November 5, 2002
5:19 AM   Subscribe

As the remake of Ringu opens in Japan, a rash of remakes of Asian horror movies seems to be winding its way through Hollywood. Not only has Hideo Nakata's latest movie, Honogurai mizu no soko kara (Dark Water), been optioned, the inevitable remake of Ringu 2 will occur, and the Hong Kong The Sixth Sense-esque The Eye has also been picked up for the Hollywood process. While it's nothing new to remake classic Japanese movies, this latest wave brings a lot of new questions. Is it near-impossible for the US to create horror movies that aren't increasingly self-referential? How long is it before we get remakes of Audition, Battle Royale, and Suicide Club? And will we eventually end up with a horror movie in the style of Fa talai jone, a Thailand Western influenced by Hollywood Westerns which were influenced by Japanese Samurai movies?
posted by Katemonkey (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it even possible to comment on such a buckshot post?

I can say that the Japanese 'Ring' series did not warrant a remake of any kind because it was (although slightly creepy with poignant moments, and the subject of countless parodies in japan) a miserable flop as a coherent film.

"The eye", not without its spooky moments was hopelessly tangential and wildly self-indulgent.

What is this, some kind of rottentomatoes jones?
posted by hama7 at 5:33 AM on November 5, 2002

It is near-impossible for Hollywood to make anything except for remakes, 'based-on-a-true-story' films, hollow catalogues of special effects, or formulaic rip-offs of their own movies.

It has been that way for years.
posted by Fabulon7 at 5:41 AM on November 5, 2002 [1 favorite]

When I first saw Battle Royale, i said to myself, there was no way this movie would've ever been made by Hollywood. Its too twisted. Thank Jeff for Ebay.
posted by jbelshaw at 5:52 AM on November 5, 2002

I haven't seen the 'new' Ring yet, but Dark Water was great. Why can't American movie makers show a little creativity like that instead of stealing movies wholesale? How is it folly to remake Psycho shot-for-shot, yet people will accept American remakes of movies that were perfectly fine to begin with? *cough* Akira *cough*

As for American remake of BR, not in our lifetime pal. Not because of the violence either. But our school system isn't remotely like thiers, it just wouldn't translate.
posted by BartFargo at 6:01 AM on November 5, 2002

Why can we not just watch foreign movies?

I forgot, we are too lazy to read. We need an American subtitle awareness campaign. My wife won't watch my foreign films because she finds it hard to concentrate on the words and the picture at the same time.

And as to why the sudden fascination with remaking Japanese films - apparently Hollywood ran out of classic American and French films to rip off.

Anyone see Vanilla Sky? The original "open your eyes" was much better.
posted by quibx at 6:28 AM on November 5, 2002

Why can we not just watch foreign movies?

Being lazy is part of it, but production companies (in this case Dreamworks) are crazily greedy. I heard that when one of the execs saw Ringu, he acquired the remake rights before the end of the day. Why not the distribution rights? They wouldn't have made as much money with distribution rights for the japanese original. As for a Battle Royale remake, I could definitely see that happen in the near future, but I would rather see the original released here first. I'm actually very much pro-remakes, but I detest how dreamworks completely blocked any distribution of Ringu here in the states once they bought the remake rights.

What really fascinates me is how people who are unaware of Ringu think The Ring is so original and unconventional. (a local review repeatedly used the word "unconventional") I think this movie exemplifies a typical american horror film of the last three years, just using a plot from a japanese film.
posted by dogwalker at 6:51 AM on November 5, 2002

Look, first of all this is going to generate the inevitable "why can't we make our own movies" which is kind of silly because a lot of the foreign movies we revere are based on older American films (Yojimbo and Roadhouse Nights springs to mind). I think the real question is why do our remakes suck so bad?

I haven't seen the remake of the ring, so maybe I shouldn't comment. But I disagree with Hama7's comments about the original, and think that what he's saying more or less points out our problem. After seeing Ring 2 and 3 respectively last weekend, (ring2 was the one of the best horror movies i've ever seen, ring3 sucked ass) I started thinking about why they were so good as compared with original American horror films of the last few years, which have sucked ass for the most part.

The best conclusion I could come to has something to do with the uncanny and expository story telling. I think ring and ring2 were amazing not despite the fact that the plot was wandering, but because. When you start tying a horror movie to explanations too closely, you move it from the realm of mystery and the unexplainable, to the realm of well, the explainable.

Rewatching the original nightmare on elm st. over Halloween, I was struck by the truck sized plot holes all the way through it. But that didn't matter compared to the then-terrifying idea that the things we feared in our dreams could come after us in the daylight. Compare that to the meticulously explained and whaleshit boring Nightmare 3:Dream Warriors.

