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[Posted by: Eric Raymer]

Matt Reeves’ vampire coming-of-age film Let Me In hits theaters October 1st – which means it’ll come out just a little shy of two years after the original Swedish version (Let the Right One In). There’s been somewhat of a backlash from fans of the original since the remake was announced, and accusations of the new film being dumbed-down for a U.S. audience are flying left and right. Reeves has defended his work, saying that the original itself was a remake of a novel, and that his film is just a “variation on a theme.” The marketing for the new film has done a pretty good job of distinguishing it from the Swedish film, but at the end of the day, it’s the same story. It’s not uncommon for major studios to “Americanize” foreign films by remaking them with well-known actors and without subtitles. Sometimes a larger budget can bring a little more flash to source material that couldn’t quite pull it off. Other times… Well, it’s usually best to try and forget about those. Some of the worst remakes occur when a director tries to remake something (foreign or otherwise) that succeeded in the first place. Regardless of Let Me In‘s eventual fate, it’s probably not going to be as bad as the following cinematic catastrophes.

Planet of the Apes

When Tim Burton’s good, he’s good. But when he’s bad, he’s capable of producing some truly awful films. His version of the sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes insults everything that was good about the original series. Charlton Heston’s charisma and a smart script turned what could have been a typical B-movie into something memorable. Burton’s version gave us Mark Wahlberg at his worst, hokey special effects, and a “twist” ending that didn’t even try to make sense. (For those who haven’t seen it, I’ll save you the pain of discovering it for yourself: Ape Lincoln.) Okay, it might not be as corny as Escape from the Planet of the Apes, but I’ll take 70’s corniness over this schlock any day.

Psycho

It’s pretty audacious to remake any film considered a classic, let alone what’s arguably one of the best films by cinematic legend Alfred Hitchcock. I’m not sure what Gus Van Sant thought he could add to Psycho, especially when large parts of the film are shot-for-shot replicas of the original. I’d like to have been a fly on the wall when Van Sant pitched this idea to the producers just so I can try and understand why anyone thought this was a good idea.

Funny Games

Michael Haneke’s Funny Games was released in 1997 to a decent amount of critical acclaim, but without too much of a fuss otherwise. He intended its depiction of a middle-class family inexplicably held hostage by a couple of thugs to be a scathing criticism of both violence in film and the audiences who crave it. It’s reasonably safe to say that it missed its mark. Funny Games masquerades as something that it ultimately criticizes, and many of those wanting a violent thrill-fest were put off by the lack of resolution, the fourth-wall breaking mindgames, and the general sense that they were being lectured at by the director. Most directors would have moved on, but Haneke thought that the intended audience just didn’t get what he was trying to say. His solution: wait ten years, then remake the film almost shot-for-shot in English with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts. The thing is, the film works better without star power, audiences still don’t like being lectured at, and there was no incentive for those who liked the original to seek this one out. Sorry Haneke.

King Kong

If you ever need proof that more isn’t necessarily better, watch Peter Jackson’s three-hour rendition of King Kong. It’s not necessarily a bad film. It just can’t sustain its pace for the whole gargantuan runtime. Watching it feels like running a marathon, especially with chase scene after endless chase scene and a veritable zoo of CG animals and dinosaurs. I imagine Jackson was still coming off the high of directing his Lord of the Rings trilogy, which by necessity consisted of three really long films. There’s no reason for this one to get the treatment of an epic though, and by the time it was over I was just glad to get up and stretch my legs. Note the presence of Naomi Watts in this film also…coincidence?

Any shoddily done money-grab based on a franchise from the 70’s or 80’s

You know what I’m talking about. Transformers, Scooby-Doo, Starsky and Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard, Fat Albert… The list could go on forever. These films are designed for one purpose only – to use nostalgia as a lever to get money out of your wallet. There are bad movies, and then there are insulting movies. Films in this category tend toward the latter.

As far as Let Me In is concerned, I’m not that interested, since I:

  1. Was perfectly happy with the original.
  2. Thought Chloe Moretz was annoying in Kick-Ass.
  3. Don’t want to support any more vampire-romance themed films.
  4. Don’t like the fact that a particular element of the story is likely to be neutered. (No pun intended for those who’ve seen the original.)

It seems like Overture/Hammer Films smelled money and decided to capitalize on the current vampire trend, but Reeves seems to have a genuine enthusiasm for the source material that may make the film worth a look. Whether Let Me In will succeed has yet to be seen. The question is, are you willing to gamble the price of a movie ticket on a new film when the original is just a rental away? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments
  1. Wustin Jagner says:

    Remakes like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho and Haneke’s Funny Games U.S. are the epitome of unnecessary remakes. While the actors are different, the script and shots almost never change. Especially sad with Haneke. I’ve always thought it would be cool if directors revisited some of their past films and improved upon them and see how they would do it now, but Haneke just remaking it exactly as it was for an American audience was a waste of time and money.

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