Before I embark on this review, it needs to be stated a misconception regarding my views on remakes, I don’t dislike, I just don’t agree doing them on stellar movies or well-known ones in the industry. It’s not the retelling of Bram Stokers’ Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or those of the Wolf Man, and others of Universal Studios Monsters group, those transcend the generations, eras, and countries each with a variation. Onward to this review James presents an informative book, on a controversial topic within the horror genre how do remakes fair against their originals, first most people never wanted their favorites replaced in any genre or arena in lifestyle, fans become used to the commonplace and its hard to alter that position.

Although to many in horror fans there’s scared territory, and for me, I’m no different, I am a fan and student of Alfred Hitchcock’s works, including his movie Psycho (1960), I’ve written numerous articles on the movie and have done several interviews on the film’s long stand, and lastly I likely have over 30 books on Alfred and Psycho alone, expert no – but I am a historian on the topic. Hence when we see the cover which represents Anne Heche in her portrayal of Marion Crane in Pscyho (1998) I was intrigued but highly guarded, because many know the uproar over that film caused in the cinematic world. That’s where the main portion of James book starts with chapter 2 on Psycho, it appears he enjoys the remake version, so much as he outlines the differences between the films, he doesn’t do that for the films discussed in the movie. He notes the difference in money value, okay that is inflation, and then how Vince Vaughn is more physical, and the audience can identify his killer attitude compared to the meek Anthony Perkins who both played “Norman/Mother”. Now this is an issue, first if invoking the appearance as a qualifier for the killer, that’s not quite logical, if one thinks of other killers in the horror genre portrayed Dahmer, Ted Bundy and any of the Manson Family, or going with a fictional Freddy Kreuger. In addition Perkins’ demeanor allows for the tension and misidentifying the mother role, we the audience become guilty when he disposes of the Crane’s body we want to succeed because all want to protect our mothers. Although other points exist the biggest complaint comes that it’s a black and white film versus the superior colorized version, this I don’t believe. First one cannot dismiss Hitchcock’s version he had censors and knew that a color version would lead to outright banning of the movie, also B & W allows for tremendous layering, along with the mirrors and artwork all factoring into a scene. James refers to Hitchcock’s work several times throughout the book.

As for the other chapters they cover Halloween (1978) and Rob Zombie’s version, which once more James seems to endorse and his evidence John Carpenter endorse, and why not after all we all know that John credits residual and honorary credits for the character creations, so the original director is in a no-fail deal. Next is Friday the 13th (1980) and the remake from (2009) followed by Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)  and the remake from (2010) by director Samuel Bayer. There’s an interesting and informative chapter 6 Remake Central, it travels through the decades of horror, with a stop at the mid-seventies telling about nature, animal attacks or environmental horror, using the term variations to describe the films that followed Jaws (1975) such as Grizzly (1976) or Day of the Animals (1977), a curious reference, but these definitely are not remakes, simply telling a different story from the main one. In other words think of an apartment building, and someone made a movie about the whole building, and that a person could do film about Apartment 1303 and still have another 1,299 other stories to tell, each one being different. Once more variations and being different are not necessarily remakes. The seventh chapter does a series of interviews with each person asked the exact same questions a fair assessment, one of the questions James is curious and asks Have you seem Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake? What makes films such as Psycho too classic/sacred to remake? The answers  for the most part seem to defend Hitchcock and slam the remake.

Overall, it is a sound book, with plenty of footnoted material and even a comparison between remakes and the originals, which allows the reader to decide whether this new era of remakes is for them, while in my humble opinion prefer remaking the bad horror films, though the financial payoffs definitely are not same, and in the end that’s what drives the market and the experiences of fans from the original and the desire to capture that again, which is never quite the same, although time for you to discover that for yourselves.


Baron’s Rating: 4/5


Title: Remaking Horror

Author: James Francis Jr.

Publisher: McFarland

Publication Date: January 2013

Page Count: 224

Binding: Softcover

Price: $29.95

pISBN: 978-0-7864-7088-4

eISBN: 978-1-4766-0014-7

LC: 2012048422