1. The Fog (2005)
By the time The Fog ends, you can easily make a case for why it’s one of the most ill-advised remakes ever made, but right off the bat you can tell that they’re not really thinking things through, as they bring back the Stevie Wayne character (Adrienne Barbeau in the original, Selma Blair here) and use her in same function, despite the fact that in 2005 no one needs an independent radio station to give them weather updates. But that’s nothing compared to when they explain the back-story, which is more or less the same except for one key issue. In the original, the original townsfolk used the fog to trick Blake and his ship into crashing on the rocks, which is why the ghosts in turn used the fog when they took their revenge. Here, the townsfolk come aboard Blake’s ship for a planned meeting, and then double-cross them, taking their gold and setting them all on fire - the fog had nothing to do with it. And thus, we have a movie called The Fog in which there is no reason for the fog. Nice work, fellas.
2. Halloween (2007)
For all my ranting on this movie, there are parts of it I genuinely like, particularly the middle section with Michael in the institution. What turned me off was that Rob Zombie and/or the Weinsteins were hellbent on recreating scenes from the original in a practically shot-for-shot manner - he wasn’t making Rob Zombie’s Halloween, he was making Rob Zombie’s John Carpenter’s Halloween, in other words. Some of the callbacks worked, such as Michael getting his clothes from a trucker, but most did not, and the most obnoxious was the “Van Sant Psycho” approach of Bob and Lynda’s death. Why they went to the Myers house to screw around anyway was beyond me, but at this point in the movie, Michael knows where Laurie is and is going after her, yet for some reason he decides to take a detour to his old house in order to kill two of Laurie’s friends (that he never saw with her anyway). And even though this version of Michael is a brutal, no nonsense killer, he for some reason decides to recreate the whole “ghost with glasses” bit too. This is why I more or less liked Rob’s Halloween II - it was his own batshit creation start to finish, not a half-assed bastardization of Carpenter’s.
3. The Hitcher (2007)
This is the one I like. Sure, it’s junk, but it’s that right kind of junk, and of all the Platinum Dunes flicks, The Hitcher the one with the most Michael Bay-like approach, and you all know how much I like Michael Bay (well, when he was with Bruckheimer anyway). And as remakes go, it’s closer to being a scene for scene version than some of the other Dune remakes (with Friday the 13th being the most “original”), but by making it a couple on the road the entire time, the dynamic had changed from the start. Thus, it did the movie no favors to recreate the infamous “truck ripper” sequence from the original - that scene worked precisely because the audience thinks there is no way in hell that the pretty heroine is going to get torn in half. But the bland boyfriend in a movie that top bills the heroine? We knew he’d be a goner no matter what; doing him in in the exact same way was just silly. Worse, they drag it out forever - the best thing they could have done was have it come out of nowhere, which would allow them to say they did it but possibly retain some of the shock value as well. When Platinum Dunes did Chainsaw, they were wise enough to avoid trying to recreate the dinner scene from the original, because it’s too iconic and sets them up for scrutiny - it’s a shame they didn’t have the same mentality here.
4. Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)
Platinum Dunes strikes again. Nightmare On Elm Street is their worst movie in my opinion, and a big part of why I so thoroughly disliked it was the sheer ineptness in which they combined their new story with the original’s. There are actually a number of examples I could use, but most insulting of all was that they actually managed to screw up the existence of the most recognizable aspect of his character. See, in this version, Freddy was not a child murderer, but a child molester… so why the hell would he have a razor sharp glove? Flashbacks shows a parent discovering an already healing scratch on one kid’s back - so was Freddy a doctor too? Or were all of their parents that neglectful? The scenario also requires not one but at least FIVE kids to have some sort of shared repressed childhood, forgetting Freddy, the abuse, even that they once knew each other, instead of the original, logical version where Nancy and the others had never encountered Freddy in the past. Thus, in their misguided attempt to make it “darker” (they even toy with the notion that Freddy really was innocent and now he’s just seeking revenge, which would have been interesting with an intelligent script), they neglected to notice they were merely making it “incoherent”.
5. The Stepfather (2009)
Many remakes recreate the original’s time period as well; updates like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Amityville Horror didn’t have to worry about coming up with excuses for cell phones or the internet. The makers of The Stepfather weren’t that wise, and thus pretty much the entire movie was a giant plot hole, because it had the new Stepfather (Dylan Walsh) doing all the same things that Terry O’Quinn did in the 1987 original, such as working for cash and not providing his employer with his social security number or anything of that nature. Um, no. In this day and age, there is no way in hell a guy could work normal white collar jobs as he does without his identity being confirmed. He also still has the whole “no photos” thing, which again doesn’t make sense in 2009 - he even throws a few parties in the movie and somehow manages to not get his picture taken? Christ, every time I go to any sort of gathering I come home to find myself tagged in 30 photos on Facebook. A smarter and more creative screenwriter would have utilized these problems with his MO and turned it into a plot element; a less careless producer would have opted to just set the movie in 1987 and not have to worry about being creative.
The Eye (2008)
Here’s an inverse example - the American version of The Eye is more or less a scene for scene remake of the original, but then changed the ending and thus made the entire movie pointless. The whole point of the movie was for the heroine (Jessica Alba in the remake) to finally understand what it was like for the girl to have the curse of seeing how people would die when she failed to save everyone on the highway at the end. But in the remake, in a wholly ridiculous sequence, everyone instantly believes the girl running around the road telling them that they’re all going to die, and thus she saves every single one of them and doesn’t learn a goddamn thing. Had they just continued not being “creative” I could at least recommend the movie as a slick version of a good story that you didn’t have to read, but this change (pretty much the only one of note) rendered the movie a complete waste of time.
The sad reality is, none of these things probably would have occurred had any of these films started with a filmmaker’s desire to tell a new version of an old story, instead of a producer trying to make a buck by obtaining the rights to a well-known title and more or less making the movie backwards. You don’t see issues like this in the remakes that folks tend to like, such as the 2004 Dawn Of The Dead, because their filmmakers wisely avoided having too many direct lifts from the original. I always think the best remakes are the ones that just re-use the basic concept and then go off and make their own movie, and the above examples perfectly demonstrate why. When you start off by saying “We gotta redo this scene; we gotta do a cooler version of that kill”, you start painting the screenwriters into a corner, reverse engineering a script to hit those beats. Such a ridiculous approach, and it’s instantly noticeable, which only adds fuel to the fire for the anti-remake folks. Best to just try to let the audience forget the original exists for the two hours they are watching your movie, not constantly remind them of something that was probably a lot better the first time.
How about you guys? Can you think of other remakes that goofed up by recycling elements from the original that didn’t quite fit with the new story?