How To Make A Successful Sequel To A Horror Remake

last house on the left remake How To Make A Successful Sequel To A Horror Remake

Let’s face it, 90% of all horror remakes suck. They take whatever original ideas worked in the original series or film and dilute them to the simplest form, add in some extra gore or skin to reel in the current horror buffs and then they call it a day. Horror remakes can be the most profitable films out there, but they also tend to be the worst. We can’t change what has already been made (or should I say remade?), but we can hope for better sequels. Sequels that share closer similarities with the originals in terms of creating fresh ideas for a series or character, while also paying proper dues to films that have come before it.

If we as an audience have to sit through all of these countless remakes that range from faithful R-rated adaptations that cherry pick ideas from the original films or PG-13 treatments of classics that could only get away with a hard R, then we should sure as hell have a say in where the direction of these said films should go. Before fully cracking into my basic ideas for how to make a successful sequel to a horror remake I feel like I should add a little context to some recent horror remakes that made me randomly want to write this article in the first place.

FT13 Remake How To Make A Successful Sequel To A Horror Remake

Friday the 13th is without a doubt one of the most iconic slasher series’ of all time. The original film might not be what we think of when we see the hockey mask killer, but the series as a whole changed the horror landscape. It increased the gore and nudity intake on a high scale and for the mainstream audiences, which lead to countless sequels that were both creative and fun and even sometimes tired and boring. I actually enjoyed some of the series’ later entries, like the redheaded stepchild Jason X and the problematic Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.

The remake was bound to happen and instead of fearing it completely I remained slightly hopeful. Mostly because I’m more of a Freddy fan, but also because remaking Jason should be the simplest task, when compared to the other horror greats. You really only need to cast someone to play Jason and then insert enough clever kills and buildup to please the die-hard fans. Blood and tits are totally acceptable this time around, but you must never cheapen on the kills.

Marcus Nispel directed the remake and the biggest problem here is easily the open disregard towards the character. They attempt too hard to change things for no good reason and then they add on an almost moronic set of characters to an already pointless script. We get to see Jason slaughter, but we also have to sit through lots of bullshit that I’d never thought I’d have to see in a Friday the 13th film. Like I said before, I’m not the biggest Jason fan, which simply meant I should have been one of the easiest to please for this franchise restart, but not once did it feel like I was watching a Friday the 13th film and instead just another generic slasher, but this time with that trademark hockey mask.

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halloween How To Make A Successful Sequel To A Horror Remake

I knew eventually that I would have to address the elephant in the room, so why not just go ahead and do it now before we get in too deep? Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake is one of my favorite horror remakes when pitted up against the comparable Platinum Dunes efforts. Sure, Rob Zombie adds a little too much of his trashy filmmaking niches to the Myers mix, but he does something that almost all horror remake directors fail to do; he adds his own take on the character. You can’t deny that Halloween is very much a Zombie film and for most that’s why it didn’t work.

I’ll side with everyone that says Carpenter’s original is still the clear winner of the two and I’ll even side with those that say the lack of back story actually makes the Myers character more creepy, because he suddenly snaps for no reason, but I give Zombie major props for at least trying something different with the character, even if it relates a little too closely to his previous works.

Zombie’s Halloween pays homage to the original throughout the film, with its blatant score and several shot-for-shot scenes, but it also adds a new take on the Myers character in the form of a back story, and even though the back story is kind of weak and less frightening, it still is something new to this particular series.

Halloween II is how not to make a successful horror remake sequel, because Zombie throws almost all Myers mythology out the window and instead makes his own weird two hour music video that sometimes features a bearded Myers, but mostly features Zombie’s wife and frequent star Sheri Moon Zombie. In this one Zombie gave up all of his good grace earned in the remake for a blood-soaked hillbilly trash piece that simply uses the Halloween name to make a horror film without a pulse.

Elm Street Remake How To Make A Successful Sequel To A Horror Remake

Cruising along we have Samuel Bayer’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. This was probably always going to be the trickiest remake to tackle, because Robert Englund’s take on Freddy will always remain something that you just can’t top, but Jackie Earle Haley actually does a good job with the character and mostly adds his own take on the iconic dream-slayer.

It is not Haley’s performance or even Rooney Mara‘s portrayal of Nancy that holds this remake down, but it is instead production company Platinum Dunes and their inability to hire experienced directors. This time they went with music video director Samuel Bayer, who in his defense gives the film a nice dream-like feeling, but his lack of experience shows as the film’s script more than borrows from all of the previous Nightmare films, while even stealing complete parts of the ending from Freddy vs. Jason. Again, we run into the problem of lifting directly from the source material instead of paying tribute, while adding new ideas and concepts.

