Fright Club: See the Original, Not the Remake

Horror movie remakes are legion – most of them needless, many of them abominations, one or two really work out well. The Ring – that’s a great one. Let Me In – OK, we will! But today, rather than crucify the sub-par remakes, what we really want to do is to remind you of the bloody good original you may have missed, or maybe saw years back and need to check out again. Here is our list of horror movies where you should skip the remake and seek out the original.

5. Diabolique (1955 v 1996

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s twisty psychological thriller with horror-ific undertones is crafty, spooky, jumpy and wonderful. Jeremiah Chechik’s 1996 remake capitalizes on the popularity of a post-Basic Instinct Sharon Stone and the moviegoing public’s spotty memory. If a film relies on a twist ending to work, why remake that film? You have to ask whether the film still works if the ending is apparent all the while. In all honesty, with the atmosphere of brittle dread Clouzot created, the answer could well be yes – although that bathtub scene is far scarier when you don’t know it’s coming. But Chechik – whose National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation hardly suggested he had instinct for tense, potentially supernatural horror – was not up to the task. Flat. Uninspired. Spook-less. Boo.

4. The Wicker Man (1973 v 2006)

Oh my God. What the hell?! The once-promising Neil LaBute and the once-talented Nic Cage turn that saucily blasphemous ’73 gem on Summerisle into an embarrassing battle of the sexes. In the early Seventies, Robin Hardy created a film that fed on the period’s hippie versus straight hysteria, and he did it with insight, humor, and super creepy animal masks. LaBute, characteristically, turns that primary conflict into male versus female, sucking all the irreverent humor from the story as he does. And he pulls his punch with the ending – so what on earth is the purpose of this?!!!

3. The Haunting (1963 v 1999)

Well, here’s another one that just pisses us off. In ’63, Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music – yeah, that one) took Shirley Jackson’s beloved haunted house novel to the big screen. True to the source material, The Haunting relied so entirely upon your own imagination that it garnered a G rating and still scared hell out of you. In 1999, Jan de Bont abandoned nuance entirely, embraced vulgar displays of literalism and wasted a cast that was actually perfect for each role. In somebody else’s adaptation, Catherine Zeta-Jones would have made the perfect Theo and Owen Wilson a delightful Luke, but the achingly missed opportunity is Lily Taylor. There is no better option to play Jackson’s repressed heroine Nell – Taylor couldn’t be a more perfect choice – and a blind de Bont understood his talent even less well than he understood Jackson’s novel.

2. Oldboy (2003 v 2013)

No surprise here. We honestly feel a bit bruised for poor Spike Lee, who endured so much Hollywood interference with his reboot of Chan-wook Park’s near-perfect Korean original that a decent product was out of the question. And yet, this abomination was released on an unsuspecting – or worse, optimistic – movie going world. And it sucked! Just sucked outright!! Gone were all the glorious bits of subversive genius, every punch pulled, every shock diluted. Park’s dizzying action sequences – ditched. And this seriously badass cast – Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel Jackson – wasted, while Sharlto Copley embarrasses himself. Awful!

1. Martyrs (2008 v 2015)

Pascal Laugier’s diabolical masterpiece Martyrs is a merciless film. It’s also one of the most impeccably written, directed and acted films in horror history. Co-directors and brothers Kevin and Michael Goetz underperform with their 2015 remake – pulled punches, heavy handed explanations, and a general lack of spine mark their work. The questions here resemble the same conundrum of remaking Oldboy – if you lack the guts to do the film justice, why do it at all? Why choose such a bold effort if your whole goal is to water it down?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.