Original Versus Remake

The new Pet Sematary adaptation is gearing up, with a wonderfully creepy trailer landing last week. The same debate that still rages on about last year’s re-imaging of the Stephen King novel It is now raging in social media circles everywhere: which will be better, and is it even necessary?

Horror is a genre that sees a lot of remakes, reboots and sequels as compared to many others. Horror franchises are a hot commodity. Genre fans are often very knowledgeable about older horror, as the 80s were a banner decade for some famous (and infamous) slasher movies feeding off of the Halloween frenzy. Us scary movie nuts also tend to be naturally defensive about them, wishing to protect the very films we love from harm from people who don’t understand our love for all things dark, monstrous, campy, and, especially, bloody.

I am a movie lover in general, horror in particular. I am protective of books that I love that get adapted into movies. I am guilty of comparing a remake to its original predecessor. Who hasn’t done these things? You are going to make these comparisons because you are often seeing a remake based on your love for an original source work, so why wouldn’t you?

My question is, do we really have to draw a line in the sand? If we love one, why do the great overlords of social media seem to think that there can be ONLY one that we love? It is natural to have a preference, but conversation on social media seems to stick to picking sides. The unfortunate side effects of social media are found here as they are everywhere; people can be nasty and bulldoze with opinion rather than engage in conversation surrounding multiple opinions. If you PREFER the original, it means that the new version must have completely sucked and been a bastardization of all that you hold dear, right?

Um…..no. It doesn’t, actually.

I can tell you that I loved the original It. The miniseries is the essential double VHS that most people my age remember renting for sleepovers and being scared silly in someone’s dark basement, unable to sleep into the wee hours. Did I find it scary then? Yes. Do I find it scary now?

(insert deep breath for those about to scratch my eyes out)

No. I’m sorry. I don’t. It is cheesy. It is overwrought. The effects are not great. The 90s miniseries is no longer scary to me.

Now, before you continue trying to catch me to commence eye-scratching, please let me finish.

The 90s version has some absolutely iconic scenes and performances. Tim Curry is amazing. I am reminded of that fear in the basement when I watch it now with waves of nostalgia that make me want to have a grown up slumber party with the same VHS. We will drink wine and eat chocolate and talk about our experiences with It as tweens/early teens. Just because I don’t think that It is scary anymore in the lens of seeing about a billion horror movies since then through numerous technological and social shifts does not mean that it doesn’t have a place in my history. The 90s version of It will live in a place where I will always love it with my whole dark heart.

Now I’m going to let you in on a secret. As much love as I hold for the original, I also loved the remake. I loved Bill Skaarsgard’s performance of drooling anticipating and delight in scaring those kids. I loved that the adults’ story is being told separately from the childrens’ story so that we get a lot of detail as to how they will be formed as grown-ups. I loved the 80s setting as opposed to the 50s as it was more relatable to me. I loved a lot of things differently between the two, but I love both of them.

As fans, I think that we get bogged down in defending what we love, and forget that this doesn’t necessarily mean tearing down something that we loved a little less. You are allowed to hate things. Everything doesn’t have to be liked. You don’t have to be a perpetual ray of sunshine when giving your opinion. But life sure is easier when you like what you like, and don’t worry so much about trying to convince people to change their minds by attacking them and telling them that their opinions are wrong. Opinions are opinions, and art is subjective. People are allowed to have different tastes than you, and you are allowed to disagree with them. But it doesn’t make their opinion any less valid.

Pet Sematary is another instance where we are bound to make a lot of comparisons. From the iconic performance by Fred Gwynne and the creepiness of Zelda in the attic, the remake will have to struggle to win hearts as so many remakes do. This will be especially difficult because the book is, in my opinion, by far one of Stephen King’s scariest.

And what do I think of Pet Sematary? I love the novel. Period. It is a masterwork in studying what we do in our deepest grief. What do I think of the 80s movie? I enjoyed it. I loved Fred Gwynne and his New England drawl. I loved the tie-in song in the credits. I loved how it didn’t lose the path of the book, though the wrenching grief in the book will continue to be something that is difficult to put on screen. Am I excited for the remake? Absolutely! I’m excited for improved effects. I’m itching to see what John Lithgow will do with the role of Jud. I can’t wait to see that cat go ballistic.

So guess what? I didn’t like the adaptation as much as the book, but I still liked it. If I enjoy the remake it won’t make me defective, and it won’t take away from my enjoyment of the book or the original movie. These are facts, and it doesn’t make me a freak of nature or weak-willed; it makes me a fan who is allowed to choose what I like and what I don’t. I don’t need to hate on the original if the new version exceeds my expectations. And if I don’t like the new version it doesn’t mean that the old version is suddenly any better.

When I debate the merits of one film versus another, I love having conversation and passionate debate about why people liked something or not, or aspects of what they liked or didn’t. Having conversations with people who hate something out of principle is not interesting or productive. Adaptations and sequels can and should be appreciated as separate works. When you take out objections that stem from comparisons to the original, you might be amazed to find that what you once hated really isn’t all that bad.

My vote is let’s all start loving movies for what they are, rather than what they aren’t. If it’s meant to be fun, don’t judge it on the basis of a 3 hour epic historical period piece on the Oscar track. If you don’t like it, that’s okay, too. Let’s just make sure we have actual reasons before we dismiss something as bad before we even see it.

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