I would like to start by justifying the thinking behind remaking a foreign horror film for a western audience. That’s what I would like to do, but I can’t. Neither can you I’ll wager. Sure you can come up with reasons for it, like how western audiences don’t like subtitles apparently, or how foreign movies are paced all weird, or how English language dubbing is really really ball-achingly funny and thus no good for scaring someone.
A cynical man (and yes; I am such a man) could also suggest that the thought process behind remaking a perfectly good (occasionally great) movie would go something like:
Wow. That was a hell of a movie. Brown trousers all round, eh lads? I liked the first-time director’s use of subtle shades, the detached nature of the narrative, the beautifully unsettling lead performance, and especially the twisted up ghost-girl with no eyes that eats nipples.
Everyone should see this! Better yet; everyone should see this while I make a load of cash!
I’ll make my own! That way I can have all the money without having to share with any of those (ugh) creative types. This plan is amazing! And it seems to be getting even more so with each beak-full of this delicious cocaine. Actually, that was a close one; ideas that are too new make my ass feel funny…
Yeah, we aren’t fans of remakes here at Bad Haven any more than we are fans of drunken dentistry. The kinds of justifications that do fly about for them are pretty flimsy and they almost never turn out any good. For every “Dawn of the Dead” remake there’s a “Day of the Dead” Remake (Vegetarian Zombies and Zombies that can scuttle up walls like Spiderman? How fucking DARE you!)
This issue has been brought into sharp focus recently for me as I received a copy of “Apartment 1303” for reviewing purposes and it kind of made me mad. It also made me think about some other remakes in much the same way as one would try to think of a favourite song whilst enduring physical torture, only to discover that the only song which comes to mind is “Some Nights” by that shower of absolute cunt-bags “Fun.” (Seriously. There should be a law against those guys, and everyone should be allowed, nay, ENCOURAGED to punch them. All the time. Forever) Here are a few notable(!) ones:
4) Apartment 1303
The reason for this list deserves a mention. An American remake of a 2007 Japanese horror film based on a Kei Oishi (The fellow who wrote “Ring”) novel; I will admit that I haven’t seen the original and dammit, after watching this you can’t bloody well make me. Mischa Barton investigates the suicide of her sister; the latest in a long line of suicides by tenants of the titular Apartment 1303, while having to deal with an alcoholic rock star has-been mother (Rebecca De Mornay) and the obligatory ghosts that inhabit the apartment.
Going by the IMDB listing for the Japanese original, it apparently wasn’t too bad, and if you think sourcing an IMDB listing is lazy journalism, then fuck you because you didn’t have to watch the remake and if you had you wouldn’t want to sit through anything like it again. It plays out like a How-To guide for making a movie wrong. The doomed younger sister spends her first (and last) few days in the apartment talking to herself; almost as though her inner monologue was on the fritz. I actually didn’t blame the ghostly young girl for chucking her out the window, as she was bound to be driven scatty in the head with the incessant babbling. Big sister Mischa puts her investigating hat on and goes from accusing her sisters former boyfriend of being a murderer, to insisting that he stay and watch over her while she sleeps in the increasingly spooky apartment in a heroic display of recklessly fuzzy logic.
A couple of half-assed flailing plotlines threaten, before seeming to just wander off and disappear. The actual scares are left in the hands of the creepy little girl next door, who comes across as a brat rather than a scary harbinger of one thing and another; The Kyle-from-Tenacious D-alike superintendent, who to be fair is creepy because he is a blatant sex-offender; and the aforementioned ghostly blonde girl who is scary because she hangs around the bathroom with her head cocked menacingly to one side. The deceased sister puts in an appearance again from time to time and, whaddya know; even in death she still won’t stop talking to herself.
The film spends a lot of time threatening to rise from then rank of offensively bad, to merely boring, and just when you think it will… Its over! And you are very angry.
2) The Ring
I stumbled home one night a decade ago and turned on the telly, having a vague memory of hearing that some cult Japanese movie was on at some stage that evening and looking to see what all the fuss was about. I managed, as luck would have it, to switch on just prior to Sadako’s emergence from the TV; a moment which freaked a sufficient amount of bejeesus out of me to become one of my all-time favourite scenes in horror cinema.
Compelled as I was to watch the entire thing a few weeks later, I found that although the TV scene was its pinnacle, it was such a dramatically new approach to the modern ghost story that it was one of the few occasions when I have found myself agreeing with the hype.
Then came the remake.
It made bags of cash (naturally), had a Hollywood dye-job in the lead role (To be fair, Naomi Watts came into her own not too long afterward. Credit where its due) changed very little of the story of the original, but managed to be completely average, boring and toothless. Whilst it avoided being a shot-for-shot remake, it seemed to add scares just for the sheer hell of it; presumably the thinking being that American audiences would want to be scared NOW dammit!
Most unforgivably of all; the payoff that had made the original so special; the TV scene; was made a complete bollocks of. Gone was the spine-chilling run-in-reverse crawling terror of Sadako’s attack, and in its place were dodgy special effects and a little girl whose face was covered in cake mix.