The (Un)necessary Remake Dept – Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap posterDavid Schmoeller’s 1979 movie Tourist Trap is a particularly effective horror movie–particularly due to the score by Charles Band, speaking of whom doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his composing, which here is at times playful, harrowing and cinematic–that unfortunately is showing its age.

The movie revolves around a tourist attraction, Slaussens Lost Oasis, where Mr. Slaussen (Chuck Connors) owns a museum that showcases the mannikins that are the work of his brother, who’s more than little bit insane.

Slaussen tries to keep his brother hidden–in a way very similar to Hitchcock’s Psycho–but his brother refuses to stay put, preferring to escape from the house he’s held in to lure tourists to their deaths.

The premise of this movie is awesome, and doesn’t actually need that much in the way of tinkering story-wise, other than to bring the special effects more in line with modern sensibilities and technologies.

It’s also worth mentioning that, Besides Psycho, the movie also has more than a passing similarity to Brian DePalma’s Carrie, (which came out three years earlier) yet despite this it somehow manages to be not only original, but its own animal.

It goes without saying that effects need to be practical because it would work best when there’s actually something that actors are acting against (which is typically the case, though there are some instances when it CGI is perhaps a better fit, though not in this movie).

Another thing with mentioning is that what makes Tourist Trap as effective as it is is that the acting (particularly by Jocelyn Jones as Molly and Connors that elevates the material beyond many better known examples of the horror genre).

In fact, I suspect that the writers of the 2012 remake of Maniac (Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur) must have at least heard of Tourist Trap because it plays very similar, especially in its third act.

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept – Wing Commander (1999)

Gerry Anderson, it could be argued, was one of the first producers of science fiction to see what a tremendous role hardware design, such as spaceships, could play.  In virtually all his television series and movies, design has been crucial (more often than not, to the detriment of character development).  In fact, the Eagle from Space: 1999, arguably a space craft as iconic as Star Trek’s Enterprise, lead directly to designs like the Millennium Falcon, from Star Wars (George Lucas was known to have been directly inspired, in a visual sense, by Space: 1999).

In fact, Brian Johnson, who handled special effects on movies like The Empire Strikes Back (among many others) cut his teeth on Anderson productions.

I bring up spaceship design because Chris Roberts‘ 1999 movie Wing Commander is a movie that, on the whole, had designs that appeared more functional than iconic, a fact that wouldn’t endear the movie to tech-heads.  In fact, the design of the spaceships are remarkably similar to those of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon, that came two years earlier (I assume that the same FX houses worked on both features).

Despite being, in terms of spaceship design being somewhat uninspired, it had actors like David Sushet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot), Tchéky Kayro, Jurgen Prochnow, David Warner, Freddie Prince, Jr. and Matthew Lillard, which is why its box office failure is so perplexing to me.

In fact, despite the aforementioned failure, the movie is unintentionally prophetic in that it plays like a young adult novel (by no means an insult.  Some of the best books I have ever read, such as John Christopher’s The White Mountains trilogy, were young adult novels) instead of being based on a video game.

That being the case, for a reboot I would commission more iconic spaceship designs, but that’s about it.  The movie does so much right that I can only think that its problem during its original release was one of timing.

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept. – Fame

Fame (1980)

Generally speaking, for me watching a musical is like going to the dentist:  I just know at some point it’s going to hurt.  I may not know when, or in some instances even how, but pain is pretty much a given.

Which is why I tend to avoid musicals (and dentists), though in reference to the former what bothers me more is when characters sing in dance in situations that don’t warrant such behavior–as if there are that many situations that would.

And then there’s Fame, which is brilliant.  It was directed by Alan Parker, who did the equally remarkable–for entirely different reasons–Midnight Express (a film that had such a effect on me that I wanted nothing to do with Turkey, till I learned that the screenwriter, Oliver Stone, took a whole lot of liberties with his screenplay).

Fame takes place at the High School of Performing Arts, which at least puts all the singing and dancing in some sort of context.

But what’s most important is the tenor of the performances, which are all pretty good though deserving of special mention are Paul McCrane (Montgomery) and Ralph (Paul Miller), who bring an honesty and vulnerability to their roles that I am not entirely sure was on the page.

There has already been a reboot in 2009, which I haven’t seen–though if I had known Charles S. Dutton was in it I might have changed my mind, especially since he has the uncanny ability of elevating just about everything he turns up in.

