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


  1. Yeah, I tend to find that most of the people who complain about this and pose the question "Doesn't anybody have any original ideas anymore?!" are people who have not one clue how the industry works. I'm currently developing an original spec with a small Prod Co which we're taking to Dark Castle... but I have no doubt what will end up happening is that we'll be assigned some sort of remake based on that work.

    That's just the state of the business right now...

  2. Is this being released in theaters or direct to video?

  3. I think you made a lot of good points. If remakes didn't sell like hotcakes, they wouldn't be making them.

    NOTDemons That was a VHS favorite of mine back in the mid-late 80's as well, so I'm actually a little excited to see how your remake comes across. Please tell me you kept the scene with the mirror shard :)

  4. You must to know that the people that like films like bad Biology or Martyrs are fans of horror films, a "minority people". The most people that goes to cinema to see Halloween or Friday the 13th remakes are the people that goes to cinema depending the publicity that see about this films on tv or internet.

    Sorry for mi english, i'm from spain.

  5. Damn fucking straight.

  6. lol well that was a waste of a blog.

  7. Couldn't agree more. Saw a great little film, PONTYPOOL. It's everything that people keep claiming they want: original, unique and NOT a remake.
    I've yet to talk to more than two people I know who've actually seen it. Little or no discussion on the websites or forums, but plenty of attention on the F13 and MBV reboots. Money talks, folks.

  8. Actually, many horror fans don't hate remakes. They hate remakes that fall short of being good. I mean, you got the money, you get the peeps with more tech savvy, you could make a real damn fine horror movie. Particularly with Hollywood backing you. That's the reason why Lee's Dracula, Cronenberg's The Fly, and Carpenter's The Thing are so acclaimed in the horror community. We are all aware that they are remakes, but the people behind them sought to go to a new level of horror enjoyment. Hell, even Russell/Darabont's The Blob was an awesome horror remake. If anything, it irks me more with the people who say, "...but, horror was always full of mediocre movies, bad acting and other stupid things, so the remakes being bad AT LEAST meet the originals face to face.". Even if that is true about some of the older horror movies, that's even more reason to up the ante and take the concept to more horrific boundaries. If you're able to do this for NotD, Adam, by all means, go ahead. I just hope it's really as kickass as your NotD blog says it is.

    The final note would be, people don't hate remakes, they hate bad remakes. The reason why everybody usually says just "remake" instead of "bad remakes" is because most recently, all remakes have kinda leaned towards the "bad" end of the spectrum. Don't get me wrong, Snyder's "Dawn of the Dead" was an exception, as was "The Hills Have Eyes"(I have yet to see "Last House on the Left" remake). But crap like "Day of the Dead", "One Missed Call" or "Prom Night", we really didn't need those. At least the general creative concepts behind those specific movies could have been handled a lot better. And that's all I'm saying.

  9. I don't hate remakes. I hate remakes without fine taste.

  10. So what happens when everything is remade. do we start all this again. the only reason anybody has something to remake is someone had the balls to create something original often without any studio support and with little money. often they built their audience over years or on vhs.

    as long as people wait for hollywood to make their unproduced scripts we'll have to suffer rebaked recooked garbage.

    if you do make money, if you do get some power and recognition then put your own money into your scripts. make the films you want not the films they want you to make and figure out ways to market them to your audience.

    it always amazes me the more successful someone becomes the less they get to do the things they want. even spielberg won't make anything unless someone else gives it an ok or a greenlight and to be honest he could market anything he wanted to anybody he wanted. its sad that someone with so much power still submits himself to the system rather than doing whatever the hell he wants.

  11. I have a good idea, let's remake Last House On The Left.

  12. "lol well that was a waste of a blog."

    Lol, well that was a waste of a comment.

  13. You are right on target, Erik.

  14. Amen to all of this. It's a business and people have got to make ends meet. Remakes are more marketable because of the name recognition. They're easier to get greenlit that way because the studios are so averse to risk, which may suck a little, but all you can do is put out the best work you can given the circumstances.

    Of course, the internet is a lovely place for faceless "fanboys" to bitch and moan over the dearth of ideas, but fuck that noise. If these remakes didn't make money, there wouldn't be so many of them being made.

