Lately, you can’t open a magazine, click on a link, or turn on the TV without running into a nostalgic ad for a reboot of a decades old classic. They have been met with varying success. Die-hard fans are hard on reboots and remakes, and that is especially true in the horror genre.
It could be that franchises are so common in the horror movie industry that we’re on overload. It could be that they are the same story over again, with nothing original to say. Or maybe it is simply just that much more difficult to spark that nostalgia-coated fear that a twenty year old move ignited in you as a kid. Whatever the case, there is a healthy distrust of reboots in the horror community.
It is always a risk to redo or remake something that has a huge fanbase. It is a fine line of keeping the elements that made the fans happy and introducing just enough new material to keep them entertained. This is doubly hard to achieve when a huge chunk of your built-in fans are already determined to hate it from the jump.
I’m not saying that there have not been problematic reboots, sequels, or remakes. They run from the unnecessary (Cabin Fever, anyone?) to the ridiculous (**ahem! Rings! ahem!**). Sequels are often notorious for making a mockery of the originals that they claim to be paying homage to. On the flip side, TV has seen some greater success with reboots, as they have a chance to tell a longer story and really dig into the elements that made you fall in love with the originals. Here are four reasons to pull yourself out of disillusionment and give some TV reboots a shot!
1. It is WAY easier to get someone into it
As someone who badgers people continually until they watch something that I recommend, I have to say that a modern re-do is often the best way to get people to give an older series a chance. For instance, Ash vs Evil Dead is a TON of fun. Should it be watched in orders with the movies? A purist says yes. Someone who is DYING to convince a friend that they’ll love it will most likely say no. The reasoning here? A thirty year old, low budget film with cheesy effects does not appeal to everyone. Who hasn’t talked to someone who has refused to watch something because the effects are terrible?
As any Evil Dead fan can tell you, the cheese is part of the charm. However, it is way easier to start someone on something that looks a little more modern. Even the remake got this right, with a passionate director who insisted on all practical effects. Once they get sucked into the bonkers world of blood, guts and camp that is Ash Williams’ life, they will be dying to know more and will appreciate the cheesy effects as part of the wonder of a hilarious passion project. Start them off on the movies, however, and you run the risk of turning off non-horror fans who would otherwise never give it a shot. This is possible with most reboots, which give enough of a recap at some point in the series for a new fan to watch and a casual fan to be refreshed.
2. Fan service is off the charts!
The example that I most turn to when describing how reboots can provide fans with exactly what they are looking for is The X-Files. Now, before you protest, I am definitely not putting on rose-coloured glasses. The X-Files mythology jumped many, many, MANY sharks before crashing into the most depressing and unnecessary finale known to man. The real kicker of The X-Files is the feeling that there is no end to the misery for Mulder and Scully. They are destined to be miserable. Without a conclusion there was also no opportunity for closure for the fans, or for the characters to become martyrs for a cause that would bring the attention needed to bring down the Syndicate.
Then the reboot happened.
The reboot is giving fans all of the things that they wanted to see. The mythology storyline is still rocky for me, but it was so convoluted and complicated by the end that it is to be expected that it is going to take a while to dig themselves out of this hole. What we have seen in the non-mythology episodes are what make the characters great. An episode in which a lizard man becomes human at the full moon after being bitten by a man contained so many easter eggs for fans that it was hard to keep count; everything from Mulder’s red Speedo to legendary director Kim Manners to the stoners present for some season three murders were referenced to every fan’s delight.
In cases like this, the episodes become so much about the fans and about what they remember as being special about the original run that it is hard not to love it. It becomes less about reaching a conclusion than about paying service to the fans that got them their success in the first place, and about acknowledging the things that fans disliked the first go-around.
3. Social media is highly entertaining.
In many cases, shows and movies that are being re-done did not have the same access to fans as they do now. The X-Files was one of the first to really leverage its online fanbase in the 90s, and even then there were very specific discussion groups for fans of the show. Now even casual watchers can comment alongside diehards, and the results are often hilarious. For me, the most recent example of this was Twin Peaks, which isn’t quite horror but it kind of defies defining, so I’m including it here because it contains a lot of supernatural elements. Plus, the winged frog thing crawling into that girl’s mouth? Uh, no.
I remember thinking that Twin Peaks was almost too weird to come back. And then, the creators did something amazing and made it even MORE weird than it was before. Really. Sticking to the original, which ended abruptly after cancellation and became one of the most notorious cliffhanger series endings of all time, there are very few answers and even more questions given to the viewer. And when, as expected, everything wasn’t wrapped up in a bow, I remember spending a good hour just sifting through some of the most entertaining twitter posts, most of which consisted of gifs and some variation of the “Hold My Beer” bit. That aspect of seeing other fans freaking out with you is so much fun, and makes you remember that amongst the regular inflammatory posts and trolling that we have become hardened to, social media can be a wonderful place to connect with others, or express your passion and see others express the same. Or to just laugh your ass off at someone else’s fan agony.
4. Expect the Unexpected
Some TV reboots take a story and make it new again. Rather than start right where a storyline left off, it sometimes gives it a breath of fresh air instead. A perfect example of this is Bates Motel. Bates Motel is not stupid enough to think that it could ever top the notoriety of Psycho. At the outset, it appears to be more a story about small town secrets than anything. But then, season 4 happens and Psycho fans are rewarded. For the initial seasons (1-3), you are sympathetic to Norman. Freddie Highmore is the embodiment of Norman Bates, wide-eyed and innocent. He has no recollection of his crimes and therefore we, as the audience, are not aware of the details. When Norma tries to convince him that he needs to seek help, he snaps, and season 4 is a head-spinning perspective shift as we move to Norma’s point of view.
The awesome thing about this shift is that it gives you a new take on a classic. Norma Bates is a fully drawn, three-dimensional character. She is emotional and flies off the handle, but she is not the overbearing shrew that we see in the original Psycho. What Bates Motel has brilliantly done is give voice to a character that previously had none – the only Norma that we knew was the Norma that Norman showed us. Not only does this add depth to a great story, but it also gives you a new perspective on familiar characters.
In short, there is a lot of negativity surrounding reboots because of the fact that we want to fiercely protect what we love as fans. If we can just view them as an extension of a classic that we love, and not as an attempt to replace them, then maybe we’ll be able to give them a fair shake.
What do you think? In the right hands are reboots a positive thing? Or should we leave our favourites alone?