This week, Sony announced it was developing a remake of the 1997 slasher movie I Know What You Did Last Summer. Following the successful formula of last year’s Scream, which paired actors from the original movies with fresh new victims, er, faces, the reboot will bring back Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. to guide a new generation in avoiding being murdered by a sinister fisherman.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is no classic (the movie is dumb, the leads are annoying, and the kills are unimaginative), but if there’s enough interest for Sony to revive it, then maybe other, better horror movies can be rebooted that would honor the original source material while updating it with more modern sensibilities. From a cult classic involving sentient dessert (yes, really) to a bad ’90s slasher with a killer idea, thesefive5 movies are all worthy of the legacy reboot treatment.
Urban Legend (1998)
The success of Scream in 1996 revitalized the horror genre, spawning a seemingly endless wave of sequels, parodies, and imitators that couldn’t hold a candle to Wes Craven’s sly classic. One of these inferior imitators was 1998’s Urban Legend, which makes I Know What You Did Last Summer seem like high art. The plot is pretty basic: a group of college students, played by actors from various WB shows and Noxzema commercials, are stalked by a masked killer who uses urban legends to kill victims.
If it was bad the first time, then why remake it? Well, the idea of utilizing urban myths like a hook scaping against a car or a random car flashing its headlights repeatedly is good; it’s just the execution that was poor. The movie was too slavish in copying Scream, and wasn’t willing to really delve into what makes these urban legends so scary. A reboot of the film doesn’t even need to bring back any of the original actors, as they weren’t memorable or good enough to warrant such an action. Just set it on the same campus, acknowledge the events of the first film (and forget the sequel), and focus more on the mood (like X did so well last year) rather than the kill count.
Tremors is the very definition of a cult classic. Released in 1990 to little fanfare, this horror/action/comedy genre picture embraces its B-movie origins and utilizes impressive practical effects that still hold up today. The small-town citizens of Perfection, Nevada are forced to battle with massive worm-like creatures that live underground and threaten the lives of the entire cast, which includes genre veteran Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Family Ties dad Michael Gross, and country singer Reba McEntire.
Rebooting Tremors isn’t a new idea; it was already done as a mediocre Syfy Channel series in 2003 and was going to be done again as a TV show with Bacon before that project stalled. With its tight plot and gargantuan monsters, Tremors deserves a big-screen reboot with a director who can honor its low-budget thrills and avoid using lazy CGI to bring to life its titular creatures. It would be a treat to see Bacon cracking wise again and Gross and McEntire reprising their gun-toting, fun-loving couple. They can be the old guard in Perfection, which, like virtually every small town, is probably now a bustling tourist trap that could be besieged by a new breed of underground worms. Throw in a oddball soundtrack by Orville Peck (because why not?), an innovative use of geotracking, and Reba shooting down some ugly monsters and you’ve got yourself a quality reboot sequel.
Phenomena (or Creepers, as it’s known in its butchered U.S. version) is batshit crazy. I say that lovingly, as the movie is truly one of a kind and just begs to be remade with a director who can build upon original helmer Dario Argento’s twisted vision. Phenomena‘s convoluted plot involves a series of brutal murders at an all-girls Swiss boarding school, a lead character (played by a teenaged Jennifer Connelly in her Labyrinth era) who can speak with and control insects with her mind, a maggot-collecting necrophiliac killer, and Inga, an intelligent chimpanzee who is owned by Donald Pleasance’s character.
Yes, Phenomena is THAT kind of movie. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but that’s part of the pleasure. A legacy sequel could focus on Connelly’s character, now grown and a master of her insect-controlling ability, as she solves a disturbing new series of brutal murders that are eerily similar to the ones that occurred in her youth. Inga could even make a surprise appearance; after all, who doesn’t love a super-smart chimp with a kill streak? Dario’s daughter, Asia Argento, can take the reins, and imbue the sequel with a hard-edged feminist sensibility while still paying tribute to her father’s poetic visuals.
Long before it was popular to reboot horror franchises, it was popular to remake Stephen King adaptations. The two recent It movies, and Pet Semetary to a lesser degree, show Hollywood can remake a quality King production and exceed the original. It will be hard to do that with 1983’s Christine, which was directed by one of the greatest genre filmmakers of all time, John Carpenter. That movie told the story of Arnie Cunningham, a high school nerd who quickly becomes possessed by the evil spirit of his crimson red 1958 Plymouth Fury.
There’s no need to bring back the original actors; instead, the sequel could address Arnie’s tragic story, and hint at the seemingly depthless mythology of the haunted car, which passes from owner to owner, leaving a trail of misery and destruction in its wake. And just like what David Gordon Green did with the new Halloween legacy sequel trilogy, John Carpenter can come back and compose the creepy electronic score with his son, Cody. It might be 2023, but killer cars never go out of style.
Chances are, the casual moviegoer hasn’t heard of The Stuff. Horror aficionados, however, know it and recognize the movie as a subversive satire on consumer culture that also contains some really gnarly deaths. The Stuff refers to a mysterious white cream-like substance that is sold as a dessert in supermarkets nationwide. It quickly becomes a nationwide craze, with Americans consuming the product at previously unseen levels. It soon is discovered that the substance is actually a parasitic organism that turns whoever eats it into zombies. I guess that’s the price you pay for eating a good treat with zero calories.
If this sounds like our normal, everyday behavior on platforms like Twitter of Instagram, well, that’s because The Stuff was way ahead of its time. Director Larry Cohen’s ruthless takedown of capitalism is just as prescient now as it was then, and could be adapted to take on the tech, beauty, or entertainment industries. What about The Stuff as an app that takes over the user with just a tap? Or a new kind of vape that takes hold of teenagers? There’s plenty to build off of the original, and the sequel can acknowledge the first film’s events to make yet another point: no matter what, American society can’t seem to shake off its addictive behaviors toward things that will kill us.
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