50 Worst Movie Remakes

Planet Of The Apes (2001)

Tim Burton’s first huge flop proved that just because we have more sophisticated moviemaking techniques at our disposal nowadays doesn’t mean that we can match the charm and humanity of old-school filmmaking. It’s a point that’s rammed home in this turgid redo, which attempts to set itself apart from the original film. The result is a total howler with a truly atrocious final ‘twist’.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Trailer: Very nearly a work of art in itself, combining blink-and-miss-‘em images with Karen O and Trent Reznor’s stirring, pulsing cover of ‘Immigrant Song’. Sadly it’s not available online at the moment.

Sex Or Violence: Both, of course. There’s a very shadowy shot of Rooney Mara mounting Daniel Craig (wahey), plus a snippet of Mara showering (just to show off the tattoo, of course). Meanwhile, Craig seems to take an epic beating.

Does It Use All The Best Bits? Very almost, from what we know from the Swedish version of Stieg Larsson’s book. Though Fincher’s hinted he’s changed the ending to make it “better”, so there should still be a few surprises in store.

Let Me In (2010)

“You forgot the first rule of remakes; don’t fuck with the original!” That isn’t a line from Let Me In – it’s from remake-analysis-machine Scream 4. But it definitely applies to this somewhat unnecessary remake. Not because Let Me In fucks with the much-loved Swedish film it’s based on (Let The Right One In), but because it knows it shouldn’t, and it doesn’t.

Let Me In is smarter than that. Strike that, writer/director Matt Reeves is smarter than that. There’s no doubt he’s a fan of both Tomas Alfredson’s heartbreakingly melancholic Let The Right One In and the disturbing novel it’s based on, and with Let Me In he’s fashioned a loving, cynicism-free sibling for that delicate original. His film’s both love letter and companion – very almost a spliced negative.

It’s impossible to talk about Let Me In without referencing Alfredson’s film. Frequently taking its cue from its Swedish sister, Reeves’ remake is steeped in warm oranges and frosty blues, and it dutifully hits all the same story beats (sometimes even copying entire shots). This is no Psycho ’98, though. Ensuring we know he’s not sticking to a clinical blueprint, Reeves isn’t entirely enslaved to his source material – he stops Let Me In from becoming a stale retread by subtly shaking up the formula, rendering the events themselves anew with confident, polished precision.

If possible, Let Me In positions Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) even more at its centre, isolating him to a devastating degree. His mother’s face is never shown, his father’s just a voice on the telephone, and he’s brutally bullied by three bigger boys at school. When Abby (Chloe Moretz) appears, it’s a relief – a wary smile from her meaning more to Owen than a single word from his mother’s lips.

Meanwhile, Let Me In’s biggest departure comes in the form of Richard Jenkins’ ‘Father’, who hunts from the backseats of cars with a Jason Voorhees-style bag on his head. This shake-up leads to Let Me In’s finest accomplishment – a spectacular car crash shot from inside the vehicle that seems to be one death-defying, continuous take.

That’s the kind of innovative derring-do that makes you wish Reeves was directing original material. He’s clearly a talented filmmaker with things to say, but he’s almost invisible throughout Let Me In, time and again restrained by his reverence for Alfredson’s masterful original. To his credit, though, Reeves does pull off the trickiest aspect of his remake – he makes Let The Right One In American without ‘Americanising’ it one bit.

How? Well, he keeps the plot basically the same (young bullied boy meets neighbour girl who’s a vampire, they become friends). The snow’s still there (courtesy of New Mexico). So is the Rubik’s Cube. But Reeves is re-telling the same story with emphasis in different areas. He trains his focus even more directly on our scrawny, awkward duo – so much so that all peripheral characters become literally a blur to his lens.

That altered title is also a telling departure – it’s very almost a request from Reeves himself. He wants us to give Let Me In a chance. And we should, not least because it’s one of the year’s most beautifully shot films, with both Moretz and Smit-McPhee delivering complex performances well beyond their years.

