Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ten Horror and Sci-Fi Films That Should Be Remade



During the last few weekends, a series of horror and sci-fi movie remakes have appeared at the box office. Remakes of Conan the Barbarian, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Fright Night and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which is a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) have already been released, and a remake of Straw Dogs is scheduled for release in a few days. It appears that the big studios are determined to remake as many of their big name horror and sci-fi franchises as possible, for no other reason that they want a "sure thing"--namely, franchises that already have devoted fan bases--instead of taking the financial risk of investing in something new and unproven.

What I believe is that if remakes are what the studios want to produce to save money and minimize, then they should be doing is remaking movies they already own but weren't complete successes in their original incarnations for the sake of improving them with better creative teams and better budgets. Read on for ten suggestions of horror and sci-fi films, listed in chronological order, that didn't quite work the first time around and deserve a second chance.

1. The Maze (1953)


As a complete movie, The Maze is less than the sum of its parts. It has plenty to hold the viewer's interest: A mysterious family curse that causes its victims to age rapidly, a gloomy castle in the misty Scottish highlands, a shadowy figure that roams the castle's halls at night and leaves behind strange webbed footprints, and an outdoor hedge maze that is fatal to uninvited guests. William Cameron Menzies' direction provides a visually engaging setting for the story, and his "dimensional" style of cinematography fit the film's original release in anaglyph 3D. Unfortunately, almost all of the film's mysteries are either quickly explained or completely forgotten by the film's conclusion. With a more meticulous script and sense of visual style that matches Menzies', The Maze has the potential to bring Lovecraftian 3D thrills back to the silver screen for a new generation of horror fans.



2. The Monolith Monsters (1957)


In a decade where science fiction movies were crowded with alien invaders and giant radioactive mutations, Monolith Monsters took a novel approach by depicting a threat from beyond the stars that was neither an animal nor a plant but a mineral. The movie's titular menaces are crystal-like rocks from space that grow to gigantic heights when they're exposed to fresh water, which then shatter into fragments when they hit the ground after they become too large. This cycle repeats itself every time the rocks are exposed to water, until they threaten to crush a small town. Did I also happen to mention that the rocks' ability to absorb moisture allows them to drain the moisture from the bodies of nearby people, thus turning them into stone? With such a unique kind of horror, a remake of The Monolith Monsters would be an amazing science fiction disaster movie that leaves 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow looking very subdued by comparison.



3. The Black Scorpion (1957)


The Black Scorpion looks like one of those movies that ran out of money for special effects in the middle of production--which is a shame, because it was one of the last movies that employed the talents of Willis O'Brien, the stop-motion animator who brought life to the titular ape in King Kong. To make the most of what little effects money it had, Scorpion reuses some of the same scorpion effects shots over and over again (much like how cheap cartoons save money by reusing the same footage). Nevertheless, the story about gargantuan scorpions that rise from a forgotten, subterranean world to tear apart victims with their mammoth claws and impale them on their giant stingers should be brought back as a remake with a better special effects budget.



4. I Bury The Living (1958)


I Bury The Living is a fascinating B-movie that was directed by Albert Band. It depicts a man who may (or may not) have the power to kill people simply by rearranging the colored pins on a cemetery map. While this movie tells a very creepy tale, it avoids answering one of the questions that it raises: If someone had the power to kill others by manipulating a cemetery map, could that same person also raise the dead through the same process? I've heard quite a few rumors that scenes were written for this film that answer this question in the affirmative, but they were never shot; thus, I would love to see a remake of I Bury The Living that pushes the story into gruesome world of corpse reanimation.



5. Phase IV (1974)


As killer bug movies go, Phase IV is in a bizarre class of its own. Instead of ants that get bigger or more bloodthirsty due to some kind of atomic or natural disaster, the ants in Phase IV become smarter as the result of a mysterious cosmic event. With its minimalist, surreal script and astonishing insect cinematography make Phase IV a fascinating film, its maddeningly suggestive yet vague ending (which director Saul Bass has said was imposed by the studio) put this film on my remake list just so we can see this story told again with a more satisfying conclusion.



6. The Car (1977)


The Car is one of the many Jaws rip offs that appeared during the late 70s, although it's one of the few that has nothing to do with water, fish and swimming. In spite of its derivative nature, ;">The Car is still a creepy little film about a possessed automobile that terrorizes a small desert town. With its pitch black windows, eerie sounds and animal-like behavior, the titular vehicle is a unique movie monster that deserves a tune-up for a second trip on the silver screen. With a bigger budget and a more nuanced screenplay, I could imagine a remake that has a driverless car isolating another small desert town by running down supply trucks and toppling power lines and cell phone towers, and then bumping off the remaining citizens who try to escape.



7. The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)


The Eyes of Laura Mars has a remarkable pedigree: It was directed by Irving Kersher, co-scripted by John Carpenter, and featured Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Raúl Juliá and Rene Auberjonois. Yet for a film about a photographer who receives psychic visions that allow her to see through the eyes of a serial killer as he brutally murders his victims, something just doesn't work. It could be because of the film's rushed "twist" ending, or that it fails to explore in greater detail the true nature of the visions (such as when they really started, not when the main character began to accept them as visions), or that the romance subplot doesn't feel as compatible with the rest of film (no matter how logical the relationship is within the context of the complete story). Regardless, I'd love to see a creepier and better-paced remake of this movie, just so this story can reach its full, frightful potential.



8. Tourist Trap (1979)


You know what's creepy? Dolls and ventriloquist dummies. You know what else is creepy? Mannequins. Of these three sorts of unlikely yet effective scares, killer dolls and dummies have been the subject of many horror movies, while killer mannequins have only been the subject of one: Tourist Trap (which was produced by Charles Band, son of the aforementioned Albert Band). Tourist Trap is an uneven, hit-and-miss affair, a blend of House of Wax, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Twilight Zone. It's got enough mannequin-centric scares and shivers--particularly the final shot--to merit a second chance on the big screen, perhaps with less imitation of House of Wax and Chainsaw Massacre and more holy-crap-mannequins-are-out-to-kill-me shocks. With the current state of practical effects and CGI technology, I'm convinced that these murderous, on-the-move mannequins will generate a few weeks' worth of nightmares for movie viewers of all ages.



9. Looker (1981)


Even though Looker was the fifth film directed by bestselling sci-fi author Michael Crichton, who also wrote the film's script, it is not the best example of Crichton’s talents as either a director or a screenwriter. The finished film is an unmistakable mess, with a story that meanders through several different plot points (including some vague conspiracy involving subliminal messages in TV commercials) without ever adequately connecting them into a coherent, compelling whole. In spite of its shortcomings, Looker has an intriguing, eerie central concept: professional models who go through plastic surgery to correct very specific flaws--down to the millimeter--in order to achieve a specific standard of beauty and in turn gain employment, only to be systematically murdered as they are replaced by computer-generated duplicates who actually are "perfect". In the right hands, Looker could be brought back to the big screen as a high-tech, giallo-esque mash-up of The Stepford Wives, S1m0ne and Blood and Black Lace.



10. Trancers (1985)


Yet another low-budget B-movie from Charles Band. Trancers has preposterous yet entertaining plot: To change the future to suit his nefarious agenda, a "psychic vampire" from the year 2247 travels back in time to 1985--with a police trooper from the same era hot on his trail. While its idea of a mind-controlling serial killer is handled better than most other films with a similar premise (such as God Told Me To), Trancers is too busy ripping off Blade Runner and The Terminator to explore this creepy concept in greater detail. Thus, a remake that goes into greater ghastly detail about what a "trancer" is and its ultimate purpose would be a fun, action-filled flick.




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