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Back to the Eighties: 5 Unfortunate Remakes

‘Total Recall’

1990: One of the most defining characteristics of Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic vision is the late-1980s style which he used in most of his dystopian productions, such as 1987’s “Robocop” and, even after the 1980s were over, 1997’s “Starship Troopers” and 1990’s “Total Recall.” Lead actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as confused spy Douglas Quaid, was at a high point in his career, and “Total Recall” was but another trashy, if exciting, sci-fi adventure to add to his list of successes.

2012: Director Len Wiseman (2003’s “Underworld”) has taken the classic and revamped it for modern audiences — following the story of the original but without the jaunt to Mars and with smooth, state-of-the-art CGI sequences. In Wiseman’s “Recall,” due for release in August this year, Colin Farrell’s Quaid will fight against Euroamerican President Vilos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston, best known from TV’s “Breaking Bad” and “Malcolm in the Middle”). In the future, Euroamerica and New Shanghai are the two world powers, and Quaid has to decide for which one he’s fighting. He receives help from prostitute and freedom fighter Melina (Jessica Biel). Kate Beckinsale steps into Sharon Stone’s shoes as Quaid’s wife, Lori. Beckinsale is Wiseman’s wife, but this role could have been much better cast. Stone’s portrayal was seductive and devious — a template for Catherine Tramell in Verhoeven’s “Basic Instinct” two years later — and those don’t seem like qualities Beckinsale can pull off.

‘The Thing’

1982: A chilling and eerie horror / sci-fi film starring a young and beardy Kurt Russell. Director John Carpenter already showed fans he could handle horror extremely well with 1978’s “Halloween,” which kickstarted the genre. This experience strengthened Carpenter’s relentlessly sinister atmosphere, as a group of researchers at a remote Antarctic research station realize they have an alien in their midst and it could be anyone. The special effects for revealing the alien creature were groundbreaking but visually gruesome — so much so in fact that you almost want to fast-forward through them.

2011: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s “The Thing” isn’t really a remake but a prequel. However, the film is so close in plot and feel that it comes very close to being a sequel. Before viewing, we know that it ends where Carpenter’s version begins — already revealing the fate of this first research team to discover the alien buried in ice. Fans of the 1982 film might give this a go purely out of curiosity but basically it’s the same fare, except not as good. What they could have done is go to town asking questions about the alien’s hatred for humans, despite wanting to mimic them so badly.

‘Footloose’

1984: A young Kevin Bacon plays dance-happy city boy Ren, who moves to a small Midwestern town that has done away with rock ‘n’ roll and dancing. He uses dance to bring some soul back to the citizens of the town and the other kids at the local high school. Charmer that he is, Ren also manages to seduce the minister’s daughter, Ariel Moore, played by Lori Singer, at the same time.

2011: After a number of predictable teen dances movies, it was inevitable that “Footloose” would be brought back, dusted off and remade for the new tween market. Similar themes and storylines presented in films like 2001’s “Save the Last Dance” and 2006’s “Step Up” can be seen as a reworking of this classic film. Therefore, a revisit wasn’t needed to redo what was already done well in 1984. Teen dance films have now progressed to a different level, and a step back to revisit this poptastic film wasn’t necessary. The remake, with a fairly unknown cast, has lost the “golden glow” of the 1984 original.

‘Conan the Barbarian’

1982: Novelist Robert E. Howard’s characters come to life on the big screen in this savage fantasy film starring then-bodybuilder Schwarzenegger, which transformed him into a bona fide actor. Special effects dominated the film, with retractable swords that spurted blood and a fake bird made out of the parts of a real bird. They also combined live and fake animals in some scenes, much to the horror of the American Humane Association. Director John Milius’ violent mythological movie made a star out of its lead and set a kind of standard for future fantasy epics — a job since taken over by “The Lord of the Rings.”

