In 2007, Rob Zombie released his remake of the classic horror film Halloween. It was met with disdain and negative reactions. In 2009, he released Halloween II, which was met with even more disdain and negative reactions. These films weren't bad films by any means, they just weren't the originals. When we think of #Halloween, we have a very specific image in our minds. We see Michael Myers, we see Dr. Loomis and we see Laurie Strode. Possibly, even more so, we see Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance. How dare someone remake such a classic? I'm here to defend these remakes, and at the same time attempt to distinguish what makes a good remake and what makes a bad remake.
If you're like me, Halloween was one of those horror films you saw growing up. I remember being 8 or 9, and my sister putting it on #TV. It was scary then, and I always held it in pretty high regard. I revisited it once I got older and found that what scared me then now seemed very unappealing. The movie felt boring — too slow, not enough going on. Up until a few days ago, I had not seen the #RobZombie remakes and actually had forgotten that they existed. After watching them, my interest in the Halloween franchise had been renewed.
These films are the same, yet different from the original. There's more detailed storytelling in regards to the Michael Myers's backstory. The characters seem more fleshed out. It's not a slow burn like the originals tend to be at times. No, these remakes are different — they're fast, they're violent, they're intense. Without going too far into details, Halloween II starts off with a kick to the stomach. It doesn't shy away from Rob Zombie's trademark gratuitous violence, and I feel that it utilizes it quite well.
Michael Myers is a killing machine in these movies, and it can be unsettling and uncomfortable to watch. I am a fan of the expanded storytelling as well; it gives life to a character otherwise known as "the Shape." I understand that #horror purists are upset that the remakes strayed from the original and that they gave more details than they had asked for. This is what's nice about remakes, though. Sometimes it goes in a different direction while still attempting to be faithful to the original — you can explore different ideas while still getting the major plot points across.
This is a reimagining of the story rather than a direct remake. It's taking the elements of Halloween and putting Rob Zombie's unique twist on it. While these films are examples of good remakes, there are other remakes that are not so good. For that, I'm going to focus on Martyrs. The original 2009 French film is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. It stuck with me and impacted me in a way that most horror films haven't. Despite this, however, I was open to an American remake. Some remakes should have just never been created.
If you've never seen the original Martyrs by Pascal Laugier, it is a literal soul-crusher. It's a movie grounded solely in nihilist philosophy that makes you question whether what you believe in is real or a lie. It's an artful movie that successfully uses graphic violence to move the story along. The American remake is a more watered-down version, which unfortunately causes it to lose its meaning. In its attempt to appeal to a larger audience, Martyrs loses the things that made the original so effective. It spends more time building up the childhood friendship of main characters Anna and Lucie, while the original was much more subtle about it. It was an attempt to make the movie more mainstream, and it failed.
I've talked about this at length with my girlfriend before. Not every movie needs to be a textbook lesson in nihilist philosophy, and not every movie needs to be intense and hard to watch. It becomes an issue when you're remaking a film known for those elements. This is the danger with remakes — you can completely miss the theme of the movie by trying to change parts of the story. I don't watch Martyrs to see an action film; I watch it because it is a thoughtful and deep film with significant meaning.
Remakes can be good or they can be really bad. I highly recommend checking out Rob Zombie's Halloween films if you're looking for a fresh take on a franchise that has grown stale.
Thanks for reading, and hope to hear from you all in the comments.