Obviously a film needs something to hang on, but when I started to read the explanations of the plot of the ring as described in the novel, I was glad I had seen the film first. I have a much longer review of this that I'll post the link to tomorrow when I get around to putting it up on my page.

posted by lumpenprole at 7:02 AM on November 5, 2002

Hollywood is simply out of ideas, but considering that new ideas are usually inspired by old ones, I don't mind remakes. Remakes can be good. For instance, compare the original and new Ocean's Eleven. Or in this case, Ringu and The Ring. I saw both Ringu and The Ring. I can safely say that The Ring is more suited for a North American audience. The pacing and effects are better... it's simply more immersive and digestible. 'twas a cross between a typical urban legend movie and The Changeling.

My second biggest Hollywood beef (the first being franchises -- Batman has seriously got the gay), is its marketing tactics designed to keep us ignorant of foreign films. This includes things from withholding information in their advertising to lobbying for DVD regional coding supposedly designed to maintain international licensing agreements, but actually designed to keep us away from accessible foreign films... which could be remakes, but like I said, there's really no crime in that.
posted by freakystyley at 7:04 AM on November 5, 2002

Thanks for this post! I always appreciate hearing about interesting movies.

Normally, I am firmly in the "original foreign movie was better" camp but I honestly felt that Vanilla Sky was better than Abre Los Ojos. I think the better production and special effects in the USA-remake bolstered the already solid and interesting plot, instead of totally drowning it out. And I liked Tom Cruise better than Eduardo Noriega in the lead role. (disclaimer - I am generally not a Tom Cruise fan, but he plays oily, self-absorbed jerks (even those who come to some level of self-realization) to a T.)
posted by jennyb at 7:26 AM on November 5, 2002

I'm with fabulon on this'n. Hollywood has long since run out of ideas. Everything is a remake/rehash/reworking of something or another. The movie of the musical of the book of the movie of the play of the poem of the blah blah. There is nothing new under the sun.

That said, go see Punch Drunk Love.
posted by mikrophon at 7:36 AM on November 5, 2002

Batman has seriously got the gay

Um, wow.
posted by mikrophon at 7:37 AM on November 5, 2002

Speaking of 'Open your Eyes', I saw 'Tesis' by the same director a few days ago... an absolutely superb film. I'll be amazed if it isn't remade by Hollywood at some point... or maybe he'll do it himself in english now that he's joined the enemy!
posted by BobsterLobster at 7:54 AM on November 5, 2002

Keep in mind that the foreign movies that make waves in America are usually the best films those countries have to offer. A lot of crap gets made. Everywhere.

And it's not like Hollywood makes ONLY crap. Some of my favourite movies are recent Hollywood movies: Almost Famous, Three Kings, Magnolia, Fight Club, ...
posted by rainking at 7:55 AM on November 5, 2002

like BartFargo said, Battle Royale would never translate over here, as well as Suicide Club. I am sure they could be warpped to fit a Hollywood standard but with the American "protect the childern" stance, they would become neutered stories.

Conversely, Samurai movies drew from Hollywood westerns, and then flip floped. Hollywood does remake and regurgate but so does Bollywood... so does HK cinema... and so does Japanese films. It is all so incestious.
posted by oninochuck at 8:03 AM on November 5, 2002

oninochuck, and that's exactly what I find so cool about modern movies -- that there can be a movie like Tears of the Black Tiger -- a Thai movie with the visual language of 50s' US westerns.

I'm all for remakes, if they're done right. For every Psycho, there's an Ocean's 11, for every Vanilla Sky, there's a The Ring, and it all weirdly gives me hope for movies in general -- that people can produce kickass movies that, yeah, borrow from other sources, but blend blend blend until they come up with something stunning.

My only problem with the Hollywood remake system is that the originals regularly don't make it to the US. They're only now talking about releasing Ringu to the general US audience...and that's just not cool.

So what was my general point? Go see more movies.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:17 AM on November 5, 2002

Um. I liked the thematic post, though I could have done without the sweeps-period Crisis of creativity -- or pitfalls of profiteering? Remember, there is no other choice! framing. Look, even Shakespeare ripped off plots. Plagiarism -- or more properly, literary borrowing -- has a grand tradition that has only recently been twisted into a vice.

Clearly there is no particular reason why we should bemoan the fact that audiences won't go to see the "better" originals. They don't have stars, they don't have the Hollywood budgets, they make you read. It's elitist to say that nobody should be able to rectify that by an American remake. It's just a business, after all, and the foreign originals are more easily availabe to film buffs than ever. Nobody's preventing the people who want to see these from being able to. They're just providing a more accessible substitute, which like the original, manages to entertain an audience for a couple of hours.
posted by dhartung at 8:34 AM on November 5, 2002

Nobody's preventing the people who want to see these from being able to.

