For once the term "Army of the Undead" is actually accurate. And brilliantly gory and fun.
The title of this piece may sound like I'm ragging on DEAD SNOW, the Norwegian Nazi-Zombie flick I just watched last night, but I'm totally not. In fact, the film's pretty amazing. What I am ragging on, however, is how it seems like the really original stuff, even if rehashing previous content, is being produced in other countries while Hollywood continues on its mission to remake literally every movie ever made - bigger and "better", as the saying goes.
I'm all for remakes, particularly in the horror genre, which has cannibalized itself all to hell ever since its formal inception with the classic Universal monster flicks of the 1930s and 40s. The current trend of remaking slashers doesn't even bother me, really, because I feel like they're at least as valid entries into series that have often made it into the double digits as the last six or seven films were. I may be the only person to stand up for HALLOWEEN II and proclaim it as the fresh air it was in a stagnant genre, but dammit, someone has to. Rob Zombie's underrated film was poorly received by a bunch of people who didn't want anything different than what they expected of the genre, or what they had seen before. Don't believe me? Read the user reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and see what the number one gripe is from the "fans" of the genre. It's rife with accusations of desecrating the sacred original film, etc, etc, or being a poor handling of the character, or whatever else they want to dream up about what the movie wasn't, instead of looking at what the movie was. So, there you have it, case made in my mind for the validity of remakes and recycling concepts.
The most recycled monster as of late has definitely been the zombie - the ubiquitous slow-moving (but for some reason amped up and faster in their modern incarnations) look in the mirror for middle America. They're a favorite of the B-level flicks and the direct-to-DVD market, but for some reason they also handle a great big chunk of mainstream success. So much so that the upcoming remake of George Romero's brilliant film THE CRAZIES has been retrofitted to be more like a modern zombie movie. Don't take my word for it. Check out the trailers for original and the remake. Frankly, as a fan of the genre, and the zombie sub-genre, this is getting a bit tiring, regardless of how badly I would like a remake of THE CRAZIES starring Timothy Olyphant to be fantastic.
Last night I watched a zombie movie from Norway called DEAD SNOW, and it was amazingly inventive. It took the one part of the Romero flicks that no one has really touched - intelligence in the living dead - and worked it into a really entertaining gorefest that has a lot of fun with itself and the various ways the knowledge of movies plays into its identity, not only on the part of character self-awareness, but also its unabashed use of serious iconography from previous entries in the sublime horror-comedy category. On top of that, though, it manages to successfully combine two of our favorite monsters into one amazing combo: Nazis and zombies. That's right, Nazi zombies. And it works, though I wanted a bit more background or exposition on the big bads themselves. This is bliss, and it shows that even recycled and rehashed concepts can reinvigorate horror films and make them into something new and exciting for even the most jaded fan.
So, I hope Hollywood takes its cue from the foreign producers of genre fare. The most thrilling films of the past few years have been mostly foreign, and mostly French (FRONTIER(S), the supremely disturbing INSIDE, or THEM). I'm looking forward to the remakes in our future, particularly THE CRAZIES and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but I fear that at best they'll be decent enough, and at worst they'll continue the tradition of crap that was already happening in their respective series/sub-genres. Here's hoping for the best.