I thought a good introduction to me would be to throw myself into the fire so to speak. While this list will probably give off the impression that I prefer remakes, I’m actually rarely impressed by a lot of them, but I’m an optimistic guy, and sometimes I come across movies that I either liked from the beginning and people seemed to loathe, or ones that I at first thought were pretty bad and had somehow seemed to grow on me. So, here is my list of films that I think warrant a second viewing.
1.) Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN (2007)
I know, I know, crucify time. The hatred towards Zombie’s Halloween films is already of epic proportions. Everything from “why did he make Michael white trash?” to “Jesus, that second half was rushed”…it’s all been said. The stones have been thrown, and I’m sure Rob will probably think twice before ever thinking of doing another remake because of this, BUT…in my humble opinion, the first one isn’t THAT bad, and I’d even go as far as saying it deserves a second chance from you, horror aficionados everywhere. Art is subjective, so feel free to disagree, but here is why I think we should give Rob a little slack.
By Halloween: Resurrection, the series was as dead as it could be. Every stone seemed to have been turned, every good character had been killed off (Laurie…Jamie…jeez Louise, what were they thinking?) and the series that started off with BY FAR my favorite film of all time was reduced to Busta Rhymes karate kicking Michael effin Myers. Be prepared for run on sentence of the year: The producers tried a different approach with Part 3 and the fans didn’t like that too much (though I am quite fond of Halloween 3) , brought Michael back for part 4 (albeit with a completely blank looking mask), introduced a weird and disjointed subplot in Part 5 (ending it with the man in black rocking a machine gun and shooting up a police station…) went WAY off the rails with Part 6 (so Wynn gave Michael driving lessons…), brought Laurie back and forgot about 4-6 with H2O, and completely sold Laurie out with Resurrection(what was the point of following her through her whole journey of the first movie, just to see her dispatched in the first reel of this one?). See where I’m going with all of this? It’s safe to say that everyone’s entitled “one good scare” had definitely run its course over the couple decades it had lasted. We all know that Moustapha (RIP) and Malek Akkad have a love for the character of Michael and had no intention of letting him sleep, so it was inevitable that there would be another installment. With how wacky and downright odd the series had gotten, a reboot seemed like a decent idea (with the mindset that it was going to get done anyway, so let’s hope for the best).
Enter Rob Zombie. He had made House of 1,000 Corpses, which to be honest I’m not overly crazy about (entertaining, just nothing to write home about), and The Devil’s Rejects. While again, House of 1,000 Corpses wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, Rejects left me jaw wide open, in love. My love for that movie is up there with Friday the 13th Part 4 or Re-Animator, which says a lot. I even have a Devil’s Rejects chest piece, that’s how much I loved that movie. So naturally, when I heard they were remaking what in my opinion is the Holy Grail, I was skeptical, but thought Rob would be a good choice.
Does it have its flaws: YES. Could the remake part of the movie (last half) have been not so rushed, YES. But with its warts and all, I do think it’s a decent movie on its own merits. If I wanted to see the original Halloween, I would pop in the original Halloween. This was Rob’s movie, and it ALMOST shows. You can tell the suits pressured him on it, and I think he reacted to that with Part 2, which I will refrain from going into, but I dare you to go back and watch Rob’s Halloween with an open mind, expecting exactly what it is: a new take on the character that once was gold and had been reduced to a karate punching bag by the time they asked Rob to come aboard.
2.) THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986)
I know a good amount of people who despise this movie. I know people who get angry when I even mention it. With that being said though, this movie brings a big smile to my face every time I see it. Everything from the Breakfast Club-inspired poster to the last odd-as-hell shot of the movie, pure gold as far as I’m concerned.
The first TCM wasn’t a fun movie, still isn’t. It’s not something you typically sit around and crack jokes about while drinking some tall cans with friends. It’s a jarring, terrifying movie that is still just as effective today as it ever was (if you argue that, you’re lying). It’s one of the few movies I consider PERFECT, but it’s not a “fun” kind of movie. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is pure fun, from start to finish. Hooper went from making what is one of the scariest, most unsettling films of all time, to the sequel, which is a COMPLETE 180 and I like that about it. It’s the blackest of comedies, heavy on the gore, heavy on the jokes.
Basically it revolves around a radio DJ named Stretch (played by the lovely Caroline Williams), who is prank called by two yuppies that end up playing chicken with the wrong truck (I’ll give you a guess which family is driving said truck), and Stretch hears their death on the air. Along comes Lefty Enright, the uncle of Sally and Franklin from the first film, who is bent on avenging his nephew’s death. He convinces Stretch to replay the death recording, which pisses the Sawyer family off, and havoc ensues.
Aside from the amazing sets, the cast is what makes this movie so enjoyable. Caroline Williams holds the movie well, and Dennis Hopper plays Lefty as crazy as it gets…almost. The real star of TCM 2 in my opinion is one of my favorite genre stars, Bill Moseley. He chews up every scene he’s in as Chop Top, Leatherface’s ‘Nam scarred brother with a metal plate in his head. I can watch it nonstop and laugh every single time the scene where Moseley appears for the first time. So like Zombie’s Halloween, walk back into this one with an open mind, not expecting the original, but a different spin on it. Also, lookout for the scene with what has got to be the oddest chainsaw salesman of all time.
3.) NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990)
People’s adoration for Romero’s zombie movies is monumentally large (and deservedly so), so why some people hate this movie so much I don’t understand at all. I’ll keep this one short and sweet, because I think the film speaks for itself for the most part, and there are only small key points that I think should be mentioned.