This just isn't true, especially with The Ring. First off, dreamworks forcefully prohibited Ringu from being released on DVD for region 1 (north america). Which means few stores, even internet outlets, will carry it. Second, most of the region 0 (no region restrictions) editions were not in NTSC format but PAL, meaning if you did get your hands on a copy, it would most likely NOT play on your tv and possible not even your computer dvd-rom. I wouldn't be surprised if similar tactics were used with Dark Water and The Eye.
This is entirely restrictive and somewhat unnecessary. Abre Los Ojos was readily available when Vanilla Sky was released. It even played in a local art house theater the same month. Same with original Insomnia.
I don't care if people don't want to watch the foreign original, but those who do should be able to have reasonable access to it.
posted by dogwalker at 8:47 AM on November 5, 2002

dogwalker: Exactly. Another example is Disney's distribution rights of a bunch of Hayao Miyazaki movies. They've released Mononoke and Spirited Away, but they didn't release Laputa: Castle in the Sky here, perhaps because they borrowed so much from it for Atlantis.
posted by freakystyley at 9:30 AM on November 5, 2002

will this, this or this be america's very own best horror movie in 2003 ? My bet is on this. Some of you will think this will be it.
posted by taratan at 9:47 AM on November 5, 2002

Yeah taratan, I'm gonna go with 'House of 1000 corpses' as being the next best hope for american-style horror. I mean, it would be cool if the chainsaw franchise was revived, but I'm still gagging from the taste of the 'Chainsaw, the next generations' abomination.

As for the whole whether or not people can see foreign films or not, it's very clearly true that they are deliberately suppressed in this country.

In my home town, I worked as a manager for a loews for a while (my time in hell). When it had opened it promised that because it would be, in essence, shutting down two local theatres, it would reserve one screen for foreign and independent films.

I think it played 'my father the hero' once.....
posted by lumpenprole at 10:33 AM on November 5, 2002

but they didn't release Laputa: Castle in the Sky here, perhaps because they borrowed so much from it for Atlantis.

...or more likely, because "Laputa" is a dirty word.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:41 AM on November 5, 2002

It's not true that Hollywood never makes any original films, in 1999 films like Fight Club, Eyes Wide Shut, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Three Kings and Office Space came out. Problem was that none of them made a lot of money, audiences wanted to see The Mummy and The Phantom Menace instead.
posted by bobo123 at 10:41 AM on November 5, 2002

The reason Hollywood movies are sub-par is that the studios are run as a business. Business abhors taking chances, especially when movie budgets on some films are in the $50-$100 million range. So we get "safe" paint-by-numbers movies and sequels. After opening weekend you won't see any adverts unless the film is at the tops of the charts for more than 3-4 weeks. The studios think that what was big in foreign markets can just be "Americanized" and resold here. No need to think or spend money in market research.

The worse part is Hollywood getting remake and distribution rights. Disney snapped up distro rights to Shaolin Soccer and has been sitting on it for years. That wouldn't be too bad if they didn't also go after gray market importers trying to sell the product. I would have thought Shaolin Soccer would have been a blowout during the World Cup, but heaven forbid Miramax actually allow a film to be shown unless they are pulling a major release.

The non-profit I volunteer for is ending its Asian movie series because they can't exhibit any films released the past 3-4 years.

Besides, I think Korea is the best place for movies now. They are learning from Hollywood's techniques, but actually using acting and writing to bring out a good story. Unfortunately, getting some of these films through import runs $35-$50US. Until I make more than $11/hr I have to let my desires go unanswered.
posted by infowar at 10:47 AM on November 5, 2002

...or more likely, because "Laputa" is a dirty word.

The name, Laputa, comes from Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Swift, of course, had a ribald sense of humor. You can't blame Miyazaki, who borrowed the name of the floating island from Gulliver, for not catching the reference.

And, in any event, Disney has titled its version of the film as, simply, Castle in the Sky.
posted by SPrintF at 12:59 PM on November 5, 2002

ahhh movies movies movies...! good, bad, domestic, foreign. i love that they exist and i'm willing to put up with being hoodwinked by the big studios into seeing some crap from time to time to get to the ones that become my faves. movies are the best thing ever...!

i think i'll go pop something in the vcr or check out what's on tmn tonight... thanks for tickling my "m-spot" hahaha
posted by t r a c y at 2:01 PM on November 5, 2002

Hollywood is simply out of ideas

Oh PuuuuuuhLeeeze. It really irritates me when people make simplistic statements like this. Hollywood is not out of ideas. Ideas flow like a raging river in the city where every other person is writing a screenplay. You would be amazed at some of the ideas that are discarded on a daily basis.

Just like everything else in America, it is about money. Namely how to attract that core audience of repeat movie goers (hint: males in the 18- 25 range.) Somewhere out there there are innovative, creative, gripping stories about real human experiences, but when it comes to spending tens of millions on production followed by tens of millions on distribution, the production companies want to back a sure thing like "Jackass".

Every couple of years there is a "Big Fat Wedding" surprise and all the producers respond with , "Huh, how 'bout that. People older than 25 go to the movies." "Life is Beautiful" for a few foreign gems, but they never make enough at the box office to excite anybody.

"'Spiderman.' Now that's excitement! How do we make another movie just like Spiderman?"

Want to make money in America? Make something that appeals to the broadest base possible. And the largest majority just want to eat their Big Macs while watching their TV-formatted Blockbuster Rental featuring known faces that speak English doing predictable things.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:29 PM on November 5, 2002

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