Don’t Panic! The remakes can’t hurt you if you don’t let them in

The Lost Boys is getting a remake, and thus my horror and movie feed has been filled with people throwing their arms up as they suddenly realise they are 30 years away from being culturally relevant. “Oh no!”, I imagine their little straw voices cry, “What if the girl is more than a lampshade with incredible hair? What if the music isn’t from my last carefree summer? What if there isn’t an overly long sequence with an oiled-up saxophonist? And what if it also doesn’t receive the universal acclaim that I think the original was given?”

Well, what is? The original, in all its style-over-sustenance glory, will still be there. Vampires will still be more youthful than before, Buffy The Vampire Slayer will still have happened, and the ’87 version will still have its place within film and bad-fashion history. Nothing will have changed for the original, in fact, it’s likely that it’ll get a shot in the arm for renewed interest in it from a whole new demographic. Other than reminding some people of their own, fading mortality, nothing will have changed.

Remakes, no matter how easy it is to claim otherwise, are not the enemy. They are a convenient scapegoat, nothing more or less, for bad movies existing and for the bigger sin of reminding people that Mainstream Movies Are Not Art. They highlight that the average major studio/local-popcorn-cinema movie costs around $100,000,000.00, that they get produced primarily to make that money back, and that what the audience really wants to see is what it’s already seen before. Remakes just don’t muck around by encoding allusions to prior works in their advertising and guiding the audience with script cliches. They admit that they are cribbing off someone else’s work, and use the prior arts goodwill to get bums on seats.

Arthur Laurents, scourge of cinema

This is a grand tradition, not only within cinema but in theatre and storytelling as a whole. It’s why Shakespeare stole from other works to get people into The Globe, why theatres keep on putting on his plays, why cinema then shot those plays multiple times, and the eventually why it knocked them around into things like Forbidden Planet. It’s also why the first on-screen vampire was a steal from a book, and why films like The Fly, Apocalypse Now, The Thing, The Wizard Of Oz and Scarface exist.

These are great stories, so why not tell them again and again? Even better, why not tell them again but update them for a modern audience? Cinema is an evolving media on a technical and a narrative level. Films become unwatchable to the wider audience when the look and writing don’t match modern demands, so why must these stories be condemned to obscurity? Remake, update, modernise, and let people revel in better visuals, more inclusivity, and settings they can relate to without needing to read up on the world that existed literally before they were born.

It’s not a remake if I don’t know about the original when I put the poster on my wall

Obviously, this is a very positive look at what a remake can be and not all remakes do this. A lot of remakes are quite bad, trying to cash in on a name or a social trend to turn a quick buck. The important thing to remember is that this happens because they are movies, not because they are remakes, and Mainstream Movies Are Not Art. They are closer to consumer products than works of art, and they are out there to turn a buck. The bulk of cinema, original or remake, is forgettable chaff, and the enemy continues to be bad movies; not remakes in and of themselves.

The big difference is that remakes are more noticeable because they have name recognition, these days even if it’s a remake of a relatively old, obscure, or foreign movie. So, when they suck, they are compared to the original and have something to suck against beyond the regular noise of bad cinema. Conversely, if they are good then they get to be good compared to the original, and people love to claim that they prefer original movies.

Maybe Carpenter was right for not having The Thing being a vampire carrot

Now cinephiles and critics might want original movies, but audiences are doing fine without them. They continue to throw huge amounts of money at remakes and franchises, and one can only assume they enjoy doing so. Again, Mainstream Movies Are Not Art and we literally have the receipts to prove this. The films watched may not be the subjective “good cinema”, but they are totally the objective return-on-investment that is needed to keep more films being made, including the originals. Because that little indie project you saw will be getting supported by that reboot you shunned, be it because the studio can now afford to take a chance on distributing it or because the cinema you’re seeing it in has covered its rent for the month.

None of that is going to fill the wound to the ego of the people bemoaning their favourite movie, from when they were young and exciting, getting redone for the dumb and inexperienced youth of today. It’s certainly not going to help heal the harm of suggesting it maybe have its flaws and isn’t as timeless a classic as believed. But it also isn’t going to stop you, the brave cinematic explorer, going through the new stuff that’s coming out now and doesn’t have the $20 million (adjusted for inflation) budgets that The Lost Boys had but you forgot about.

How you stumbled across that thing that no one else had heard of.

Remakes happen, they have always happened and they will continue to happen. Despite the apparent permanency of movies, they change over time and need remaking to keep them relevant. The world moves on, films get old, you get old, and new audiences become as important as you once were. Mainstream Movies Continue To Not Be Art, and, most importantly, no one can ever take away how great it felt to watch that film the first time nor how special it is when you rewatch it. All they can do is try to give that same rush to someone else, and hopefully not make a bad movie in the process.

The Raggedyman

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