Death at a Funeral 2007 meets Death at a Funeral 2010
In the eighties, the sequel was king*. There hasn’t been such a glut of unoriginality in Hollywood until, well, now. Instead of sequels, remakes are the name of the game and it’s never been less fun to go to the movies.
And it’s killing America!!!
Well, not really, but it is killing good scripts, since they don’t have an established brand name to capitalize on.** Studio heads assume that if folks prefer Pepsis to no-name sodas, audiences would rather see a remake than anything as cold and unfamiliar as an original film.
This is why 2007’s Death At A Funeral was remade this year. The remake is one of the best movies Neil LaBute has directed, which means, of course, that it’s only mostly terrible. Both films are nearly-identical warts and all: each have a groan-inducing ending and at least three characters too many, but only the remake has Tracy Morgan’s distinct brand of comedy kryptonite.
I’m not opposed to remakes, but a good one is like covering a song: it has to deviate from the original. For example, John Carpenter’s The Thing had a script that was closer to the novella the original was based on that worked beautifully with the director’s style. While the original is a good romp, Carpenter’s version is one of the scariest films ever made and is celebrated today as a modern classic. It didn’t hurt that the original hadn’t spawned a TV series or The Thing 2 or The Thing Meets Gidget***, so the remake had a freshness to it.
The same cannot be said for the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, whose last sequel hit theatres seven years ago. Nightmare follows the proud tradition of other horror remakes of the last decade by replacing the atmosphere and tension of the originals with loud clangs on the soundtrack every five seconds. The film even copies sequences shot-for-shot from the original, which only reminds you of the older, better film you could be watching.
As for talk of making Freddy Krueger scarier than before, Jackie Earl Haley ends up playing Krueger like an evil, wisecracking version of Billy Bob Thornton’s character from Sling Blade****. While Nightmare coasts on special effects, is it really that impressive for a major studio film to out-do the fx found in a low-budget horror movie from 1984?
Like the Funeral remake, Nightmare doesn’t improve on the flaws of its source, which is the only point of remaking movies in the first place. The ending of the first Nightmare, featuring a Kustomized Krueger Kar and a Real Doll violently pulled through a window, can be kindly described as awful. The remake’s ending manages to out-stupid even that.
Let’s just get back to making crazy sequels, shall we? I’ve got a script for a My Girl sequel where the Macaulay Culkin character miraculous recovers from a fatal bee sting and fights the giant bee puppet from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Let’s make this happen, Hollywood.
*Ghostbusters II, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Silent Night-Deadly Night 3: You Better Watch Out!, Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, American Ninja 3, Halloween 5, The Gods Must Be Crazy II, Lethal Weapon 2, Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade and C.H.U.D. II: Bud The C.H.U.D. all saw release in 1989 alone (among many others).
**Clint Morris has a rather good article on “branding“ and its effects at http://tinyurl.com/ylq7tad
***There was a Godzilla Vs. The Thing, but The Thing in that case was just Mothra, Japan’s lamest Kaiju.
****Say it with me now: “I DIDN’T MEAN TA KILL NOBODY IN DER DREAMS!”