Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Taking On The Horror Remake: 3 Writing Lessons

Ah, the horror movie remake...always the subject of much controversy among the horror community. But why? 
I almost always hear the same complaints from “horror purists,”....which I like to refer to as “horror snobs.” The most common of complaints being “it’s going to ruin the original!” 

But will it though? 

No. The answer is no, it will not ruin the original. 

The original will still be there for you to watch whenever you want. Another horror snob complaint is “why don’t they come up with an original idea for once?!” 

I mean, most films, music, or any sort of art are basically pieced together by recycled ideas with a slightly different spin. 

I could go on longer about horror snobs and their close-minded complaints about horror remakes, but it’s bringing me lets move on.

Now, with all of that being said, I’m not trying to say there aren’t some extremely cringey horror remakes out there.

There are plenty!

But your mind shouldn’t be made up before you give it a watch, just based on the fact that it’s a remake.

 In fact, there are some remakes that many fans, including myself, find to actually be better than the original! (more on that in a bit)

Besides, horror remakes and reboots aren’t going away anytime soon, as they have had far too much box office success to not continue as a trend, at least for the time being.

And I’m okay with that, because like with any other film or TV show, if you it doesn’t appeal to you, just don’t watch really is that simple.

Also, something good to take away from remakes, is they can introduce a whole new generation to classic horror films. Here’s an example: Me.

I remember watching the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill. I loved it at the time, and also didn’t even realize it was a remake.

When I found out it was, I went and watched the original version and actually loved it even more! I didn’t even know who William Castle was until then...but ever since, I have been a huge fan of his work, and the owner of several of his classic, brilliant horror films.

So, enough about me, and my love/hate relationship with horror are (in my opinion) 5 of the best horror remakes, along with what makes them great. So take note if you are thinking of rewriting a horror classic!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Yes, the one starring Jessica Biel. As I did some research in preparation for this article, I reached out to various horror groups on social media that I’m a part of, and I am not alone in thinking highly of this remake. 

Screenwriter Scott Kosar did a masterful job of staying true to the original whilst putting his own, modernized twist on the film.

The core plot remains the same, however, the main difference is the original film actually showed very little violence and gore, leaving most of it to the viewer’s imagination...most likely due to the very low budget they had to make the film, whereas the 2003 remake doesn’t hold back at all with the blood and guts.

The hitchhiker scene at the beginning was different, but equally as unnerving, and for some reason the name change was made from the original Sawyer family to the Hewitt family. 

In conclusion, do I think the remake tops Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 masterpiece? Absolutely not.

But there’s no reason I can’t enjoy both...and I do! 

Click HERE to read The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Screenplay!

The Crazies

I’ll admit it, I had not seen the 1973 George A. Romero original prior to seeing the 2010 remake.

But after going back and watching the original, one thing I noticed is that they were both relevant to the political climate at the time of their release, which only makes sense, but shouldn’t be taken for granted, as some remakes miss the mark in that regard.

Scott Kosar and Ray Wright did an admirable job of staying true to the original main characters, which I think is important. 

It also probably didn’t hurt the cause that they brought on Mr. Romero himself as the executive producer for the project!

I did enjoy the original, but thought the pace of the remake flowed a little better, and overall I actually prefer the 2010 remake on this one. Sorry, not sorry. (RIP George A. Romero)

Click HERE to read The Crazies Screenplay!

The Hills Have Eyes

The original 1977 film, written and directed by Wes Craven, was a complete culture shock at the time of its release.

In 2006, Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur teamed up as screenwriters to see if the same concept would still have as much of a shock factor almost 30 years later.

In short, it did. 

This is another great example of not altering the actual story too much at all...but there are some subtle differences, most notably the character “Big Bob” is much more of a protagonist in the 2006 remake...not being a misogynistic racist (like he was in the original) tends to make a character a bit more more likeable.

This made the famous scene where Big Bob gets tied up to a tree and burned alive in front of his family much more impactful, in my opinion.

Directed by Aja, and co-produced by Wes Craven, the 2006 remake is another one that I actually prefer the remake over the original. (Take THAT horror snobs!)

