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Rabid Rants: Surviving The Horror Film Remake Battle

Many filmmakers, fans thirst for original content, but can the studios find the courage to pursue it?

With a seemingly endless train of remakes and sequels parked on the horizon, it sometimes feels like original ideas are an endangered concept in horror filmmaking.

Many filmmakers obviously clamor to see their original ideas reach the big screen, yet here we are, inundated with rehashes of just about every known property in the genre with a marketable name.

During Comic-Con International in San Diego this summer a panel discussing the art of fear addressed the realities facing filmmakers in today's studio world.

A clear message from the panel: Don't pass the blame to most of the filmmakers. Many studios and executives are just too skittish to get behind new concepts.

"We make our living by writing and making the remakes and the sequels because that's where people who have the money feel comfortable putting their money because they feel the audiences are going to pay to see those," said Jace Anderson, co-writer of the upcoming "Night of the Demons" remake. "Because they feel : someone else has already put their money behind this property, in book form, comic book form, or it has already been proven as a movie or TV show."

Anderson sums it up well -- no surprises here. Audiences are fueling the craze too. And admittedly, I find it hard to not be curious about many of these remakes. Some are less painful to endure than others, such as "The Last House on the Left." Dennis Iliadis's take on Wes Craven's 1972 original was smartly executed. If the misstep of the closing scene -- tacked on by a tanked up studio executive, no doubt -- was removed, it would be near perfect.

But on a whole the end products are rarely worth the effort. Take Platinum Dunes's remakes for example. That studio is an obvious punching bag for recently dipping back into the genre's glory days with "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Friday the 13th," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Regardless, the question remains: Can original ideas gain some much needed traction with the studios?

"The biggest challenge we have is trying to get the producer to understand what you are trying to do," said Kevin Grevioux, "Underworld" co-writer and actor. "Because they are : really not geeks, they are not genre guys like we are. And so they are going off a lot of preconceived notions of what horror might have been way back in the day.

"They think they know what we like : That's the challenge, they don't what to take chances. That is the sad part."

Sad indeed! Studios only budget so many films every year, and every time another remake receives a greenlight there are potentially future horror classics being derailed. If this remake trend had hit in the early '80s, would "A Nightmare on Elm Street" have enjoyed a proper theatrical release to launch Fred Krueger's reign of terror? Probably not. Craven's career would look a lot different. Not to mention New Line Cinema may have slipped into obscurity, leaving Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films stranded up the creek.

Horror is a hot commodity. The vampire craze, for better or worse, has brought some serious attention to the genre. Now we have zombies grabbing some of that fever with Frank Darabont's upcoming AMC series "The Walking Dead." It's become an ideal time for the genre to showcase new concepts.

"The truth is when I got started it was literally Dimension and New Line; they were they only guys making horror movies," said Todd Farmer, who co-wrote the 2009 "My Bloody Valentine" remake. "Everybody else looked down their noses at you and thought that you were less than a real movie maker. : Then Kevin [Williamson] wrote 'Scream' and the whole lid blew off the thing. Suddenly every studio decided 'you know what, we can make money at this.' And they all jumped on board. Now everybody makes horror. Every studio, every production company has a genre department.

"But they come in and tell the writer: they can't do what the writer does, they can't do what the director does. But they tell us what they think will make money. So we either do what they say or we don't work. That to me is the biggest challenge -- it's finding that balance."

The studios' quest for a good return on investment doesn't have to be so painful for audiences, however. Before we get another retread of something we don't need, do your part and take an axe to some of these remakes by supporting original films when they surface. Without such support, we'll surely witness more heartbreaking instances of cool features such as Michael Dougherty's "Trick 'r Treat" and Ti West's "House of the Devil" shoved to the back of the line by material far less deserving of the spotlight.

About the Author

Bryant L. Griffin is managing editor for Airlock Alpha, 1701News and Rabid Doll, and a writer for the entire GenreNexus network. He works at a major-metro newspaper and served as a journalist in the U.S. Army. In 2002, he joined Nexus Media Group Inc., contributing to many early design concepts before shifting his focus back to writing. Bryant hails from Tampa, Fla.
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