I originally wrote this in September of 2007, but considering the string of remakes and reboots that have come since and are planned for the future, I thought I’d bring it to your attention once again…
This article was prompted by news that Sony is looking for writers to do a new version of the campy 1985 horror flick Fright Night, an idea that readers of Screen Rant might be surprised to hear I’m not against.
For the most part, I despise Hollywood’s habit of remaking past films. Sure sometimes it works (The Departed, Ocean’s 11, The Thomas Crown Affair, Scarface), but for the vast majority it doesn’t (Planet of the Apes, The Poseiden Adventure, The Pink Panther, Point of No Return, Sabrina, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc., etc., etc.), and is just a blatant and often creatively bankrupt attempt at cashing in on the name of some past, well-known movie.
So having said that, when is it okay to remake a film? If it’s done well, I don’t have a problem with remakes of original films that meet any of the following criteria:
1. Stories in the public domain that have already had multiple movie remakes done.
Movies based on classic stories like The Three Musketeers, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. These have been remade so many times already that you can’t really logically argue against another one, and sometimes a newer version turns out to be quite good.
2. The original is terribly dated in either setting or pacing and style.
In this category you’ll find movies like Ocean’s 11 and The Thomas Crown Affair. I’ve watched both the original versions and the remakes and while I’m no fan of the seizure-inducing, quick-cut filming style used in so many movies today, the pacing in some movies from the late 60′s/early 70′s was so slow that it could put you in a coma.
3. The original is not terribly well known or beloved.
Let me start off by saying that there is a special place reserved in Hell for the person that ever gets a remake of Casablanca produced. Some movies should just be off limits. Period. Movies that are a part of the fabric of the history of cinema should just be left alone, if for no other reason than because they have withstood the test of time and are still considered excellent and extremely enjoyable today. In addition to Casablanca I would add It’s a Wonderful Life, 12 Angry Men, The Maltese Falcon (yes, I know the Humphrey Bogart version is a remake, but let’s leave it alone now, shall we?) and of course, Citizen Kane. There are many others, but you get the gist.
4. The remake does in fact bring something new while respecting the original.
Here we have movies like Cape Fear, The Magnificent Seven and The Thing. Each of these was a remake that brought something fresh to the original story, whether in concept or execution.
5. The original was basically pretty cheesy or tongue-in-check in tone and most folks wouldn’t care if it was remade.
Little Shop of Horrors and even Eight Legged Freaks as a new twist on the classic giant-ant movie Them. This is the category where I think a remake of Fright Night fits: It was pretty campy and didn’t take itself too seriously and while it was a fun movie, I don’t think it falls under “untouchable” status. In the right hands it could be quite good, but that’s certainly no guarantee.
So from now on when I rant against some remake, you’ll know that it doesn’t fall under any of the five rules listed above.
What do you think… are there any other criteria under which it’s ok to remake a movie?