Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Extreme Fakeover: Film Edition

For my money, the most innovative, entertaining and truly frightening horror films in the past ten years have come from countries outside the U.S.

Witness the latest offering, this one from Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau:

I began featuring Somos Lo Que Hay (We Are What We Are) on my YouTube channel yesterday, and am just besotted with it. A quick glance at the Geek Forecast tells me that I'm not the only one. The film about a cannibal family who must slay together to stay together upon the death of the patriarch has been hitting the festival circuit this year, recently landing on U.S. shores at the New York Film Festival. IFC, which gave us the brilliant British miniseries Dead Set just last month, has acquired airing rights for Somos as part of their limited On Demand (pay) viewing  (air date TBA—as far as I know—but I will stay on top of it; meanwhile, the U.K. is set for a tentative release this Friday).

Now while this is all well and gravy, I am crossing everything above the waist—hoping, praying, kneeling before Zod that the film that's being called this year's Let The Right One In doesn't literally become next year's Let The Right One In.

Yep. You can hear them already. The Hollywood sniffing dogs, barking up the Right tree in 2009, they're sure to be sensing fresh meat for ... I'm gonna say it ... a U.S. remake of Somos in 2011.  You know it's bound to happen.

The thing is, we don't need these remakes. Yes, The Ring was alright. It was even better several years prior, when I saw it as Ringu. And I'm sure that Let Me In (a title that sounds more like it should be on Lifetime Television for Women than anything else) is a respectful remake of Let The Right One In, but it just does not and cannot capture the beauty, elegance and innocence of the original Swedish film. At his panel at Creation's WOH in May, Dario Argento himself lamented on how Hollywood, fueled by Box Office receipts and the Bottom Line, has forsaken creativity for commodity. And we see it with each and every remake and 3D film (that's a whole other Oprah) that comes out.  The creativity is what made the original films so great! But the creativity that makes these films so innovative and, subsequently successful, is very culture-driven. Once you take the culture out of these films, you take out the creativity, and you lose the specialness. And what remains is not innovation, but shock—a ghost girl coming out of the TV set, a child vampire in conflict with her minimalist bloodlust—for shock's sake. The Ring was not successful because it had strong, culturally relevant themes and a compelling grabber of an ending. The Ring was successful because American audiences, deprived of the original, had never before seen anyone climb out of a television set in a horror film. Hollywood: 1, Culture: 0.

Remakes have that factory-line, Unsolved Mysteries feel about them. We've been there before; what we're seeing are reenactments. Personally, whenever I see a remake, I'm reminded of how I begged for Transformers as a child and ended up with Go-Bots. Usable, but watered-down imitations of the real thing.