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Pop Rocks: After Evil Dead, Are Any Horror Movies Safe from Remake Mania?

The reboot of Sam Raimi's shoestring classic Evil Dead topped the box office last weekend with $26 million, beating both G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Croods (both in their second week of release). The Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece on the increasing popularity of horror movies (at least domestically), indicating Hollywood isn't done with them by a long shot.

They may be struggling for original story ideas, however. Evil Dead is only the most recent of several decades-old genre flicks to get a recent do-over. Name any late 20th century horror title and not only has it probably already generated a number of sequels, but a newer version has probably already been made. Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Check. Halloween? Check. Friday the 13th Ch-ch-ch-a-a-a-check. Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing, Straw Dogs, even exploitation classics like I Spit on Your Grave and The Last House on the Left have been reimagined for new audiences. Not to mention the Carrie remake comes out later this year.

Hollywood's already well into mining other countries for their product (South Korea and Japan, especially), but I was more curious about what horror films might be safe from reimagining. It was harder than I thought.

The first thing you have to look at is if there would be any point in remaking the movie in question. Some of you are probably of the opinion that there's no point in remaking any movie, which is a very cute, antiquated position to hold.

What I mean is, has the title in question already been so diluted by sequels and/or knockoffs that remaking it would be utterly pointless? I'm thinking mostly of Jaws, which has spawned a thus far unending series of imitators -- some decent (Deep Blue Sea), some terrible (Shark Night 3D) -- many of which aren't even about sharks (Up from the Depths, Crocodile, Tentacles). Some, like Piranha, even inspired their own sequels and remakes in a widening gyre of craptacularity.

And let's not forget Jaws' own sequels, which serve as the celluloid embodiment of the law of diminishing returns. I've been reviewing movies for more than ten years now, and even with all the terrible self-indulgent garbage I've watched on poorly dubbed VHS tapes from wannabe Kevin Smiths and George A. Romeros, Jaws: The Revenge is still one of the worst movies I've ever seen. And that includes the Tera Patrick porno with all the sex removed.

I see The Exorcist cited a lot as a movie that can't be remade, and while I'm not sure I agree, I have to admit it's unlikely for the aforementioned reasons. How many exorcism movies have there been in the last decade? Ten? I don't think Hollywood holds the original in higher regard than it does any other property it can make a cheap buck off of, but it probably thinks we're pretty sated when it comes to girls (it's always a girl) who pukes pea soup and barks in an unintelligible language. Bad news for Amanda Bynes.

 

Maybe the movie just wouldn't make sense taken out of the context of the era in which it was released. Granted, that didn't stop Gus Van Sant from his ill-conceived redo of Psycho, or Zack Snyder from making a new Dawn of the Dead stripped of the consumerist commentary (which, to be fair, was pretty damn good in its own right). Movies about the terrors of outer space, for example, will only ever go out of style when we have explored all the known universe and exterminated all other life, which could take awhile. It's also why we still get the odd Event Horizon or Sunshine. But what about Testament or those giant-bug movies of the 1950s? We don't envision full-scale nuclear holocaust as much as we do isolated incidents post-Cold War, so the nightmares of atomic fallout or allegories about the danger of nuclear escalation are probably less likely nowadays.

Of course, they're remaking Godzilla again, so what the hell do I know?

It's also possible the movie in question is just too gross/disturbing to revisit. While there's an American version of Martyrs on the way (I'd like to see how they pull that off without an NC-17) and Michael Haneke remade his own Funny Games for U.S. audiences (all pre-Amour, of course), there's a looong list of movies I don't believe anyone would touch with a ten-meter cattle prod, including Irréversible, pseudo snuff like the Guinea Pig films, or even flicks that more or less defy categorization like Eraserhead or Salò, not that I don't think we're due for a 21st century interpretation of poo eating.

Finally, there are those movies whose reinvention would cause me to commit physical violence. I'm usually pretty realistic about the odds the fond recollections of my youth will get vivisected by Brett Ratner or Michael Bay, but if someone actually went ahead and remade Gremlins or Monster Squad, I might have to make a dirty bomb.


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