Hitchcock remakes have ranged from the bland (2007’s “Rear Window”-lite “Disturbia”) to the blah (“A Perfect Murder”) to the godawful (Gus van Sant’s pretentious shot-by-shot miscreation of “Psycho”). Often misguided and more often just pointless, these films are cursed to fail. While David Fincher and Gillian Flynn may have cannily dodged that hex by officially basing their forthcoming “Strangers on a Train” update on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, they aren’t out of the woods yet. Precedent does not bode well.
There are clever ways of repurposing the master of suspense. While Brian De Palma never could quite disguise his flamboyant homages — whether in “Vertigo”-esque “Obsession” (1976), since reviled by its screenwriter Paul Schrader, sexy “Rear Window” tribute “Body Double” (1984) or in the lurid Hitchcockian medley “Dressed to Kill,” which plays like a cover album of Hitch’s greatest hits — these films do have cinematic pizzazz. We won’t be seeing much of that in tentpole factory Michael Bay’s still-incubating remake of “The Birds,” if it even happens. (Remember that in the late 2000s, the Internet did kill his hopes of remaking Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby.”)
Long in-and-out of development since at least the late 2000s, “The Birds” was to be — the project’s future is unclear — directed by Dutch filmmaker Diederik Van Rooijen, the kind of seemingly random choice that is de rigueur among studios who poach foreign directors for risky (and potentially reputation-damaging) projects. In 2007, Naomi Watts was rumored to be taking Tippi Hedren’s place as San Francisco playgirl Melanie Daniels, who gets pecked apart by birds. But given that it’s 2015, you can imagine studios thinking: “Too old.” (Sienna Miller did the honors in HBO’s backstage drama “The Girl,” while Jodie Foster impersonated Hedren in Vanity Fair’s wonderful Hitchcock photo spread.)
The power of the 1963 original, lifted from a Daphne du Maurier story, derives from its narrow scope and limited set of characters who are facing a more subtle apocalyptic doom than, say, the cosmic cataclysm of Michael Bay’s “Armageddon.” The director of “Transformers” doesn’t know how to paint on a small canvas.
The only person remaking Alfred Hitchcock movies should be, well, Alfred Hitchcock.