Horror movies are constantly being made. It’s a great money making genre, and horror movie fans are pretty devoted. However, lately the trend has been fewer original horror movies and more reboots or remakes. It seems to have really kicked off with Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween (some did exist before then), and has continued to go from there. Now while there have been a few good ones, for the most part this has meant a market bogged down in mediocre or just plain bad horror movie remakes. Here is a list of reasons why it needs to stop.
WARNING THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS
The reboot/remake often forgets what makes the first so great in the first place: biggest offender Friday the 13th
One of the problems with the remakes/reboots is that often ignore what made people love the orginal. A perfect example of this is Friday the 13th remake from 2009. What really made the original Friday the 13th stand out is the identity of the killer. Since the creation of the final girl horror movies we’ve seen tons of them. Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween… the list goes on. What Friday the 13th had was the fact that the masked killer was not in fact who you thought it was. It was not Jason, but rather Jason’s mother. It was surprising, clever, and actually made this movie stand out in it’s genre.
Along comes the remake and aside from being mediocre in every other way it decides to skip the grand reveal that the killer is Jason’s mom and just make it Jason. It’s boring, predictable, completely bypassed the one moment of “wow that’s pretty unique” that the original had. Maybe the excuse is we all know that Jason’s mom is the killer, but then again wasn’t this remake supposed to be for a new generation? Not only that, but even knowing that Jason’s mom is the killer doesn’t completely ruin the experience of the original Friday the 13th. The fact is the unique killer is arguably one of the most important things about Friday the 13th so why ignore that?
The changes to the killers are usually not successful: biggest offenders Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street
Rob Zombie, as mentioned, really kicked off this trend with Halloween. He took a unique approach to his remake and really wanted to look at that character of Michael Meyers. I give Rob Zombie credit for thinking outside the box, but the end result is just not that good. Part of what made John Carpenter’s Halloween so brilliant was that Meyers was this unknown killer. He was some random kid that seemed to live a normal life until he killed his sister. He is then sent away and described as pure evil. Meyer’s doesn’t have much of a reason for stalking and killing the teens that night. The biggest connection he seems to have is that Laurie just happens to stroll up to his house while he’s in there. He kills because he can, it’s as simple as that.
Zombie takes the time to really go into Meyer’s past. Shows him as an abused and troubled boy that doesn’t just snap, but snaps because of all the hardship he faces. The thing is the numerous Halloween sequels that came before this remake already tried that. They desperately tried to give a connection between Meyers and Laurie. It wasn’t needed then, and it’s not needed now. Zombie simply repeats what has already been done, he desperately tries to make Meyers into a complex character. Meyers was never more scary than when he was just a faceless killer with no motivation. Just like the sequels seemed to miss that, Zombie did too. I give Zombie credit for trying, but the end result is rather dull.
Wes Craven was a pro at bringing a macabre sense of humor to his movies. Freddy is the perfect example of that. He is a scary villain, one that was horrible in life, and can now channel the power of dreams to torture in death. Yet despite all this Freddy is really rather hilarious. He is one bad pun after another which really challenges the viewer to laugh while watching something horrific. It’s more than a little twisted, but it’s ultimately successful. It keeps the Nightmare on Elm Street series from being the same as the other slasher flicks.
The remake once again suffers from the desperate need for more backstory and character development for Freddy. You get a closer look at what makes Freddy, Freddy, but in the process the charm of the original character is completely lost. Freddy as a villain might be a little more twisted, but then he’s just as forgettable as the next guy because he’s been done before. The movie totally ignored what made Freddy popular, I mean the new guy makes all of one pun. Honestly Freddy’s new development is forgettable, and I find myself just wanting the old Freddy.
They think more gore is really the solution: biggest offenders, pretty much all of them
The true problem with many of the remakes is how lazy they seem. Little effort is put into making it something that still honors the classic but has it’s own voice. It’s not like remakes like The Thing (1982) where the overall theme is used but a new and wonderful plot is brought to it. No, instead they find the basic plot and then just cover it in more gore. The Hills Have Eyes focused a lot less on the emotional trauma to the characters, but had a lot more gore. Carrie doesn’t really look into the emotional break down of this girl with a slow build up to a climax, but there is a lot more gore. The Last House on the Left lost all the complex reflection but…, well you get the point.
It’s a system built on being able to make a lot of the movies quickly, and easily. Friday the 13th is the final girl movie on a lake, killer with a hockey mask, buckets of blood. Replace lake with suburbia, and the mask and you have Halloween. The fact of the matter is though gore does not make a movie scary it makes it gory. But making a movie gory with jump scares is a lot easier than really trying to work out the plot. At the end of the day it’s a sad system that just leaves classics covered in fake blood.
One of the best possible reboots wasn’t really a reboot, and others that have tried the same have failed
As I mentioned in the introduction I won’t say that all remakes are bad. In fact one of the best exists in a world of remake/reboot/sequel, and that is shockingly Scream 4. The confused nature of what this movie is probably lends itself to the success. Instead of being a straight up reboot it’s kind of a sequel that follows reboot rules. Doing this keeps it close enough to the original while still giving it room to breath. It manages to do what Scream did all those years before. It breaks down the rules of horror (now changed for the new generation), has an interesting cast of characters, and the killer reveal that is a little shocking. The movie works so well because it hangs between a sequel and reboot, pull out the sequel aspects and it would have been a failure. It would have been a boring remake of a movie that we didn’t need.
This sort of blend between sequel and reboot was attempted with Texas Chainsaw 3D. It fails because it’s less of a sequel and more of a lazy reboot. First while being a pretty much direct sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or so it claims) the amount of time that has gone by completely breaks the timeline. More than 20 years have actually gone by, and yet the movie tries to make you believe it’s just been a few. Aside from that horrible oversight the whole plot is turned on it’s head. Leatherface is not the abused killer from a messed up family. No, the people outside the family were really the bad guys and Leatherface is a hero of sorts? I mean there is more to it than that, but it’s not worth analyzing. It attempts to find the success of blending sequel and reboot, but fails. When attempting to mimic the success of other movies it’s important to pay attention to all the aspects that created that success.
At the end of the day we get a few gems of remakes/reboots. We even have a few passable ones. With the world so bogged down with so many remakes however it’s hard to sort through them to find the ones worth watching. So unless a movie is going to really actually try to honor the source material but still find it’s own voice, it just needs to not happen.