It’s widely known how much of a flub up the distributors made when it came to copyrighting the original Night of the Living Dead film, which ended up with Romero getting almost no money from such a greatly influential masterpiece. It’s been in public domain for going on 44 years now, and I could understand Romero eventually deciding to remake it with a lot of the original crew to get paid and own some of the work they had put into the original. That alone is fine with me as a viewer.
Even with that going into it, and with Tom Savini directing instead (Romero stuck to just writing the new screenplay this time around), the movie works for me on most levels. The zombies look better and more grotesque, the acting is much better this time around. It’s literally a who’s who of genre greats like Bill Moseley, Tony Todd, Tom Towles, Patricia Tallman, and a personal favorite of mine, William Butler. What great franchise was Butler NOT a part of in that era?
Is it the dark, bleak original? Not entirely. It’s definitely not a “happy” ending this time around either, but it doesn’t leave you wanting zombies to take over because of how close the political themes hit home. Sure, there are the typical Romero political undertones, but I think Savini was able to focus more on performances than Romero’s original, and I think that says something. It’s a highly overlooked gem in my opinion, and deserves a fresh viewing as its own entity.
4.) THE RUINS (2008)
The Ruins. Oh, The Ruins. This is one that I initially could not stand whatsoever, but upon a second viewing earlier this year, I wasn’t all that turned off by it. In fact, I was entertained. The small annoyances weren’t all that annoying this time, and I was able to appreciate it for what it is: a popcorn movie trying to be a little more than a popcorn movie.
I was dragged to this one by a pretty large group of friends when it was first released, against my will. They tied my hands, and held me at gunpoint until I agreed. Ok, maybe not to that extent, but I do remember complaining the whole time before and after. Everything about the movie annoyed me the first time, (the acting, the flowers emulating a cell phone, you name it). I walked out of it saying “I don’t think I’ll ever watch that again”, yet earlier this year I found myself with some free time, and without any decent movies at blockbuster, so I figured “why not?”
Upon second viewing, it’s really not all that bad. It’s definitely not all that good either (sorry old grumpy Muppet guys, I couldn’t resist stealing that joke), but it held my interests enough to realize maybe I had been a tad bit too harsh on it. Maybe I was in a funk when it came out, and have lightened up a bit since then.
The premise is basically this: two American couples on vacation in Mexico (yeah I know, a lot of movies use that beginning, but bear with me) become chums with a German tourist who is looking for his lost brother that has disappeared while following a girl to a Mayan Ruins site as part of an archaeological dig. The gang finally makes it to the site, gets ambushed by local (and seemingly loco) Mayans who kill one of their other friends, and run up the ruins to shelter. The locals don’t follow them and seem to be scared out of their pants by something, which the movie doesn’t waste time in revealing exactly what it is: The Ruins’ vines are alive and don’t seem to appreciate getting messed with. The couples get infected, and even taunted (like I mentioned before..the flowers even impersonate a cell phone to trick the gang)…and the movie just gets depressing and depressing and even more depressing.
While the above description probably isn’t winning me any points for convincing y’all into give it a second chance, just take another glimpse at the description…it’s so absurd and silly that like the vines themselves, it eventually gets under your skin and you appreciate the silliness. You learn to look at it as a serious attempt at a scary nature movie that ends up just being fun to watch at times. It’s nothing to write home about, but something to check out on a late lonely night with you and some Percocet. ( jk).
5.) NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (2009)
Adams Gierasch’s Night of the Demons remake is a film that I find usually falling between people either loving it or not liking it at all. The usual argument I find people putting forth, is that it’s “too different from the original”, and “the acting is really bad”. Their words, definitely not mine. This is one of the five on my list that is not only NOT a guilty pleasure, but a film that I whole heartedly love.
What sets Night of the Demons apart from the countless remakes coming out, is that it is amazingly obvious how much appreciation for the genre that Gierasch has. It’s not like a studio chose a random music video director, gave said director a franchise or original film and told them to systematically rape it. The remake oozes genre love, and its 93 minutes of girls, gore, sex, violence and by far one of the best soundtracks in a long while.
Premise goes like this: A flashback reveals a tragedy that happened at the Broussard Mansion where Evangeline Broussard hangs herself out of fear that someone isn’t quite themselves. She jumps, her heads snaps off. Fast forward to present day, and Angela (Shannon Elizabeth) is planning on throwing a party of epic proportions at well…the Broussard Mansion. The party gets shut down, the crowd leaves, and Angela, along with her three lady friends (Monica Keena, Bobbi Sue Luther and Diora Baird..yeah seriously, that right there is already enough for me) three guys ( a rebel type, a Cameron Crowe lookalike, and Edward Furlong not looking his best but still being a badass) get trapped in the mansion. While trying to find a way out, they stumble across skeletons of folks from the earlier flashback, Angela gets bit by one (silly but forgivable), and all hell starts to break loose. Slowly but surely, and one by one, they get possessed by demons and what follows is like I said nonstop gore, sex, violence and by FAR one of the best performances from Furlong in years. Some see it as him being god-awful in the movie, but I don’t buy that at all. He’s hilarious in the movie, attempting to be the hero while also being a complete piece of crap the whole time. His reactions and delivery of his lines make me laugh every single time I watch the movie, and I only wish he would pull his stuff together and get back to the status he once was attaining with T2, and the following few movies around that time.
There isn’t a single bad performance in the movie in my opinion, there’s even a cameo from the great Linnea Quigley (she was the best part of the original IMO) The girls look pretty amazing the whole time (don’t even get me started on the Type O Negative scene), the guys are funny and what isn’t to like about a gore fest that features pretty much (no, DEFINITELY) the first demon anal sex scene (still makes me laugh). If you’re an original Night of the Demon purist, or if you didn’t appreciate this one the first time, I’d try it again. -SMITH