Iraq War veterans looking to clear their name with the U.S. military.
The cast, Joe Carnahan direction, effects are great, the tweaks and changes to update the A-Team into 2010 are fitting. Although that allure and humour of the original has somehow been lost. That said there are a few good one liners. A stand out one from Murdock is - "You can't park there, that's a handicap zone," in the context of what's happening on screen at the time is hilarious.
Jessica Biel, along side bad guys Brian Bloom and Patrick Wilson give good performances and weight to the story. It has its faults, while Bradley Cooper puts in a great performance he's the only character that appears very different to the original Dirk Benedict's 'Faceman'. Also there's a distinct lack of Colonel Hannibal Smith disguises. Nevertheless, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson portrayal of B.A is notable and Sharlto Copley's interpretation of Murdock is praiseworthy.
There's plenty going on, double crossings, tremendous action scenes and escapes. For this film not to surpass the tacky fun Saturday evening show it would have been a crime with the budget and talent thrown at it.
It's good fun but lacks that wow, revisit factor. With expectations lowered, if there's to be a sequel I'm sure Liam Neeson and company will look more comfortable in 1983's A-Team shoes given a second outing.
The Crazies (2010)
The story briefly… A small town is suddenly plagued by insanity after a toxin contaminates their water supply.
I'm a George Romero fan, but I didn't enjoy the 1973 cult classic as much as his zombie films or this version. It's very rare I salute remakes, especially needless ones. However, The Crazies is an exception to the rule. Breck Eisner direction is effective and the writing is excellent, stopping it falling into b-movie territory. My only negative remarks are that there were too many 'getting saved at the last second moments' and an unnecessary CGI driven ending.
The film plays on fear of dying and isolation. There's lots of gore, tension and atmosphere. Radha Mitchell and the underrated Timothy Olyphant are excellent as they convincingly fight for survival against the town folk that have turned crazy. Joe Anderson deserves a mention as the deputy.
If you like 28 days later, you love this.
The Invasion (2007)
Remake of remakes and based on Jack Finney novel, thankfully The Invasion borrows more from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and as a plus doesn't try to recreate its daring chilling ending, coming up with its own penultimate finish.
The supporting cast are great and include '78's Veronica Cartwright. It is a fine cast ensemble that reunites Jeffrey Wright and Daniel Craig in two effective roles as they help Carol Bennell played by Nicole Kidman find her son and stop a virus that is turning humans into 'perfect' emotionless shells of themselves.
Already off to a head start, based on such excellent source material director Oliver Hirschbiegel brings David Kajganich interesting screenplay to life. It's subtle at times but injects plenty of foot and car chases. The on location shooting sells the tension as you see the city's people change. Make up effect are fantastic and not too overboard. The good use of lighting, camera angels backed up with a nail biting score helps to heightening the paranoia as everyone Bennell knows becomes one of 'them.'
Kidman's endless supply of unnecessary fitted clothing and botox aside, she gives a good performance and despite some surprisingly already dated effects shots of microscopic viruses the film is well crafted.
Overall, if not compared to its predecessors, The Invasion ticks all the boxes as a retelling of a character driven, sharp, thrilling sci-fi.
The Omen (2006)
Remakes of good films are always unnecessary, remake the bad ones. Never the less, notable horrors The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) Dawn of the Dead (2004), and The Amityville Horror (2005) success paved the way for remakes of 'classic's'.
The Omen (2006) is no exception, basically the same as it's 1976 predecessor there are a few tweaks to the story but the core plot remains the same, an American ambassador comes to terms with the fact his son is literally the Antichrist.
It's a star studded cast including the likes of David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, and Michael Gambon who give more than adequate supporting performances. Note worthy is Mia Farrow as the nanny, an elegant, intelligent and creepy Mrs. Baylock
Julia Stiles is on form as the mother who senses something is wrong with her child and Liev Schreiber is excellent as the father Robert Thorn, who holds a secret about their son. It's fast paced and you see glimpse of Damien ageing from new-born via home videos. Arguably the child actor is not as menacing as the children in recent horrors but is effective enough, as most of the frivolities happen when he's not on screen.
The film is superbly crafted by director John Moore, the locations and David Seltzer's well written screenplay give the film a realist weight. Even though there's some over saturated post-production lighting, the movie has a terrific ominous look, containing plenty of rain and shadows. Accompanied by Marco Beltrami's excellent music score remarkable creepy scenes include a visit to a monastery and cemetery, Thorn's meeting with Postlethwaite's priest and some eerie dream sequences.
