Have We Had Enough Of Horror Re-Makes Yet?

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Last Friday, the full trailer for the remake of the 1976 horror Carrie was released. It was fine, not outstanding and ultimately rather asked the question: what is the point in this being remade? Sure, it has been a few years and there is some money to be made if it’s released around Halloween time but it that it? Brian De Palma’s original film is a horror classic. Even though it was released 36 years ago it has aged very well and is still considered a classic of the genre. Many times in the past when horror films have been pointlessly remade it has left people pondering if they care for the original as much. Who remembers Van Sant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho with any fondness, or Rob Zombie’s futile rehash of Halloween? I fear that Carrie will be going down that same route.

My main problem with the Carrie trailer is it gives away the entire film. It admits that fans of the genre have already seen the film, or at least know the story, and so show pretty much everything, from the shower scene at the beginning to Carrie, covered in pigs’ blood rampaging through the town at the denouement. It looks seemingly as though very little innovation was bought to the 2013 version, mostly following the same lines as De Palma’s film from Stephen King’s book. So, if there’s not much new why remake it? Director Kimberly Peirce recently said in Empire that there were parts of the book that could be explored further. It doesn’t look like that much from the trailer, it looks like the money scenes from the original film spruced up by some CGI as Chloe Moretz does her best to glamorise the eponymous character.

I’ve been wrong with trailers before, we all have, I’m sure. I’ve seen them thinking ‘wow I’m not going near that’ and then the movie brings something completely different. Trailers are often made well before the film is finished so much of the time the filmmakers are forced by the money to show at least something they have done to rev up the audience. Trailers are now released about a year before the actual film (see The Amazing Spider-Man) before post production has probably even begun.

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However, this trailer just bored me, which cannot be a good sign. It left me wanting to watch the original because I’m terrified someone might collect all of De Palma’s copies, throw them in a fire and leave us with this. It left me yearning for Sissy Spacek’s wonderful performance and to see the young John Travolta and William Katt, Carrie’s rampage without explicit CGI everywhere. Unfortunately the reality is this. Although there have been some good remakes such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 2004 Dawn of the Dead, which offer something new, why can’t we just see some original ideas and keep some films sacred, so we don’t have to refer to which version we are referencing. Too often we have hacks, who shouldn’t be going near the original, making a huge mess of the classics. (2011’s The Thing springs immediately to mind.) Not only ruining the film, but making them more family friendly to acquire a larger audience share.

Sure, it is interesting to see reinterpretations of narrative, hence why Shakespeare or classic works of fiction have multiple reincarnations but King’s narrative is so simple, no matter how great it is, that it doesn’t need this big money, Halloween release. It has a fan base and people can enjoy it still considering how well the story and performances have aged. Sure, no movie is perfect and perhaps could be improved but this doesn’t look like an improvement to me. Besides the inclusion of Julianne Moore, I can’t think of many positives and plea that films stop being rehashed like this. There are many wonderful, indie horror film makers out there with exciting, original ideas that can’t get the funding or find an audience because everybody in the cinema are watching new versions of old films. Horror fans have been stung too long by these remakes, also having a new Evil Dead to look forward to, and we all deserve some new ideas to kickstart the genre into the next phase.

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How Red State Resurrected the Horror Genre

 

The other day the good people at LoveFilm posted Kevin Smith’s newest film Red State through my door. A huge fan of all his other work I had heard this was a bit of a way off from Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Little did I know that this film would scare the absolute proverbial out of me and make me a nervous wreck for the rest of the night. Now, I am not a man who gets scared so easily; I did my university dissertation on the Video Nasties, I can watch any number of zombie films without flinching and I am the first to lambast the predictability of Hollywood horror at the moment, even finding Paranormal activity, the rather tame, although I liked the idea.

