Sunday, August 21, 2011

Remakes Gone Wild!; or, Attack of the Killer Remakes!; or, The Idea Well Done Dried Up, Ma!

If you bothered to go to a multiplex this weekend -- and if the box-office figures from Friday are any indication, you didn't -- then you might have noticed that at least three of the movies currently showing are remakes of older films: Fright Night and Conan the Barbarian and Rise of the Planet of the Apes all fit that bill to one degree or another.  For that matter, Captain America counts as a remake, too, in a kinda/sorta sorta way.

Later this year, there are remakes/semi-remakes/reboots/etc. of Footloose and The Thing coming out, and there's a remake of Red Dawn floating around out there, too.  Last year, we got a surprisingly good redo of The Karate Kid, and an unsurprisingly good redo of True Grit, and an unsurprisingly lame redo of The A-Team.

I could continue listing these things, but you get the point: Hollywood seems to be more or less out of ideas.  Luckily, they are NOT necessarily out of talent, as the new versions of Fright Night, The Karate Kid, and True Grit help to illustrate.  And with that in mind, I'm going to pose a question to myself and then answer it:

Which Stephen King movies ought to be remade?

Let's run down the list, shall we?  Just for the sake of doing so, I'm going to eliminate the various television productions from consideration.

Carrie:  I say yes.  A remake is in the works, and it is my hope that it will capture a bit more of the essential tragedy of the novel.  I don't think the DePalma movie got it quite right, and certain aspects of it seem downright campy nowadays.  The made-for-teevee flick is decent, but it's not quite right, either.  I think the novel is still highly worth revisiting, and that a genuinely great film could be made from it.

The Shining:  Absolutely not ... at least for now.  I know a lot of people (King included) take issue with the Kubrick movie, but I'm not one of them, and I think Joe Moviegoer is also not one of them.  I think that for most people, the Kubrick film still works pretty darn well.  Give it another decade or so, and maybe then it might start to seem a bit more plausible to try to put Jack and Wendy and Danny on the big screen again, and when and if it ever happens, please please please let it be better than the Mick Garris miniseries.

Creepshow:  This is an odd case, what with it being an anthology film and all.  If we're talking a straight-up remake of the original, with all five stories intact, then my answer would be an unequivocal NO.  However, if you wanted to try and adapt a few similarly-themed King short stories -- or if King wanted to script some originals -- and call it Creepshow, then that might theoretically be worth a shot.  But een then, it's an iffy proposition.

Cujo:  I love the original, so a remake doesn't necessarily seem like something that needs to happen.  After all, it's going to be difficult to top the performances of Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, and the dogs who played Cujo.  However, the story is so strong, and the situation so visceral and relatable, that if the right filmmaker got ahold of it, there's no reason why it couldn't work a second time.  So, my vote: sure, why not.

The Dead Zone:  The original is still well-loved (though by an admittedly slender group of fans), and the television show is still recent enough in the cultural memory that for the time being, I don't think a remake could be of any benefit whatsoever.  Again, let's give it a while.  But once that vaguely-defined amount of time is up: yes, absolutely.  You could probably even get a trilogy out of it!

Christine:  I like Carpenter's movie, and I like the novel, but neither of them is on my list of favorites, per se.  A remake could have potential, but it poses certain difficulties.  For one, it's just plain difficult to make a haunted car scary.  Creepy and unsettling might be better tones to strive for, and if a filmmaker pops up who has a talent for those tones and feels like taking a crack at Christine, then I say let 'em have a go at it.  Otherwise, we'll probably be fine sticking to the John Carpenter flick.

Children of the Corn:  Well, that already happened once, and it turned out ... poorly.  Very, very poorly.  That said, the remake was made by incompetents.  If Frank Darabont, or the Coens, or Spike Jonze, or Christopher Nolan, or somebody whom I felt to be a proven film megatalent suddenly announced their interest in mounting a new version of the story, then I'd be interested; otherwise, there's no need to ever visit this particular well again.

Firestarter:  Yeah, this one would be a good idea, actually, and it wouldn't have to be all that expensive, since it's mostly a character piece.  It would be nice to see Charlie burn down The Shop again.  Make it happen, Hollywood!

Cat's Eye:  No way.  The original doesn't work, and neither would a remake.

Silver Bullet:  I'm a moderate fan of the original, and a remake could probably improve on it enough to be worth doing.  If I were the one in charge of it, though, I'd do it as a twelve-part series of short films that stuck closer to the vignettes in the novella, and try to work out a deal to release it into theatres as a serial, one per month over the course of a year, each one timed to that month's full moon.  It's never been done, and the logistics would probably make it impractical ... but it'd be damn cool to try!

Maximum Overdrive:  I love the original.  There, I said it.  Whewwwwww ... that feels so good to get that off my chest.  Don't get me wrong: it's a terrible movie.  But damn, is it fun to watch!  I'd love to see Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez remake it as a faux-grindhouse movie; that'd have potential.  Otherwise, no thanks.

Stand By Me:  Yes ... but not yet.  The original is great in every sense of the word; it's a true classic.  However, "The Body" is a great story, and in my opinion, great stories deserve to be told and retold and retold again, ad infinitum over the span of time.  Stand By Me is a classic, though, and it still feels modern enough that currently, there's no need for a remake.  In another decade or two, that might be less true; whenever that time arrives, I say remake away, Hollywood.

