Friday the 13th.
A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The Amityville Horror.
Just off the top of my head, I pulled seven different movies, solely horror, that have been remade just within the past decade. You want more?
Dawn of the Dead.
Day of the Dead.
The Hills Have Eyes.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
There's seven more. That's not even including remakes of foreign films (REC, The Grudge, The Ring) or B-movies (April Fool's Day, Piranha). Hollywood is suffering from several major issues; they have an insane hubris where they think that they know better than the original filmmakers, they have absolutely no creativity whatsoever, and they simply don't care.
Hollywood will buy up properties, not for the residuals, but for the ability to tack a name onto a piece of garbage movie/TV series/other medium and have people instinctively flock to it. It doesn't matter how bad a movie is, you have a built-in audience if you slap a recognizable name on it.
Sometimes, it can be done right. Franck Khalfoun's 2012 version of Maniac was a creative modernization without straying from the source material. It was a nice blend of old and new. Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead adaptation was also well done. It told a new story but still kept the same feeling as the original (although the end was trumped up, overdone and unnecessary, but you can hear all about that in our review of it).
Most of the time, however, remakes are either lazy, too far from the original, or not far enough. What makes it worse is that TV is now getting into the remake game. There is a new Rosemary's Baby mini series coming to NBC. Fargo is now a television show. Everyone wants to make a movie "grittier" and "darker" and more modern. My question is, what happened to the old movies? Can I no longer watch Tobe Hooper's 1982 classic Poltergeist? Oh, I can? Then why the hell do I need a remake, even if it is starring Sam Rockwell?
By remaking a movie, you are instantly creating a comparison to the original. It's not enough for your movie to be good, it has to be as good as - neigh, better - than its namesake. In theory, the filmmakers are putting themselves at a disadvantage just by the act of making a movie that can't stand on its own. However, these filmmakers don't care about making good movies. They only care about making money, and as I stated above, remakes will do that. People will see them just so they can compare them to the original. Then they will come out of the theater, griping and saying how it wasn't as good and mentioning how all their favorite parts were omitted. But guess what? Once there's another remake, they'll be right back in that theater to start the process all over again.
Hollywood tries to trick us with wordplay. There are sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, and the latest, "premakes." These are all basically different ways of saying the same thing; "we haven't milked this cash cow dry just yet."
Sequels and prequels are self-explanatory and are exempt from the list because they can be a way to complete a story. The rest are all garbage made-up marketing speech. "Remakes" are essentially the same movie, done again with some small changes or modernizations. "Reboots" are basically a new movie that reminds us of the old franchises. It takes parts of the old and combines them with new. It's more or less a way to get away with only writing half a script. "Re-imaginings" are the biggest cop out. A re-imagining is basically someone going "well, if I had made this movie, here's how I would have done it." This is the one that lets movie makers get away with taking a completely different entity, slapping a name on it and selling it as a franchise it never was.
For example, writer/director Adam Green said once on his podcast that he approached a studio with an original script and was told that the studio owned the rights to the name Rosemary's Baby and would he be willing to let them title his movie that. He responded with something along the lines of "there's not even a baby in it" and they replied by telling him how big the opening weekend could be.
Speaking of Adam Green, he created a horror franchise that wasn't a sequel, wasn't a remake, and wasn't based on a Japanese one. In fact, that was the tagline. The funny thing about that is that the reason he used that tagline is because that was an actual email he got from a studio, explaining why they weren't going to make his movie. That movie was Hatchet and it spawned two sequels. The Hatchet series is classic, old-school American horror (another tagline) that falls in line with the original Friday the 13th series. Is it archetypical? A little. Does it follow a slasher "template?" Somewhat. Is it still fun as hell? Absolutely. It's a great example of how you can use a formula to create a new, and still very entertaining, movie without having to fill the shoes of a predecessor. Hatchet might get compared to Friday the 13th, but it will be a fun debate of which is better, not a hopeless banter of "well, why didn't they include Tommy Jarvis?"
Dear Hollywood, for the love of God, please let someone create something original. Please stop with the remakes. Please, please, give us a new horror icon. We've seen these movies. Let them be.
Find more from The Grave Plot Podcast at www.graveplotpodcast.com.