There is a joking rule that a remake is usually worse than the original movie. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. For example, It (2017), Dredd (2012), Casino Royale (2006), and Scarface (1983) were much better than the original movies they were made after.
However, these exceptions only emphasize the rule: commonly, a remake is associated with attempts to raise profit on once-popular movie or franchise titles. Even if this is not the case, authors of remakes usually seem to lack the vision, inspirational sources, and ideas of those who created the originals. Thus, no matter how much money producers put into the creation of yet another remake, it is not guaranteed that it will outshine the source, or at least get close to its popularity and quality.
Here are some examples proving the latter.
The Grudge (2004)
The early and mid-2000s were a time when American cinematography got overwhelmed by the popularity of Japanese horror movies. Perhaps everyone can remember The Ring, Godzilla, Fistful of Dollars, Oldboy–these are only some Asian movies that were adapted for American audiences. In particular, American directors got fond of remaking Japanese horror movies. Some of these remakes were decent, while others failed at the box office. And even if not, remakes were still worse than the originals.
This statement is related, in particular, to The Grudge–a Hollywood remake of an already classic Ju-On, filmed by Takashi Shimizu in 2002. Surprisingly, the remake was also made by Shimizu, although the screenplay belonged to Stephen Susco this time. The need for a remake would be understood if it somehow adapted Japanese reality to the American way of living, or exploited some of the topics and fears typical for western people. However, The Grudge simply retells the story of the original movie, shifting the accents slightly, but changing nothing. The main character is now an American girl living in Japan, but that is perhaps the only difference. Apart from the bit “westernized” narrative, increased amount of jumpscares, and Grace Zabriskie in the beginning, there is nothing memorable about The Grudge.
Dark Water (2005)
Although the American version of the Japanese horror movie Honogurai Mizu no Soko kara (2002) stars the brilliant actress Jennifer Connelly, and was even created by the same people responsible for The Ring, there was nothing memorable about the remake. Mother and daughter, almost separated due to prolonged custody disputes, stop in an old apartment building, trying to recover from psychological hardships. As it was not enough, the mother starts noticing that their apartment gets haunted by some kind of supernatural force–as it turns out, she and her daughter attracted the attention of a dead girl’s wraith. Not only is the plot almost identical to the American version of The Ring, but it is also a rather weak movie in general. Alas.
Two years after The Grudge, American director Jim Sonzero decided it would be a nice idea to remake the cult Japanese horror movie Kairo filmed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The result was so feeble that you would have to look up the plot in Wikipedia in about a week after watching Pulse just to remember what it was all about. The original picture revolved around the idea of loneliness, contemplated on the concept of death, and used horror and ghost stories only as a shell, containing a plot much deeper than one might assume when watching the American remake. The latter, unfortunately, turned a rich story into a standard Hollywood chewing gum about students fighting to stop evil from spreading.
The list of American remakes of Japanese horror movies can go on. There were many attempts to adapt them for western audiences, but perhaps it is a task that is impossible to accomplish. Obvious differences in mentality cause differences in perception: what is scary for an American might be something trivial for the Japanese, and vice versa. Adding elements that would be comprehensible for American viewers often kills the atmosphere of an original, turning a remake into a pale copy of a source movie. Perhaps, someday there will be a worthwhile American horror movie based on a Japanese source, but this has not happened yet.
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