Sometimes in the film industry, they like to give you reminders. They say, “Hey, remember that one movie you love? Well, it's been about 14 years since its release, so why don't we bring it back with a newer look?” This, as we all know, is known as the remake.
Now, remakes are a double-edged sword that have the potential to either be a great reinvention that pays great homage to the original or be a soul-sucking carbon copy, that from the start, was a clear ploy for money. From a filmmaker standpoint, remakes are tricky because you're damned if you're too similar to the original and damned if you're too different from the original. There is a very fine line where you have a remake that's similar but different enough to be appreciated.
Sometimes it works. Other times, it doesn't.
So we here at A Bit of Geek have compiled a short list of remakes that landed the mark and those we wish we could forget.
(Disclaimer: while there are certainly other remakes out there other than what's on this list, I had to limit it to remakes I had actually seen, out of fairness. Even as some remakes looked worse than these ones[Total Recall], it wouldn't be just to judge them without actually seeing them. So, here we are)
4th Worst: “When a Stranger Calls” (2006)
This 2006 psychological “horror” film is a remake of the 1979 movie by the same name. Both movies are based on the urban legend “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs,” where a babysitter is watching some kids, a creepy call comes where a man asks her if she's checked the children and the call is revealed to be coming from inside the house. Oh, and he already killed the kids. This was turned into the 1979 version, which despite its best efforts, never landed to stick. Then 2006 came around and the new one was given a chance to reinvent the movie for a modern age.
But it flopped. It even got a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. Its big mystery (“The call's coming from inside the house”) was revealed in its trailers, thereby ruining the big suspense. Also, the performance of Camilla Belle as the heroine is not very good.
For this remake, it's better to hit “Ignore” for “When a Stranger Calls.”
4th Best: “The Producers” (2005)
I'll be honest with you right away: I love musicals. I love the dancing, the numbers, everything. Especially comedic musicals. They just go hand-in-hand with all the showmanship.
Which explains why I love the remake of “The Producers,” starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The movie itself is about a sleazy musical producer and his closet-producer accountant as they try to make the worst musical possible as a get-rich-quick scheme. Hijinks ensue(with plenty of number in between) and the film becomes one of the best pieces of musical comedy around.
What's great about this film is that it's actually based on the 1968 version done by the one-and-only, Mel Brooks. Now, trying to outdo Mel Brooks in comedy is a very hard thing to do and while the remake shouldn't be compared to being “better,” it still gives a honorable rendition to the classic.
Even better, its production values are better(most likely do to the film's accountants), which make the numbers more dramatic and over the top.
A fitting remake that is a joy to watch every time.
3rd Worst: “Halloween” (2007)
The Halloween series has always been a staple of the American horror genre. It was there when horror films were really taking off and stands its ground against “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Personally, I believe this had a lot to do with John Carpenter, who understands the fine subtly to horror and is an overall amazing director(we'll get to that later). Michael Myers doesn't just pop out of frame and slashes at his victims in a moment of surprise. He waits in the background. He makes sure you see him so that you, as a viewer, feel a building of suspense for the unknowing victims.
The 2007 “Halloween” remake by Rob Zombie failed to understand that. Instead of utilizing the psychological horror aspect of Michael Myers, Zombie went for a different approach, portraying Michael as an unstoppable killing machine, akin to Jason Voorhees. This might be due to Zombie's influence as a writer/director, having had more success with his “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil's Rejects,” which were films more about their grisly gore horror than any sort of suspense horror.
3rd Best: “Dawn of the Dead” (2004)
When I first saw the 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” I was blown away. It was a couple years before the zombie genre had really hit full swing, so seeing this film was like seeing the precursor of many more. And seeing it through the eyes of director Zack Snyder(“Watchmen,” “Man of Steel,”) brought us a grandiose sense of disaster to zombie films.
Now, the 1978 original film, done by the proverbial creator of modern zombies, George A. Romero, was a good film in itself. It told the story of a handful of survivors of the zombie apocalypse making their refuge in an abandoned mall. It was a fine zombie film thinly masked as a commentary on American consumerism.
However, what made the remake better were two words: production value. This especially has merit in a zombie movie, where the difference in immersion comes down to either red-dyed corn syrup or high quality blood and guts. Where the original lacked in a big budget for special effects, the remake made up for with fantastic effects. It even had a zombie baby!
2nd Worst: “Night of the Living Dead” (1990)
I know what you must be thinking. “Tom, you just had a George A. Romero remake, and it was good! How could this remake be bad??”
Well, naïve reader, it once again comes down to the level of immersion. The remake of “Night of the Living Dead,” despite its best efforts, undermined itself and the believability of the “of the Dead” series.
See, when the original 1968 “Night of the Living Dead” hit theaters, it was a terrifying spectacle. The dead, rising from their graves to collectively eat the living? Jeepers! And as expected, the reanimated bodies of the dead moved slowly, as though they were rigid from their time spent as worm food. This created the suspense when the protagonist decided to hold up in a house with fellow survivors, only to have the dead eventually break through and devour them.
