Revival or revile…?
So… remember when Gus Van Sant committed cinematic sacrilege and remade Psycho? Well, a terrorizing shit storm rained down on him for a while, and rightfully so. That’s Hitchcock, man. And the very existence of that blasphemous piece of work… the mere chance… that a young and impressionable future cineaste might stumble upon it and mistake it for- I mean… I can’t even go on. It’s too upsetting.
Nowadays, remakes are ubiquitous in Hollywood. And this coming weekend ushers in a redo of the Wes Craven film, The Last House on the Left. For any who may not know, this film has the distinction of not only being a hugely influential milestone in the landscape of horror, but also Craven’s directorial debut.
Now, to anyone who may view him/herself bookish, and above the brutality of such a violent genre, I’d like to point out that some of your favorite (and brilliant) cerebral ‘thrillers’ are actually horror in their basic design that have been repackaged for your viewing comfort (i.e. Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, Terminator… just to name a few). Unfortunately, this fact has yet to dawn on the masses, which poses a difficult dilemma. Though it is not the only genre to fall victim to a studio’s lust for profit, it is a bit disconcerting… only because horror has always been dismissed as an unsophisticated endeavor… so much so that some less-than-cool directors refuse to be associated with the label (M. Night, you’re kind of a jerk for that. And your ‘suspense-thrillers’ have become increasingly ass-hat-y, just so you know).
And you know what doesn’t help? Remakes. Because when horror films get a makeover, the result is kind of like IKEA furniture. Now, I hail from the motherland of IKEA and their designs are kind of brilliantly functional. But while everything looks fresh and pristine, on the surface, eventually that shit breaks, okay. And when it does, it becomes exactly what IKEA furniture is designed to be… disposable.
Obviously, I have yet to see this latest revisionist attempt. But by the look of the trailer, this update appears to have all of the trappings I have come to fear: too slick, too borderline pornographic, too editor-on-speed, too staged… and has that blue-ish/black tint that directors seem to cream themselves over lately.
And yeah, shit happens, I know. But it’s annoying. Because for every respectable effort, and there are a handful (Funny Games, The Ring, Dark Water-yeah, I liked it), there’s more than a dozen crapfests (The Grudge, The Eye, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, When a Stranger Calls, The Wicker Man, The Invasion, The Hitcher, The Haunting, House on Haunted Hill, The Omen, Halloween…). And when shitty horror remakes still make money, we get even more shitty originals (Hostile, Captivity, Saw…), which I personally find void of any kind of craft or thought, and 100% offensive, creatively and thematically (the poster and advertising for Captivity is especially abhorrent).
The original Last House from 1972, is a grainy, almost documentary-style film that truly utilizes the imagery of blood and guts… like literally. Don’t worry, no spoilers here. But it’s rough, man. It’s more than a little difficult to sit through, and word is that after filming one of the more vicious and horrifying scenes of the film, the cast and crew dispersed for lunch, but nobody ate. They just went off by themselves to recover. What inspires a man to create such a gruesome picture, you ask? Well… Vietnam. Craven was a total hippie, my friends. And Last House was basically his anti-war demonstration, an exposé on violence, in all of its senseless ugliness, and a deliberate mirroring of the actual war footage that was coming from overseas. Critics were totally divided and the film was censored in the UK for decades.
I guess my biggest gripe is that, at the end of the day, nobody really cares. It’s too much of a cash cow, and as time continues to pass, an entirely new generation, one after the other, will be ripe for consuming whatever mindless gore is advertised to them. And in a few years, maybe even now… the original intent of Craven’s film -that the violence within it and the audience’s repulsion of it had a purpose- will be totally lost. The fact that Craven has served as a producer on a number of remakes of his films is a little puzzling. I’ve seen lengthy interviews with the man, and he is of the sharp mind-literate-civilized-artistically thoughtful variety. He does have something to say. But I guess he’s got to make a living too.
But how crappy would it be, ten years from now, twenty years from now… if Craven showed up at a convention, and some little 13 year-old horror geek had no idea who he was? Kind of upsetting, no?