A couple of times recently I’ve talked about remakes of classic horror movies. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. I maintain that in order for a remake to be a critical success, it has to have a point. It might be that the original fell short in some way, or that film-making technology has advanced sufficiently to benefit the telling of a particular story. Or maybe a sociological, environmental or political change or similar has given the premise a new lease of life.
Unfortunately, the George Romero scripted, Tom Savini directed 1990 remake of Romero’s classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has very little reason to exist. I caught the remake on it’s opening weekend twenty-five years ago (twenty-five years… how did that happen?) and I took the opportunity to watch it again recently. I really enjoyed it when I was twenty, and I wondered how it would hold up today. The short answer – it didn’t. Not particularly well, anyway.
It’s a new night for terror – and a new dawn in horror movie-making when special-effects genius Tom Savini (creator of the spectacularly gruesome make-up in FRIDAY THE 13TH and CREEPSHOW) brings modern technology to this colourful remake of George A. Romero‘s 1968 cult classic. Seven strangers are trapped in an isolated farmhouse while cannibalistic zombies – awakened from death by the return of a radioactive space probe – wage a relentless attack, killing (and eating) everyone in their path. The classic for the 90s: graphic, gruesome and more terrifying than ever!
There are some films you can watch over and over and never get bored of. They’re timeless classics – as close to perfection as you can get. They’re the kind of films that make you recoil in terror whenever anyone dares mention remakes, because there’s absolutely no point. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is one of those films.
I’m taking the opportunity to write about it now because a). it’s one of my absolute favourite movies and b). it’s heavily featured in the latest edition of SCREAM magazine. I’m sure you’ve already seen it (if not, why not?), but here’s a quick summary courtesy of IMDB and a trailer (which was produced for the bluray release a few years back, and which completely fails to capture the atmosphere of this most atmospheric film). Click the link below for my thoughts.
Two American college students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he commit suicide to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths.
You’ve no doubt noticed the absence of much real news on this site recently. I’ve teased a few things (which will be announced very soon, I promise), but I’ve tried to make a point of adding more movie recommendations to help you remember I’m still here and still alive.
The classic horror movie education of my youngest kids continued last night with a screening of one of my favourite movies of all time – David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake or THE FLY.
Now I know I rant against remakes frequently, but I’m also the first to admit there’s a time and a place for film ideas to be revisited (or reimagined, or rebooted, or whatever the trendy term of the day is). I talked about one a few weeks back – Philip Kaufman’s 1979 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and no doubt I’ll cover others here too.
Cronenberg’s THE FLY is a masterful reworking of the 1958 B movie starring David Hedison and Vincent Price which was, in turn, an adaptation of a George Langelaan short story which had been published in PLAYBOY a year earlier. Here’s a brief summary of the Cronenberg version, followed by a trailer. My thoughts are after the cut.
By the way – the movie features a wonderful soundtrack from composer Howard Shore. The trailer below does not. Very little cheesy 1980’s synth pop appears in the finished film.
Seth Brundle, a brilliant but eccentric scientist, offers investigative journalist Veronica Quaife a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment has proved successful. To a point. The machinery cannot yet transport organic matter. Brundle and Quaife’s burgeoning relationship helps him rethink the problem of ‘the flesh’. After successfully transporting a living creature, Brundle attempts to teleport himself, not realising a fly has enters the transmission booth with him. Brundle emerges a changed man.
A relatively obscure movie recommendation for you this week. John Frankenheimer‘s SECONDS is a bizarre and chilling film which crashed and burned spectacularly at the box office when it was released in 1966. Watching it now, you can see why. It’s an intelligent and thought-provoking movie which was one of star Rock Hudson‘s personal favourites. He delivers a great performance as an old man with a new face – a role far removed from the easy-going romantic comedies he was well known for at the time. Synopsis and trailer follows, with a few thoughts after the cut:
Banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) gets a call one day from a friend he thought was dead. It turns out that the friend is not a ghost, but was simply faking all along, and was placed into a new existence by a company who can give you a completely new face and life. Hamilton decides to undergo the procedure himself and becomes Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), an artist who lives in Malibu. He is given a manservant to help him adjust but soon finds that adjusting will be the least of his worries.
Absolutely no irony whatsoever is intended in the title of this post.
MAD MAX and I go a long way back. My interest was piqued when the first film came out in the late 1970s. The UK was a dull and repressed place in many ways back then and, as a nine year old, I remember hearing a respected film critic (Leslie Halliwell, I think) say that Mad Max was so violent it would never be shown on TV, and that, of course, just made me even more desperate to watch it. How times have changed. What would Mr Halliwell think had he still been alive today to see the newest Mad Max movie becoming such an incredible, and largely unexpected, cultural goliath?
