Remade in the 2000s: De Palma, Cohen, and Carpenter

They’re some of my faves—Sisters (1973), It’s Alive (1974), and The Fog (1980). In the new millennium they all got the remake treatment. So, were they treated well? You’ll need a working knowledge of the original films to get what I’m talking about in this one.

THE FOG (2005)

This remake comes from the director of Stigmata, and I haven’t watched it again since I got the DVD over a decade ago. At the time my thought was that it was a horrendous remake that fixed only one thing about the original—the goal of the ghosts is to kill direct descendants of the settlers that caused their deaths in the first place, not just random people they came upon.

Giving it a second chance, I’ve discovered…first impressions are everything. Holy frick this movie sux.

Gone is any of that foreboding tone and atmosphere that Carpenter masterfully created, which grabbed you by the throat from the very start. In its place are absurd “action” sequences like fishing boat troubles, exploding ships from the past, and Stevie Wayne crashing her car into the water then being attacked by a glowing, swimming, CGI ghost.

That’s right, Selma Blair as Stevie doesn’t stay for the good of her town or battle leper ghosts on the top of her lighthouse. She selfishly goes to save her brat and is pretty much written out of the rest of the film.

She also doesn’t play sexy smooth jazz for this quiet town. Instead, she rocks the world of the young people with tracks by Fall Out Boy, Morningwood, and OK Go (remember them becoming famous for their treadmill music video?). There’s an entire sequence on a boat with young people partying that feels likes it’s going to go all Shark Night 3D at any second! It turns out to be one of the better “new” elements of the film once the killing starts.

Jamie Lee’s role is handled by Maggie Grace of The Twilight Saga and Fear the Walking Dead. She returns to the town she’s from after leaving for a few months, is actually the daughter of the woman in charge of the big anniversary event (where as Jamie Lee’s real life mom Janet playing the role in the original didn’t even know the character, who was just passing through), and has to patch up her relationship with Tom Welling of Smallville, who takes over the Tom Atkins role.

The movie follows the original film’s scenes pretty closely until Selma ditches the lighthouse.


Just turn on the garbage disposal, you dumb bitch!

Then it sinks faster than her car, becoming this ridiculously overblown Hollywood fiasco of people running all over town, being chased by one specific vengeful spirit, setting half the town on fire, and the living kissing ghosts.

I really can’t even with this crap. It was the simple intimacy of the original, with one small group in claustrophobic settings that made it work like a charm. I say abandon ship!

SISTERS (2006)

The only other horror the director of this remake has under his belt is a segment of The Theatre Bizarre.

It’s no surprise that even if you remake an early, less polished film of master Brian De Palma, it’s going to get torn to shreds. While there are some slight alterations to this story of one normal and one psycho Siamese twin, and it naturally doesn’t have De Palma’s style (like split screen), I think that this one delivers a rather creepy, confusing tone of its own.

Chloë Sevigny is the reporter who witnesses the murder (it was Jennifer Salt of Soap in the original). Only, she already knows the crazy doctor and is following him around to expose his controversial work with children…incognito in a clown costume at a birthday party where the doctor, played by Stephen Rea, is doing magic tricks. Okay, that’s a pretty weird way to start the remake, but the weirdness kind of sets the tone just right.

In the original film, Margot Kidder played the main twin (the doctor’s ex-wife and one of his patients), who hooks up with a black guy, an edgy movie back in the day. This time it’s plain old white Milton, the Governor’s lapdog on The Walking Dead.

 

Minor changes include Milton dropping a syringe of her meds under the fridge instead of spilling a bottle of her pills down the drain, and her cutting her hair before coming out to make love to him…which immediately makes you assume it’s her twin sister, not her. Adding a unique touch, he kind of, um, ravages the huge scar on the side of her body where she was detached from her Siamese sister.

The reporter doesn’t see the murder from her apartment this time, but from the doctor’s office across the street, which has monitors that show what’s happening in his ex-wife’s apartment. The murder isn’t committed with a knife but knitting needles, and the killer finishes things off with a frozen ice cream cake, which is then fed to investigators (sort of an homage to De Palma’s homages to Hitchcock).

There’s only a minor reference to the possibility of the body being hidden in a couch (where it was actually hidden in the original). Once the police don’t believe the reporter, her partner in crime-solving is Stiles’s hot dad from Teen Wolf. It was Charles Durning in the original (what a difference 3 decades can make).

The plot is basically the same from there…and equally as trippy and disorienting as in the original. However, it feels rushed when the reporter gets imprisoned in the mental hospital, and it isn’t anxiety-inducing or terrifying as in the original.


The Wizard of Odds?

Plus, Rea just isn’t creepy like that doctor fucker from the original. Personally, I think it would have been better to have an unfamiliar face with built-in freakiness in the role (aka, someone like the actor in the original, whose entire career was basically roles in indie horror films). But I did like the twist in how we learn that the treatment the reporter received in the hospital doesn’t actually wear off—the one change that truly enhances the eerie factor.

IT’S ALIVE (2008)

Even though Larry Cohen apparently thinks this is trash, the director of The Thirteenth Floor brings us what I think is the best remake in this bunch simply because it changes things up enough and modernizes the story, with plenty of awesomely bloody kills to entertain us.

Rather than the perfect suburban couple with one child and another on the way as in the original, this is a young, modern couple still in school.

When the child is born in the delivery room bloodbath, even the doctor is like, “Everything looks normal,” as in…the baby doesn’t look monstrous enough.

But that doesn’t matter, because we never see the baby again beyond one fast face flash during the climax, when it looks satisfyingly more hideous (I think because its baby teeth grew in).

Borrowing from the original plot’s end reveal, this movie uses that reveal as the entire plot. The mother is keeping her baby and it’s penchant for blood a secret, at first hiding dead small animals she finds around the house and eventually having to deal with the baby slaughtering anyone who comes too visit.


Look what the baby dragged in…

So yeah, it’s a slasher about a killer baby and the mom who covers for it. There’s also a pretty different and contemporary twist as to how the baby became deformed.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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