2011: Sorcery films don’t have quite as much punch today as they did when the original “Conan” was released. Back when Milius’ epic came out, it was a rarity to have such epic and violent fantasy film in cinemas. Producers decided to release the new, revamped “Conan” in 3D, lessening its chances of success. Jason Momoa’s Conan is the one shining light in the film, getting the long hair and muscle look almost bang-on-target. Perhaps if more time was spent on the film than perfecting the 3D, this might have been a worthy remake.

‘Fright Night’

1985: High schooler Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) suspects his neighbour Jerry (Chris Sarandon) of being a vampire after the disappearance of a woman whom Charley sees going into Jerry’s home one night. Turns out Jerry is a vampire.

2011: Since the cult TV hit “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and a few other, more serious, modern vamp films, it was perhaps only a matter of time before someone revived “Fright Night.” This updated version shares the idea of distrust in your neighbours’ late night activities that 2007’s “Rear Window”-esque “Disturbia” modeled. Does the second visit still have enough scares? Colin Farrell takes up the role of Jerry, giving it some comedy and a modern “Twilight” vamp charm. His new-look vampire is well-muscled in a tight, black T-shirt. British actor David Tennant (best known as the ninth Doctor Who) lightens up the mood somewhat as Peter Vincent, whose character has been updated from Roddy McDowall’s TV show host to vampire hunter/magician. The dated special effects, including a stop-motion bat, of the 1985 are original, but so is its classic/trashy core or camp element found in old Hammer Horrors of days gone by, rendering this remake another in a recent run of tame vampire movies.

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7 Responses to “Back to the Eighties: 5 Unfortunate Remakes”

  1. Tom says:

    I did not like most of these movies the first time around. The only one that was good was Footloose. There are very few remakes that are worth watching.

  2. Andrea says:

    I agree with these- I’ve seen 3 out of the 5 (original to remake) and rarely in films is the remake better– I can’t even think of a film right now off the top my head where the remake is better than the original. But Id I do I’ll be sure to update this post. I think alot of the times it has to do with that we are accustomed to– it’s hard to see something be made into a different or better version of what was fifty years ago because so much in our society and even in the filming unsudtry changes. Which alters the films as well. So with that– I just rather stick to a movie without any remakes.

  3. Rickio Alexander says:

    Man, I’m really sick of all these remakes coming out. This is telling me that Hollywood’s writers are really running out of ideas. Instead of them using the same writers, they need to hire these new college graduates and have them write up some new ideas for movies. This process won’t stop, in another 20 years down the road, all the remakes will also be remade, and the process will keep on happening. The only good remakes out of these movies was The Thing, and the Thing was not even a remake it was a prequel.

  4. Dustyn Ogle says:

    With the exception of Footloose, none of these movies were good enough to start to warrant a remake. Fittingly, the remakes of them are all terrible. Hopefully, the Total Recall remake will be decent. Colin Farrill is not the best actor in the world but he is better than Arnold.

  5. Nik Browning says:

    …and it’s not over yet. Red Dawn is due for a fall release. I can understand the concept from a studio’s point of view. The plot is tried and tested. Pre-production will be minimal and the story will hve new-relevance to a new audience. And new technologies will give way to a better production. (let’s be clear, Ben-Hur was a remake as well).

    But for the mot part, I’d take those same concepts and instead, would re-release the original. Maybe redux it if necessary, and if it didn’t look stupid.

    But before anyone insists that ALL originals are better, I offer up an exception: True Grit.

  6. Eric says:

    Remakes are almost never good. It hurts that you already know the outcome. They’d be better off just giving it a new title. For example, Fast & Furious was, at it’s heart, a remake of Point Break.

  7. LISA says:

    just goes to show, that the original is always the best! (with a few exceptions of course, but not many) for example, the original amityville horror with margot kidder and james brolin was amazing! the sequels, not so much. however, when they re-did the original with ryan reynolds and melissa george, they hit a home run! i even jumped out of my seat a few times, which rarely happens. it would be nice if someone in hollywood could come up with an original idea for a movie for once. but i won’t hold my breath!