Awful movie remakes will always outnumber the good remakes. Here are some of the most wretched. Most of which fall into the horror genre.
6) A PERFECT MURDER (1998)
Only Alfred Hitchcock should remake Hitchcock. That’s the thesis of this Dial M For Murder do-over, directed by Andrew Davis and written by Patrick Smith Kelly. Try to out-twist the Master of Suspense and this is what regurgitates.
Michael Douglas knows his wife, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is having an affair. Instead of blackmailing a long-ago friend into killing Paltrow (like in the original), Douglas hires her lover, played by Viggo Mortensen, to snuff her out. Twist one.
Twist two is the reveal of who actually tried to kill Paltrow: an ordinary burglar. It just so happened that on the same day Mortensen was to kill Paltrow, another guy broke into her apartment. Timing is everything.
From there, the movie devolves into Douglas’ desperate attempts to tie loose ends before Paltrow finds out he tried to kill her. “It’s not happiness to see me”, say both Douglas and Paltrow. Neither is this movie.
5) FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)
Actually, it’s a remake of Parts I, II, and III, but let’s not split skulls. The original’s suspense and ultimate twist are gone in this rehash from director Marcus Nispel and writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift.
We’re supposed to root for a bunch of deplorable twentysomethings, which is impossible. The only decent character is played by Jared Padalecki, who is trying to find his missing sister.
We end up rooting for Jason Vorhees. The quicker he kills them, the sooner the movie can end. Unlike in the original series, Jason doesn’t seem to be killing out of revenge because councillors let him drown as a kid. No. It’s more like he kills anyone who stumbles upon a marijuana-growing operation in the woods of Camp Crystal Lake. Jason isn’t a vengeful murderer; he’s a drug dealer trying to stay in business. It’s doubtful the filmmakers intended this takeaway, but that’s how it looks. At least there was never a sequel.
4) WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (2006)
A better title is Sorry, Wrong Number. But that would be an entirely different remake. The original, starring Carol Kane, was essentially three short films telling one over-arching story.
Film One is a half hour of pure dread and terror as Kane’s babysitter is harassed by a crank caller asker her, “Have you checked the children?”. It’s a masterpiece in the slow build-up department.
Film Two follows the killer from Film One after he’s released from jail. He unsuccessfully tries to kill a woman he fancies in a bar.
Which leads to Film Three. The killer discovers Kane has a family and decides to finish what he started.
The remake, directed by Simon West from a script by Jake Wade Wall, is Film One stretched out over ninety minutes. When the idea is the only thing scary about your horror movie, you’ve got trouble.
Why do a lot of modern day horror movies take place in houses with walls made entirely of glass? And why don’t they have curtains? A glass house suggests the owner has money to fall over. Why would they want their valuables on view for the general public? It’s inviting trouble. But this can be overlooked for the most part.
What can’t be overlooked is the fact that the babysitter is no longer the only potential figure of authority in the house. Halfway through the movie, a housekeeper shows up, watering plants in the conservatory. Because when you’re wealthy, you can have your own personal botanical garden.
Why doesn’t the babysitter ask the housekeeper for help? Actually, why is there a babysitter? Can’t the housekeeper do double duty, or is that rhododendron that much of a bitch?
Hitchcock once said, “Logic is boring.” True. But at times, it’s necessary.
Hang up on this one.
3) PSYCHO (1998)
Yet another remake of a Hitchcock classic. And another with Viggo Mortensen among the cast. Without The Lord of the Rings, his career may have never recovered.
Gus Van Sant directed this shot-for-shot remake, using an updated script by original screenwriter Joseph Stefano. Van Sant even kept to Hitchcock’s month-long filming schedule.
Why? So he can say he did it? This is the equivalent of a toddler using tracing paper to “draw” a picture of Captain America and then put it on the fridge for everyone to adore. Totally pointless.
2) HALLOWEEN (2007)
This is what happens when the kid who traced Captain America thinks he can write and direct. Rob Zombie thought it’d be interesting to plumb Michael Myers’ backstory, so he wrote and directed it. In doing so, he turns John Carpenter’s murdering force of evil into a lumbering Sasquatch of a man, who kills because he was bullied as a kid. Any got a kitchen knife?
The more interesting backstories belong to Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) and Michael’s mother (Sheri Moon Zombie). In fact, Moon Zombie turns out to be the only sympathetic character in the atrocity.