The remake undermined this suspense with one single scene.
There is a part where one of the protagonists says, “They're so slow. We could just walk right past 'em and we wouldn't even have to run. We could just walk right past 'em. We have the guns. If we're careful we could get away.”
To which her fellow protagonist, after taking a moment to think, says, “No, that wouldn't be a good idea.”
OF COURSE IT'S A GOOD IDEA WHEN THEY MOVE AS SLOW AS A WALK AND HOLDING UP IN ONE PLACE WILL MEAN YOUR DEFENSES WILL BE OVERRUN.
Completely took the believability out of the “Of the Dead” zombies.
2nd Best: “Evil Dead” (2013)
It's a bit of an understatement to say that I love The Evil Dead series. I love the originals with a burning passion that is only dwarfed by the largeness of the Bruce Campbell's chin. While not a consistent genre, the films are a masterpiece in themselves, if only for their campiness, badassdom and the introduction of bookshelves as enemies.
But then the remake came along in 2013, directed by Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez. And it brought Evil Dead back to its roots: to Evil Dead 1, where it had been entirely meant as a horror film.
The Evil Dead remake reinvented the series as a story about demon possession in a cabin in the woods, while simultaneously being about recovery from drug addiction(overcoming a different demon, if you will). But it was filled with such disturbing scenes of gore and sphincter-shrinking mutilation that I felt it reignited the horror aspect of the series. Even better, the filmmakers made the wise decision not to have an Ash character, who was the protagonist from the old series.
Because let's face it: there is no replacement for Bruce Campbell. He's a god among men.
1st Worst: “Planet of the Apes” (2001)
Bless Tim Burton's heart. He tries so hard.
The 2001 remake of the 1968 original by the same name was.....abysmal. It was bad in every possible way and pales in comparison to the classic.
The original “Planet of the Apes” was an icon of the late 60's. Charlton Heston's rugged acting as part of an astronaut team whom discovers a planet of sentient apes was a fantastic take on the exploration science genre. And with the great twist (Does one give out spoiler warnings for movies 50 years old....?) where the astronauts discover the planet is actually Earth in the future, it has been a staple of film history ever since.
The 2001 “Planet of the Apes”? Not so much. It was a weird, hot mess that was signature of Burton's work but mesh with all the wrong elements.
For one, Mark Wahlberg and Tim Burton should never work together. Wahlberg's tough-guy alpha male-ism conflicts horribly with Burton's dark, twisted visualization of characters and settings. Like bringing the frat boy to a My Chemical Romance concert.
Secondly, the film tried to hard to make the dystopian world of the apes strange yet advanced and at the same time, primitive. Swirly armors met with spiraling cities and it was just uncomfortable to take in, visually.
But the coup de grâce was the cheesiness of the movie. Everything felt unbelievably phoney, from the weird ape-on-human romance to the “ape god,” who turned out to be an astronaut ape that came with the originals. However, all of these are nothing compared to the ultimate cheesiness of the movie's ending. Their own take on the original's twist, where we're forced to see Mark Wahlberg's take on the “it was Earth the whole time!”......as he sees an ape-ified version of the Lincoln Memorial.
No doubt, the worst remake I've seen to date.
1st Best: “The Thing” (1982)
Let me be perfectly honest and say this with no form of bias whatsoever.....John Carpenter's “The Thing” is one of the greatest films I've ever seen. It's the perfect combination of suspenseful horror, sickening gore and psychological thriller. For those of you unprivileged enough to have not seen it(yet), the film follows an American survey team in Antarctica as they come under attack by a shapeshifting alien who assimilates any living thing and replicates it perfectly. Suddenly, the team finds themselves mistrusting one another, not knowing who or who isn't a Thing. If you haven't seen it, go see it immediately as it will change your life (Warning: your results may vary).
But what some may not know is that John Carpenter's Thing is actually a remake of a 1951 movie titled “The Thing from Another World.” However, these two versions are completely different from one another. While the remake is a suspenseful paranoid horror film, the original “The Thing from Another World” was classic black-and-white creature feature, The Thing of old is a Flora Frankenstein, being a plant-alien that needs blood plasma to reproduce. It stalks the American outpost as the plucky heroes try to brave against the monster. It even has a happy ending, where the alien is killed and everyone important and good survives to see the credits roll.
But the remake is far superior, in my opinion. It's even closer to the source material as both films are based on a 1938 novella called “Who Goes There?” In the novella, the American team do become paranoid about who's a Thing, so they perform a series of test, like in the remake. Except one thing both films left out was Thing cows.....and ingesting Thing milk.
Sometimes, it's alright for remakes to be different from their originals if they improve on the idea of the concept.
That's our list of remakes, for good or ill! If you agree with us or have some remake mentions of your own, let us know! Comment below or contact us on Facebook, Twitter and tumblr!