Reduce, reuse, remake

Hollywood may not care that it’s been making the same horror movies for decades, but Carsten Knox sure does.


Dear Hollywood,

I know we haven’t spoken in awhile. It isn’t because I don’t care about you anymore. I see you around. You’re hard to ignore, what with you being in every multiplex. I have seen your genre movies, the ones you made on a low budget. You’ve often allowed talented and hungry young directors and writers the opportunity to pursue their vision, generously providing them the spare change you found between the cushions of your studio office loveseat after Tom Hanks dropped by.

Oh, and I know it’s a tough business. Getting bums in seats is a struggle these days, what with all the distractions put in front of kids: TV, comics, computers and video games. Teenagers are the audience who are most likely to go to your movies again and again, and they’re into genre pictures and horror movies. It’s why you keep making them! Ah, you blush, but don’t think I haven’t noticed.

In the past few years you’ve offered titles such as The Amityville Horror, Willard, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie, Dawn of the Dead, The Ring, Poseidon, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and just this week, The Omen, which opened on the sixth day of the sixth month of ’06. How naughty of you to choose that release date!

Of course, I’ve noticed something else about these movies: they’re all remakes.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. The marketing departments of most studios have big stakes in what gets green-lit, and if a studio product has a recognizable brand, it matters little that the film behind the title has anything but a passing resemblance to the original. People will recognize the brand, maybe give a familiar flavour another taste, and the marketing department needn’t spend so much money. Makes sense, and it explains movies adapted from 1970s TV shows (now 1980s TV shows—here comes Miami Vice).

Just a second, I hear you say, The Exorcism of Emily Rose wasn’t a remake. OK, I guess that’s technically true, but did you see the movie? It may as well have been, for all The Exorcist parallels, in plot, character and atmosphere. I won’t even mention your embarrassing decision to get Paul Schrader to put together a prequel to The Exorcist starring Stellan Skarsgaard, only to shelve the final product and send the same leading man out with Finnish action industrialist Renny Harlin to make another, substandard prequel. That they’re both available on DVD makes a fascinating comparison for film students but it sure makes you look stupid, the way you throw money around simply because we recognize the brand. I’m sure you’ll also point out The Ring was a remake of a Japanese horror movie, as if that counts as original. I’m sorry, it doesn’t. Some of us can read, you know, and don’t actually mind movies with subtitles. Speaking of Skarsgaard, you should see his turn in the original Norwegian version of Insomnia, rather than the tepid remake with Al Pacino and Robin Williams.

I want to ask a favour. Pointing out your mistakes probably isn’t the polite way to do it, but here it is: Is there a hope in hell—and I choose my words deliberately, with The Omen in mind—that you might ease up on all the horror remakes? Every one of the movies I mentioned above is unabashedly inferior to the original, a showcase for a dearth of imagination and concerned only for the bottom line.

Here’s an irony to consider: this is the age of the DVD. We love to sit home in the dark with our popcorn and get the pants scared off us. Those great movies you like to remake are all available on DVD, some in pristine quality versions. The Omen (1976) stars Atticus Finch himself, Gregory Peck, in one of the scariest movies ever made. It’s the one to see.

You need to take some chances, because soon you’ll run out of classics to remake and sequels to churn out. Then what’ll you do? You’re capable of so much better when you try something new. 28 Days Later, Donnie Darko—these are excellent creepfests. I enjoyed Eli Roth’s bloody and brutal Hostel—it only referenced without stealing from ’70s classic The Wicker Man…which I understand you are in the midst of remaking.

Sigh. I guess I’ll see you around, eh?

Yours sincerely,


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