Following the release of Black Christmas – which comes as the third version of the same film after previous attempts in 1974 and 2006 – it’s interesting to reflect on other slasher horror movie remakes and whether or not they managed to spark anywhere near as much invention as the originals.
Unfortunately yet unsurprisingly, the answer is a resounding no in almost every case.
Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street stripped of anything iconic or even memorable
When Sean S. Cunningham released Friday the 13th in 1980 and Wes Craven released A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, a precedent for horror movies was set, as well as an even more focused outline for how slasher movies would attempt to be over the years to come.
As with any popular film prior to the start of the 21st century, both films have been subjected to poorly constructed remakes that defecate on the originals. In these remakes, the heart and soul was ripped out, modern references and stylings were clunkily forced in, and any trace of nostalgia or nods to the original films were jammed in so carelessly that it was hard to look on with anything other than pure disgust.
A decision between making something new or playing on nostalgia
The 2019 remake of Child’s Play was far from awful. In fact, it was arguably one of the best horror slasher remakes in recent times, but the number of significant changes made it hard to enjoy. Creator of the original and many of the sequels Don Mancini has a TV reboot of the Chucky franchise set to air on Syfy next year, and this played a part in many of the key components not featuring in the big-screen remake, including original Chucky and Charles Lee Ray actor Brad Douriff. However, some alterations made it so different from the original that it only appeared to carry the same name to avoid claims of copyright infringement.
Firstly, villain Charles Lee Ray was no longer the person controlling the doll, with it instead simply being the result of different programming in the doll itself. Although this sets a new twist on the original premise, it completely ruins key parts that made it so threatening, such as the fact that Charles Lee Ray wanted to take control of Andy, rather than simply being murderously jealous of anyone Andy comes into contact with as in the remake.
Part of Unbearable Geoff’s entire philosophy is to be unnecessarily pedantic, and while that’s certainly true in this brief deconstruction of 2019’s Child’s Play, it’s also true that these observations could be seen as harsh. It’s also a matter of catch 22, as an identical remake of these films will be seen as unimaginative and pointless – or it could even just simply not match the standard of the original – but a remake with loads of different ideas will be criticised for being too different to the original.
There was a feeling of confusion around the end goal of the Friday the 13th remake in 2009. Yes, it possessed plenty of violence and there were many similarities to the original, but what was the point of it being made at all? The character of Jason Voorhies and mother Pamela Voorhies were perfectly fine, the death scenes were as horrifically grizzly as you’d expect, the characters were reminiscent of the counsellors from the original, and there were just as many unnecessary sex scenes. However, the lack of ambition made it difficult to watch and dull from start to finish. It almost comes across as being disrespectful to the source material in how poorly the director has attempted to make any reference to the original films, instead producing a ‘look! I’m in charge of remaking Friday the 13th!’ rather than an homage to what is an iconic part of horror history.
Modern references ruining classic slasher horror
Part of the reason for the remake of Child’s Play was the number of advances in technology that could play a part in the plot. This includes how much children’s dolls have developed over the years, how they can connect with other electronic devices, and the popularity of things like drones, iPads and different types of smartphone.
Introducing similar signs of the times to other slasher horror films has been a factor in the inevitably disappointing end product. For example, the choice to make Freddy Krueger into a paedophile in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street felt like the director was trying to force a shock reaction from something genuinely concerning, and he chose to do it with a character that was previously jovial and humorous, which took a massive sh*t on the character Robert Englund expertly portrayed in the 1984 original version of the film. Now, you may be thinking to yourself ‘what are you saying? Freddy Krueger is a paedophile!’ I previously believed the same, but after watching every film in detail, I realised that it was sometimes implied but never confirmed; he wasn’t a child molester, but he was a child killer that would torment the children in a variety of peculiar ways.
Freddy Krueger was also changed in the sense that his face was made to look like it was actually involved in a fire, which also felt like the realism became too much compared to the far more comical original. It feels wrong to slate an actor as undoubtedly sensational as Jackie Earle Haley, but the script, makeup, costume design, special effects and director made the new version of Krueger into an underwhelming but thoroughly unpleasant character, lacking in the humour and charisma that Robert Englund once brought to the table.
Of all the remakes to classic horror slasher movies, the best has to be the 2018 version of Halloween. Not only was Jamie Lee Curtis involved after starring in the original films, but the sheer respect to the original was clear from the start. It was set as a direct sequel to the first film, disregarding all other films but showing dedication to the themes of the first film. The only modern theme that stood out was that Laurie Strode – played by Jamie Lee Curtis – was suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after the events of the original attack from Michael Myers, and that she was told she needed CBD (cognitive behavioural therapy) by concerned members of her family. In no way was this forced, and it tied in perfectly to the plot, as it showed the knock-on effect it had with her daughter and other characters.
Any director looking to create a remake to a classic horror slasher movie may approach it with far too much apprehension or a completely different feeling of attention to detail, but in many instances, it’s likely they won’t win whatever they do. They’re attempting to appeal to fans who simply don’t know what they’d want from a remake or reboot, with the desired outcome being none of the above. Although Halloween – and arguably Child’s Play – are signs of promise from remaking classic horror slasher movies, it’s rare to see a positive outcome from doing this, so all we can hope is that directors start to shy away from making an easy buck out of what many people recall fondly as being a key part of their teenage years.