It seems we’re running out of ideas. After the news that 2011 had the most film sequels than any other year (1), the forthcoming cinematic offerings don’t exactly look too fresh either. And one of the biggest causes of this is the number of remakes that are planned. Specifically, remakes of vampire films. After this year’s Fright Night and 2010‘s Let Me In, it seems there are still more to come. To those who do not look so favourably on the current vampire trend, it feels like a long time since the 2008 release of Twilight. Yet, even before that, there was the Underworld trilogy, the conclusion of the Blade trilogy, and other smatterings of vampire films. And then there were the various TV shows…vampires haven’t suddenly appeared again from nowhere. The only difference now is that they’ve tapped into a different market, a market that is advertised far more heavily, and so it feels like the figure is smothering our cultural offerings.
Anyway, back to remakes.
After reading up about various news stories (thanks to the wonders of Google alerts, which have been keeping me well informed) about vampires, I chanced across the news that several (arguably) cult vampire films are to be remade.
It wasn’t until I searched for this picture that I realised how dated the whole thing was. The TV series may well have been ingrained into the cultural consciousness, but this film, which was the springboard into the whole thing, seems to be forgotten by a fair few people. The image itself looks like it belongs in the Hughes era of the 80s, despite it being a film produced in 1992. The news that Joss Whedon is not involved in the project was shocking. The very man who created the concept was being shut out: what are they going to do!? My bets are it being more ‘edgy’ and pseudo-feminist. Wheddon had always said that he wanted to subvert expectations with Buffy. Instead of the blonde girl always being the victim, this time, she would be the saviour. Undoubtedly, we’ll see a further subversion of Whedon’s idea. Whether it will be favourable or not is another thing.
The next, and the most painful news of a remake (for me) is that of The Hunger. For someone who loves a) David Bowie and b) Vampires, it is the perfect film.
For some unknown reason, they’ve decided to desecrate the memory of the original. Not much else I can say.
But then why should we feel attachment to a piece of cinema? After all, we’ve been telling stories in various ways for thousands of years. A film is just a permanent, easily distributable method of passing these stories on. Each director, actor, and crew pass on their influences within each story. A remake illuminates the change in influences. Or put in a slightly different way: “They reflect the different historical, economic, social, political and aesthetic conditions that make them possible.” (2) So why now? What is about this age that screams out for remakes? What changes can our current moment inflict upon films that dealt with the issues of AIDS, or feminism, or teen sexuality? Perhaps it is just that the vampire is very marketable, and the easiest way to get interest is to invest in a project already established. It’s a safe bet. Remakes are “are a way of investing in a concept that has already proved itself with an audience.” (3)
But, you have to remember that films like The Hunger and Buffy were made 20-30 years ago. Whilst that may be in many viewer’s lifetimes, there still remains an entire generation who are oblivious to these movies. So why not update them? Our current political and social situation is vastly different from that 20 years prior. One of the foremost attitude shifting events is probably that of 9/11. And considering the nature of the vampiric figure, it seems apt to use it to explore notions of identity and belonging in a world unsure about its own status. I’m not saying that I envision the Buffy movie as being ‘Buffy the Terrorist Slayer’ but the questions about who we are will undoubtedly be far more prevalent than in the previous versions. The television series Being Human supports my case – although the remake was made within such a short space of time (the BBC version began in 2009, the US version in 2011), the political and social conditions were different enough to produce very distinctive and disparate themes in both.
We may not see how much things have changed: it is difficult to reflect on a historical moment when you are hindered by the temporal confines of being within it. Yet, it cannot be denied that the increase in the vampire presence – through television as well as film – has nothing to do with our need to explore what it means to ‘be human’. In an age where humans can use their mortality as a weapon, exploring a figure that is beyond the threshold of death is appealing.
Another remake that will be onscreen in 2012 is the much talked about Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton.
With Johnny Depp starring as Barnabas Collins (originally played by Jonathan Frid), the current trend for sexually-appealing vampires still continues.
Although we cling to the original impressions left by films, remakes are sometimes valid interpretations, or reinterpretations of the original story. Sometimes, yes, they seem to serve no purpose (such as the remake of Alfie, or the Italian Job) but we can only hope that these directors have an innovative approach to a figure that is steadily becoming bloated from exposure.
2. Forrest, Jennifer: Dead Ringers