East Asian movies murdered by the American remake machine
For the first time in cinematic history, the concept of a horror movie is scarier than the actual content. Apparently Sony wasn’t joking when they announced they’re doing a Grudge remake; all eyes are on Andrea Riseborough (Birdman) for the lead. That’s right, folks. In what is a new twist on the tiresome reboot mill, we’re actually getting a remake of an already crappy remake of a classic film.
Not satisfied with destroying the movie the first time around (and again with The Grudge 2, although the less said about that, the better), Sony’s bringing back the limp-haired ghoul from the dead for another round. Shameless. In our fit of despair, we’ve decided to look back at some of the most offensive American remakes of classic Asian films to prove why the latest Grudge reboot is cursed.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) / The Uninvited (2009)
Even Emily Browning’s fantastic performance as a disturbed stepdaughter isn’t enough to save this mess of a tribute. The Guard brothers turned Jee-woon Kim’s artful masterpiece – a truly exemplary Asian horror – into a campy cliché, taking all the moments of suspense and turning them into a predictable story with lackluster “scares”.
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) / The Grudge (2004)
Lacking any of the sinister & unnerving sensibilities of the first film, this remake of the Japanese horror Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) is a movie with no value. With director Takashi Shimizu on board for both flicks, you’d think staying true to the original would be a no-brainer. However, sadly throwing Buffy the Vampire Slayer into the mix and entrusting Tokyo as the setting was not enough to make it a good watch.
Hollywood has a thing for tearing the heart out of original films. Case in point: The Ring, formerly known as Ringu. The concept has been rehashed more times than a Sunday lunch, telling the legend of a cursed tape that mysteriously kills anyone who watches it*. Although Gore Verbinski (A Cure for Wellness) faired well at the box office, for any true horror fans, it’s a damp squib in comparison to the original.
To this day, it still upsets us even to utter the phrase “an American Oldboy”. Father forgive us, for speaking such blasphemous words. Park Chan-wook’s cinematic masterpiece was reduced to a shmaltsy mess, leaving out all of the psychological torment and simply turning it into a tale of blood and violence. Overall, Spike Lee’s attempt at making a fast buck ended up a proverbial slap in the face to one of the greatest movies of the 21st century. “Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone!”
Dark Water (2002) / Dark Water (2005)
After watching the serious bank made by remakes such as The Grudge & The Ring, Walter Salles and the gang decided to resurrect the 2002 film about a mother, her daughter, and an apartment flooded with water. Spooky! Sadly, it did not live up to the original, instead opting to whitewash everything that made the first flick good.
The Eye (2002) / The Eye (2008)
The (original) Eye is a Hong Kong-Singaporean horror film whose main character can see spirits after undergoing an eye transplant. Sounds tacky, right? Actually it was a disturbing supernatural flick filled with suspense and some truly heart-stopping jumps.
However, the 2008 remake starring Jessica Alba (Sin City) proved the exact opposite, disliked by pretty much everyone who watched – including its own director David Moreau (Them), who called the production “the worst” moment in his professional career. You know it’s bad when even the guy who made it gives a thumbs down.
The original Thai film was hailed the scariest Asian horror since Ringu. However, its American remake was (sh)utter crap. Although it stuck to the original plot (following a couple who are haunted by ghosts via photographs) the acting is so awful, it makes the entire movie laughably bad.
Kairo is a film that explores the elements of isolation caused by modern technology in a truly dark and disturbing way. Pulse is an oversimplified version of the original containing none of the complex plot points found in the first film, perhaps proving that Americans just need their horror to be palatable. Here comes the airplane!
* Ed. note: For a complex, though possibly equally horrifying, literary take on this trope, scale the deep and rewarding novelistic mountain that is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996).