I was thinking about films today, you know, lounging around, reading Variety as you do, and I saw the trailer for the Spike Lee remake of the classic Korean film 'Oldboy'.
(For the number of my friends who I know haven't stopped screaming since this film was announced - I know you think it's going to be worse than anything that the world has previously had to endure, including the decimation of the dinosaurs and the invention of Snap-back hats, and I know that you think that Spike Lee hasn't made a decent film since 1992. And yes, you're right, they're probably going to change the ending significantly.)
If you've never seen it, it's about a guy who gets kidnapped for 15 (20 in the remake) years and held in solitary confinement, then is mysteriously released one day... As you'd expect he tries to find out why and goes on to get revenge on his captors. The original 2003 version is one of the classics of Asian cinema. There are set-pieces, most of them are unpleasant - But you should go and watch it now (unless you have kids with you, don't watch it then, especially if you ever want them to try seafood).
The trailer for the new version looks OK, I guess they're supposed to though aren't they? They're advertising a new film that they want to make money from when you get down to it. It's not a scene by scene homage by any stretch and Josh Brolin doesn't carry off the 'Old man of the woods' look quite as well as Min-Sik Choi did, but what do you expect?
Yeah... Good question that, what do you expect from a remake?
Well, you expect it to be rubbish don't you? initially I mean. Over the past ten years or so we've been hit by remake after remake, not just of Asian films but of 'classic' English language films.
Who could forget (No matter how much they might want to) Steve Coogan's 'Around the World in 80 Days' from 2004 - A remake of the beloved David Niven film from 1956 - I mean even Jackie Chan couldn't rescue it - And he makes most things better.
Or the 2003 version of The Italian Job, where the original was arguably one of the greatest British comedy/gangster films ever made, the 'new' version was its pale, insignificant, ginger great-nephew who wore socks with sandals and never finished a sentence.
And you really shouldn't get me started on Nicholas Cage's murdering of 'The Wicker Man'. It doesn't help that the original is firmly ensconced in my top ten favourite movies. one that I watch every single time that it's on and quote from mercilessly whenever the opportunity arises. And even the fact that his character's name was 'Edward' and the little girl that he was looking for had the surname 'Woodward' couldn't stop it from being 102 minutes of pure, rotting garbage on a really hot day, stink.
The Day the Earth Stood Still, Get Carter, Arthur and Planet of the Apes (And those are just the ones I could remember off the top of my head that I'd seen both versions of) were, to a man, anything between diabolical and shocking. They should have been taken outside, given a good talking to, been left alone for half an hour or so to think about what they'd done and then set on fire and shot.
But for every twenty 'yank your own eyes out and beat the dog to death with them' awful remakes, there's a good one. For instance, 'Let Me In', which was a remake of a Swedish language film that was only two years old at the time, called 'Let the Right One In' (Even though the Screenwriter still contends that he was re-adapting the book rather than remaking the film) And it was pretty good... OK, it changes the sex of one of the characters to make it a bit more accessible (In the book and the original film, one of the characters is a castrated boy who 'lives' as a girl, in the remake, the character's actually a girl - Although the parts were played by girls in both films - Maybe it was a little bit confusing when you think about it.)
Which brings me back to the genre that sparked the whole thing off... K-Horror and its slightly more popular cousin, J-Horror. Now, I likes me some J/K-Horror, these are Japanese and South Korean Horror films, designed for the home market, that often get remade by Hollywood. Why do I like them? Because everything about them is completely mental, from the basic premise, through the execution (How the film's actually made, not how the main character's brother often has his head torn from his shoulders) to the way they all seem to be filmed in the street with passers by as the extras.
Have you ever seen 'The Uninvited' - With Emily Browning, the girl from 'Sucker Punch' and 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'? - That was based on the K-Horror film 'A Tale of Two Sisters' remade for the American market. And it wasn't bad... wasn't great, but it was certainly no Nicholas Cage Wicker Man.
Then you've got stuff that you're bound to have seen, The Ring films (Ringu), The Grudge films (Ju-on), Maybe you've seen Dark Water (From the bottom of Dark Water) or Pulse (Kairo) and these remakes are... OK
OK as long as you've never seen the originals I suppose - They're OK films...
Actually I can't keep this up - The remakes of these great films, pretty much like every other remake that I can think of, off the top of my head, in the history of English language cinema has been awful.
Don't bother watching them, watch the originals, they might not be as accessible, they might have subtitles and you might have to pay attention rather than letting your mind wander and thinking about what you're going to have for your breakfast.
But at the end of it I guarantee that you'll know that you've watched a horror film, you'll be scared of your own cat, and you will never, ever go into your attic ever again.
And I'm sorry Mr Lee, but despite the fact that your new film has Samuel L Jackson in it, and I will watch it when it finally comes on Sky Movies, it won't be as good as the original.
Which is to be expected.