Mad Max was a great movie. MAD MAX 2 – THE ROAD WARRIOR – was something else entirely. As a Cold War Kid, I think it had a lot to do with the apocalyptic setting of the second film, and the fact we were watching a character we’d grown to know in the ‘normal’ world, having to deal with the nightmare of a post World War III (we presumed) existence. That’s something that’s always appealed to me. It’s one of the reasons THREADS remains so chilling today – we grow attached to characters in the relative normality of their day-to-day existence, then follow the hell they endure when their lives are, quite literally, blown apart. Road Warrior set new standards and paved the way for a thousand pale imitations.
Regular readers will know that I’m usually one of the first to moan about the film industry’s habit of remaking old movies. I stand by most of my previous comments, in that remakes are often a lame excuse to capitalise on the goodwill an older version of a movie has garnered (case in point, pretty much every remake of 1970’s and 1980’s horror – Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw, and so on). Occasionally the original film-makers will be involved, and a remake will make sense (such as the 2013 Evil Dead… you could also argue that Evil Dead II was a remake of sorts of the 1981 original). There remains another category of remakes, and it just so happens that three of these updated versions of classic films rank in my top ten horror movies of all time. This is where new film-makers put a present day spin on horror tales which, quite often, were well made but were limited in some way – perhaps by the technology of the day, or maybe the social landscape has changed to give a story increased relevance. Two of three films I’m referring to here are David Cronenberg’s stunning The Fly, and John Carpenter’s ground-breaking The Thing.
Today’s movie recommendation, however, is a 1979 remake of a 1956 original which, although perhaps not quite scaling the heights of the Cronenberg and Carpenter movies I’ve just mentioned, is still an excellent example of a remake done right. I’m talking about Philip Kaufman’s 1978 INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
A week or so ago I attended a school production of 1984. With a small cast, limited props and basic lighting and sound, they did an excellent job of bringing George Orwell’s classic novel to life. As I was watching, it struck me how relevant and frightening the story remains today (in fact, just about the only thing that’s dated about it is the title) and I immediately dug out and re-watched the most recent film version starring John Hurt and the late Richard Burton. This bleak and powerful film is my movie recommendation for this week.
1984 is a remarkable novel which has, of course, had an enormous cultural impact since its publication in 1949. I could write reams about the continued (increasing?) relevance of Orwell’s nightmare vision, but this is neither the place nor the time. Instead, the purpose of this post is simply to draw your attention to a beautifully made adaptation of an extraordinarily important book. Here’s a trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.
Are you happy? In a good mood? Having a good day? If you are, you might want to give this week’s film recommendation a miss. That said, you’ll be missing out on an astonishing movie if you do. Today I’m recommending Studio Ghibli’s 1988 film, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES. It’s bleak, grim, heartbreakingly sad, and completely superb. As always, a brief synopsis is below, followed by a trailer. Hit the jump for my thoughts.
A devastating meditation on the human cost of war, this animated tale follows Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi), a teenager charged with the care of his younger sister, Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi), after an American firebombing during World War II separates the two children from their parents. Their tale of survival is as heartbreaking as it is true to life. The siblings rely completely on each other and struggle against all odds to stay together and stay alive.
Back in January I wrote a piece about 28 DAYS LATER. The film went down reasonably well with my kids and we soon settled down together to watch the sequel, 2007’s 28 WEEKS LATER.
Interestingly, if you look back at my earlier piece, you’ll see that I enjoyed 28DL more than I had previously. I felt like it had improved with age. 28WL had the opposite effect, however, and I didn’t warm to it as I had the earlier film. As always, a synopsis and trailer follows, and my thoughts are after the jump.
Six months after the rage virus was inflicted on the population of Great Britain, the US Army helps to secure a small area of London for the survivors to repopulate and start again. But not everything goes to plan.
In between writing, meetings and loads of other stuff, I’ve been catching up on a few movies I managed to miss over the last couple of years. THE MACHINE is a film I’d had my eye on since I saw it on the schedule of Grimmfest back in 2013. I finally got to see it last week, and I have to say, I was impressed. Stylish and smart, the film has an effortless Quatermass meets Blade Runner vibe which I couldn’t resist. Here’s a synopsis and the trailer. My thoughts follow:
Two computer programmers fall in love as they create the first ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence, which is designed to help humanity. But things go wrong when the MoD steal their breakthrough and teach it to become a robotic weapon.