Today’s guest article comes to us compliments of Gerard Marzilli – one of the wittiest and most astute observers that you’re likely to meet in the indie community. Needless to say, these are traits that have served him well in his roles as both an actor and producer.
After having appeared on my show twice to promote a couple of projects he’d done with 8 Sided Films, Gerard offered to throw together an opinion piece for my blog as well. Little did I know, he was about to touch on a subject that strikes a raw nerve with a lot of film fans – remakes!
Below you’ll read what he has to say about remakes of horror films specifically and why some work and some don’t. I’d also encourage anyone reading this to please leave your own suggestions as to what they feel are the best and worst horror remakes. I’m always looking for something cool to watch – or for that matter vent about here.
Gerard, the floor is yours…
Lets Get To Work … On Remakes!!
By Gerard Marzilli
Remakes, remakes, so many remakes! Remakes, sequels, prequels are something I've heard a lot of grumbling from fans of science-fiction, horror or other genre films. But for the purposes of this article let's examine remakes, what makes a good remake and why there are so many bad and/or lazy ones.
Every time I hear about a new remake these days, which is about once every five minutes, I roll my eyes. This is unfortunate because there was once a time that news that a favorite story of mine was going to be told again got me excited. Those days seem to be long gone. This was back in the 80s. This was the decade that brought us (starting in the 70s) "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"(1978) "John Carpenters' The Thing" (1982) David Cronenberg's "The Fly" (1986) and numerous other remake gems. In fact, one might say it was the golden age of remakes.
What made these films so great was how bold they were with their source material. "Body Snatchers" abandoned the Red Scare tropes of its predecessor and focused on all the fears of the 70's from mysterious all consuming cults (playing on fears of The Manson Family and Jonestown) to social isolation brought on by massive societal shifts post Vietnam.
"The Thing" actually returned to its original source material, the short story "Who Goes There?" that inspired the 1951 Howard Hawkes Original, "Thing from Another World". In the Hawkes film the Thing, while creepy and murderous, can easily be spotted and ferreted out, he is an obvious alien and not like us. In the short story and 1982 remake, the Thing is a shape shifter, able to perfectly mimic its victims. This gives the film a bleak, "shoot first and trust no one" feel that again evokes the paranoia of the post Vietnam era - and one that holds up well post 9/11.
The Fly (1986) is less a remake of the 1958 original and more of a complete re-think. Seth Brundle's transformation into "Brundle-fly" cannot help but evoke the gut wrenching fear of the then new and vastly misunderstood AIDS.
All three of the aforementioned films used older, well loved stories as a tool to mirror current events and teach society something new about itself as well as entertain, fulfilling the highest purposes of art in the sneakiest and most subversive way possible.
To be sure there are notable modern examples of a fantastic remake. Rob Zombie's "Halloween" films come to mind. The original 1978 John Carpenter film showed us that monsters could strike us at random at any time and we will die never knowing why. Rob Zombie, realizing his audience was far more savvy in the ways of deviant psychology, chose to show us exactly what kind of environment produces these monsters and what the after affects of their violence are. Many would disagree with me, but I feel both of Rob Zombie's "Halloween" films are powerful pieces of cinema. However as amazing as they are, I can't watch them more than once every year and a half or so. They are just too painful.
The works of Mr. Zombie aside, a disturbing trend has emerged starting at the dawn of the millennium. 60's, 70's and 80's TV shows and movies were being remade at a breakneck, industrial like pace. So many of them are tepid and lazy, remaking their source films virtually shot by shot. Others try to show us how much "better" the originals would have been with massive amounts of CGI. Still others grossly misunderstand the original film and how it can be made truly relevant to a modern audience. Some remakes make all three of these mistakes.
These films are cash cows. They rely on name recognition and a loyal fan base in order to make a quick buck. One of these films does not amount to much in the way of box office. For instance one can expect a successful horror film to make about 20 to 40 million domestically, anything else is pure fluke, zeitgeist if you will. However: put out 10 of these per year, with three successful ones in the mix, you got yourself an empire! Better yet, one built with very little original thought involved! Hire a gaggle of controllable young commercial or Music Video directors on their way up and you've got it made!
Keep in mind, I get this business model. It's safe and most major studios are now corporations who are responsible for their shareholders for results. That is why they make safe, middle-of-the-road, films when it comes to remakes. As any actor will tell you, the reason you see the same 10 people in films consistently is because the work is already done for everyone else. I get that. I enjoy a certain amount of controllability in the projects I produce. What I will not cotton to is inferior product. I feel we are doing a great disservice to our audiences by putting out films like this. We are lowering general audience expectations and squandering the goodwill of longtime fans of the franchises being remade. Studios are putting out substandard products for more money.
I have often discussed with my 8 Sided Films producing partner and cofounder, Tennyson Stead, a number of films we would love to see made. But I would only ever think of agreeing to work on a project unless it brought something entirely fresh to the table. Our audiences need not be subjected to my personal boyhood fantasies of how "really cool" it would've been to direct "Raiders of the lost Ark", nor my own personal laziness. They deserve the best folks and they deserve to have the movies they see entertain them and make them better.
Let's get to work!
Follow Gerard on Twitter:
Visit Gerard's IMDB Page:
Visit the 8 Sided Films website: