Remakes. Reboots. Re-imaginings. The names may change, but the song remains the same. Take an existing concept or title, mix it up for a new audience and hope for a financial windfall. And, as the editor-in-chief pointed out here, we really need to stop getting bent out of shape about it. Because there are many more coming around the bend next year. How many? How’s about “lucky number 13” many .
So, instead of raging against the dying of the light, I’m going to have some fun with it. I’ve gone through my personal Library of More Movies than Common Sense and looking through the catalogue, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are very few films in our hallowed genre that are universally precious and untouchable. I’m not talking about your personal taste. I’m talking about across-the-board agreement. JAWS. ALIEN. THE EXORCIST. A small clutch of films that are perfect in every way and require absolutely no reinterpretation.
So if we’re going to go down the cinematic path of Reuse/Recycle/Release, maybe we need to look at films that actually CAN be improved upon. The middle of the road, the also-rans and the abject failures. The films that missed the mark by an inch – or a mile – that have some wiggle room for growth.
Whether by late-night viewing in the early 80s, or exposure to its now-iconic box art at your local video store, you know SHOCK WAVES. Heck, a certain podcast – I won’t name names – shares its name. The plot line is simple: two couples on a day cruise that goes very wrong, when their boat ends up on a mysterious island – once the home for Nazi research into creating amphibious super-soldiers. Three guesses who begins menacing our unlucky travellers?
Why?- SHOCK WAVES is not a bad movie in and of itself. It has a lot going for it – horror icons John Carradine and Peter Cushing, Brooke Adams in a bikini, a creepy, grimy 70s grindhouse veneer and instantly iconic antagonists – the ghoulish waterlogged zombies of Der Toten Korps. But despite their keen fashion sense, our NaziFish out-of-water are relatively bland in their methodology. They drown you. Seriously. Death comes in various forms of drowning to our hapless band of tourists. One of the poor schmucks gets bundled up inside an aquarium! They’re nothing, if not consistent. Have Der Toten dish out some more creative means of… well, Toten!It also bares mentioning that, despite their superhuman abilities, their weakness is …sunlight? At least I think that’s the case, as they almost instantly dry up and die the second you pull off their goggles. As far as weaknesses go, it’s a bit goofy. Have Der Toten dish out some more creative means of… well, Toten!
Despite its horror-comedy pedigree, DEAD SNOW managed to make their undead Wehrmacht relentless, threatening and creative in their M.O. . Applying the same brand of undead menace to SHOCK WAVES would be totally cool.
Or would that be “Toten Kool”?
Yeah. I know. I’m sorry about that. Moving on.
GHOSTS OF MARS
Hollywood’s not above cannibalizing from its heavyweights, and John Carpenter is no exception. HALLOWEEN. THE FOG. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Even THE THING – a remake itself. All have been given the redux treatment, when none were necessary. The remakes brought nothing new to the table. Even now, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is winding up to get a new interpretation. But what about one of Carpenter’s lesser entires? How about one of the films that hasn’t been swept up in the recent re-evalutaion of the man’s filmography? I’m talking about GHOSTS OF MARS, Carpenter’s “3:10 TO YUMA/ EVIL DEAD On Mars”mash-up.
Why?- It’s an awesome premise with mediocre execution. It’s Carpenter 101, folks. A siege story with good guys and bad guys forced to team up against a hostile force that wants them dead. It’s got a badass anti-hero (post NWA/pre-ARE WE THERE YET? Ice Cube) and a kick-ass heroine (Natasha Henstridge). It’s equal parts horror, science fiction and action. It’s a bit dated and has the veneer of most early 90s genre fare, but age should never be a legitimate mark against a film. With a bit more polish, and maybe a tighter focus on one of its three sub-genres, GHOSTS 2.0 could be something really special. Make it lean, mean. Swap in Idris Elba and Lena Headey for Cube and Henstridge and I’m there with bells on.
Now, before you get the pitchforks and torches out, allow me to finish. The Bernard Rose adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story, THE FORBIDDEN, is untouchable. It gave us one of the genre’s most elegant and vicious icons and elevated Tony Todd to the higher rungs of the horror totem pole. There IS no logical reason to remake it.
Why?- But re-adapting the source material from which it came? That’s a whole other deal. While the cinematic version of Candyman has become closely tied into Barker’s cinematic legacy, it is a loose adaptation of the original short, which is a different kind of beast. The bare bones are still present – a student researching urban legends comes across the real deal – there are differences in location ( England, as opposed to the movie’s urban Chicago locale) as well as in the antagonist himself – a much creepier and less-sexy/tragic take on the character than Tony Todd’s interpretation. It’s also a much bleaker tale, less concerned with revenge from beyond the grave and more concerned with the nature of stories and legends. It’s atmospheric and grim stuff. Suggestion: Give this film to Ben Wheatley (HIGH-RISE, KILL LIST) and we could end up with two unique interpretations of the same story. And who can argue with that kind of equation?
