Remake Culture: The Good, The Bad, & The Unnecessary Redo
With the sheer volume of remakes coming out of contemporary Hollywood, one could argue that the concept of rehashing and modernizing old ideas is a new phenomenon. While it is true that 21st-century Hollywood is oversaturated with remakes, and we're experiencing a remake resurgence, with an average of 19 a year, this concept has been around since sound was introduced to filmmaking .
Remaking, rebooting, rehashing, and re-using original content is a great way to simultaneously tap into the nostalgia of an existing audience while introducing a timeless classic to a newer generation. It can also serve as a way to modernize a film that hasn’t aged well. Two great examples of this are: Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983), which reimagined the 1932 classic, or A Star Is Born (2018), the second and newest remake of the 1937 film. These films brought their predecessors into the mainstream and introduced audiences to a film they may not have been seen if it wasn’t for the remake.
However, not all remakes are viewed equally, and more often than not moviegoers prefer the originals over the armies of reboots. This was proven by a recent study titled “Remake My Day,” conducted by Casumo, which looked at the profitability, critical reception, and audience acclaim for Hollywood’s highest-grossing remakes .
With cult classics, timeless stories, and iconic horror films slated this year, we dug into three original films and their remakes to separate the good from the bad and dive into remake culture.
The Cult Classic to Musical Pipeline
During the 80s, director John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Pretty in Pink) would define the American teen experience through his films. He showed that no matter the issues, teens can overcome them. This is coined the “Hughesian Ending,” and it puts the beauty and innocence of our teen years on display, allowing audiences to connect and reflect on those precious times . A cult-classic film came along in 1989 that spawned more remakes than all of John Hughes’s films combined. That film was Heathers, and it subverts the perceived innocence of our teenage years by creating a bleak, macabre, and, as Pauline Kael called it, “sadistic gaudiness” teen comedy. Nobody expected a movie to unapologetically display school shootings, teen suicide, and peer pressure in a comedic way.
Heathers shocked audiences and became a cult classic, however, in our contemporary climate where gun violence and school shootings are at an all-time high, you’d imagine the premise wouldn’t hold up. You’d be wrong. In 2018, Jason Micallef created the TV miniseries Heathers, playing into teen angst with the same body-count dark comedy formula of the original. It boasted an artistic flair, added a social media element, and even had a prom-night shooting climax (a change from the attempted bombing in the original).
The show was supposed to air in March of 2018, but was rescheduled multiple times due to an increase in mass shootings. The studio eventually toned down the climax and released it to mixed reviews. Although it modernized the original film by adding a social media element to teen angst and stardom, it did not live up to its predecessor.
After the 2018 miniseries, Heathers was adapted into a musical in 2022. Heathers: The Musical was well received, reimagining the narrative beats of the original by creating an energetic, over-the-top version of the story. The musical, much like the original, isn’t afraid of venturing into those dark places within the narrative but spins a contemporary light on teen suicide, and school shootings .
Timeless classics have always proven to be the perfect recipe for remakes, reboots, and sequels. One of the best coming-of-age holiday movies from the 80s, A Christmas Story, solidified its place in audience's hearts.
The film is a classic story of a long-forgotten yet relatable age of growing up in America, painting the perfect holiday comedy movie. Over the years the film has had two sequels: My Summer Story (1994) and A Christmas Story 2 (2012). These sequels tried to cash in on the nostalgia but fell short in adding to an already timeless classic.
A Christmas Story Christmas relies on the charm of the original, following the aging Ralphie as he attempts to recreate that childhood Christmas he once had for his family .
Holiday movies will always be a timeless tradition. Who doesn’t love watching a kid get his tongue stuck to a pole or watching the “nuclear weapon of mouth-washing soups” being used to wash away all the bad words 9-year-old Ralphie didn’t even know ? The timeless classics are timeless for a reason audiences crave being transported back to their favorite movie to celebrate with their families.
Iconic Horror Films
Horror and reboots, remakes, and sequels go hand in hand. Take William Friedkin’s 1973 classic, The Exorcist, which is receiving its 6th sequel this year. Arguably, the original is one of the scariest films ever made, playing off the internal struggles of the human soul as Father Merrin attempts to rid Regan's soul of a demon.
The effectiveness of The Exorcist comes from its cinematic craftsmanship. The audience, like the tormented family, are trapped in Friedkin’s house of horrors as everyone starts to question their faith, death, and experiences. The Exorcist is a horror masterpiece, one that horror fanatics revisit each year on the big screen. With so much success coming from the original, it is no wonder the film was franchised in typical horror-genre fashion.
The legacy sequel, The Exorcist: Believer (2023), is slated for October of this year and is produced by Blumhouse. Directed by David Gordon Green, the film brings back original star Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil, and will be the first film in the series that serves as a continuation of Friedkin’s masterpiece. David Gordon Green is no stranger to reboots. He did surprise horror fans recently with his modern take on the Halloween franchise (Halloween, Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends), and The Exorcist: Believer looks no different. It will play off the nostalgia of the original, like all remakes, while bringing this series into a contemporary light.
Horror fans will just have to wait and see if this newest addition to The Exorcist holds up, but even with the success of the latest Halloween films under Blumhouse’s belt, there are still mountains to climb when tackling an iconic horror film like The Exorcist.
Remake, Reboot, Reuse
Remake culture will always be a constant in Hollywood, and just like original content, moviegoers will have to sift through the bad to find the good. The classics will always triumph over their counterparts, but remakes will serve the purpose of introducing a newer audience to the original.
Heathers (1989) and A Christmas Story (1983) will be returning to theaters nationwide this year! Sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date with all our titles and leave a comment letting us know which remake you prefer.