Is this remake completely unnecessary? Absolutely. Is it completely redundant? Not quite. As remakes go, it’s respectful, if not quite daring enough – a kind of warm up for Reeves to move onto bigger and better things. And it certainly doesn’t fuck with the original. 3/5

 

Piranha (2010)

Let’s not beat around the bush – Piranha is not a good movie. It contains nothing of artistic merit, acting primarily as a showcase for bouncing boobs, terminally dull teens and grizzly gore. There’s also some unforgivably horrendous CGI. What Piranha does take a stab at, however, is the one ingredient that many modern horrors overlook – unapologetic fun.

Some terror flicks get their impetus from cleverly crafted chills (Insidious, The Exorcist). Others revel in gleefuly campery (Eight-Legged Freaks, Slither), and offer drinking game good times as a consequence. This fishy floater has clearly opted for the latter option, embracing cheesiness in the name of gloriously daft entertainment. It’s almost admirable how shamelessly the flick cleaves to that mission statement, often sinking to ridiculous depths in search of cheap thrills.

Which can surely be the only explanation for scenes like Kelly Brooks’ naked, operatic swim about, or the inclusion of Jerry O’Connell’s headache-inducingly OTT cowboy porn producer. One dreads to think what sort of emotional scars those two alone inflicted on 3D-watching cinemagoers; that added dimension surely resulted in an experience akin to a slap in the face with a wet fish.

Rampant daftness aside, Piranha does have a handful of okay qualities. Christopher Lloyd brightens things up around the 40 minute mark, entering as a fish expert who – like Doc Brown – is consistently dialled up to 11. Meanwhile, there’s absolutely no skimping on the gore, and the piranha design is scabbily, spikily effective (even if the horrible CG makes them look like computer game afterthoughts).

Still, the sheer volume of arse-lingering, breast-caressing shots would put even the smuttiest of ‘80s slashers to shame, and will have most viewers up in arms (even if O’Connell’s anatomy is treated with similar crass abandon). Never been to a wet T-shirt contest? Piranha shoves those sopping shirts and crevice-cleaving thongs right in your face, over and over again. Teenage boys will be delighted. Everybody else will grab a copy of Germaine Greer’s latest novel and angrily re-read it.

With a sequel already in the pipeline, it’s clear that somebody enjoyed this first round of razor-fanged ludicrousness. But considering that follow-up is entitled Piranha 3DD (a telling indication of where the franchise’s priorities really lie), it’s hard to imagine a second nosh-fest can make up for this irredeemably rotten mess. 2/5

Carrie on…

“The real question is why, when the original was so good?” asked Stephen King yesterday regarding a remake of teen scream Carrie. “I mean, [it’s] not Casablanca, or anything, but a really good horror-suspense film, much better than the book.”

Which really says something about the nature of Hollywood. When the creator of a movie’s title character is as out of the loop and against the project as we are, something’s gone wrong.

King’s reasons for loving Brian de Palma’s evocative 1976 film adaptation of his first novel? “Piper Laurie really got her teeth into the bad-mom thing.” Hell yeah she did. King relents on just one thing regarding the newly-announced remake: “It would certainly be fun to cast. I guess I could get behind it if they turned the project over to one of the Davids: Lynch or Cronenberg.”

While I don’t really agree with the Lynch or Cronenberg mooning (have either ever proven they can handle the twitchy, sensitive minefield that is teendom?), a disastrous remake could be avoided if the filmmakers adhere to just a few rules…

Cast an unknown. Hey, I love Chloe Moretz as much as the next Kick-Ass fan (the kid’s disarmingly smart), but she’s not Carrie. An unknown actress would work best for this role. Sure, Sissy Spacek’s casting in the original film followed her phenomenal success in Badlands. That was in the ‘70s, though. Times have changed. That said, I’d be interested to see Elle Fanning’s take on Carrie.

