Sequels, remakes, and reboots – these are movie trends that are the most common in the current cinematic landscape. Every Hollywood producer wants some of that sweet nostalgia money as they pump out new versions of old favorites, sequels that are either vastly inferior or much better than their predecessors (this depends on who is behind the camera more than anything else), and constantly keep the most popular superheroes in rotation. What follows in this article is a list of some movies that don’t have the best reputations among critics and audiences – mainly because they are inessential, killed a franchise, or are just downright bad My argument is: if you divorce these movies from the primary stories that created them, they are really a lot of fun. Some are even great.
Pet Sematary (2019)
When you consider the visceral power of Stephen King’s source novel (perhaps his best), as well as the downright unpleasant 1989 movie that first told you that dead is better, this year’s adaptation of Pet Sematary fails because it tried to tell the same story a different way. There is nothing here that compares to the stark horror of the Zelda scene from the original, and it scrimps on characterization in a rush to get to the horror, but if you forget about the book and the 1989 movie then Pet Sematary has more to offer than you think. Basically, it’s the Stephen King novel that had a rushed rewrite to make it more like Hereditary. While that’s not a great move, this version does have some effective scares, and Amy Semietz as Rachael gives the best performance of any actor across both films. In a culture where adaptations seem to be nothing more than regurgitation (looking at you Disney), Pet Sematary dared to change things up a little, and I respect that.
The original Poltergeist is one of my favorite horror movies. From start to finish, it is an absolute thrill ride with great performances, extremely funny dialogue, and pioneering special effects that still look pretty good today. So, why would I tell you to watch the 2015 remake that everyone has already forgotten about? Because, like Pet Sematary, if you forget about the original, then this version has its share of good scares, and a better emotional through-line connecting the character arcs of brother and infant sister. As good a the first movie is, it does treat the boy as a scare magnet, something he doesn’t overcome within the runtime, and that the remake addresses with gusto.
Batman and Robin
Put the freeze gun down and let me explain, because this isn’t even the worst on the list. I’ve already covered Batman and Robin in the Batman Cinematic Retrospective, so this one will be brief. Batman and Robin is a bad Batman movie, but it’s an extremely consistent one. It knows exactly the kind of silly movie it wants to be, which is a far cry from the tonal whiplash that comes form the rapidly disintegrating DCEU. Plus, it’s fucking hilarious, and deliciously camp to the n-th degree.
I’m going to make a bold statement here: The Ring is the best English-language remake of a foreign property, ever. That’s right, even better than The Departed. I love this movie; it treats its source material with respect while still adding a lot of originality to the absurd but compelling premise. The reason for this is director Gore Verbanski ,who directs the fuck out of this horror movie that actually keeps the horror in the margins of the story a lot of the time. The Ring is a ghost story that transposes a lot of ghost story iconography to modern-day settings, and wraps them in the guise of a compelling journalism movie; this is the type of movie that horror fans want to see, one that is both respectful of and looks outside of the genre. A strong story, vivid characters, and an actual mystery that isn’t reliant on cheap jump scares.
AVP: Alien vs Predator
I told you it would get worse. You thought I was going to put Star Trek Into Darkness last but it’s even bleaker than that.. I’m a huge fan of both of these franchises – like many, I believe that Predator, Alien, and Aliens are perfect movies, but the main reason for that perfection wasn’t necessarily the titular monsters: it was Arnie and Sigourney. Which means I’m not too precious about the monsters, but it’s always nice to see them front and center. AVP, the 2004 version of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, offers just that: it has extremely boring human characters, most of which are cannon fodder, the logic of the story is nowhere to be found, but all anyone has paid for is to see a fucking fight. A fight is what we get, as the sci-fi Freddie vs Jason delivers more than that movie ever could. You may think I’m nuts (Ari Aster does), but if you watch AVP again you will wish for blockbusters to be like this again. The special effects are a perfect mix of practical and CGI, the sets are stunning, and the creature designs are amazing. I seriously think that this should have been the Predator movie that Shane Black made. It’s not great – but it is far better than it has any right to be.
All of these movies are part of franchises in which better movies created their rules and concepts. They could never live up to their originals (except The Ring because it is better, fight me) but they are not made by people looking for a cash grab only producers think that way. Everyone involved in these movies was up against an impossible task, but they made it their own and deserve to be taken on their own merit. Yes, even AVP.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via That Was a Bit Mental)