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Makeover hits and misses

If there’s any truth to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Hollywood sure as heck doesn’t heed it.

If there’s any truth to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Hollywood sure as heck doesn’t heed it. American movie studios are infamous for purchasing pictures that are hailed as masterpieces in their respective homelands and, instead of simply releasing them as is, remake them for western sensibilities.

The latest foreign hit to get the marketable make-over is the blood-freezing 2003 Korean ghost story A Tale of Two Sisters, which is being westernized by directors Thomas and Charles Guard as The Uninvited — it opens in theatres on Friday.

While the merits of this version remain undetermined, the film is in line with Hollywood’s near decade long mining of popular Asian thrillers for profit. Sometimes, as in Gore Verbinski’s The Ring — a remake of the Japanese hit Ringu — the results are rather good.

More often than not, however, they’re dismal white-washed shadows of their former selves; witness the American riffs on One Missed Call or Shutter if you dare.

Not every remake stems from foreign origin, however. In fact the worst contender is unquestionably Gus Van Sant’s completely perfunctory, scene-for-scene 1998 stab at Hitchcock’s untouchable American thriller Psycho.

Leeching off Joseph Stefano’s original screenplay and Hitch’s masterful storyboards, Van Sant’s redux was a preposterous art house stunt that alienated casual viewers and raised the bile of purists worldwide.

The most compelling remakes are ones driven by filmmakers with defined esthetics. David Cronenberg’s operatic rethinking of the beloved ’50s B-movie chiller The Fly works because the director chose to simply take the framework of the original and graft his own, very personal sensibilities on to it.

Similarly, Alejandro Amenabar’s Spanish psychological drama Open Your Eyes was recast with Tom Cruise in the lead and remade by Cameron Crowe in 1999 as Vanilla Sky to great effect. Crowe’s version obeys the mind bending narrative of the original but is saturated with the pop music and cocky dialogue Crowe so adores.

Time will reveal if The Uninvited can stand on its own as a relevant remake but the fact remains that Hollywood is still far too financially frightened to take theatrical chances on foreign product without bankable stars. And if you don’t believe me, just wait until JJ Abrams unleashes his upcoming American remake of the recent Swedish vampire masterpiece Let The Right One In later this year. Again … if it aint broke, for heavens sake, you better have a really good reason to fix it.

 
 
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