Another Stab At It: Sequels, Remakes, and Franchises in Horror

Part 2 of 2

A horror film can be extremely profitable, especially if it spawns a franchise. There are to date, 12 Friday the 13th films, 9 Nightmare on Elm Street films, 11 Halloween films, 8 Texas Chainsaw Massacre films, and 10 Hellraiser films. There are also remakes for The Fly, The Thing from Another World, Cat People, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, House on Haunted Hill and countless others. Now I realize that some of these films are less than high quality, however there are certain sequels, reboots, or remakes that offer something different or even better than their predecessors. I understand if you feel a strong urge at any point to disagree with me and if you do feel free to comment and argue with me, in fact I encourage it, I love talking about horror films in any context.

Remakes are definitely a sensitive subject, especially when it comes to horror. There are some obvious negative examples, the Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes immediately spring to mind, and there are some great remakes as well. So, this raises the question “what makes a good remake?”. It seems to me that a remake should offer something not found in the original. This can come about through a reinterpretation of characters, aspects of the existing story not previously explored, or an improvement on the overall quality or special effects. These films, I believe, are examples of noteworthy remakes that take the concept of the original and improve or expand upon it.

David Cronenberg’s 1986 version of The Fly is without a doubt one of the more successful remakes. The shocking revelation of the fly-human hybrid featured in the 1958 original is replaced with a gradual and revolting transformation, representing an outstanding achievement in practical special effects. The original film hides the fly-headed scientist for most of the runtime, while Cronenberg’s Seth Brundle is front and center throughout the entire film. Cronenberg’s film also devotes itself to the gradual loss of humanity for the protagonist and Goldblum’s performance communicates the complex nature of his character’s situation. Brundle serves as both a victim and monster within the film’s narrative, his humanity threatened by the increasing presence of the insect nature inside of him. The film also explores relationships on a much deeper level that the original. While the tragic nature of the protagonist’s romantic partner having to kill him is an element in the 1958 film, Cronenberg’s film symbolically expresses the heartbreaking and horrific nature of watching a loved one disappear from disease or age and caps it off with a tearful Veronica mercifully shooting the “Brundlefly” creature that once was her lover.

Some remakes focus on a specific aspect of the original and expand on it, like Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People. The 1942 original is somewhat ambiguous towards whether or not Irena is in fact transforming into a panther, though the ending essentially confirms this to be true, and features a connection between the transformation and sexual arousal. The 1982 remake focuses on the latter concept of the original. Sexuality is at the forefront of the remake with the titular character being triggered into their animal state by intercourse only to reverse this by killing someone. This parallel of sex and death is one that marks many horror films of note, yet none as blatant as Schrader’s Cat People whose sexual nature is much more of an integral part of the film’s narrative than the Val Lewton produced original. Similar to Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly, Cat People also features improved special effects and a tragic romance at the forefront of the story. These aspects come together in a fascinating way to create a film that very much stands up to the standard set by the original, of course a theme performed by the late David Bowie doesn’t hurt either.

Horror remakes can also function as a different perspective on the original film such as Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween. Now before I get into this, I understand that this one is not an extremely popular remake outside of those who are die hard Rob Zombie fans. The film does in fact offer an interesting perspective on John carpenter’s original. Diving into the psychology of Michael Myers, especially the perspective of his childhood, the film introduces an interesting perspective on the previously unknowable killer. Although so criticize this aspect of the film as they feel it reduces the mystery of the character and therefore reduces his threat, it offers a much more terrifying look at the fears that can plague parents of problematic children and their responsibility. Michael’s mother displays an extreme difficulty in accepting her son’s psychopathic and violent tendencies. While most parents probably don’t worry that their children are serial killers, they probably do worry about whether or not their children’s behavior is due to a fault within their upbringing. Unlike the other films mentioned, this one does not completely hold up against the original and in some opinions is a huge disappointment. It still, however unsuccessfully, offers a unique perspective and therefore is worthy of mention.

A remake that I find particularly enjoyable is the 1999 version of House on Haunted Hill. While not nearly as well received as the 1958 original, I find it to be quite interesting and much more sinister than the previous film. The film does include the attempted murder plot of the original film but also features supernatural threats and a much higher body count than its predecessor. Disturbing imagery and an erratic performance by Geoffrey Rush help push this film into darker territory than the gimmicky 1958 film was willing to go. Speaking of redoing pieces of pop culture, the film also features a Marylin Manson cover of the song “Sweet Dreams”, just a fun fact for you.

Tank’s picks of the week:

Eyes Without A Face– 1960

Cat People– 1982

Jacob’s Ladder– 1990

House of the Devil– 2009

Published by Patrick Tank

Writer, Horror Fanatic, and Booling Promoter

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