All of act one and much of act two is devoted to Michael’s backstory. Apparently if we understand his psychopathy, we’ll relate to him.
The thing is, we’re not supposed to relate to Michael. We’re supposed to be afraid of him. A kid who randomly butchers his sister on Halloween (like in the original) is shocking. Why he does it is inconsequential. He exists. That’s all we need to know.
Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is who we should relate to, but we don’t. Where Jamie Lee Curtis played Laurie in the original as smart, quiet, and likable, Taylor-Compton plays her as antagonistic, even a little mean. No sympathy.
The gore is another downside. Zombie slathers blood on everything, more interested in torture and shocks, rather than suspense, like Carpenter. Zombie also gives us a Haddonfield, Illinois chalk full of white trash with a southern drawl.
Zombie renders his entire remake pointless by not having Kid Michael kill his baby sister Angel (eventually Laurie). The only reason for this: she wasn’t mean to him. If that’s the case, why the hell does he hunt her down years later? Zombie can’t even follow the rules he set up.
1) GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)
Let’s get this straight: the women WERE NOT the trouble with this movie. That’s just the angle director Paul Feig and the media played up. In fact, if it weren’t for Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, the movie would be unwatchable.
Instead of finally getting a third Ghostbusters movie (or fourth if you count the video game), we get this shoddy remake,co-written by Feig and Katie Dippold, built on this idea: introduce ghosts to a New York that has never experienced them before.
This would have worked if the original Ghostbusters didn’t exist. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it does exist. And it’s a bell that can’t be unrung. Ghostbusters is an iconic property comprised of iconic characters and iconic events. Asking audiences, especially long-time fans, to ignore thirty-plus years of mythology is ludicrous and insulting.
Take Star Wars, for example. When Disney bought the rights, they made The Force Awakens – a sequel that brought back characters fans had waited thirty-two years to see again. Imagine if Disney had rebooted the franchise in name only and it had nothing to do with the Skywalker mythology. People would’ve gone out of their minds. And rightly so. But Disney didn’t do that. They respected the originals and added to them.
The decision to have the Ghostbusters remake/reboot have nothing to do with the original movies is its most grievous mistake. And one that Sony seemed to try to fix by throwing in nods to the original.
This was evident in the first trailer released. It began with “Thirty years ago, four scientists saved the world” plastered across the screen. If Sony and director Paul Feig intended a fresh start with nothing to do with the original movie, why even reference it or its characters?
At the very least they could have referenced it correctly: three scientists and a former Marine saved the world. Winston Zeddemore wasn’t a scientist. Someone must have brought this to Sony’s attention because subsequent trailer replaced “four scientists” with “four friends”.
Having the original cast make cameos in different roles, using the same logo and science, and sticking Slimer in doesn’t appease fans. Nor should it any movie-lover.
During the original’s commentary, director Ivan Reitman mentions that he approached the premise of Ghostbusters seriously, knowing the comedy would evolve from that.
At no point can the remake be taken seriously. It plays like a spoof. Characters volley snide, “witty” comments at each other in an attempt to make the audience laugh, but only manage to make them check their watches. When I saw it, only three things provoked laughter: McKinnon, Jones, and Chris Hemsworth, who played Kevin, the dim secretary.
One of the first lessons taught in film school is avoid exposition. Show don’t tell. So how does the remake start? With a four minute monologue about a haunted house. The most action seen is the ping-ponging reactions of those on the haunted house tour.
Compare that to the dialogue-less opening sequence in the original of a mousy librarian discovering a ghost in the depths of the New York Public Library. It isn’t played for laughs; it’s to establish a mood. Reitman, with writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, knew that for the audience to accept Slimer, Gozer, and Mr. Stay Puft, they’d have to believe their existence possible. The few chances at believability in the remake are often inorganic.
Only Ernie Hudson and Rick Moranis voiced opposition to the remake/reboot idea. Moranis opted out of participating, asking why would he want to re-do something he did right thirty years prior. After the remake’s underperformance, Hudson admitted it would’ve been better to just make a proper third installment.
Akyroyd has been pushing the third installment idea for decades. He wanted the old team to hand off the business to a new team. Sony should have gone that route.
Ivan Reitman recently said that several Ghostbusters movie projects are in the works. Hopefully one will use Aykroyd’s idea. Until then, watch the original movies. Or the cartoon series. Or the IDW comic books.
Just not the remake. Avoid it like a Class Seven ghost.