Being the movie capital of the Western world, Hollywood has always sought ideas from other cultures to use for its own nefarious ends. Be it the straight-forward twisting of the story of Arabian Nights to the sprinkling of racism that peppers most Disney animations, the practice became solidified as a grade-A money-spinner in a big, award-winning way with the release of Martin Scorsese’s 2007 film The Departed.
A stylish remake of the Chinese original Infernal Affairs (2003), the film’s numerous Oscar nods proved that there was a mainstream market for US remakes, and since then that trend has continued unabated. There are remakes planned for Chan Wook-park’s Vengeance trilogy; a Hollywood adaptation of Death Note; another remake of Seven Samurai; Akira (now unlikely); Battle Royale; there was talk of a remake of The Host, but details have dried up; the list goes on.
This article is going to focus on US remakes of Asian horror, as being far and away the most common genre on the receiving end of such treatment. There have been many US remakes or reworkings of Asian films before the success of the emphatically not horror film The Departed, going all the way back to 1956 when the Japanese monster movie Godzilla (1954) was re-edited for US audiences to as Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in 1956.
Although this article is about Asian horror films getting US remakes, they’ve also had great success in other genres – 2006’s Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock vehicle The Lake House was a remake of Il Mare (2000), a South Korean romantic drama, and both The Magnificent Seven (1960) and A Fist Full of Dollars (1964), even though they are seen as the perfect examples of Westerns, were based on Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961), respectively.
All of this experience in making those films doesn’t mean that directors have necessarily got the formula all worked out, however. The US remakes are usually much worse than the Asian originals – there’s loads of things that US directors, or Asian directors working in Hollywood, continually get wrong. This is why I am here. I, as somebody who has never made a film in his entire life, am uniquely qualified to point out the failings of people much more talented than I could ever hope to be. The only way is up, right?
Whatever. I’ve come up with four pointers to help make sure that your Western remake of an Asian horror film is up to scratch. That means “good enough”.
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