Make/Remake: The Spiral Staircases August 30, 2012Posted by badblokebob in : Film Noir: Classic, 2000s, adaptations, 1940s, Mystery, remakes, Specials, Make/Remake, 2012 , add a comment
The Spiral Staircase (2000)
The good version is on BBC Two tomorrow at 12:50pm. If you’re interested in how I think the 2000 remake compares, click through:
Make/Remake: Assaults on Precinct 13 May 23, 2011Posted by badblokebob in : Action, remakes, Specials, 2011, Make/Remake , add a comment
In the second of my irregular series looking at films and their remakes / re-imaginings / shameless cash-ins, we sample the grand tradition of Hollywood taking a beloved cult flick and recycling it as a shinier, blander, lowest-common-denominator-aimed property.
In this instance the original film in question is John Carpenter’s action exploitation movie Assault on Precinct 13, made just before he’d begin to build his reputation as a Master of Horror, and the shiny remake is by Jean-François Richet, made just before he’d gain some critical cache with his two-part crime biopic Mesrine.
The question, as ever, is: is either film as good or as bad as the standard perception of originals and their remakes would have us believe? These may be surprisingly muddy waters…
the siege is the key element but doesn’t start until quite far into the film… The first third-ish of the film, where the ragtag group of people wind up in the station, is a bit random, but that’s also kind of the point: this group of people stand up to protect one man, even though they have no idea why he’s there. Very moving. Nonetheless, some of the machinations of the plot are a tad comical
Read more in my full review here. And then follow it with…
James DeMonaco’s screenplay presents an essentially new story built on the premise of the original film… Which is a good thing, really. Unfortunately, the new stuff isn’t necessarily as compelling as what it’s replaced… there’s now a surfeit of character backstory, and yet for all that extra work I’d argue we probably care about these characters less than those in the original. The original’s quasi-horror element is also sadly lost
Read more in my full review here.
Separated by 30 years, the two versions of Assault on Precinct 13 are rather different beasts. The remake is undeniably slicker, but in the process loses some of the original’s soul. While it arguably represents steps forward in areas like character development and story structure, it also presents a surprising step backwards in the representation of race on screen. You might not notice that almost all the cops were white and all the criminals black or hispanic, were it not for that being a significant reversal of the original’s race distribution.
Though I’ve given them the same score, it’s the original that sticks in the mind. The remake isn’t bad, but it’s generic enough not to stick. The original, while imperfect for whatever reasons, has a fair few elements that float around in your mind afterwards, either being pondered or just being recalled. To put that last point bluntly: it’s more memorable.
Make/Remake: Let the Right Me In March 14, 2011Posted by badblokebob in : Horror, adaptations, world cinema, remakes, Specials, 2011, Make/Remake , add a comment
It used to take Hollywood ages to churn out a remake of a foreign film. Les diaboliques and Diabolique? 41 years. À bout de souffle and Breathless? 23 years. Insomnia and Insomnia? Five years. But increasingly nothing like as long is needed. I suppose we can thank a more globalised film culture brought about in the last decade (ish) by a combination of the Internet and readily-importable, quickly-released DVDs/Blu-rays; ways for learning of, reading about and seeing films that weren’t a factor even in the VHS era, let alone earlier.
The most recent example of this speedy-remake phenomenon is Swedish vampire drama Let the Right One In, remade last year by the recently-relaunched Hammer Films as Let Me In. Or, if you prefer, “re-adapted”, as they’re both based on a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. A film of a Swedish novel produced by a British company set in America with a US cast & crew? Globalised indeed. The gap between the films, by-the-way, is just two years.
Me being me, it’s taken until now to see either. But make hay while the sun shines, because this allows me to watch them almost back-to-back and see what I think. First off, then, and of course, is Låt den rätte komma in…
Lindqvist’s novel is, apparently, somewhat autobiographical (aside from the vampire stuff, obviously). Oskar is Lindqvist, essentially, and it seems Alfredson could relate too. Perhaps this is what helps it feel so true. Maybe that’s why Let Me In struggles to translate the tale as effectively: it’s taking a story set in a specific time and place for a reason, and mashing it into a different one by someone who, maybe, doesn’t have quite as personal a connection as the previous authors.
Read my full review here. And then follow it with…
any time there’s a scene that’s a direct lift from the original, it feels less well played, by the director, by the cast and sometimes, despite the faithfulness, by the screenplay. The aforementioned swimming pool climax is a case in point: the original version is perfect, but directly copying it would be a no no, so instead Reeves jazzes it up… and, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work half as well. You can’t improve on perfection.
Read my full review here.
I’m not one of those people who prefers the original just because It’s The Original, so hopefully it means something (as much as my opinion ever does) when I say that Let the Right One In is the better of these two films. It feels like Alfredson set out to make a drama about young love that happened to feature a potentially violent loner and a vampire girl — in fact, the director is keen to point out (in a surprisingly unpretentious fashion) that he doesn’t aim his work to slot into any particular genre — while Reeves set out to make a horror movie first and a young-love drama second. Though don’t go expecting out-and-out vampire thrills and gore from Let Me In, because it retains enough of the original’s DNA to make it still a pleasantly unusual genre entry.
Some viewers prefer the remake. I can’t see it myself. Maybe viewed in isolation it would seem better, but watched almost back to back it felt like Let Me In lost the original’s nuance. It’s not as dreadful as a Van Sant Psycho-style retread, but it’s still a pale reflection of its inspiration. Ironic for a vampire film.
(Let the Right One In placed 3rd on my list of The Ten Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2011, which can be read in full here.)