Click HERE to read The Hills Have Eyes Screenplay!

Rob Zombie’s Halloween
This is one that really triggers a lot of horror snobs, but in my opinion it is completely unwarranted.

Let me make this perfectly clear before I go on, the 1978 Halloween, written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, and directed by Carpenter is, was, and always will be the best Halloween movie (and one of my favorite movies ever).

However, Zombie’s remake, well actually more of a “reboot” or “reimagining” is nothing short of brilliant! 

What makes Zombie’s 2007 version different than the others on this list is while for much of the film it does stay true to the original, the first act shows the story of Michael Myers as a child, and gives us some insight into perhaps why he became what he did.

Daeg Faerch turns in an outstanding performance as a 10 year old Myers, racking up four kills before being sent away to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. 

I’ll admit it was difficult to watch someone other than Donald Pleasence play the role of Dr. Loomis, but since he sadly passed away in 1995, that wasn’t really an option.

John Carpenter himself advised Zombie prior to writing the film “don’t be afraid to make it your own,” and in my opinion, Zombie did a superb job of doing exactly that.


Maybe it isn’t fair to compare a campy 1990 TV mini series to a 2017 big budget Hollywood production...but I’m going to anyway.

The 1990 version is a beloved horror classic for people from my generation, myself included.

However, I feel like there are things the 2017 remake were able to pull off, due to an R rated theatrical release, CGI, and advanced special effects, that the 1990 mini series just couldn’t possibly have competed with...for example when Pennywise pulls off Georgie’s arm...the remake wins that one, and it’s not even close. 

Now lets address the Pennywise factor, shall we?

Tim Curry IS Pennywise...I get it. He did a fantastic job, and visited all of us in our nightmares at some point in the 90s.

However, not only did Bill Skarsgard play an absolutely haunting Pennywise, he was depicted much more accurately, based on the original 1986 novel.

 Actually, the 2017 remake as a whole was much more historically accurate to the novel written by the master of horror, Stephen King, than the 1990 version, with several little references paying homage to the book, such as the Paul Bunyan statue and the “I Heart Derry” balloon.

Perhaps this comparison is a bit premature considering IT 2 has not been released yet...but seriously, have you seen the trailer?

It. Looks. Epic. 

Click HERE to read the IT Screenplay!

What We Have Learned:

1. Find a balance: 

Nobody, even horror snobs, want to see the exact same movie they have already seen. 

There is unfortunately no blueprint for success, however, you must find a way to stay true to the original plot, but still make it your own. Be creative. 

You’re a writer, it’s in your blood. 

Don’t be intimidated, or overly concerned with what horror snobs, or critics might think...just create something you’re proud of, and much like anything else you write, there will be people that hate it and people that love it. 

2. Stay True To The Characters: 

 While you have some creative freedom here, something that can lead you down a slippery slope is altering the main characters too much. 

That’s not to say you can’t alter them at all, especially when it comes to the modernisation factor, or in the case of The Hills Have Eyes, transforming one of the protagonists, “Big Bob,” from a misogynistic, racist asshole, to a likeable family man. 

So, as a general rule, keep the characters close to the originals, but don’t be afraid to put them in slightly different situations.

3. Do Your Research: 

If you decide to take the route of writing a horror remake/reboot/re-imagination, make sure you do your homework. 

Horror fans will immediately know if you didn’t! If you think you have watched the original enough times, watch it some more...if you think you know the book inside and out, read it again. 

While you want to make it your own, it’s imperative that you have enough respect to at least pay homage to the original. 

The average fan will claim it’s a cheap, easy money-maker to write a remake...but in all actuality, there is far more pressure, as a writer, to take on a remake than there is creating something completely new... so make sure you’re ready!

Kevin Wilde is an up and coming screenwriter, as well as a feature writer for Into The Script.

Everyday is Halloween for Kevin, as he has an unrelenting passion for all things horror. Influenced by the likes of masterminds such as John Carpenter, Stephen King, Kevin Williamson, Eli Roth, and Rob Zombie, you can certainly look forward to many horrifying tales that will have you sleeping with the lights on.

You can find Kevin on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


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