Remakes Gone Wild: Cabin Fever & Martyrs

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Remakes, remakes, remakes! Something that shouldn’t be a hot-button issue – considering the fact that it has been a thing since the dawn of filmmaking – is remakes. Every single time it is announced that an older property – no matter how obscure – is being remade, rebooted, or any other form of returning to the well, the internet explodes with childhood-raping cries about “ruining” an original movie, that will still be widely available for all to see. It’s as if people think Hollywood executive send Brownshirts out at the announcement of a new remake, to confiscate and destroy every existing copy of the film they’re adapting. In reality, we all know that’s not the case. People just love having a source of outrage. I have no idea what it is that makes people act so crazy when a remake is announced, but I can tell you that it is becoming increasingly annoying for the rest of us.

Recently I experienced two remakes – one good, one bad – that were the focus of the internet’s collective outrage. Cabin Fever, and Martyrs were recently remade, and released onto VOD, and/or DVD & Blu-ray. Martyrs used to be one of those movies that people would namedrop, in order to give themselves a little horror-street cred. It was released during what some would refer to as a French extreme horror revolution, and featured a story – and especially ending – that fills the viewer with existential questions, challenging the very nature of our existence. The remake – though, admittedly not as “gory” as the original, still carries the same weight. It was hated on, of course, because it’s a remake of a popular horror film which people seem to think is “obscure” for whatever reason.

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Complaints that the film somewhat lacking in the gore department, upon direct comparison to the O.G. are partially valid. While it is true that Martyrs doesn’t revel in its presentation of on-screen gore, it’s still there, and it still gets pretty gnarly at times. But that was never what Martyrs was about. A film like Martyrs exists in spite of its graphic content. I realize that some are fans of that movie for that fact alone, but that’s only cosmetics. The gore doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Martyrs is able to accomplish. And, the remake sets out to tell that story, not mimic the look and style of the film. In that regard, Martyrs(2016) is a success. If you’re going into it expecting a replication of the French film, however, you’re going to be disappointed. But, does it make it a bad movie? No, it does not.

As far as Cabin Fever goes, that remake has always been a mystery. It was announced that the filmmakers would be adapting this new incarnation directly from Eli Roth’s original screenplay. That’s an odd way to remake a movie. Most of the time, a remake is worthwhile when it takes the original material, pays homage to it, but still manages to go its own way. After watching the film, I have no idea trying to accomplish. It’s almost shot-for-shot the original Cabin Fever, only “millennial-ized” for lack of a better term. Meaning, any dialogue that could be perceived as “offensive” — if you’re looking to be offended — has been scrubbed from the film.

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It’s nothing new, people screaming outrage at any usage at all of a word that could be seen as offensive, if used for the purpose of offending, but where do you draw the line? In this new PC culture we’ve created, do writers no longer have the freedom to write certain types of characters, who in real life, would refer to a small woodland creature, or an inanimate object as “gay?” Does that make the writer a homophobe? If the answer is yes, then we’ve created a seriously slippery slope, and it leads nowhere but censorship.

Look, I’m about as liberal as you can get, as far as political leanings go, but even I can see that this political correctness thing has gotten out of hand. If a writer creates a story, and the overall message of that story paints a particular citizen in a bad light. Say, for example, had Eli Roth written the flesh-eating virus which was the center of Cabin Fever to have been caused by gay people in some way, that would be homophobic. But, when writing authentic characters, we shouldn’t be limited what they can and cannot say, so long as it is synonymous with the type of character they have been written to portray. Would a spoiled, drunk college kid in a cabin in the woods refer to a squirrel as “gay?” Is it honestly that much of a stretch to assume so? You can look at James DeBello, and just see him saying such a thing. In a secluded cabin, surrounded by only friends who are very aware of your brand of humor? That’s easy to see, if you ask me.

The absence of these scenes begs the question, were these bits of dialogue written by Roth, or did they just happen organically? Was that the only reason they were aiming to remake this film in the first place? This remake doesn’t seem to serve a purpose otherwise, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. It doesn’t improve upon the story, it’s exactly the same. It doesn’t improve upon the actors, it’s actually a step down. It doesn’t improve the gore, it’s actually restrained, in comparison. So what did they set out to do with this remake, and, did they accomplish it?

Two remakes, both with different intentions, both met with the same level of online venom. Whereas Martyrs set out to tell the same sort of story, adding its own flavor to the project, Cabin Fever set out to do the same, identical movie. So what is it that “fans” want? They would like for no remakes to be produced at all? That’s not realistic. As I pointed out earlier, since the invention of the moving picture, remakes have been a constant. How many different iterations of the classic Universal monsters have we seen? Vampires, Werewolves, Frankenstein?

How many remakes are on your list of some of the best horror movies of all time, without you even realizing it? The Thing, The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, do you like Hammer Horror? These are all remakes in one way or the other. Some of them take a different step in tone, and content, but at their core, they are still retelling that same old story, just adding their own spice to-taste. The point is, nothing productive comes from logging onto FB, and yelling about a remake, or about how the announcement of a remake has in some way harmed your childhood. If something sounds like a bad idea to you, and you don’t even have a morbid curiosity to see what the filmmakers were able to come up with, just skip it. No harm, no foul. There is already enough whiny, smarmy hipster-braind negativity in the horror community without you added your own.

Personally, I’ve watched plenty of movies that I knew were going to be garbage before pressing the play button. It’s part of being a genuine lover of films. You want to take in the good along with the bad, so that you actually have a sense for quality. You want something to compare the good stuff too, so that you know that it’s good in the first place. I may see a movie that I dislike, and make a short comment here and there about my dislike for such a movie, but the point is, I watched it first before developing an opinion. That’s a true sign that somebody has at least bothered to research their opinion of said things, making sure that it carries weight at the very least. And that’s all I’m asking. If you think it’s a terrible idea to remake such-and-such, then that’s your opinion, and you are entitled to it. But, ask yourself before you do, are you adding anything of value to the community created by a collective love of horror movies, or are you just being a dick?

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