I was somewhat dismayed to see a TV advertisement for the latest in a long line of cinematic remakes and retreads, as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre offers itself up once more. Having been revisited already once before in 2003, some twenty nine years after the original, this version is calling itself simply Texas Chainsaw and is purporting to be a form of sequel, placing itself as a contemporary response to the ‘events’ of the original in 1974. Had it been released next year, it could have potentially cashed in on the 40th birthday of the original, but its release this year makes me wonder if their marketing team have missed a trick.
Several of the seminal slasher flicks of the 1970s and early 1980s have all been subjected to remakes, including Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and even the less well-known Black Christmas. None of the remakes have added anything new to the mythos, nor have they successfully ‘re-imagined’ the films in such a way that their interpretations become more iconic than the originals. Yet this time the ‘added attraction’ is the fact the new addition to the stable is in 3D, which is probably more likely to induce nausea in its audience than its content. Sadly, while the films are presented in such a way that audiences get their thrills by watching others die horrific deaths, this remake/sequel culture means the only true victims are the audiences themselves.
Whenever I have such rants, I’m normally informed that Hollywood has never liked originality, and that they want to guarantee audiences. I am well aware of this fact; indeed, Hollywood has long had an appetite for “pre sold product” (you might as well use the correct terminology when you point out the obvious). It makes good business sense – movies are expensive to make and you want to guarantee a return on your investment. One way of doing so is by giving the audience what you believe they want, and basing the film upon a known quantity (be it a book, television series, video game, or existing film) is believed to be a way to determine how popular the new film will be. It doesn’t always work out like that, but the success of Marvel’s latest superhero films, as well as the phenomenal success of the TV translation of A Song of Ice and Fire into the Game of Thrones series, indicates that it can be exceptionally lucrative. This goes some way to explaining the proliferation of remakes, adaptations and sequels, as people go for the comfort of the familiar, and opt for choices similar to things they have enjoyed in the past.
However, I would argue that the film-going public is not as frightened of change as the executives might believe they are. There are some directors who are happy to strike out on their own and do something different – look at Source Code (2011) by Duncan Jones, Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), or last year’s sci fi hit Looper (2012). Source Code cost around $32m to make, yet had grossed over $123m worldwide by July 2011. Inception cost around $160m, yet by January 2011 had grossed over $825m worldwide. Looper cost around $30m yet by the end of December had already grossed over $166m worldwide. That’s a lot of money being spent on original product. Indeed, you could argue that many of the people who have been watching Game of Thrones were possibly unaware of the books before the series began, and began viewing because it was so vastly different from the rest of the TV schedules. True, Texas Chainsaw 3D is very different from the current cinematic fare on offer (such as Life of Pi, The Hobbit, or Les Miserables – all adaptations) but it’s not at all different from anything that has been done before.
My point is this; yes, there are only a finite number of stories that can be told, and yes, it’s understandable for executives to be nervous about spending money on films that might bomb at the box office, but I would hope that there are some executives out there who are still willing to bankroll the less obvious options. I could be wrong, and Texas Chainsaw 3D could turn out to be a magnificent film worthy of inclusion in the great horror canon, but I’m not at all hopeful.
Still, it has one point in its favour – it doesn’t purport to be ‘found footage’.
Source image by harper07.