About six months ago I was at the cinema and in the middle of enduring that 25 minute ordeal that is 'adverts and trailers' before the main feature began. I loathe the adverts with a passion and more recently, even the trailers have begun to grow tiresome. It's not that the films don't look appealing – it's that the trailer is more often than not just a condensed movie in its entirety. Gone are the days where trailers were supposed to tease the concept of the film, maybe throw in a couple of cool action/laugh out loud/dramatic scenes for good measure. It's like spoiler central now. Anyway, I digress. As I sat there, a trailer began and after a few seconds I thought 'I'm sure I've already seen this'. Dank haired girl climbing out of a TV set? Check. People getting phone calls telling them they've got seven days left to live? Check. The film I am referring to, of course, is Rings.
I will admit it. I don't completely disagree with remakes and reboots in principle. I get that some of the best films out there are updated versions of an inferior movie. However, it's the sheer regularity that they are being made – and the big budgets they are afforded that sting. I didn't go to see Rings. I never had any intention to. In the past, I often reluctantly forced myself to see this kind of thing, as it felt wrong not to see a genre film being played at the cinema (my local doesn't play many). However I drew the line here. The Japanese original is barely 20 years old – and we had an perfectly adequate American remake a few years later. Why do we need to revisit this again? Is there nothing else out there that's more worthy of more money and attention from studios and audiences? The answer is yes, most definitely. Some original genre features do make it through the cracks. Films like Don't Breathe, Split, Get Out and Lights Out prove that new material is making its way to audiences via the theatre, but it sometimes feels that this is the exception rather than the rule.
As it turned out, Rings was a massive flop. A score of 6% on Rotten Tomatoes shows exactly what critics thought of it, and although the audience rating was higher (29%) it still shows a high level of dissatisfaction. From a financial point of view, it was actually a success though – taking three times its budget if you factor in worldwide sales. So although audiences and critics (and probably those involved with the film-making aspect of the film) will be disappointed with the quality of the movie, do producers or studios actually really care that much? It turned in a healthy profit, regardless of the fact that it apparently sucked.
I think the reality is that movies cost a lot of money to make - especially those that expect a theatrical release. Producers want as sure bet as they can – and a remake, reboot or a sequel guarantees an existing connection with at least some audience members.
But the rumours this week that both The Fly and The Matrix could be set for remakes just highlight the issue even further. And when you consider all the other remakes and sequels that we can expect this year/early next year; Annabelle 2, Insidious 4, Suspiria, IT, Phantasm Ravager, Amityville Awakening, World War Z 2, Alien Covenant, The Mummy: Dark Universe, Flatliners, Saw Legacy, Jeepers Creepers 3, Chucky 7, Halloween – you can understand the frustration from some quarters. I know horror films have a history of producing long-running franchises but I can't be alone in feeling a little bored with this pattern?
There is a glimmer of hope and the situation can change of course. But audiences have to do their bit too. Like many others, I was bitterly disappointed with The Bye Bye Man when it was released late last year. Yes it was rather derivative (you can never be completely original after all) but at least it tried to do something a little bit different. I didn't rate the film for a number of reasons – but that wasn't because it tried to do something different. The Witch, It Follows and Don't Breathe are prime examples of new, fresh material being a success both critically and financially – and I think part of the reason they were so acclaimed is because they actually offered audiences something original.
So what can we do to help stem the tide of remakes and sequels and prequels and reboots and updates? I chose not to see Rings more out of protest than anything else – and I stand behind that decision. It's the same reason I didn't see Batman vs Superman. It's too soon. I'm apathetic to those stories because they've been done recently (And more effectively from all accounts). I don't want to suggest that everyone boycott every remake or sequel at the cinema but if you don't really fancy going to see the latest 're-imagining' of a genre film that you loved growing up etc, then just don't go and see it. Money talks at the end of the day, and only through audience behaviour (ticket sales) will things change. And secondly, whenever there is something remotely original playing at your local cinema or film theatre, go and see it – and encourage as many people as you can to do the same. I'm going to see Get Out myself on Wednesday afternoon. It looks like it's going to be a big financial success – and I'm more than happy to be a part of that.