Call it the Psycho dilemma: The danger that, when closely remaking a given film, you will miss some animating ka that gave the earlier film life. Gus Van Sant's Psycho is almost (though not quite) a frame for frame recreation of Hitchcock's film, but there's some spark of life that's missing. It's a film that sits dead on the screen. It's a bit like the kid in Pet Semetary. He looks like the living kid, but he's dead inside, and worse. He's possessed of something rancid and awful. Another such film is last year's Come Out and Play (2012, directed by Makinov), an ill-advised remake of Who Can Kill a Child? In both it's broad outlines and in its particulars, this is the same damned movie. Like Vince Vaughn's Norman Bates and the kid in Pet Semetary, something has been lost and replaced by something...wrong.
The story is mostly the same, of course: a vacationing American couple takes a boat to an island off the coast of Mexico (Spain in the original) and finds it inhabited by children, with nary an adult to be seen. The children have killed the adults, of course, because something has altered them to make them homicidal. You get the same innocents abroad sort of subtext, and the same awful implications for the broader world--this is a variant of the zombie apocalypse, of course, with added transgression. A more globalized version of Night of the Living Dead's matricide by trowel scene. Where in the 1976, following this line of development to its logical conclusion was shocking, here it seems almost a cliche. There's been a lot of water under the bridge in the horror genre.
So what's off about this film? Apart from the déjà vu involved with watching it? I'm not entirely sure. Oh, I suspect that Vinessa Shaw's performance is part of it: it's not a patch on Prunella Ransom in the first film. Mostly, I think it's the way this films children. In the original film, there was a naturalism to the way it shot its kids. Yeah, they were doing horrible, horrible things, but they tended to look like children at play even when how they were playing was ghastly. In this film, it all seemed staged. It never seemed real. I think, too, that the central question of the story--how far must one be pushed to kill a child?--ends up muted in this film. Without ably communicating that central affront to the sensibilities of the viewer, this film's impact is blunted.
So, a failure on two points: this fails to generate the same kind of dread and it fails to find the horror within. The more I see of contemporary horror remakes, the more I'm convinced that Howard Hawks was right when he opined that one should never remake a good movie, only bad ones. I'm not philosophically opposed to remakes, per se, but this film is especially pointless.
Current Challenge tally:
Total Viewings: 15
First Time Viewings: 14
Around the web:
Anna at Bemused and Nonplussed finds lots to like in Scream 4.
Kevin at For It Is Man's Number gets stoned on The Gorgon.
Justin at The Bloody Pit of Horror also digs deep and finds Vlci Bouda from the Czech republic.
Fascination With Fear take the scenic route in their ongoing look at road trip horror.
Tim at The Other Side finds La Vampire Nue to be slow going, even despite its admirable ending.