And continuing with the theme, as it were …
Instead of ramping up the umpteenth attempt to do HELLRAISER, how about a Barker story that would benefit from another go? Case in point: RAWHEAD REX, Barker’s brutal and no-holds-barred monster story and the first of the BOOKS OF BLOOD stories to be adapted for the screen.
Why?- Because despite the cult following for the movie, it’s not very good. The pacing’s off, the monster is – being frank – goofy as hell, and it’s lacking the vicious brutality of the original short story. It’s sacrilegious, sadistic and funny in the pitchest-black of gallows humor sense. Yes, a couple of the more taboo set-pieces made it into the final cut – the “baptism by piss” scene, for example – but it all feels watered down (pun not intended, but awesome)and neutered. Safe for general consumption. And there was NOTHING safe in Barker’s early output, especially with the child-eating, man-castrating, priest-desecrating Rawhead.
It’s punk rock as all get out and doesn’t care if you get offended or not. The most important reason, though, would be Barker’s notoriously vocal displeasure with the film itself. Hey, if Stephen King can get THE SHINING redo he’s always wanted, then we owe Barker the same courtesy.
( For reference OF “what could be”, track down the Eclipse Books adaptation by Steve Niles and Les Edwards to get a tease of what I’m talking about. It’s worth the hunt.)
A non-horror entry and probably my most contentious choice.
I’m sorry. Hard truths are the worst, and sugar-coating things isn’t going to help either of us. I hope we can still be friends after this but there’s no delicate or easy way to put this. Russell Mulchay’s 1986 cult-classic is a goddamn mess. An interesting and (in spite of itself) entertaining one that has benefited from the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia (perhaps more so than others), but still a goddamned mess.
Why?- Man… where do I begin? We have the very French Christopher Lambert as a Scottish immortal, yet we have More Scottish Than Scotland Sean Connery playing a Spanish nobleman… by way of Egypt. His utterance of the line, “I am Juan Sánchez Villalobos Ramírez, chief metallurgist to King Charles The Fifth of Spain” with a burr as thick as Gingerbread is gloriously off-kilter. We also have Clancy Brown as the bad guy, who seems to have accidentally stumbled in from a much better movie than this (Seriously, Brown walks away from this car crash intact – he’s that good). Aside from Queen’s soundtrack, is there anything about the film that has stood the test of time and couldn’t be done better? The premise is strong, but there’s nothing about the execution – the casting, the set pieces, the dialogue, the fight choreography – that can’t be improved in a number of ways.
With a recent surge in cult status, THE BOOGENS is pretty standard B-Movie fare. A group of young men and ladies make their way to a cottage near a run-down mining town , the site of a notorious and tragic accident. Before long, they come across the inhabitants of the mine’s tunnels and the cause of the tragedy: tentacled, subterranean creatures referred to as The Boogens.
Why?- A little background – THE BOOGENS was one of the first horror movies I saw as a kid. One of my gateway flicks, as it were. And it blew my fragile little mind. Scared the bejeezus out of me, too. Watching it again decades later, there’s nothing about it that’s outstanding, nor awful.
It’s a middle of the road 80s creature feature. A decent enough movie with a leisurely pace, better-than-normal performance for this kind of deal and pretty goofy-but-cool rubber monsters at the heart of it all. So why do it at all? Because I would like to see it. I’d like to see someone’s new take on the creatures. I’d like to see the underground world of The Boogens developed and expanded. It’s nostalgia, plain and simple. And isn’t that why these remakes get made in the first place? Easy brand recognition and rose-coloured memories of the original are a hard lure to pass up. So if someone were to tell me that, yes, a remake of THE BOOGENS is coming down the pike, I would welcome that news and buy that ticket. And I know that somewhere, deep down, you have a BOOGENS of your own.
Because we all have our own wish list, don’t we? Yes, even you with your “all remakes are stupid”. And hey, sometimes, we get lucky and we get Cronenberg’s THE FLY or Alvarez’s EVIL DEAD. A new take on an old standby that still entertains and maybe brings something new to the legacy. Some of it’s wishful thinking, yet some of it’s closer to reality than you think. HIGHLANDER? Yup, it’s confirmed as “in development” for another go. And I’m more than okay with that.
So let’s open up the floor to you. What’s on your list? What film would you like to see get the redux treatment? Sound off below.