The phenomenon of the remake is not new and has known different forms, before being what we are used to today. What will interest us in this article are the children of this process, and more specifically the wave of remakes that occurred in the early 2000s in horror cinema, and still persist today. It will be here purely a question of remakes, and not of the influences that have been built over time, making, according to a certain relativism, each new film the remake of a previous one.
First of all, it is important to distinguish the notion of remake from that of reboot. The reboot is intended to be a return to zero of a story, keeping track or not of the original story but keeping absolutely the same diegesis. Its interest may be to allow modernization or even a new approach, by changing genre for example. The reboot is a sub-genre of the remake, it is also the most interesting scenario because it allows greater freedom in relation to the characters and the story. A sequel can also be a reboot, like Batman Returns which retains almost no trace of the first film.
Why horror in particular?
Horror is a genre that is particularly affected by the remake phenomenon; already because it’s a popular genre, and therefore the return on investment is almost guaranteed, even in the case of a complete failure or worse, of a film made without effort. What’s more, it’s not necessarily very expensive to produce, because it doesn’t require big names and filming is sometimes very quick. And then, it should not be very complicated to scare people, as some studio leaders say. We therefore see in the early 2000s a wave of remakes looming, wishing to find the public after having drowned it under a wave of post-Scream.
Almost all of these films will be reboots, except for example Funny Games US which is a shot-by-shot remake or of The Grudge whose characters are simply westernized (there are also some other minor differences but overall it’s the same soup). Now that the situation is clarified, we can begin our study of this much-criticized remake phenomenon, which nevertheless had a very promising start.
The magic of the first days
So here we are in 2003, the year of the release of Chainsaw Massacre by Marcus Nispel. Produced by Michael Bay and directed by an unknown German, the film is written by Scott Kosar who will later work on Bates Motel and The Haunting of Hill House. And it works, the film is an international success, exceeding even, for some, the original film of Tobe Hooper. This is a reboot keeping only “Leatherface” and his family as the heart of the plot, unlike the 2022 Netflix film which is intended to be a sequel in addition to a remake, due to a modernization of the subject as well as a conservation of the events of the first film in the plot. But let’s go back to 2003 and the gigantic impact that Nispel’s film will have on horror cinema, by truly launching this fashion for remakes.
We are now in 2006: The hills Have Eyes by Alexandre Aja has just been released and hits even harder, even being, according to Wes Craven himself, better than that of 1977. If the critical success of Chainsaw Massacre was divided, this one is almost unanimous. The film is raw, visceral and manages to be chilling in this not crazy desert for a family vacation.
The following year, Rob Zombie realizes a childhood dream by taking up a challenge deemed impossible, namely to take over the Halloween saga, the last episodes of which showed signs of euthanasia. The result is a reimagining of a cinema myth that surprises in a good way, managing to offer something new while showing respect to the work of John Carpenter and Debra Hill. The film manages to bring a new dimension to the character of Michael Myers and then beautifully trash all his efforts with a gruesome sequel in 2009, but that’s okay, because Halloween 2007 is a success. But then, why so much hatred towards horror remakes?
The good and the bad hunter
This hatred has two main origins: the first is the most logical, namely its photocopier character with always the same stories, the same springs, the same themes. Here the films are hollow and generally bring nothing compared to the original.
They are numerous but let us quote Friday 13 of 2009 which allows us to find this good old Marcus Niespel. Only this time the result will not be so conclusive with a terrible and corny film which, in the end, looks more like fog with all this smoke than at the revival of the Friday the 13th saga, already in bad shape.
We could also talk about the remakes of Carrie at the Devil’s Ball or that of The Wicker Manbut why hurt yourself.
The second reason for the hatred towards this movement is more interesting. It comes from the fact of betraying the original work as Zach Snyder does for example with army of the deadcompletely diverting Romero’s subject to offer a 28 days later but without genius (zero).