Cheap jump scares aside and without drawing comparisons to the original, The Omen is a very intriguing and entertaining horror thriller that is worth your time.
The Thing (1982)
An atmospheric understated sci-fi at it best. I'll never understand how Carpenter lost the lustre in some of the other film he made, nevertheless, his Thing is one of his best movies and also once of the best sci-fi movies ever. Despite being based on the same source material (before remakes were popular) the thing has a look and feel of it's own and is very different from its 50's counterpart.
The isolated setting, the astounding cinematography and scenery creates intrigue; drawing you in from the very beginning. It's a perfect horror/sci-fi cocktail of Ennio Morricone's haunting foreboding score, Rick bakers benchmark practical effects (which are unsurpassed) Carpenters claustrophobic set ups and Bill Lancaster screenplay.
It's rare that every single actor is exceptional and supplied with effective dialogue. All the cast from Kurt Russell to Wilford Brimley as Blair are all captivating, great casting by Anita Dann. The characters have their own issues and as the paranoia sets in relationships are forged and other broken, building to a bold and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a cult film with a 'monster' hiding in warm places surrounded by snow, it's a finely tuned science fiction horror masterpiece.
The Wolfman (2010)
The Wolfman is a fanciful looking film and a good remake of The Wolf Man (1941). It also has a reminiscent atmosphere of the old Hammer movies.
Joe Johnston proves once again he is a more than effective director. As a bonus werewolf effects veteran Rick Baker provides the some of the special make-up effects and a brief cameo. Danny Elfman gives a wonderful and fitting score, the whole film has a great Gothic ambiance to it.
Anthony Hopkins (who I usually love) as Sir John Talbot comes across lazy and uninspiring in this particular role and at times the film is too CGI driven. However, Benicio Del Toro is the perfect Wolfman and Hugo Weaving is ideal as the witty Scotland yard Inspector who has some great moments.
Itdoesn't have the crispness of Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but is far more enjoyable than Coppola's Dracula?.
For old school horror monster fans it's a delight. All in all it's a fitting retelling of a classic monster movie.
My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Based on George Mihalka's 1981 slasher and Stephen A. Miller's story of the of the same name; a killer miner returns to a small town on the 10th anniversary of his killing spree to pick-axe the ones that got away but, is it really him?
What starts out as a teen-like slasher,such as Prom Night/Friday 13th,this quickly feels more grounded when the story moves 10 years on. There's lots of gore and the killings are bloody and have been executed with some great effects. My Bloody Valentine is an above average stalker type gore slasher. The acting is a mixed bag of impressive performances by Kerr Smith and Jaime King, however, Supernatural's lead Jensen Ackles is mediocre.
This remake doesn't need the 3D gimmicks which actually spoil a few great moments of escapism, with it's lingering close shots that cheapen the look of Brian Pearson's cinematography.
What makes this better than most is the 1981 whodunit story and Todd Farmer and Zane Smith's updated screenplay that sticks to the original, it's little twists, the characters and the relationships are well written and explored. There's plenty of drive and motivation even in the sub character's including Tom Atkins and Kevin Tighe.
Overall, despite My Bloody Valentine's faults it is surprisingly good due to the storytelling and satisfying conclusion.
I welcome Kiefer Sutherland with open arms as he's in the land of TV far too often. Although he seems to lack the great range of his father Donald, he is a great underrated actor. Mirrors gives Kiefer plenty to play with, but as with so many Asian horror remakes that have been spat-out recently and while Mirrors is one of the better remakes, the story twist is something we've seen too many times.
No stranger to remakes director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes remake and 2010's Piranha 3-D) takes the viewer though paint by numbers stuff as Ben Carson (Kiefer), a former undercover detective, is forced to take a night time security job at a department store that was gutted by a fire. However, there is an evil lurking in the mirrors, an entity he must stop to save his family.
Lately, I wish all the PC's in the world were stolen so I wouldn't have to see another dodgy effect detract from an actor's performance. While some effects are modest it's the bad CGI that spoils some moments of scariness. When practical effects are used there's one moment that would stop you ever looking into a mirror and taking a bath again.
Jason Flemyng shows up for a welcomed moment but seems to take his pay cheque and disappear as fast as some of the eerie atmosphere. Between Paula Patton and Amy Smarts (almost a cameo appearance) the acting is above average even down to the child actors who are at no time annoying.
Overall, Kiefer leaves his mark and it may not be the most original horror but at times it is certainly is creepy, not since Poltergeist and Poltergeist 3 have mirrors been so chilling.