The day I learned that they (yes, you know who you are) were going to remake the classic Stephen King/Brian DePalma horror film ‘Carrie’, two things happened: I continued to lose faith in modern day Hollywood and their obsession with reboots, remakes and unoriginal film making; and a part of me died.
First, I should say two things. I absolutely admire the work of Kimberly Peirce. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ was a great piece of film making. I’m hoping that she does something different with the Carrie story so that it can be judged as a piece of work separate and identifiable from the original film. However, that is going to be a tall task, given the towering presence the 1976 film has in the horror genre. Also, Julianne Moore is one of my favourite actresses. She is an actress of immense talent and I’ve liked her in everything I’ve seen her in. However, she too has an almost impossible task to separate herself from the role made popular by Piper Laurie.
I can’t pass judgement on the film that I have yet to see, but my initial impression is one of disappointment. ‘Carrie’ (2013) is yet another attempt in a long, long, long line of films to be remade, rebooted and rehashed by an uninspired Hollywood with no creative imagination because of the threat of a loss at the box office. Correct me if I’m wrong, but over the past century, there have been a long line of box office failures – it’s not something that has just occurred in the past 10 years. Hollywood picked itself up and moved on with the next project. Every film can’t be a blockbuster. There are films that won’t break even. Most will lose money. That is the way things have been and the way things will be in the film business.
But something has changed in the past 10 years to make Hollywood scared – really scared – of investing in original material. It is not only disappointing, but career crushing for people who want to make creative films with original material. I’m sure that the Great Recession is partly to blame. Everyone is holding onto their money just a bit more tightly, not knowing what is around the corner. But Hollywood (and the world in general) has been through this before. The disturbing part of this tightfisted industry practice is that once the economy makes its way through the tough times, it’s scary to think that the current industry trend of rebooting, rehashing and remaking will become the norm and original material will be left behind in the dust.
‘Carrie’ (1976) was a brilliant film. Sissy Spacek was note perfect. Piper Laurie’s performance was the template for all the maniacal, religious fanatic, over-the-top mothers to come after her. It was an innocent little film that hit on all the right notes, from the performances, the music, the set decoration, the F/X and the plot. As I have said over and over before when a perfect piece of film making is remade: Why?! Why would you want to set yourself up for failure and instant criticism by trying to remake a classic that was perfectly done in the first place? I have the answer: $
I am hoping that ‘Carrie’ (2013) will not be tossed into the same horrible remake pile that currently houses the Psycho and The Manchurian Candidate remakes – films that never should have been remade because the originals were perfect to begin with and to try and re-imagine them is an impossible task.
My review of ‘Psycho IV: The Beginning’ is just one sentence: I didn’t know that Norman Bates’ mother was British.
That was only one of the many things wrong with that movie. Thankfully, the franchise ended with that horrible film. However, I can’t help but think that some day, a studio or producer (one with no imagination and one that is scared to death of losing/making money) will re-boot this franchise and try to imitate or emulate the original great film. Money. That is the only reason why anyone would re-boot it, for the magic has already been had. You cannot get any better than the original ‘Psycho’ from 1960. Believe me, in this age of re-hashing and re-booting (because producers and studios are scared to take a chance on original material for financial reasons) it is only a matter of time before some one sitting around a boardroom table in L.A. with an abacus in front of them comes up with the brilliant idea to force upon us a re-imagining of the ‘Psycho’ franchise.
Alfred Hitchcock’s original ‘Psycho’ was brilliant. Unfortunately, the sequels appeared in the era of the slasher film and they resorted to slice and splatter rather than natural suspense to entertain the audience. (Yes, I am well aware of the shower scene in the original film). What happened to the sequels in the 1980s and how they denigrated into scenes of gratuitous violence (overpowering plot and character) is what happened to all of the horror franchises of the late 1970s and 1980s: The original films were great; the sequels were horribly done; a bunch of different people with different visions of how the sequels should proceed ruined the continuity of them; then the people who worked on the original films were brought in to try and clean up the mess and couldn’t because the continuity was ruined, audiences became confused, lost interest and the franchise died a slow and painful death (Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc.) – that is until Hollywood got into the re-boot business in the 2010s instead of funding original, creative stories.