Can also be placed in this category the Suspiria by Guadagnino released in 2018. Standing out is good, it’s even essential to offer something refreshing, but getting lost is another thing. Even Argento downgraded the film, explaining that Guadagnino neither understood his film nor the very essence of the Giallo. Where Argento sees the warmth of colors and bodies, Guadagnino insists on the coldness of Germany.
Finally, we couldn’t missevil Dead by Fede Alvarez was released in 2013. The film manages to miss out on everything that makes the Evil Dead franchise, namely cartoonish gore accompanied by a fun and eccentric aesthetic and direction. Here, only the gore remains. Finished the broke student project, hello to the false blood (more than 25,000 liters) to which are added a serious and a repetition without interest. More prosaically, it seems pointless and implausible to redo a film with such a proper identity, and which has already experienced a sort of remake with Evil Dead 2.
But another recent film manages to do worse by trying to be both a remake and a sequel, it’s Scream by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, released in 2022.
Screamor Among Us the movie (spoilers)
After the Scream franchise was fleshed out from the very average Scream 4 of a Wes Craven clinging to his life’s work, few expected a fifth installment, even more so after its creator himself somehow brought the saga to a close.
It is therefore the duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett who are entrusted with the reins of the saga, with the production of a trilogy whose Scream (scream 5) is the first pane. The two jokers made themselves known with Wedding Nightmare in 2019, who unfortunately suffers from the syndrome American Nightmare : a good starting idea but a final result that makes you want to aquaplane at 150km/h.
The film begins rather well, with a resumption of the mythical intro scene of the first part, twenty-five years after the facts of the latter. The scene is successful with an impressive Jenna Ortega and a nice introduction without falling into forced homage: the tension slowly sets in, “Ghostface” falls all the time (the mask obviously never helped the killers to see well) and the discussion around horror cinema is interesting. The classic high school plan follows, allowing the different members of the group to be presented. Tara’s sister, Samantha, and her boyfriend later join the adventure in order to protect Tara who survived her attack. And the rest makes no sense.
The film has many flaws, starting with its writing. Samantha is not Tara’s real sister but the daughter of Billy Loomis, one of the killers from the first film, who sometimes appears to her in Obi-Wan mode. This apparently makes her someone capable of killing, much like a Gervaise syndrome. More generally, all the characters are psychopaths aware of being in a slasher, allowing to laugh around a good beer on who will be the next victim. The fact that the character-functions are aware that they are character-functions does not help the viewer’s engagement. They have no emotion and play down everything as if their friends weren’t dying around them.
Another problem with the film is that it is schizophrenic. scream 5 spends his time criticizing movies that betray fans, like Stable 8 by Rian Johnson who wants to be a complete reboot of the Stab saga (this fictional saga introduced in Scream 2 tells the events of Scream and exists in its diegesis). This new Scream does not, however, offer anything new to the public it seeks to satisfy, which is a shame.
In order to continue, we could say that the stabbings multiply but do not come to the end of the T-800s of Woodsboro, that the reversals of situations follow one another while being as gunned down and predictable as each other or that the film criticizes the use of jumpscares but does not hesitate to abuse them.
Ultimately, the film pushes the concept of Scream to the extreme, erasing the plausible in favor of the codes that he criticizes but from which he does not free himself, even going so far as to explain that he is doing the same thing; it’s a parody of a parody that aims to be original but gets lost in the shadow of the 1996 film. Scream even seems to be a constraint to the film which is forced to always return to the work of Wes Craven and his characters that it would have been interesting to kill (Sydney Prescott, it would be a question of dying). It has also become symptomatic of bringing back the original characters, when a large part of the public was not born when the films were released and may never have seen them. Might as well create something new and leave the classics alone.
The case Scream is therefore very interesting because it is unique in its failure. The film is no less good than a Friday 13 2009 or a evil Dead 2013. It presents an interesting attempt at emancipation but, in the end, does exactly the opposite, which unfortunately makes it very confusing. And how to believe in a story, when even the characters don’t believe it.
It might be time to let the former glories enjoy their retirement.