  15. I am agree with you.
    There is a lot of talented people but all of them are in chains with the studios.
    They decide of everything except for few.

    So we have too much "pop corn movies". Rare master pieces. And too many remakes..without the taste of the originals ones.

    If one day you need someone to make some monsters for you, please contact me!

  16. Of course it's all about marketability and name recognition. For me, though, it's not remaking as a practice that's the issue here, it's the absolute frequency with which horror films are being remade - and often in such ways that don't feel necessary. I really enjoyed My Bloody Valentine 3D, because it did something different. The Thing, The Fly (Dracula, to me, is a re-adaptation, not a remake, but I'm pedantic about these things)...these are remakes that did something different. What do the Platinum Dunes remakes do? Up the gore and reduce the meaning. Since 1998 there have been over 40 horror remakes, up on the 10-15 or so that were made in the decade before. And that's what scares me.

  17. I think we all know why these remakes are being made, it doesn't mean we have to like it. I think the problem is, the vast majority of this remakes are complete, unnecessary failures. I can count the number of worthwhile remakes on one hand. And Zak Snyder's Dawn of the Dead wouldn't be one of them. I would rather watch an original movie that fails than a remake that inevitably fails. At least the original movie is trying to do something new and worthwhile, whereas a remake is just trying to cash in on a proven concept.

  18. Happy Horror Hard OnMarch 15, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    I like good movies (and good bad movies) remakes, originals or sequels. I view remakes as cover versions, it's interesting to see someone elses take on the material and you always have the original. There's always been remakes there always will be. Horror is full of sequels, we always wsnt more don't we? Remakes are just another angle on this.I'll be watching Autopsy and NOTD without hesitation. Should I win the lottery there will be money to get those originals out there! When you doing Crocodile 3?

  19. People are always going to complain. Some "remakes" are fantastic (Snyder's Dawn of the Dead rocked) and some suck (ahem... The Fog.) I'm REALLY looking forward to "Night of the Demons." It scared the shit out of me as a kid, and I loved it. The women that were cast for what I will call a "retelling of the story" couldn't be any more perfect. The costumes are delicious, and I'm sure it's going to deliver. I think it would be fun to see some cameos from some of the other original cast members aside from the legendary Linnea Quigley (imagine Lance Fenton or William Gallo standing in the doorway with Quigley... hilarious :-) It'd be a fun wink at the past. All said and done... the film will stand alone on its own merit though. I can't wait to see it.

  20. Yah, I don't really agree with this blog. If you said that back in the early 90s, then it would be fine. Or any decade before this one, really. Like it was said above, 40 some horror remakes have come out in the last 10 years. That's just flat out pathetic. Now combine that with all the other crappy movies that come out - all those Disaster/Epic/Scary Movie things, and you get the worst decade of movies, period.

  21. Good blog, I never really thought of it that way. I like remakes...when they are good, but the problem is most of them aren't (The Fog, Prom Night). I'm hoping that Night of the Demons ranks in with the other good remakes, I'm really excited about seeing it, I'm a huge fan of the original.

  22. I agree with you Adam. Horror films are being marketed to people who eat up these remakes. I have been watching nothing but underground horror movies and foreign movies because they're absolutely amazing and have such heart. They are movies made by horror fans for horror fans. The biggest problems with remakes is that most of them stink. I think that the best two that came out in the last DECADE were The Hills Have Eyes and Dawn of the Dead. Both movies are backed up by awesome directors and people who have love for the genre. I see that in you and am honestly interested in the Night of the Demons remake, even though when I first heard about it, it did bug me since I have love for the original. Do it justice Adam!

  23. I will admit that based on the idea alone, i was totally against a remake of one of my very very favorite 80's horror films, Night of the Demons. However, once i saw Autopsy; i was OK with it. Autopsy was one of the best original horror films i've seen in a while and definitley one of my favorites in the Horrorfest collection. Now, i'll look forward to the reimagining of NOTD.

  24. As hard as it is going to be to ignore blind criticism, do your best Adam, you and Jace continue to improve and hone your skills as filmmakers with each release, so know that your true fans will back your creative decisions and wait to judge each new film once they have been completed and not attack you prematurely with no basis for argument.