Fame (2009)

in 1982, prior to the last reboot there was a series on NBC based on Fame as well, though it had relatively little of the edge that made the movie so effective.

Fame TV Series Opening

Though I wasn’t aware that they were still exploiting the memory of those dancing and angsty teens, there’s apparently there’s a play based on the movie going on in London (or at least there was as of last year).

Fame: The Musical

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: The Nun (La Monja)

The Nun movie posterLuis de la Madrid‘s 2005 ghost story The Nun (La Monja) isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch, though that’s not to imply that it’s particularly good, because it isn’t.

Though the greater crime is that there are stirrings of greatness not too far below the surface, which are never given a chance to bloom into horrific life.

First off, the movie shows its ghost with the most way too much, though I think I understand why.

Whenever the ghost appears it’s accompanied by an interesting visual effect: water flowing backward and in slow motion, filling the air like a curtain of light.  The problem is that, once you have seen the bogeyman, it–if not loses all power to frighten certainly suffers diminished potency–and you begin to see it for what it is, namely an interesting visual effect and little else.

Often, particularly in the case of horror films which by their very nature depend upon the suspension of belief, less is more.  If the film had–instead of showing their monster at seemingly every available opportunity–had instead showed some restraint, the movie would have benefitted immensely.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: Creature (1985)

Creature movie posterLet’s be clear:  William Malone’s (who also directed the very entertaining reboot of The House On Haunted Hill, among an extensive filmography) 1985 movie Creature is essentially a low-budget knock-off of Alien, down to the monster itself (when you could see it in its entirely that is, which wasn’t often).

It’s also not a very good movie, though by no means irredeemably so.

The premise involves two companies, the West German Richter Industries and the American NTI, which were working to profit from space exploration and exploiting whatever they happened to find.

The movie, despite taking place in the future, didn’t take into account the possibility of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided East from West Germany, five years later.

What it also doesn’t seem too cognizant of is the nature of corporations, which when they get large enough become almost stateless, borderless entities.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: The Manitou

The Manitou movie posterSome people might call William Girdler’s The Manitou a ripoff of The Exorcist, and in a sense they’d be right in that both involve possession of a sort.  Then’s there’s the fact that Girdler’s film came five years afterwards, though other than that it’s a whole other animal and deserves revisiting.

The movie, based on the novel by horror writer Graham Masterson, revolves around a woman named Karen Tandy (Susan Strasberg), who one day discovers that she has a tumor on her back.

Which is a huge mindfuck in and of itself, never mind that the tumor ends up being the doorway–and by “doorway” I mean a full-sized human being grows on her back and eventually rips its way out long before Alien was even an idea for Walter Hill and David Giler–through which Misquamacus, a Native American sorcerer, would be reborn after 400 years.

The premise of the movie is pretty goofy, which works in its favor because it makes it feel more original than it actually is.

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The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: DeepStar Six

No, DeepStar Six, isn’t the latest Ultramarionation feature from Jamie Anderson, but a undersea horror movie from Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th) that was followed in quick succession by George P. Cosmatos’ Leviathan, and culminated five months later in James Cameron’s far superior The Abyss.

DeepStar Six revolves around a US Navy mission to place an undersea missile sled on the ocean floor; an action that only makes sense when you take into account that the United States was approaching the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Dr. Van Gelder (Marius Weyers) is there to ensure that the missile platform is built before they leave the base, the time for which is rapidly approaching.

Unfortunately, the project is behind schedule, so he’s doesn’t have time to putter about.

The area where he choose to place the sled is suspected of having caverns underneath it, which Scarpelli (Nia Peoples) wants to take time to explore, though Dr. Gelder isn’t interested.  Sure, properly surveying the area could have saved them quite a bit of trouble, but what specialist worth their salt let’s safety concerns trump completing a project on time.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise considering one of their own crew, Snyder (Miguel Ferrer, who if James Spader was unavailable to play Ultron in the upcoming The Avengers: Age of Ultron, should have been on speed dial) is fraying at the seams and should have been evacuated to the surface weeks ago.

And speaking of Ferrer, he’s easily the most convincing character in the entire movie which is why it’s such a pity that he so explosively loses it toward the end.

Another awesome addition to the movie is someone whom you never see, but who’s presence is felt throughout the entire movie, and that’s the awesome score by Harry Manfredini (who’s theme for War Of The Worlds: The Second Invasion has to be one of the best television themes EVER.

Seriously.  It’s that good.

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