The only good thing to come out of this remake was Jackie Earle Haley‘s attempt to make the character much darker and scarier again, because the later sequels certainly made Freddy more of a joking prankster than someone you feared to go to sleep over.

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TCM Remake How To Make A Successful Sequel To A Horror Remake

One last mention before we head in a more positive direction is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and its more than effective prequel. Finally, a Platinum Dunes production that understood how to deliver. The remake is a far cry from the Tobe Hooper classic, but it did its best creating an atmosphere and filling it with brooding terror. I much prefer the prequel, because it takes everything that worked in the remake and added even more practical blood and gore and depth to the character of Leatherface and his whole twisted and bizarre family.

Now, it’s time for some solutions on how to make a successful sequel to a horror remake. Most of these are so damn obvious, yet the studios continue to disregard these basic ideas. There’s a reason why most of the remakes sucked in the first place and it’s because they chose not to follow these basic rules. I’ve also included a few fun ones that are a result of me simply giving my own random ideas as to how to make a better sequel. These are meant for fun and not to be taken too seriously. I’m just trying to help!

1. Hire A Good Director

I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but it really should be the easiest thing to accomplish when making a remake or a sequel to a remake. Hire a talented director that knows the genre and possibly shares a love for the established property. I know it’s tricky to bring in someone like David Fincher or Christopher Nolan when it comes to picking out who is going to continue the Halloween series, but that doesn’t mean you can’t actively pursue known horror directors like Ti West or even someone that isn’t afraid to dabble into the darkness like Guillermo del Toro.

Most consider horror to be the starting point for careers, which is why Platinum Dunes acquired most of their talent from the commercial or music video industry, but that should be for smaller and original ideas, not characters we’ve grown to love.

Fincher did Alien 3, Sam Raimi clearly got his now cult status from Evil Dead and Peter Jackson and James Cameron are no strangers to the genre either, yet most will never return after they’ve garnered all of this experience and success. Wes Craven, John Carpenter and a few others come back from time-to-time, but mostly to show us that they’ve lost a step. I’d love to see filmmakers that are already established as big names take a stab at making the proper Elm Street or Halloween film, but it’s probably the longest shot of them all, because most want to make their own original films.

2. Hire A Good Writer

C’mon. This should be another absolute main priority for the sequel. The remake more than likely sucked because you hired some amateur that watched half of the original Elm Street series. I know it’s hard to find good writers in Hollywood and they might come with a higher pay request, but it’s an absolute must at this point. Yes, the original films almost always had poor entries due to inexperienced writers and that without a doubt contributed to why we might even hold those films in high regard and consider them classics, because they were moments from that era in time, but we’ve got to move forward.

Most of the late Nightmare entries are complete crap and yet they still have more ideas bouncing around than the flat remake. In the 80s and early 90s New Line Cinema wasn’t afraid to hire outside of the normal directing/writing pool and while it didn’t mean a good movie it did mean an interesting one. Almost all of the Elm Street films have their own concepts and ideas that they juggle with and while most didn’t pan out the way they originally intended, they almost always felt like their own entries.

Can you imagine if Platinum Dunes actually went out and hired someone to write a much darker and actually scary Elm Street sequel? One that would explore the mental state of dreams and how fragile and important dreaming is? I’d love to invest into a group of actually likable characters that start having troubles sleeping and then start seeing a creepy man in a red and green sweater. They could slowly ease into each and every dream sequence, now that we (again) know Freddy and have already seen the back story.

Part of why the remake sucked so much was because we had to spend way too much time with Nancy exploring who Freddy was and why he started to stalk them in their dreams, but now we know all of that so we can cut the bullshit and skip to Freddy haunting a new group of souls. It would be great if the now-popular Rooney Mara would reprise her role as Nancy and possibly give it that same importance that Heather Langenkamp gave to the character in the original film.

This works across the boards for all sequels, not just Elm Street. Friday the 13th Part 2 could benefit from better writing, because Jason is the most silent of them all and most of his reasoning is briefly touched up upon. So instead of sifting us through another back story or flashback, we can simply cut to the good stuff with ease as long as there’s a good writer on board to make that transition pain-free.

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3. Embrace The Gore

If all else fails, simply embrace the blood and gore and give us an old-fashioned show. I hate to resort to this one so early, but studios are giving me no choice. If they absolutely won’t give us a good script or a director then why not give us all of the blood and gore that we crave? Horror films are supposed to be much more than death and sex, but sometimes we have to settle for whatever we can get. I’d love a Friday the 13th film with Jason matching Rambo or even Punisher: War Zone in terms of body count. I’d also love a little creativity if we’re dealing with Freddy and the dream world.