Don’t restage the bloodbath ending. We saw it in ’76, and it was horrible, and beautiful, and hideously mesmeric. Nothing can possibly match it, and 21st century filmmakers are sure to make it into a histrionic mess. Do something different. Surprise us.

Ignore technology. Nothing’s more annoying than remakes simply trying to ‘update’ their predecessors by shoving in an iPhone and having characters drop Twitter references. It’s achingly uncool. So ignore the new technology; just give us a story.

Speak to Guillermo del Toro. This guy has a hundred little eager fledgling filmmakers attached to his desk by strings, and has proven uncannily brilliant in choosing new talent to create exceptional horror films (The Orphanage, Julia’s Eyes). Talk to him, he’ll point you in the right direction.

Watch The Rage: Carrie 2. Then do the exact opposite of everything they did with that shameful excuse for a belated sequel.

Don’t try to be too clever. This is probably the most important. The original story is beauty in simplicity: a bullied young girl gets revenge on her classmates for torturing her. That’s all we need. So keep it simple, train your lens on the characters, and let the movie make itself.

Edited to add: I dare the Carrie remakers to simply adapt the hysterically camp Carrie stage musical for the screen. Go on. It’d be hilarious...

My you’ve changed…

A couple of new images from the Fright Night reboot have just been released online, and what a sight they are. The first in particular (top right) shows a gothed-up David Tennant as Las Vegas stage magician Peter Vincent, who ends up helping Anton Yelchin’s teen battle Colin Farrell’s malicious neck-chewer.

It’s quite a wardrobe change from the Vincent we know and love from the original 1987 Fright Night. Whereas the ’87 version (top left) starred Roddy McDowall as a fuddy old vamp slaying horror icon, Tennant here sort of resembles Russell Brand meeting Sirius Black by way of The Crow.

Will it work? Tennant definitely has an ability to make larger than life characters sing (as any Dr Who fan will tell you), but this new Fright seems like such a massive departure from the ’80s film that you wonder why they even bothered using the same title. Apart from the fact that it’s a great title, of course.

The second new image shows off Toni Collette as Yelchin’s mum, with the Aussie native rounding out a seriously impressive cast (not forgetting Imogen Poots and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, of course). To be honest, the most this reboot seems to have going for it is the names involved, with that stellar cast reading from a script by Buffy screenwriter Marti Noxon. If anything, then, we should get some snappy lines read by a snappy cast – but who’d rather just watch the original film? I know I would.

Speaking of, here’s why I love Fright Night ’87

Colin Farrell – "Total Recall reboot is darker"

Colin Farrell’s been talking up his reboot of Total Recall. Even though I’m loathe to acknowledge that such a thing can possibly exist, it’s at least interesting to hear what he has to say. According to him:

“The film, tonally, is really different. I loved that original and I’ve seen it recently and it’s still great. It’s so enjoyable from start to finish. But it’s really camp. I’m not sure how camp it was back then, because I didn’t have a reference for such notions when I was a kid. I didn’t find out my brother was gay until later, so I didn’t know what was camp! But yes, it is very much a different tone. It’s quite a bit darker.

“I say this not in a disparaging way, but there’s not as many kind of winks to the audience. It’s played a lot more straight. And of course, it’s going to be with the advent of certain technologies and special effects. I’ve seen some of the pre-vis stuff that Len has already designed with his team. It’s fucking amazing, man! I don’t know what the film is going to be like, but lookswise, it’s incredible.”

First off, Arnie fighting a spandex-wearing Sharon Stone before heading off to Mars in a fat-woman disguise then meeting a chick with three tits is CAMP?! What kind of universe does Farrell live in?

Oh, alright, I can sort of see his point. The original is completely ‘90s in a great, cheesy, screaming Arnie sort of way. But my love for it refuses to wane, especially because of its clever camera trickery and use of old school (or, yeah, modern in those days) effects. Farrell’s reboot is going to have to be something seriously special to trump it.

Interview via IGN