But this film did something different to the myriad of recent torture porn and splatter fest films. The film follows three boys, hoping to get lucky with an escort from the internet, but instead of getting laid are tricked into the church of extremist Christians in the South with ultra views and rituals. It doesn’t sound like the template for a film that will keep you up half the night, but believe me it is and it is because of how smartly it is executed. This is my definitive list of how to make a scary film in the mould of Red State:

Make it Real: With Red State it felt sometimes like it was being shot by a documentarian. The camera spends long amount of times within the church, sitting and listening to the sermons of the Preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) before acting as a camera in a war report. Not only the camera is real though, the frightening thing is that these Christians are very real. They have groups of fundamentalist Christians protesting homosexual funerals and condemning people to hell, believing that their services to God will see them spend their days in eternal bliss. As Louis Theroux’s documentary, ‘The Most Hated Family In America’ showed, these people are very real and the inability to reason with them coupled with their strong beliefs make them a more evil villain than most.

Make Everybody Expendable: It has become a huge shame in Hollywood cinema that anyone with the basic grasp of narrative knows who will survive by the end of the movie. Even if this isn’t the case most people know it is whoever is garnering the biggest pay check. In The Expendables, none of the actors wanted to die, and none of them did, rendering the title obsolete and creating a relatively boring movie. If only more films had the audacity to kills off their main characters and make the story more unpredictable then the horror and action genre would stay fresh. Here, there is no knowing, and it is done so ruthlessly and quickly that your mind does not immediately grasp who’s been killed or why or by whom.

Give your main villain no weaknesses: Abin Cooper is one of the most terrifying creations on screen ever, his quiet, calculating demeanour allow him to seem harmless but he is full of passive anger and evil. He has no weakness like villains past because he is answering to God, therefore nobody is safe. The fact that you cannot reason with this man is somewhat terrifying. His sheer hatred for the decadence of humankind develops an unreasonable abuse of his holy powers resulting in him murdering everybody whose actions do not coincide with the word of the Lord.

Don’t make it glamorous: Many horror films make the fundamental mistake of having their lead teenagers look beautiful, even after being chased by a crazed killer and dragged through fields, they can maintain their perfect hair and escape with only a scratch to the forehead. Here however, everyone is bloody, no one’s really wearing any make up. Everyone looks normal, like they were just going to have a normal night before the film’s chain of events began. The verisimilitude creates an unnerving, unpredictable atmosphere, perfect for the film.

Finally, make a crazy alternative ending which is totally out the blue and sounds terrifying: This is the final part that really shook me up. After the film I decided to do some research about it on the internet and found an alternate ending that did not make it, possibly due to a lack of funds. If you intend to see the film I’d suggest skipping the next two paragraphs.

Ok, the film results in a huge gun battle between the Fundamentalists and some ATF Agents who have discovered that the church is dabbling with terrorism.  Many of the main characters are killed off throughout the firefight before a sound of thundering horns is heard. Abin Cooper leads the remainder of his procession out into the front of the house declaring it to be the apocalypse and their salvation. Instead in the film it is merely some eco warriors playing a prank before cutting to Agent Keenan (John Goodman) explaining what happened to some government officials before cutting to Cooper in prison.

Now, in the original this was truly the apocalypse, beginning with Cooper’s chest exploding before the rest of his family’s. The ground starts to open as Keenan covers his ears and eyes in fear. The final chest explosion reveals the an angel wielding a sword before putting a finger to his lips and saying ‘shhhh’ to Keenan before flying off as the film concludes with The Horseman of the Apocalypse descending. Now, that seems terrifying just for how random and different it is. No film would do an ending like that and leave the viewer stranded at the end of the world with no sense of closure, but they could of and probably for all intensive purposes should of. It would have shown what you could do with a horror film these days.

However it ended, the film was great and frightening in equal measure. It really puts a boost into the genre and hopefully more Hollywood movies try harder to try to escape the banality of narrative in a lot of mainstream cinema. It is just a shame that not every Red State is going to be made and it its purely economical which films do. There are going to be many, interesting films that will never see the light of day and that is merely down to funding, while Jack and Jill, recent recipient of the record ten Razzie awards will be shown in every cinema in the world.