Thursday, March 12, 2009

Remakes, Adaptations and Other Truths of the Modern Horror Movie

"I'm so fuckin' sick of horror remakes."

"NO!  [Insert name of film here] is a classic!  It's never going to be as good as the original!  They shouldn't even try!"

"Why do they keep remaking these fucking things?!"

"Doesn't anybody have any original ideas anymore?"

These are all comments that you hear whenever you visit any of the big horror websites, whether it be ShockTillYouDrop, Bloody-Disgusting, Fangoria or Dread Central.  Some of the comments are very serious, others definitely aren't.  But here's the truth when it comes to remaking classic and not-so-classic horror films: right now, they're just more marketable.  

In the modern film business, name recognition is king.  When people are putting up millions of dollars to make films, they want to limit their risk as much as possible.  The truth is, there are TONS of new and exciting original horror films out there.  People just don't pay attention to them.

How many of you guys were clamoring to see Bad Biology?  (In my opinion, it was one of the very best horror films of last year.)  The answer is, not too many.  But everybody stood in line to get tickets for Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine.

I'm obviously very sensitive to this subject right now, because I'm just finishing work on a remake of my own (Night of the Demons.)  And a totally original film of mine, Autopsy, is coming out on DVD March 31st.   Now you can say what you want about the quality of these particular pictures, but the truth is I've gotten infinitely more interest on Demons than I ever had on Autopsy.  Small, independent horror movies come and go, and are barely ever noticed. Even films like Martyrs and The Inside don't generate an eighth of the hoopla of Rob Zombie's Halloween redux.  

As a filmmaker, I have two main goals: the first and most important is to make the best film I possibly can, one that I would want to see.  One that floats my boat, gets me hard, or whatever.  In order for me to take a film, my first criteria is "Can I do a good job at it?"  

My second goal is to be able to support myself monetarily through my art.  I am a terrible salesman, I don't know how to operate a cash register, computers are a foreign device to other words, I lack a lot of skills that would enable me to make a living doing anything other than filmmaking.  This is important.  I pride myself on being a professional.

So here's the situation: I had just finished Autopsy.  I had all the typical feelings: pride coupled with insecurity.  I hoped people would like it and I was still wrapping my head around how I truly felt about my directorial debut.  I wondered if I'd ever work again.  It was at this point that I was approached to direct a remake of Night of the Demons.   

Now, I was a big fan of the original.  It was one of those horror films that when I saw in the mid-80s it gave me that warm, fuzzy, giddy feeling that you get when watching a truly fun monster movie.  Ever since then, it had held a special place in my heart.  So my answer was, "Damn straight I'll do it!"  As long as I would be allowed to put in some of my own twisted ideas and craft a story that allowed me to relive my early punk rock horror fantasies.  I am proud of this, and I am very, very proud of the movie.

Now, there are a lot of purists out there that don't think you should remake ANYTHING, whether it be a Christopher Lee Dracula movie, Zak Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter's The Thing (which, in my opinion, was more faithful to the short story "Who Goes There?" than the original Howard Hawks movie) or even David Cronenberg's The Fly.  (Yes, Virginia, these are all remakes.)  I'm sorry -- these are all great movies, and without them my life wouldn't be as full as it is today.

Remaking a film is really no different than using a novel or a comic book as source material.  They're all just stories to be told on celluloid.  I respect people that don't like this trend (the Horror Drunks, for example), but the fact of the matter is that in today's marketplace, this is what sells.  So if you're gonna complain about remakes, then please do me a favor.  Go out and buy or rent original horror films and write to ShockTillYouDrop, Bloody-Disgusting and Fangoria to cover them.  When they do, for God's sake, read the articles.  Write emails to the studios and tell them you want more original content.  Make up petitions.  I guarantee, I'll be the first one to put my signature on it.

And finally, there is not a horror screenwriter I know that doesn't have at least three completely original horror film scripts saved on their computer right now -- whether it be Stephen Susco (The Grudge), Scott Kosar (the Amityville and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes), or Hans Rodionoff (Lost Boys 2).  We all have original scripts.  We just need the studios to make them and the audiences to watch them.  So yes -- all of us remakers have original ideas.

Blood, guts and pussy,

Adam G