September 30, 2022

How do you remake a cult classic Horror movie?

Remaking a cult horror movie is a difficult thankless task. Even if you make a good movie, the fans of the original are still probably going to prefer the original, and might not like the remake just for being different.

How do you remake a cult classic Horror movie?

Remaking a cult horror movie is a difficult thankless task. Even if you make a good movie, the fans of the original are still probably going to prefer the original, and might not like the remake just for being different. And if you do a bad job, well then you’re just fucked. But just taken as a problem to solve I think it’s an interesting one. My opening question is kind of a feint though, because I’m not actually going to start there.

First lets get to some background questions to establish where I’m coming from.

Why are horror remakes looked down upon? I mean really it’s just because we’ve gotten a lot of lazy, terrible ones. Going back to the classic Universal Monsters, horror films have always been about sequels and remakes. Those stories were a) adapted from books and b) many of them had already been made into movies during the silent era. There’s not only precedent for a new voice to bring life to an old story, There are success stories to point to.

The real struggle is to create something that’s familiar enough to draw audiences in, but surprising and original enough that it still feels fresh. It’s one of the difficult contradictions: like how audiences want to know what to expect going into a movie, but also have a fear of being spoiled. And I don’t just mean in terms of seeing the movie at all; there’s also just an emotional barrier we put up against the unknown, and a movie needs to convince us that it’s worth dropping that shield; to get us to give up that “Fuck you, why should I care?” attitude.

If you’re watching a remake or a sequel to a movie you love, you already care at least at some level. You’ve spent emotional investment in the original. If the movie turns out to be a soulless, cash grab with little effort or talent behind it, then your investment did not pan out very well, and you’re likely pretty frustrated. Some movies don’t need sequels because there’s no other story with those characters that needs telling. Genre movies, films that thrive on executing on well worn tropes are more built for it than character dramas. Horror in particular makes for a good target for franchisement because it’s the horror, or monster itself that the audience becomes attached to generally. Not to say that Horror movies can’t or don’t have compelling characters, but the iconography is often tied to the evil of the story, not the victims.

The Evil Dead franchise though, is an exception. There is plenty of iconography tied to its monsters, and Sam Raimi’s experimental directing style, but really most of it is tied up in Bruce Campbell and his character Ash. Campbell dominates the screen so much that by the time of Army of Darkness there’s no more room for horror. It’s just action comedy at that point. Evil Dead II is a great movie because of how well it balances the insanity of its horror with the selfish, idiot hero that Ash becomes. For me Evil Dead (2013) justifies its existence by being an Evil Dead movie without Ash. Specifically that it does a really good job of being that.

The problem with Ash is that he reached a point where he no longer was afraid of the Deadites, and that means that the audience couldn’t be afraid of them either. Like with so many horror franchises, familiarity meant a turn towards comedy away from horror. Also, since he became the dominant hero and center of the story, there’s no fear that he might die. Realizing this, Army of Darkness takes the right approach in admitting that he’s basically invincible, if very fallible, but it also means that there’s no chance for us to be scarred or horrified as long as he’s around. Everything just provides us an opportunity to laugh at Ash because he’s ridiculous.

So, an Evil Dead movie with no Ash, has the room it needs to once again dive deep into the horror end, and allow the Deadites the time to shine again. Because of this it’s also not really a strict remake; this isn’t a movie retelling the same exact events with the same characters. It’s aware of the audience’s expectations and it’s clever about how it plays with them. It plays into similar ideas that Cabin in the Woods did. although played much more straight. These kids are for sure facing the same evil that we’ve seen Ash face before, but their ability (or inability) to face and overcome it is what sets the movie apart. It’s a remake in the sense that it’s getting back to the roots of the franchise, but there’s more to it than just that.

Primarily this is a gore show. The effects work on display is great and it’s really what makes the movie. And on that specific level I kinda love it more than any other movie.These characters go through the ringer. The dialogue is weak as is some of the acting, but the movie works where it needs to. I knew exactly where this movie was going until suddenly I didn’t. That’s what makes it hit so hard for me.