The Remake Scoreboard – Horror movie remakes – the good and bad list. Thumbs up or thumbs down and a few sentences why.
This is a movie that should’ve been ripe for a remake. The original, made for TV movie, had a very low-key script with not much back story, and little special effects. Somehow that low-key film managed to be creepy as hell. In the remake, the protagonist was a ten-year-old girl instead of the wife, which should’ve made it even scarier. It wasn’t. The little girl was too brooding and dark for us empathize with her. It would have been much more effective if the girl was happy and when she moved into the house, the creatures turned her darker. The mansion was too big and exotic for me to associate with my own life. IMO, This film missed its mark by a mile.
While billed as a prequel, it may as well be viewed as a remake because, aside form the last 15 minutes, every aspect and plot point from the 1982 version is repeated in this film. The cold, the isolation, the human/monster test, the flamethrowers, the distrust & paranoia; all are aspects common to both films. Aside from the finale, the digi-fx were kept to a minimum. I believe the realism in the effects (as opposed to other recent CGI laden films), is that they filmed the scenes with physical animatronics and props, and the CGI was only used to enhance the real props. Is it better than the previous two versions? No, not at all. But, it is entertaining with good suspense, gore, monster-fx, and thrills & chills. However, I do find it unneccesary. If you want to watch or own just one, go with the 1982 Carpenter version.
Despite baring her name, this film is not true to Mary Shelley’s novel. To differentiate the film from the Universal classic, the studio added the original author’s name to the title, but the film deviates quite a bit from the original story. (No-one can even give Frankie a flat-top head; it is a fiercely protected trademark by Universal.) This film is a combined hybrid of the original and “The Bride of…”. Kenneth Branagh plays a conflicted Doctor Victor Frankenstein, torn between his scientific obsession and his love, Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Robert DeNiro plays the Frankenstein monster, a fully self-aware, coherent, character, struggling to find his place in the world and his purpose in life. It is an exciting film filled with beautiful Victorian atmosphere and the philosophical concepts of life that made the original novel so powerful.
Even though the original is the classic paranoia, alien, quiet-invasion film, this remake has something strong going for it too. The incredibly real and likable characters portrayed by, Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum are exceptional. You can’t help but root for their escape as the world goes mad around them. Coupled with some great special-effects, cinematography, and sound track (effects and music), the remake is a solid, must-see film. Some of the sound effects really get under your skin. I would be hard pressed to make a decision between the two, my suggestion would be to see them both.
I appreciate the nods to the classic here; the gypsy woman and the look of the Wolfman himself, but I think this film missed the mark of becoming a new classic. With Lon Chaney Jr. you had the sense of a deeply conflicted character harboring quite a bit of emotional pain. I think this remake tried too hard and tried to fit too much into the script. It never gave the viewer a sufficient chance to feel the torment of the man-turned-monster. Despite a great cast The Wolfman is just a good movie, not a great one IMO. It doesn’t compare to the elegance and success of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) or, Mary Shelly‘s Frankenstein (1994).