The Running Man:  Yes, and the sooner the better.  I'd prefer it if a new version stuck closer to the novel ... but it's not a prerequisite to earn my interest.

Pet Sematary:  Absolutely.  Done correctly, this could be amongst the scariest movies ever made.  But it needs to be handled with a high level of realism.  Hire a director who's even better at letting the camera run than at editing, hire a cast comprised of non-star (but extremely competent) actors, and then spend the minimum amount of money possible.  Under those circumstances, you've got gold on your hands with this one.

Graveyard Shift:  Computer says no.

Misery:  As with The Shining and Stand By Me, it's a yes, just not any time soon.  But eventually, sure, Annie Wilkes deserves to get back into the nursing business.

The Lawnmower Man:  I can't immediately imagine any circumstances under which that would be a good idea.

Sleepwalkers:  In a theoretical sense, I suppose I can imagine some talented writer/director taking this and making something interesting out of it.  It would difficult to make a worse film than the original.  But is there any pressing need to try?  No, sir.

The Dark Half:  Again, I can see it working in theory ... but the odds are against it.

Needful Things:  Well, a limited series for cable might have potential.  Otherwise, there's too much material to fit into a movie, and no need to even try.

The Shawshank Redemption:  Despite some of my previous comments, this one might be a classic of such towering stature that there will literally never be a need to do it a second time.  There aren't many movies I'd say that about; this may be one of them.

The Mangler:  Ugh....  No.

Dolores Claiborne:  No time soon.  Taylor Hackford did quite well the first time.  But eventually, and with a somewhat different take on the material, it would serve as a great showcase for a top-notch actress.

Thinner:  The first movie is so bad that I think it would be difficult to get anyone interested in a remake for a while.  But the novel has depths that the movie never even considered plumbing, so a remake could definitely be a massive improvement.  So again, it's a yes ... but let's sit on the idea for a while.

The Night Flier:  The original is a semi-guilty pleasure for me, and it works well enough that a remake with a higher budget and better performers in certain roles would have a lot of potential.  Might be a bit soon, though.

Apt Pupil:  This is another one for the yes-but-not-now column.

The Green Mile:  Well, eventually someone might be able to do some sort of interesting new take on it, but for now, it's in no need of being touched at all.

Hearts In Atlantis:  Here's another interesting case.  The original is a decent movie; nothing spectacular, but decent.  However, it only dealt with one section of the novel, and there's plenty more left.  I'd love to see a movie version of the title story from that book.  I'd also love to see a remake of "Low Men In Yellow Coats" if it could be tied into a Dark Tower series.

Dreamcatcher:  The movie is terrible, so there's tons of room for improvement ... but probably not enough to matter.  Bryant votes no on this one.

Secret Window:  I love this movie, but it gets ever-so-slightly cheesy here and there.  Eventually, a remake could make it a bit creepier and unsettling, but there's no need for that to happen for a couple of decades, at least.

Riding the Bullet:  Again, it would be difficult to make a worse version than what Mick Garris made.  However, the material is so slight that I don't see any need for a better version of the movie.  Let's just leave it alone.

1408:  Eventually, someone should definitely have another go at this story.  The movie works in a mild way, but they did not get all out of it that they might have.

The Mist:  I'm a big, big fan of the movie ... but I do feel there are certain aspects of it which could have been done better, or just differently.  In twenty years or so, yeah, let's let somebody else give it a go.

Dolan's Cadillac:  Sure, provided they make a good movie, which they demonstrably did not do the first time.

So, there you have it.  To recap, I say the following should absolutely be remade, and soon: Carrie, Firestarter, The Running Man, and Pet Sematary.  Everything else is either a no, a not-now, or a why-bother.

What say you?


  1. Being a huge fan of vampire films, I wouldn't mind seeing Salems Lot redone w/a fairly decent budget...

  2. Todd,

    My concern with a Salem's Lot movie would be that it would be tough to have the movie be long enough to properly do justice to the buildup that is integral to the story. But if someone wanted to try it on, say, HBO ... that would be cool.

    By the way, as you are a vampire fan, I highly recommend the remake of "Fright Night" that just came out. I thought it was great!

  3. I've been wanting to see "Fright Night" since first seeing the trailer online. I read your review. Perhaps I'll squeeze it in this week sometime.

    It's odd to talk about "Fright Night" and "Salem's Lot" in the same post. When picturing Father Callahan, I always see Roddy McDowall. This occurs more frequently during my readings of 'Wolves of the Calla' than 'The Lot' ... and given the more recent version of the tv miniseries, perhaps I should think of James Cromwell, but in 'Wolves' when Callahan tells his story to Roland's tet, I inevitably see McDowall.

    I suppose it's McDowall's/Peter Vincent's lack of faith mingling with Callahan's similar problems w/Barlow that causes my mind to make the connection. Anyway, it was interesting that both popped up together in this post.

  4. Can you believe this: I've never seen the original version of "Fright Night"! Shameful, I know. The remake has only made me more interested in seeing it, though, and I've got a friend who's got the DVD and is willing to loan it to me.

    Roddy McDowall was a great actor, and I think you've got something when you mentally cast him as Father Callahan. I think it's that McDowall was great any time he had to go into monologue mode (witness "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes"), and that type of oration is similar to what priests do from the pulpit.


    As for me, I think the person I saw when I read "Wolves of the Calla" was Lance Henriksen.