More and more these days, film studios seem to be less concerned about making original, mid-budget films that could rake in a decent profit and more invested only in projects that have the potential for big, international box office and/or that have a built-in recognition factor. This has led to the biggest output ever of what I call the “Three Rs” of non-original film-making: Remakes, Reboots and Reimaginings. These terms can be quite confusing to the average moviegoer – and sometimes even to the studio heads who blithely bandy them about based upon whichever one will give their newest project the best spin.
So let’s take a closer look to nail down just what differences these Three Rs represent – and how they have been used and misused in the industry.
Remakes have been a thing ever since the days of silent film gave way to sound. Suddenly, filmmakers knew they had a viable reason to revisit an old film and tell its story again – advancements in technology would allow them to do more with the story than before. This would be the driving force behind most remakes for decades to come, probably culminating in the special effects heyday of the 1980s, which saw films like The Thing, The Fly, Invaders From Mars and The Blob give eye-popping makeovers (sometimes literally) and updated storylines to their 1950s forebears.
The general rule with remakes is that they should pretty much tell the same story as the original, but with minor (and sometimes major) changes – whether they be technical, thematic or both. Some remakes are intended to improve upon the shortcomings of the original, while others are done simply to introduce a once-popular tale to a new generation of viewers. Generally, I prefer remakes that make the effort to remain faithful to the original while still adding in unique elements of their own – be it state-of-the-art visual effects (Poseidon) or new plot twists (My Bloody Valentine 3D) – rather than those remakes that just seem pointless and leave you wondering as to who felt the originals needed to be remade in the first place (I mean, was anyone really clamoring for the second comings of films like The Heartbreak Kid, The Longest Yard or Straw Dogs – or praised their updates once they were released?) .
Unfortunately, the latter is more and more of what we see in remakes these days. Before it seemed that remakes had a purpose – like taking a low-budget, cheesy horror flick and giving it the big-budget SFX treatment or updating a classic story to be relevant to present audiences or making an English language version of a little-seen foreign film. Nowadays studios just seem to pick any familiar property they happen to have laying around and give it the green light for a remake simply because “it made money then, so it should make money now”. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the slew of recent horror remakes that took R-rated properties like The Fog, When a Stranger Calls and Prom Night and gave them non-horrific, but wider-audience reaching, PG-13 re-tellings.
Actually, Prom Night doesn’t belong under the “Remakes” section, but more on that – and the others Rs – in the upcoming second part of this post.