Remake Rights & Wrongs
A friend of mine wrote a wonderful novel in the 70s which she can’t get reprinted. Publishers suggest that the time is no longer right. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking; what if I ‘remade’ it for her? Hardly anyone remembers the book. What if I bought the original copyright and rewrote it for a 2012 audience?
I’ve been looking at remade movies, especially Hollywood remakes of European films. It’s not all bad news. At the top of the success list is:
‘Let Me In’ VS ‘Let The Right One In’
Here, Matt Reeves, a bit of a journeyman director, has taken the best from the Lindqvist vampire novel and the original Swedish film, reproducing its European sensibility but tightening its aim. The result is that ‘Let Me In’ is more clearly a horror film – the vampire attacks are now standard horror set-pieces, but the art house framing of the original has been kept intact. The remake makes the story’s intention less obscure. Young Owen is being groomed from the outset as Abby’s next Renfield, and although he loses his victim status (he fights back against the bullies) he cannot resist Abby. The remake poses a smart question; has Owen seized his freedom or stepped into a trap of his own making? The result – both film versions have something good to offer. Although as a writer I do take exception to the huge screen credit Reeves gives himself before the source material when he has clearly followed the original intently.
‘[Rec] 1 & 2’ VS ‘Quarantine’ 1 & 2
Four films, two brilliant, two not bad. Balaguero’s original backgrounds characters to create verisimilitude in the situation, whereas the remakes push the heroes in a more traditional mode. The main difference is that the originals’ cinematography allows the shocks to feel organic and highly realistic, whereas the remakes use standard horror tropes to shock.
‘Nightwatch’ VS ‘Nightwatch’
This remake is the victim of an eleventh-hour stumble. The set-up is common to both (a student takes a night-job in a morgue, only to find himself trapped with a killer) but the original has an astonishing performance from Kim Bodnia, star of the ‘Pusher’ films. In the remake, Ewan McGregor acquits himself well, but then you see a famous name filed further down the cast. Here’s a tip; if you’re going to hide the identity of a killer, it’s best not to make him the only other name star!
‘Head Above Water’ VS ‘Head Above Water’
I loved the snappy original, in which a sexy young woman and bad luck magnet accidentally kills her ex-lover and spends the entire film compounding the crime while remaining topless throughout (she’s on a deserted island). By the climax she has her feet encased in concrete and the only person who can help her catches fire – it’s unexpectedly brilliant.
And so, Cameron Diaz gets her hands on the remake, covers herself and gets Harvey Keitel to mug furiously while the first-time director’s sense of timing is completely absent, flattening and telegraphing every scene.
‘Spoorloos’ VS ‘The Vanishing’
Both start well – the heroine’s disappearance in the sunny, busy garage is disconcerting, and the films share a common director in George Sluizer, but this is a case in which Hollywood studio interference demolishes a film completely. In its original form, ‘Spoorloos’ has been described as one of the most disturbing mysteries ever made. Instead of its devastating ending, the remake drops the jaw with a climactic shovel fight that makes nonsense of everything that has gone before.
I’m surprised there haven’t been remakes of ‘Loft’, ‘Intacto’, ’13’ and ‘The Bone Collector’, but I daresay they’re on their way!