Myers and Leatherface deserve the same attention, but let’s make sure all of this violent fun is experienced with practical effects and not shoddy computer animated sequences. One thing I’ll give credit to Platinum Dunes for is their ability to mostly stick with practical blood and effects, but occasionally they stray off and make a shameful and unforgettably bad one (see Freddy coming from the walls in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake).

A good example of a reboot embracing the gore and the over-the-top ideas is Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D. Not only did he insert my #4 idea, but he also fused it brilliantly with #3. He knew what kind of film he was making and he embraced all elements of it.

The bad acting only helped the hilarious story and the insane and highly creative kills only catered to the 3D format.

4. Jump Shark And Add 3D

This idea used to be considered as jumping the shark, but now it’s actually common place. Remember when either taking your series into space or adding the 3D meant that you’ve completely ran out of ideas? Now it simply means you want to make as much money as possible, but the idea of still making a fun 3D film isn’t completely dead. Horror has always mixed perfectly with 3D, because of the kills and how you can incorporate the added dimension.

Nothing says date night like a severed head flying off of the screen and into your lap. The same can also be said for building your set pieces. If you specifically shoot for 3D then that opens up a whole other layer of detail, because you now have to cater each and every shot. Most simply disregard that cardinal rule and shoot the film however they want, but some directors really take the 3D shooting seriously and it shows.

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Texas Chainsaw 3D Header1 How To Make A Successful Sequel To A Horror Remake

I’m not sure what the future has in store for horror remakes and their sequels. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake and the Friday the 13th remake both made decent money, yet sequels have not been greenlit or rushed into production. Hopefully it remains that way until they get some good people on the projects that are actually passionate and committed to making the best possible sequels and not something for quick cash.

Texas Chainsaw 3D is going to let us know how the 3D route works and how successful a film can be if you disregard the remakes and prequels and instead make a direct sequel to the original. It’s been done before, but my money is that all of this confusion will result in a film that plays more like a remake than a sequel. The trailer shares too many similarities with the remake and prequel that came before it and it makes me question why they’ve jumped through all of these hoops to try and establish this new film as something completely different.

The Evil Dead remake might prove to be worth a damn, if only because they went with bringing back the original director and his star to help produce and oversee the film. They’ve also went with a known writer (Diablo Cody) to help modernize the film, while still paying tribute to the original. I’m remaining the most hopeful for this one, but I’m still questioning the purpose of a remake if it plays too closely to the original.

Halloween 3 was last in the hands of the My Bloody Valentine 3D director Patrick Lussier and that could have been a lot of fun because he wanted to continue the series by putting it back on a more traditional path and also adding 3D. The Weinstein Company hasn’t furthered the development of that one too much, which means it’s probably dead until they remake it again in 10 years.

We need to remain hopeful, despite logic telling us not to. Horror remakes are mostly bad, which means that their eventual sequel will probably be even worse. I’m doubting very much that Platinum Dunes does anything with their franchises unless they completely have to and the same can be said about TWC and Halloween. Heck, the whole reason the new Chainsaw flick is coming out is because New Line didn’t care to do anything else with the character and figured it would be best to sell it to Lionsgate while it’s still worth a damn.

Horror has shifted from making big remakes to instead focusing on ghosts, vampires and zombies and making found-footage stuff the cheapest way possible. For the time being we’re going to have to buckle down and take it, but to show them that we want better work we can simply not show up for the latest Paranormal Activity film or we can take to the streets and riot! I’m kidding, but wouldn’t that be cool? I’d give my right arm to see fans actively (and safely) rioting over a proper Freddy sequel!

It’s hard to look at this positively, but we must, because our horror icons will never die and instead be reinserted into pop culture over and over until the end of times. It’s our duty to make sure that these characters are given justice on film, on paper or wherever they pop up next.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Donato/556930521 Matt Donato

    Dude, preach brother! While honestly I believe we need more movies like Insidious and Cabin In The Woods around genre, remakes aren’t goin away any time soon, and you’ve outlined some very basic rules. Sure, they sell, but so do shitty Saw sequels and Paranormal Activity additions that genre fans are starting to hate.

    • http://twitter.com/MinimeJer05 Jeremy Lebens

      CABIN IN THE WOODS!!!!! Yessir. Let’s not forget about The Collection in terms of getting things right when it comes to making a sequel. But yeah, I also really dug Insidious too.