The ‘Psycho’ franchise was mercifully stopped before the sequels permanently ruined its reputation. Taking the gratuitous slice and dice out of the equation, the plot after the original film was going along quite nicely until ‘Psycho IV’ appeared. Enough time had passed between the original film and ‘Psycho II’ to allow Norman Bates his time in incarceration. ‘Psycho III’ tied up the subplot nicely that revolved around the identity of Norman’s mother. Although I have reservations about the general film making in II and III, the story was solid. All of that unraveled in IV.
You would think that bringing in the screenwriter from the original film would make for a great film. Unfortunately, it is usually a colossal failure because the vision they have is skewed not only by the glory days of yore but by a director that has his own (very different) vision of the film. That’s the only explanation I can think of why IV was so disjointed, out of sequence, labored and dull. It would have probably helped if the filmmakers said that it was a direct sequel of the original film (which it kind of is, a little, I think). But they didn’t. They wanted people to forget about what happened in II and III (of course they didn’t, which ultimately confused the audience). As such, the premise is preposterous – Norman Bates out of prison?… Married and having a baby?! Are you kidding? And Olivia Hussey (a British actress with a British accent) as his mother?! What?!
‘Psycho IV’ never should have been made as it was. If I would have written the screenplay, I would never have conveniently forgotten about what happened in II and III (and insulting the intelligence of the audience in the process); Norman Bates would still be in a mental institution; the bulk of the film would be about his childhood and his relationship to his mother up until the time he killed her. I like the idea of him calling in to a radio show – but from prison – and relating his early life. I don’t like the idea of the film suddenly veering into the present and having the story be all about Bates attempting to kill his wife – it was a ridiculous plot twist that was hard to swallow. I couldn’t wait for the last 20 minutes to end because it was so ridiculous. By focusing on his early life instead of his present, the film would have been much more palatable.
As such, the franchise (like so many franchises before it) came crashing to a halt – mercifully before it soiled the reputation of the original brilliant film.
I’m getting off the old screenwriting merry-go-round for awhile. It was a fun 7 years. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to continue writing screenplays, I have to move on with my life and plan for the day I will no longer have my day job. It was nice to have that job because it afforded me the luxury of spending a lot of time on screenwriting. However, things change. I’m upgrading/learning some new and exciting writing skills over the next year and a half – something that will allow me to quit my day job and move on to the next phase of my life.
I must admit that I’ve become just a little frustrated with my failure to bust open the doors (or even put a small dent in them) of the spec screenwriting industry – nay, a lot. I could rant and rave about all that is wrong with it and how frustrating it is, but I choose not to. That, combined with the changes in my work life have forced my hand. I’m not giving up on my screenwriting nor the screenplays that I have written. I just need to get away from the revolving door of rejection and all the people who want to charge you to tell you how great your screenplay is for awhile. It starts to weigh on you.
As I start on the path to change my work life, I’m also going to embark on a new writing project. I just can’t stop writing – that’s a bad idea. So I’m starting a novel. My first project is an adaptation of my screenplay ’Postal’. Usually it’s the other way around – a novel gets written and then adapted for film. I think of all the screenplays that I have written, this one would make a great novel. It’s really a semi-autobiographical, fiction-based-on-fact effort.
I’ve also re-written and edited the short story that I wrote in 2009 to submit into this year’s CBC Short Story Contest. An original story I wrote in 2009, re-wrote in 2010, then turned into a short screenplay in 2013, I re-adapted (hmmm, I don’t know if that’s a word – sounds good though) it as a short story. I re-named it to reflect the script of the same name: ‘The Seventh Saint’. I’m thinking that the next 18 months are going to get very, very busy – work, school, novel… We’ll see how it goes.
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